1951 Claud Butler 24″ ‘Avant Coureur Special’
I purchased this charming machine from Ray, its original owner.
He got it from Claud’s shop in Ealing in 1951. The picture (below) of him with the bike was taken in May, 1951. He was so attached to it that when he was called up for national service he took it with him, having to hide it in the barracks during inspections.
He sold it in 1961 to a friend. The friend had it repainted in the original colours, and made a good job of it. Ray bought it back from his friend in 2003 and, soon after, had it overhauled by Barry Barron at Stow.
It has 24/32 original Unica plastic saddle, Alp brakes, new 27″ wheels, tyres, Stronglight chainset, pedals, mudguards, Nimrod carrier and Shimano Bora derailleur.
It’s well set up and a very attractive machine.
I have the original 1951 catalogue, but I won’t bother to reproduce it here as I can see it’s already available on the internet.
Manor Street Works, Clapham, London SW4
Claud Butler was a successful club rider who began making frames in his south London shed in the mid 1920’s. By 1928 the Inter-War popularity of cycling, and in particular club cycling, had enabled Claud Butler to open his first shop in Battersea. This was followed by a string of other shops across London, a midlands depot in Nottingham, and the famous head office and works at Clapham Manor Street.
This success was a result of a number of factors. Claud Butler cycles were renowned for their innovative features such as bronze-weld construction and “fancy lugs” (both techniques that were pioneered by continental frame builders) that helped produce strong and distinctive frames. Claud Butler’s flair for self promotion and exuberance was able to market his superior product. In 1931 Claud Butler bikes appeared at the cycling World Championships in Copenhagen, this was followed by appearances at subsequent championships in Italy (1932), France (1933), and Germany (1934). In addition Claud Butler bikes were competing at the Los Angles Olympics in 1932. Sponsorship of recognised international racers such as Reg Harris, Eileen Sheridan, Peter Underwood and Dennis Sutton Horn, provided more exposure to this otherwise new brand.
To celebrate the popularity of Claud Butler bikes annual events were held at the Manor Street works with bands and entertainment.
Claud Butler’s initial rise was prematurely curtailed with the outset of WW2. The suspension of international cycling events and the curtailment of domestic meetings decreased the demand for his frames, however, along with other small-scale manufacturers it enabled the The austerity that followed the cessation of hostilities in 1945 enabled cycling in the United Kingdom to once again experience a rise in popularity. Rationing of petrol meant that for many the cheapest and most convenient form of transport was to cycle. Furthermore the 1948 Olympics in London helped promote cycling, and competition cycling, as a pastime. Sadly the growth of a more consumerist orientated society of the 1950s was to have serve effects on Claud Butler.
Petrol rationing was stopped on the 26th May 1950. This coupled with a moderate rise in disposable income and the creation of Britain’s motorway system meant that car ownership was now increasingly desirable. People were now no longer confined to their own fitness or the length and direction of railway track if they wanted to explore the country.
Ironically is was to be the effects of Saudi Arabia’s oil embargo against Britain and France during the Suez Crisis that would bring Claud Butler to closure. With fuel shortages British industry could only operate a four day week and with little demand for cycles (let alone premium lightweight frames) the Clapham Manor Street site began to fall quiet. Finally a crippling £150,000 owed to Customs & Excise forced Claud Butler to declare bankruptcy.
Here are some more views of the fancy lugwork