Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,139 pages of information and 245,599 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Rowley Benbow Turner

From Graces Guide
1916. Rowley B. Turner. From 'Bartleet's Bicycle Book'.
1916. Inscription on reverse of Photo above. From 'Bartleet's Bicycle Book'.
1869. Turner and the Velocipede on which he won a race at Crystal Palace. From 'Bartleet's Bicycle Book'.
1868. Michaux Velocipede identical to the one bought from Paris by Rowley B. Turner. From 'Bartleet's Bicycle Book'.

Rowley Benbow Turner (1841-1917)

1841 November 24th. Born at Southwark the son of George Turner, a Bread and Biscuit Baker, and his wife Catherine Louisa nee Loader of High Street, Borough

1842 February 2nd. Baptised

1851 Living at High Street, Southwark: George Turner (age 39 born London), a Bread and Biscuit Baker. With his wife Catherine L. (age 40 born Finsbury) and their son Rowley B. Turner (age 9 born Southwark). Two servants. [1]

1868 November: Major bicycle production in Britain began after Rowley Benbow Turner took a Michaux Velocipede to Britain and showed it to his uncle, Josiah Turner, manager of the Coventry Sewing Machine Co. Rowley Turner ordered 400 machines from the company for the French market. The French sales were lost owing to the war there, but the British market easily absorbed the entire batch.

1869. Rode in the 1869 Paris-Rouen Cycle Race.[2]

1869 One of Michaux's taller velocipedes was demonstrated by Rowley B. Turner at Spencer's Gymnasium‎ in London in January [3].

1869 February. Rowley B. Turner, Charles Spencer and John Mayall, Junior rode the fifty-three miles from London to Brighton. Mayall arrived in twelve hours at speeds up to eight mph.[4]

1870 Turner made a bicycle with a large front wheel and a small rear wheel, derisively nicknamed "penny-farthing" after the largest and smallest English copper coins of the period. He developed a gear that allowed the wheel to be turned twice for each revolution of the pedals. He lightened the wheels by making them of iron with wire spokes under tension.

1871 Living at 7 Cadogan Street, Chelsea: R. B. Turner (age 29 born London) with his wife E. Turner (age 24 born France). [5]

1875 Patent. '3507. To Rowley Benbow Turner, of Brussels, in the Kingdom of Belgium, Sewing Machine Importer, but at present residing at Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, for the invention of "improvements in sewing machine needles, and in the means for securing the same in the machines."'[6]

1886 June 5th. Birth in Brussels of son Walter Franklin Rowley Turner. He emigrated to the USA in 1913 and changed nationality in 1920 and died in Los Angeles in 1969 April 1st.

1891 Patent. Rowley B. Turner and William Bown - elastic tires and rims for the wheels of bicycles, tricycles, and other velocipedes and carriages.[7]

1914. States 'now of Brussels'.[8]

1917 October 24th. Died at Falmouth aged 76.

In November 1868 Rowley B. Turner brought over a Michaux bicycle from Paris, took it by train to Coventry, and persuaded the Coventry Sewing Machine Co, to make 400 similar machines for him to sell in Paris. His uncle, Josiah Turner, was manager of the Coventry Sewing Machine Co's works at Cheylesmore. Part of the original building is still used by the Company's direct descendants, Messrs. Swift of Coventry Ltd., who continued to manufacture cycles till the end of the year 1930.

"I was fortunate enough to enjoy the friendship of Rowley Turner during the last few years of his eventful life (he died at Falmouth on 30th October, 1917, aged 77), and frequently heard him express regret that Coventry, 'the home of the cycle trade' as he called it, had no museum of old cycles. Having already acquired some 20 specimens, I then and there determined to make them the nucleus of a collection, hoping that it would in time become sufficiently representative to merit presentation to the city of Coventry."[9]


In 1881 his parents George (age 68 born London), a retired baker, and Catherine (age 70 born London) his wife are living in Newbury

George was baptised on 1813 October 24th the son of Joseph Turner, a Baker, and his wife Mary. His younger brother by thirteen years was Josiah Turner

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1851 Census
  2. Newcastle Journal - Wednesday 23 June 1915
  3. The Story of the Bicycle, John Woodforde, 1970
  4. Bicycle: The History by David V. Herlihy
  5. 1871 Census
  6. [1] Gazette Issue 24257 published on the 22 October 1875. Page 35 of 62
  7. Birmingham Daily Post - Friday 09 October 1891
  8. Coventry Herald - Saturday 24 January 1914
  9. Bartleet's Bicycle Book