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British Industrial History

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Simpson Lever Chain Co

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March 1896.

of London, manufacturer and dealer in cycles and of Draycott Mills, Draycott

1895 September. Company registered to obtain from E. T. Hooley the rights, which he had bought from William Spears Simpson‎, to Simpson's lever chain for Great Britain and the Colonies except Canada, for an amount of £200,000. First directors were Edward Miller Mundy, Joseph Birkinshaw and Benjamin Horton and the subsequent directors were G. E. Paget, A. Drucker, W. S. Simpson, Andrew Beattie and E. P. Reynolds.[1] [2] [3]

1898 Company wound up - explanation that the public did not see particular value in the chain but was another fraud by Hooley.[4].

1898 Public examinations of E. T. Hooley, Edward Miller Mundy and Joseph Birkinshaw.[5]

The Simpson Lever Chain[6]

The Simpson Chain or Simpson Lever Chain was an English-made bicycle chain invented by William Spears Simpson in 1895. The design departed from the standard roller bicycle chain: it was composed of linked triangles forming two levels. The inner level was driven by the chain-ring and the outer drove the rear cog. Instead of teeth, the chain-ring and cog had grooves into which the rollers of the chain engaged.

Simpson made claims, widely discredited, that the levers of this chain provided a mechanical advantage that could amplify energy produced by the cyclist. Simpson hired top cyclists such as Constant Huret and Tom Linton (of Paris-Bordeaux fame), and the Gladiator Pacing Team from France to race for high stakes in England for the Chain Matches. His teams were largely successful.

Jimmy Michael attended the so-called Chain Race at Catford track in 1896. Simpson was so insistent that it was an improvement over conventional chains that he staked part of his fortune on it.

Pryor Dodge wrote:

In the fall of 1895, Simpson offered ten-to-one odds that riders with his chain would beat cyclists with regular chains. Later known as the Chain Matches, these races at the Catford track in London attracted huge crowds estimated between twelve and twenty thousand in June 1896. Simpson's team not only included the top racers - Tom Linton, Jimmy Michael, and Constant Huret - but also the Gladiator pacing team brought over from Paris. Pacers enabled a racer to ride faster by shielding him from air resistance. Although Simpson won the Chain Matches, they only proved that the Gladiator pacers were superior to their English rivals.

Crowds up to 20 000 attended the Chain Races and "Simpson v was an argument to be heard where cyclists foregathered."

Bill Mills of The Bicycle recalled: "All the events were distance races, with multi-cycle pacing. This was the heyday of pacing, when the famous Dunlop team of quads and triplets was available. Dunlop's arranged the pacing for the plain chain men, and turned out some 80 riders and £2,000-worth of pacing machines. Simpson's brought over the Gladiator team of pacemakers from Paris, consisting of 12 assorted quads and quints [five-man bicycles] and several triplets."

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Saturday, Aug 06, 1898
  2. The Times, 13 December 1898
  3. The Times, 13 December 1898
  4. The Times, 13 December 1898
  5. [1] Gazette Issue 27029 published on the 2 December 1898. Page 109 of 110
  6. [2]