1900 Rudge Whitworth Tricycle 21″

1900 Rudge Whitworth Tricycle 21″

1900rudge01 copy

The first impression I had from riding this turn-of-the-century Rudge Whitworth tricycle is that it’s so well made. The second is that it feels so modern. I’ve never ridden a modern tricycle, admittedly! But it does at least feel the equal to any other machine I have tricycled over the years, despite the fact that it is well over one hundred years old. I’ll take some better photos in due course…

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1900rudge5 copy

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1903 Rudge Whitworth advert



1900: Rudge Whitworth at the Stanley Show







Daniel Rudge was born in January 1841. After serving with the 38th Regiment of Foot he returned to Wolverhampton and opened a public house called the Tiger Inn in Church Street near to St John’s Church. At the same time an army colleague Henry Clarke started a wheel building business called the Temple Street Wheel Works.

Rudge was a skilled engineer who became interested in bicycles through his friend Walter Phillips who rode bicycles and Henry Clarke who in 1868 began the Cogent Cycle Company.

In 1869 Walter Phillips and George Price became interested in the new cycle industry. Price was primarily interested in the business end of cycle manufacture, whereas Phillips was interested in the actual making of cycles. The two realised that to successfully manufacture cycles they would need a skilled engineer to design and sort out any mechanical problems.

Daniel Rudge was approached about manufacturing a velocipede designed by Phillips. A deal was struck and Rudge was soon producing cycles in a small workshop located at the rear of the Tiger Inn, with Henry Clarke supplying the wheels.

By the end of 1874 Daniel Rudge had manufactured a small number of high bicycles. His first machines were nothing out of the ordinary as they ran on regular plain bearings.

Around this time a Frenchman who had met Henry Clarke during his army service called on him riding a French velocipede. Both Daniel Rudge and Henry Clarke were taken on how the French velocipede ran with ease. They determined to find out the mechanical advantage of the French machine. It is said that that they got the Frenchman drunk. Then dismantled his machine to find that it ran on ball bearings instead of the more traditional plain bearings common on the cycles of the day.

By 1878 Rudge was established as a manufacturer of High quality bicycles. Never satisfied with other makers’ designs and construction Rudge invented numerous innovations. In 1878 Rudge took out British Patent No 526 for his adjustable ball bearings.

Daniel Rudge visited the famous French cyclist Terront in his London hotel while on a visit to England. Rudge proceeded to demonstrate to Terront a set of his patent adjustable ball bearings. Terront was impressed enough to purchase a racing machine built by Rudge. Daniel Rudge also travelled to Paris and Lyons to observe the French cycling scene and to take part in some of the races.

By 1878, the company was based in Bishop Street with 100 employees. Unfortunately, increased company responsibility plus various other cycle activities had a detrimental effect on Rudge’s health. In the early summer of 1880 Daniel Rudge fell ill for the last time and died on 26th June 1880 of cancer at the age of 39.

Rudge cycle sales remained excellent for several months after his death, but there was nobody to run the company. So Walter Phillips helped Rudge’s widow Mary to sell the company to George Woodcock of Coventry. Woodcock thus acquired the famous adjustable ball bearing patent 526 and the services of some of Rudge’s former employees.

He merged the company with The Tangent & Coventry Tricycle Company and in 1885 formed D. Rudge & Co Ltd based in Coventry. It became the Rudge Cycle Co Ltd, Coventry, on 21 October, 1887, a public company with capital of £200,000.  Walter Philips was the renowned works manager and Lawson, H. J., the sales manager.  Stoddard & Lovering of Boston, Mass. were the US agents.

In May 1891 George Woodcock died.  This coincided with a reduction in trade. The company was rescued by the Whitworth Cycle Co. in 1894 to form Rudge Whitworth Ltd.


[text with thanks to Derek Beddows and Ray Miller: http://www.localhistory.scit.wlv.ac.uk/Museum/Transport/bicycles/Rudge.htm%5D



Whitworth Works, Rea St, Birmingham 9


Charles H. Pugh Ltd was the company behind Atco, the leading manufacturer of lawnmowers. The name Atco came from the Atlas Chain Co. Pugh’s companies also manufactured ironmonger’s supplies, and developed from that into making bicycle components. By 1891, the Whitworth Cycle Co was formed to manufacture the company’s own bicycles. The famous Rudge-Whitworth insignia – an open hand with a cycle wheel behind – was actually Whitworth’s logo.

A company that made their own components was at a considerable advantage, as quality control was easier to guarantee. In 1893, with increasing demand for their bicycles, Whitworth became a limited company and had to look for larger premises. The takeover of Rudge the following year was a logical progression, with the Pugh family providing the necessary management structure to see the combined company of Rudge-Whitworth develop into one of Great Britain’s leading manufacturers of bicycles and motorcycles.


Published on July 2, 2009 at 5:18 am  Leave a Comment  

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