A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 8, the City of Coventry and Borough of Warwick. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1969.
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MODERN INDUSTRY AND TRADE
To judge from its contribution to the subsidy of 1523-7 Coventry maintained its earlier position among the cities of England, seemingly being less wealthy than only London, Norwich, Bristol, and Newcastle. (fn. 1) This return may, however, be misleading. In 1523 c.565 houses were standing empty throughout the ten wards. (fn. 2) As a result of the slump in the cloth trade, the early 16th century was a period when clothiers could be called poor and when leet regulations were at their most stringent in an effort to improve the quality and the competitive value of Coventry goods. In 1539, when the religious houses were being despoiled, Coventry was already described as 'decayed' (fn. 3) and Leland soon after talked of its past glories and of the cloth and capping trades which had brought it to prosperity but were then in decline. (fn. 4) John Nichols, in 1575, cited a play which blamed the decline of the Coventry pageants for the decay of the staple industries; he himself asserted that the import of foreign goods was the chief obstacle to the manufacture of blue thread, then the main trade. (fn. 5) In 1598 the Commissioners for Musters were being warned to treat Coventry with moderation, for the town was known to be poor and had 'no special trade', (fn. 6) and a visitation of the plague in 1604 added to the prevailing distress. (fn. 7) By the middle of the 17th century freemen were relying, not on their trade, but on keeping cattle on the commons. (fn. 8) After the Restoration the distressed condition of the city was reducing the number of people who were able to bear the burden of holding office as mayor, (fn. 9) and by the end of the century unemployment was widespread. (fn. 10) Coventry had also by this time lost its position in relation to other cities: judged by the number of hearths taxed in 1662 it had fallen to 19th place. (fn. 11) There was some revival in the late 17th and early 18th centuries with the introduction of new types of cloth and the beginnings of the ribbon industry. Both the cloth and the ribbon industries at Coventry have been described in detail elsewhere in this History, (fn. 12) although some additional information, particularly regarding the crafts involved, may be found below.
From the later 18th century the main lines of industrial development in Coventry were in ribbon weaving and watchmaking, followed after less than a century by the emergence of the city first as the cradle of cycle manufacture and later as an important centre of the motor industry and its ancillary trades.
EARLY ECONOMIC REGULATION.
Despite the growing power of the council in city government, including economic affairs, the leet also continued to legislate in matters relating to the trades of the city, and its proceedings well illustrate the decline and modification of some existing trades and the introduction of some new ones in the 16th century. Close control was kept over craft ordinances and members, (fn. 13) and crafts were re-grouped so that existing chapels and pageants could be maintained. (fn. 14) Legislation by the leet was, however, not confined to these outward trappings of craft organization. A close watch was kept on the formation of new companies and while certain organizations were approved of, others were discouraged. The tallow chandlers' company was formed in 1515 and granted a monopoly; the price of candles was fixed and penalties were laid down. (fn. 15) Rough-masons and daubers were prohibited from forming a craft and were stated to be labourers, subject to the Statutes of Labourers. (fn. 16) The leet's attitude to butchers varied according to their number, to the state of the market, and to their attention to the necessities of their trade. In 1520, in common with the bakers and the fishmongers the butchers were to have one of their two masters chosen by the mayor. (fn. 17) In 1522 butchers were ordered not to obey any ordinance of their craft which limited the amount of meat they might prepare, but in the following year the monopoly of the craft was buttressed by the leet. (fn. 18) In 1539 the sale of meat was confined to the Butchery and the monopoly of the craft was again confirmed. (fn. 19) Normal craft regulations were subsequently allowed to lapse, probably because an insufficient number of butchers had completed their apprenticeship, but in 1544 the company was re-constituted. (fn. 20) Regulations were again slackened until country butchers were allowed to sell meat in Coventry every day of the week except Sunday, (fn. 21) but this was counteracted by another re-constitution of the butchers' company in 1552 and the exclusion of country butchers from selling meat in the city at any time. (fn. 22) The demand for meat, however, resulted in the following year in the admission of country butchers to sell meat on Fridays. (fn. 23) The needs of the city were obviously at variance with the rigid monopoly which the butchers attempted to maintain. High prices were the cause of relaxation in 1639 when country butchers were again allowed in. (fn. 24) Restrictions were once more introduced in 1663 and 1664, limiting country butchers' sales to Saturday mornings and controlling the areas where meat could be sold. (fn. 25)
Coventry bakers and millers were encouraged in 1549 by an arrangement which required the bakers to use Coventry millers and the millers to serve Coventry bakers first; (fn. 26) it is perhaps significant that this took place just five years after the millers had been allowed to form a company and draw up their ordinances. (fn. 27) Brewing also was regulated according to circumstances. From 1521 four aletasters were appointed for each ward and they were to visit every brewer to taste the ale and to see that sealed measures were used; at the same time prices were fixed. (fn. 28) By 1544 brewers and innkeepers were so flourishing that their numbers were limited and prices strictly controlled; forestalling and regrating had artificially raised prices and members of other crafts had forsaken their trade, turning to the more lucrative occupations of brewing and selling ale. The leet believed that the increased sale of ale had also encouraged vice in the city, and a system of licensing by the mayor and justices of the peace was introduced, anticipating the licensing Act of 1552. (fn. 29) Two years later the order was extended to alehouses outside the walls. (fn. 30) It was not until 1547, however, that practical measures to remove unlicensed houses were taken. (fn. 31)
Of special concern to the leet was its continuous battle for the rehabilitation of the cloth trade. On the complaint of the weavers' company in 1514, two weavers whose work had been found to be faulty were ordered not to work in the city unless they could find sureties. For the general improvement of Coventry cloth two searchers were appointed to examine weaving and the equipment used and in particular to see that cloth put out for weaving came up to standard; two more searchers were to examine the teasling and fulling of cloth, and every fuller was to put his own mark on cloth fulled by him. (fn. 32) The cappers were found to be guilty of flocking and again searchers were appointed. (fn. 33) An outstanding effort was made in 1518 to improve the standards of the cloth trade. Six drapers were appointed to see that the searchers did their work conscientiously. If the quality was good the cloth was to be sealed with the city arms, and this also served to prevent the sale of inferior goods from other places under the name of Coventry cloth. If Coventry-made cloth failed to pass the test then its makers could offer it for sale but without the backing of the city's 'kitemark'. Detailed rules were made for the various craftsmen involved in the making of cloth: clothmakers' weights were to be sealed; spinners were to be paid in ready money and not in truck and were to be brought to the alderman of their ward if their work was below standard; cloth was not to be put out for fulling, but was to be dressed within the city where searchers could examine the work in progress; instructions were given on methods of fulling; weavers were to use all the wool assigned to a certain length of cloth and not to stretch kerseys and broadcloth; and finally clothiers were to use Coventry weavers for their work. It was at this time that John Haddon made a loan in money and kind for the benefit of the trade. He offered to hand out 200 stones of wool free with £20 to ten poor clothmakers so that they could pay spinners' and weavers' wages; having sold their cloth they were to repay him, but if they could find no sale he was willing to buy their cloth so that trade should not be at a standstill. (fn. 34)
The quality of work performed largely depended upon individual craftsmen and the leet attempted to help them to control their apprentices and journeymen who were a frequent source of trouble. In 1527, for example, journeymen cappers were ordered to work their full hours and dyers' journeymen were forbidden to form their own guild. (fn. 35) The leet was also concerned to safeguard the city's reputation for dyeing, particularly for its 'Coventry blue'. In 1529 the dyers' monopoly was for the time being set aside and the leet itself made orders for the trade. It was agreed that any man might dye in woad so long as he did not entice away other dyers journeymen or apprentices. Only proved colours, were to be used. 'Musters' or 'medleys', then recently introduced by a Frenchman, were looked on with suspicion and cloth so dyed was not to bear the city's seal. (fn. 36) Orders for the cappers were made in 1544; piece work was reduced to a minimum, two searchers were appointed, and, to prevent unemployment, no capper was to take more than two apprentices. (fn. 37)
Clothiers still complained of faulty work by weavers, and in 1544 the leet therefore gave permission for clothiers to weave their own cloth, so long as they made an initial payment to the weavers' company; if they took in other clothiers' weaving, then they would be expected to contribute regularly to the weavers' company. (fn. 38) The clothiers appear to have continued to acquire a greater control of the trade. At the end of the century they conducted a campaign against strangers selling cloth in Coventry, and in 1606 spinners were brought in to work in the clothiers' houses. (fn. 39) Less than ten years later the clothiers were said to be flourishing, but there was then a paucity of fullers and the leet therefore ruled that strangers might full in the city. (fn. 40)
The manufacture of blue thread, for which Coventry was also famed, had reached a low ebb at the end of the 16th century. The leet introduced stricter rules for its manufacture, appointing searchers and ordering satisfactory thread to be sealed. Male makers of the thread were protected by a rule that no single woman should engage in the trade. (fn. 41) Other tradesmen received similar, though less frequent, attention from the leet, among them fishmongers, (fn. 42) leather-workers, (fn. 43) brick-makers, (fn. 44) and carpenters. (fn. 45)
The leet was also concerned with the problems of unemployment and poverty. Its attitude to outsiders was governed by the state of trade in the city, and its treatment of the poor and strangers seems to have been surprisingly lenient. (fn. 46) But if a man could work, he came under strict regulations which demanded his apprenticeship and membership of a craft fellowship, carrying with it the freedom of the city. By this means the inflow of immigrants was controlled. From the evidence of apprenticeship and admissions to the freedom, (fn. 47) it appears that, despite the decline in the cloth trade, there was still in the 16th and 17th centuries a preponderance of men engaged in the production and sale of cloth and cloth products.
Two big changes occurred in the system of apprenticeship during the 17th century. The first was an administrative one which should have regularized the system: from 1668 masters of companies were to report to the mayor on apprentices bound and their names were to be entered in a book kept by the swordbearer; when their term was complete apprentices were to take the oath of a freeman before the mayor and their names were again to be enrolled in the swordbearer's book. (fn. 48) The second development was the foundation of charities connected with apprenticeship. (fn. 49) In Jesson's and Duckett's charities, for example, the mayor and a prescribed number of aldermen approved the masters chosen. (fn. 50) Drax's Gift in 1669 paid for the apprenticeship of 26 boys - 10 in London to various trades, 15 in Coventry (2 broadweavers, 2 glovers, 3 corvisers, 1 butcher, 1 clothier, 2 cappers and feltmakers, 1 threadmaker, 1 skinner, 1 currier, and 1 silkweaver), and 1 in Staffordshire. (fn. 51) In addition, apprentices were placed from Bablake School. (fn. 52)
In 1671 craftsmen were encouraged to take apprentices, and in so doing they were obliged to become free of their companies. (fn. 53) Nevertheless, two years later the silkweavers and worsted weavers, who had apparently been over-eager to take advantage of this provision, were ordered not to take apprentices until they had already been free of their company for two years, and they were not to take a second until the first had served for five years. (fn. 54) It seems that the cloth trade could not absorb the number of aspirants coming forward. Indeed, so great was the number of poor boys hoping to obtain assistance that in 1704, the available charities having been exhausted, the mayor and council decided to use the Recorder's Gift for this purpose and themselves contributed 5s. each and the clerks 2s. 6d. each to place those for whom there was no provision. (fn. 55)
The political element began to appear during the first half of the 17th century. By the charter of 1621, which ratified the closed nature of the corporation, the freedom of the city became of greater significance. Because most of those who held any office (and could therefore become electors and thus candidates for a seat on the council) and all aldermen were drawn from the ranks of the freemen, it was becoming desirable that the freedom should be limited to those who were acceptable to the council. It was of the highest importance also that the city M.P.s, who were chosen by the freemen, should be acceptable to the council. In 1627, when the new company of silkweavers was formed, the leet decreed that nobody should be made free of the company unless he was already free of the city, (fn. 56) and in 1640 this regulation was extended to all companies. (fn. 57) Strict control was kept over numbers in individual trades. In 1641, for example, a spectacle-maker sought the freedom with the plea that it would not be prejudicial as there were no other spectacle-makers in the city, (fn. 58) and in the same year, before a stationer who was recommended by the city's recorder, the Earl of Northampton, could be admitted, another stationer had to be displaced. (fn. 59) The latter case may well have had a political significance. The overriding claims of the corporation's politics in the 18th and early 19th centuries are dealt with elsewhere. (fn. 60) Those admitted in the 1680s were mostly made 'free to the sword of the city' on payment of £20, or in some cases £10. (fn. 61)
Several new fairs were established during the 16th and 17th centuries. To revive trade a charter for a new yearly fair, to take place from 21 to 23 October, was granted in 1552, (fn. 62) and in 1609 the Palm Sunday Fair for coopers' wares, perhaps a new fair, was ordered to be held in the Great Butchery, towards the Bull Ring. (fn. 63) Two new three-day fairs were granted in 1621 (fn. 64) - one from 21 April, the other from 16 August - and almost immediately the council ordained that the sheriffs should have the benefit of the tolls collected at the fairs, and two months later that the mayor should have the benefit of the tolls of cattle at the fairs. (fn. 65) When the corporation's revenues were in a precarious state at the beginning of the 18th century, their expenses at the fairs, which by then had become to some extent places of entertainment rather than of trade, were stringently cut. (fn. 66) Every effort was made to continue the 'Riding of the Great Fair' (that is the procession at the Corpus Christi fair) until 1769, when circumstances were too strongly against it. (fn. 67) An August cheese fair in Bailey Lane, instituted in 1744, soon sank into disuse. (fn. 68) It seems likely that the alteration of the calendar in 1752 resulted in the dates of the fairs previously beginning on 21 April, 16 August, and 21 October being changed to 2 May, 26 August, and 1 November. (fn. 69) At all events by 1792 there were officially five fairs in the city - the Corpus Christi fair, and fairs on or beginning on 2 May, 1 November, 26 August, and the second Friday after Ash Wednesday. (fn. 70) Only the first three, of eight, three, and three days respectively, however, were of any importance and the other two seem to have died out, (fn. 71) to be revived, however, 'at the particular request of many gentlemen, farmers, graziers, and others' in 1806. (fn. 72)
Much legislation by the leet and the council was directed towards controlling the markets and their location. In 1497 the market days were said to be Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. (fn. 73) By the mid 16th century, however, Friday appears to have been the regular market day. An attempt was made in 1551 to clear all stalls between Broadgate and the conduit in Cross Cheaping; at the same time fishmongers and vendors of tanned leather were ordered to set up their stalls below the conduit. (fn. 74) In 1553 Fleet Street and Jordan Well were allotted to country butchers who were to be allowed to set up stands there on Fridays. (fn. 75) The stretch of Gosford Street between Whitefriars Lane and Jordan Well was used for coopery ware in 1615. (fn. 76) In 1682 hemp and flax were ordered to be sold on market day only between the Peacock Inn and Leather Hall, and in 1700 confectionery and fruit - such as gingerbread, sugar plums, oranges, and lemons - were to be sold in Hay Lane and Bayley Lane on Fridays. (fn. 77) From 1683 the Welch Market, which was outside Bishop Gate, was used as a horse market for nine Fridays in the year. (fn. 78) The Women's (or Butter) Market, which had been housed in the Great Butchery, (fn. 79) and had been called the Friday Market Place, became too crowded in the early 18th century. In 1719, therefore, the market, which catered for the sale of poultry, butter, eggs, cheese, linen cloth, garden produce, gloves, cutlers' wares, hats, hose, salt, oatmeal, fruit, and confectionery, was moved from Cross Cheaping, together with standings except those for corn and grain, to a more commodious position in the former yard of the Peacock Inn, to the south of West Orchard, fitted out for this purpose by the corporation in its capacity as lord of the manor of Cheylesmore. (fn. 80) The simple market house plotted on a map of 1748-9, and removed in 1865, perhaps dated from this time. (fn. 81) The council let stalls to tenants for periods of up to seven years on payment of one year's rent in advance. Early in 1720 fifteen stalls were let to thirteen tenants at rents ranging from £2 to £5. 10s. a year; the rest of the stalls or 'sheds' - at least 22 - were to be let by the mayor and any four members of the council within the next few days. (fn. 82) The new arrangements did much to relieve the narrow and crowded streets, as well as to bring the markets more firmly under the control of the leet and the council. The sale of grain appears to have remained in the vicinity of Cross Cheaping for some time, for in 1766 the barley market was ordered to join the oat market at the bottom of the Great Butchery. (fn. 83)
The availability and price of corn continually exercised the leet and later the council. Prices in Coventry appear to have been very high on frequent occasions during this period. In 1520 prices of corn and grain rose sharply and the dearth of food was so great that a census of inhabitants and of provisions was taken. (fn. 84) In 1564 the price of wheat was 8s. a 'strike' and that of rye 6s., but by the end of the year wheat was 14d. and rye 10d. a strike. (fn. 85) In 1625 corn was excessively dear and in 1633, after the effects of the order of 1630 restricting ploughing on the common lands had begun to be felt, hay and straw were scarce and dear. (fn. 86) The prices of corn were recorded in the council minutes and fluctuations in the cost of this basic commodity can be traced from about 1650 to 1750. In 1667 the price of wheat was 2s. 2d. a strike; it had gone up to 3s. 4d. by 1686, but was down to 2s. 6d. by 1688. A gradual rise brought it up to 5s. 6d. by 1693, but after remaining high for the rest of the century it dropped to 2s. 10d. in 1700. It rose again in 1709 to 6s. In 1723 it was 3s. 6d., and after rising to 5s. 6d. in 1728, it was down to 2s. 6d. in 1732. The price of maslin fluctuated in much the same way as that of wheat, being 1s. 8d. in 1667 and rising to 5s. 6d. in 1709. Rye, too, was 1s. 6d. in 1667 and rose to 5s. in 1709, but prices went unrecorded between 1721 and 1729. Barley, 1s. 6d. in 1667, was up to 3s. 6d. in 1700 and again in 1728, but on the whole it showed less fluctuation than the other cereals. Oats, 1s. 1d. in 1667, never rose to more than 1s. 9d., a maximum which occurred only in 1700. Peas, which were 2s. 2d. in 1667, went up to 3s. 6d. in 1700, but thereafter remained constant for most of the time at about 2s. The years 1693, 1698, 1700, 1709, 1721, and 1728 were the worst on record in the century under discussion. (fn. 87)
The leet continued to be occupied in regulating wage rates. It was found necessary in 1547 for the leet to order yet again that wages should be paid in money, and not in kind as some masters had been doing. (fn. 88) In 1553, for example, a period of unsettled employment, maximum rates of payment for carpenters, tilers, rough masons, daubers, and labourers were laid down by the leet. Master carpenters or sawyers might receive 8d. a day, a journeyman or an efficient apprentice 6d.; master tilers or rough masons 7d. a day and apprentices 5d.; and daubers 6d. a day and their apprentices and labourers 5d. Rates of pay during the winter were rather lower, master carpenters, sawyers, tilers, and rough masons getting only 6d., daubers' and carpenters', and sawyers' apprentices 5d., and tilers' and rough masons' apprentices and labourers 4d. 'Foreign' carpenters were allowed to work in the city, but their employers had to subtract 1d. from their wages and pay it to the carpenters' company. (fn. 89) Ten years later, the mayor and the justices of the peace were regulating wages for the same groups: these were roughly equivalent to the winter rates previously laid down by the leet. (fn. 90)
A mint had been established in Coventry in 1465, and it was one of five mints in existence in 1469, the others being at London, York, Norwich, and Bristol. (fn. 91) It continued in use at least until 1669. (fn. 92) During the 1660s it was employed in minting halfpennies, of which there were seventeen kinds in 1664. In that year the corporation resolved that only one stamp should be used, and that they should receive the profits; three of their number went to London to collect the authorized stamp. In the following year one Nathaniel Harryman was entrusted with the production of brass halfpennies bearing the city's stamp of the elephant and castle. He paid £10 for the working of the mint and was to receive half its profits, the other half going to the swordbearer, for a term of six years. All other halfpennies were called in, but the production of their designs did not cease for there was a further order against them in 1669. (fn. 93) The mint had apparently came to an end by 1696, when it was considered that there were sufficient mints, and at places with greater trade than Coventry. The citizens petitioned later in the same year for the mint to be restored, claiming that £10,000 worth of goods were manufactured in the city weekly; so great a volume of trade required a good supply of coin, and for lack of coin people were being put out of work. (fn. 94) In the following year there was a report that the mint was to be restored but this seems to have been groundless. (fn. 95)
Some supplementary information to the detailed story of Coventry's cloth industry told in another volume of this History, (fn. 96) may be added here, especially from the point of view of the trades involved. The decline of the 16th century led to some innovations in the production of woollen cloth in the city. Regulations were ordered to be observed in 1568 for the making of 'new draperies' called 'utterfines' and 'crimplists', sometimes known as 'Armatiers cloth' since they had been introduced from Armentières, and licences were granted by the corporation for their manufacture. In 1569 nine men were licensed; in 1584 a further licence was issued by letter patent; and in 1601 John Barker and Henry Davenport became the licensees for the next fifteen years. (fn. 97) The experiment does not, however, appear to have had much success. (fn. 98) What is more, in the early 17th century Coventry weavers were further hit by the growing practice of bringing in Gloucestershire cloth for finishing in Coventry, and there was a long dispute between the weavers and the merchants - including drapers, clothiers, and dyers - who brought in the westcountry cloth. These latter insisted that if they finished and sold only Coventry-woven cloth the whole trade would be destitute. (fn. 99)
Other troubles also affected the trade in the 17th century. Coventry clothiers suffered in the Great Fire of London, when they lost at least £2,000worth of cloth lying in warehouses. (fn. 100) In the 1670s the dyers and fullers were complaining of export policy; Coventry clothiers joined those of the counties of Worcester, Devon, Stafford, Oxford, Suffolk, and Kent in petitioning for the prevention of the export of undyed and undressed cloth, alleging that dyers and fullers, through unemployment at home, were having to seek work abroad. (fn. 101) Clothiers had to contend not only with the competition of other towns, such as Gloucester, and with the export policy of other merchants, but also with restraints placed on English exports by merchant companies. In 1675 they complained that the East India Company and the Levant Company were preventing the export of cloth to India and Turkey. (fn. 102)
The drapers were likewise involved in the struggle for the survival of the cloth trade, but as a company they were more successful and powerful than the clothiers. It was presumably their influence which, in 1533, enabled one of the company's members, working as a dyer, to employ journeymen with the support of the corporation. (fn. 103) The Drapery was near the site of the present Drapers' Hall; the Old Drapery (fn. 104) seems to have been used again by the drapers in the 17th century. (fn. 105) A new hall was built by 1637; this was replaced by another building in 1775, and by yet another in 1831-2. (fn. 106) In 1607 the drapers obtained a monopoly of the sale in the town of woollen cloth, bays, says, kerseys, and woollen stockings. The Coventry mercers already held a monopoly of the sale of mockadoes, russells, worsteds, durances, buffins, says, perpetuanas, and knitted, woollen and worsted stockings and they maintained their cause in a petition to the Privy Council. (fn. 107)
The fullers' company had 35 members in the later 17th century, including four widows of former members. In 1761 restrictions were placed on membership, no one being admitted unless a vacancy occurred, and in 1770 membership was limited to twenty, excluding widows. Not all the members in fact followed the trade. Thomas and William Banbury and William Harris, whose names appear in the company's records in this decade, are thought to have been the last of the fullers who actually practised their craft. By 1839 membership had dropped to one. The guild was revived in 1874, when W. G. Fretton became clerk and interested the new members in archaeology. (fn. 108) As has been seen, there is little evidence for identifying fulling mills in Coventry, (fn. 109) but a good deal of information on the whereabouts of tentering grounds is available: in 1748-9 tenters stood, for example, outside Cook Street Gate, south of the Sherbourne near the priory site, between Jordan Well and New Street, near Mill Lane outside New Gate, and north of the Sherbourne near Well Street. (fn. 110)
The production of traditional Coventry woollen cloth declined still further in the 18th century, but by the early part of that century the manufacture of new cloths, including tammies, shalloons, and calimancoes, as well as the quickly developing trade of silkweaving, were providing much employment. (fn. 111) Thus the weavers' trade continued to be the most widely followed in Coventry up to the middle of the 19th century, and cloth-workers, particularly weavers, account for many of the individuals in any lists which give occupations. In 1640 of 70 admissions to the freedom of the city 63 were engaged in various branches of the cloth trade; (fn. 112) and in 1727 88 out of 105. (fn. 113) In 1733 there were 73 admissions, 38 of them silkweavers; (fn. 114) and in 1734 there were 571, of whom 372 were cloth-workers: (fn. 115) 221 were weavers, and 82 were silkweavers. In 1737 there were 321 admissions, 178 being concerned with the cloth trade: of these 125 were weavers and 16 silkweavers. (fn. 116) In 1741, 172 were admitted, including 37 weavers and 34 silkweavers, (fn. 117) and in 1747 there were 71 admissions, including 25 weavers and 19 silkweavers. (fn. 118) With only one exception the lists of constables appointed from 1733 to 1833 contain a majority of weavers. (fn. 119) Similarly, when loans from Sir Thomas White's Gift were made, the great majority of recipients were weavers, (fn. 120) while silkweavers received most of Jesson's Gift in 1700. (fn. 121) The silkweavers had been formed into a separate company in 1627, (fn. 122) and in 1703 the worsted weavers, whose trade had then lately improved, were separated from the silkweavers to form yet another company. (fn. 123) Although the trade never became popular in Coventry, there is some evidence that silk-stocking weaving was carried on by a few people at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. (fn. 124)
Tanners and shoemakers were important in the early 16th century. (fn. 125) Skinners and fellmongers, too, made a significant contribution to the city's economy during these centuries, although locally their trade was unpopular, for it caused a nuisance to other inhabitants, and they were forced to work outside the city. (fn. 126) On more than one occasion their methods of working and trading were challenged. In the early 16th century, for example, London skinners tried unsuccessfully to stop the practice of Coventry skinners bringing raw skins from Ireland, and preparing and re-selling them in London and other places. (fn. 127) Fellmongers were accused in 1651 of competing with wool merchants, but they argued that they traded in skins which incidentally had wool on them and in all sorts of wool in fleece, and that they had done this time out of memory. (fn. 128) A similar question was exercising Coventry and Leicester furriers in 1735, when they complained that the loss of one branch of their trade (the sale, chiefly to Archangel, of lambskins dressed with the wool still on for wear in cold countries) was due to a misconstruction of the customs regulations which had resulted in their paying duty on the wool as well as on the skins. (fn. 129) Fellmongers were especially influential in Coventry during the later 18th century; between 1783 and 1807 they provided twelve mayors and in several years during that period two, four, or five of the other officers. (fn. 130)
The mercers dealt in a wide variety of goods including textiles. They had been grouped in a company with the grocers and haberdashers, but in 1566 five separate companies were formed - mercers', linen drapers', haberdashers', grocers' and salters', and cappers'. (fn. 131) In 1630 the mercers included a stationer among their members and seven years later they sought to be allowed to continue selling books. (fn. 132) The membership of the company declined during the 18th century, and by 1770 numbers were so reduced that membership was pressed upon four citizens, two of whom were clergymen; between 1813 and 1829 only one member survived. There were several artificial revivals, but thenceforth the main function of the company was to dispense charity. (fn. 133) The company originally had a chapel in St. Michael's Church, and a hall in St. Mary's Hall, but, as the acoustics of St. Michael's were not good, they relinquished the chapel there and converted the hall into a chapel in 1713. (fn. 134)
RIBBON WEAVING. (fn. 135)
With the decline of the woollen-cloth trade Coventry textile workers naturally turned to the nascent silk-ribbon industry. The city silkweavers of the 18th century were ready to receive new ideas from France and to provide the ribbons which fashion dictated, and for a century, between about 1765 and 1857, silk was the dominant industry in the city. The rise and decline of silk ribbon weaving in Coventry have been dealt with in another volume of this History. (fn. 136) New evidence, however, makes it possible to add something here to that account. (fn. 137)
The Coventry ribbon industry suffered from continuous difficulties, especially from competition. The 'big purl time', which was looked back on as a golden age of prosperity, lasted only from 1813 to the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and was followed by increasing competition from other districts of England, such as Derby where steam looms were successfully introduced. The four steam factories opened in the Coventry area in the 1830s were failures for Coventry was a city of small industrial establishments and independent craftsmen, and at that time these people were battling against the advance of modern methods of industrial production. Their complacent belief in the rightness of their methods had, moreover, been fostered for some 60 years by the protection of their main industry against the import of French ribbons. Whenever there was a possibility that the prohibition might be lifted or the tariff on imported ribbons reduced there was a protest from Coventry, but as long as the prohibition remained there was no incentive to developments in design or the improvement of machinery. By this time Coventry was the centre of a weaving area of 13,000 looms supporting 30,000 people. In 1826 the import prohibition had been lifted and a tariff substituted, and in 1830 the latter stood at 25 per cent. (fn. 138) The introduction of the Dutch engine loom, which was not power-driven but on which several plain ribbons could be woven at one time, and its supercession by the Jacquard loom, on which several fancy ribbons could be woven, had opened the way for the factory system in Coventry. Such a change would have increased efficiency and reduced costs, for supervision would have done much to prevent the embezzlement of silk and the leisurely attitude to work which was inherent in the cottage system. (fn. 139) But the unwavering opposition of the weavers protracted the struggle between factory and home industry for 30 years and culminated in the near extinction of ribbon weaving in the city.
The crux of the matter was the determination of the small master or the journeyman weaver to work his own loom in his own top-shop, with the help of his family, receiving payment according to an agreed list of prices. It was unpractical for him to buy or lease an engine loom or a Jacquard loom, for by a weavers' agreement neither his wife nor his daughters could work anything but a single-hand loom, and in any case only single-hand looms could be used for certain types of work. (fn. 140) The factory, on the other hand, could speed up production by using engine looms or Jacquard looms as required, by the division of labour, by the introduction of definite hours of work, and by the supervision of employees. Under such conditions a weekly wage could be paid to all weavers.
A vital development was that of the power-run loom, which was to add greater strength to the factory and was to turn the cottage industry in a new direction. By 1836 there were 53 power looms at work in the city, all run by two of the largest manufacturers. (fn. 141) It was only in the city that such innovations could be made, and country weavers, like the city top-shop weavers, stuck to the single-hand loom. Smaller manufacturers had, however, been increasing in number for the previous 20 years. In 1838, although there were still twelve manufacturers running over 100 looms each, one with as many as 400, there were 70 manufacturers running fewer than 10 looms each and 35 with between 10 and 100 each. (fn. 142) The new small masters were 'undertakers', or 'go-betweens', who had seized an opportunity to set up as manufacturers, but were not prepared to keep to the same standards as the old masters. They employed women at engine looms in defiance of the weavers' agreement, instituted half-pay apprenticeships, and undercut the list of prices, buying in the cheapest market and selling in the dearest. (fn. 143) They provoked serious opposition among their employees, for they were open to the criticism that they were able to pay higher wages to their factory hands but could not pay the list prices when they put out work to out-door weavers. Infringement of the list of prices resulted in strikes and in the formation of unions and associations of both masters and men. When it was a question of the fair price there was much sympathy in the city for the weavers, and strikes were accompanied by contributions from manufacturers to funds for the distressed; there would finally be a return to work on the basis of a settlement of a kind. (fn. 144)
If there had been a steady development of factories there is every reason to suppose that the ribbon trade in Coventry would have progressed in spite of, or perhaps because of, foreign competition, but the tradition of home working died hard and new enterprises were begun to support the cottage industry. In the new weaving area of Hillfields, built up from 1828 onwards, most of the houses had top-shops or workrooms on their upper floors, some with space enough for three looms. (fn. 145) The new suburbs were thus calculated to uphold opposition to the factory system, whose workers were the slum dwellers of the courts recently abandoned by families moving out to the new estates. This attitude was further encouraged by the individuality of the watchmakers, who of necessity had their own workshops, were more highly skilled, and commanded larger incomes. Indeed, there is evidence of migration by young weavers and by weavers' sons to the trade with the better prospects. (fn. 146)
While the growth of steam power was speeding up the development of factories, a way was being found to perpetuate the small workshop by means of power-run looms. At first it was a make-do arrangement by which a shafting system was run through a row of existing top-shops, with one engine supplying power to them all. After 1847 this system was extensively used, and by 1859 there were 300 cottage factories running from two to six power looms each, compared with fifteen large factories with 1,250 power looms. (fn. 147) Workers in cottage factories, however, even with power laid on, could not compete with the larger factories, and they consequently resorted to demands for the reimposition of the list of prices instead of the payment of weekly wages; so heavy was the pressure brought to bear that five of the six outstanding factory owners gave in after extensive strikes had nearly crippled them, and the building of large factories ceased. Instead an attempt was made to give the Coventry weaver what he wanted - a properly-developed cottage factory system. Two schemes were initiated: Cash's model cottage factory, built at Kingfield in 1857; and Eli Green's 67 houses with top-shops, served by power shafting, built to form a triangle in Brook Street, Vernon Street, and Berry Street in 1858-9. (fn. 148)
This was an artificial development and as such was doomed to failure. By the Cobden Treaty of 1860 the 15 per cent. tariff on imported ribbons was taken off and the Coventry industry, woefully behind the French in design and method, began to decline in the face of growing imports. In 1860 there were already thousands of weavers unemployed. Their previous efforts to restore the list of prices had antagonized local opinion, and the largest manufacturers, 44 in number, now agreed to abandon the list as obsolete. They refused to consider the weavers' plea for the maintenance of a lowered list of prices, and in Coventry and within fifteen miles of the city every weaver struck work. (fn. 149) The out-door worker had some justification for supporting the list, but the factory employee, by joining in the strike, was sacrificing his own wage-earning organization for an out-moded system which was impeding efficient development. It was of course the home workers who were worst hit when work was short, because the large manufacturers handed out work to them only when their own employees could not handle it; moreover, the shafting system for topshops had proved uneconomic when only some of the looms were working. But it was a case of the weavers standing together, however unjustified their cause, against the employers. And because their cause was wrong-headed, because they were striking for the list of prices which some of them had previously struck to destroy, they forfeited local sympathy and little help was forthcoming even from outside the city; the position became desperate and early in 1861 the strikers had to give in. The list of prices was abandoned, but the damage was done and there was no work to return to. (fn. 150) A disease widespread among silkworms and a change in fashion from ribbons to feathers were only minor contributory causes of the failure in Coventry, for while the Coventry output decreased by more than half the import of French ribbons trebled. (fn. 151) By 1865 fifty manufacturers were bankrupt and during the early 1860s weavers were leaving Coventry to seek work, perhaps in Leicester or Birmingham where trade was booming and the population increasing, perhaps in Lancashire where the crisis in weaving had not yet arisen, and perhaps in the United States or Canada. Coventry's population consequently dropped considerably between the censuses of 1861 and 1871. (fn. 152)
During the Franco-Prussian War there was some revival, and it was later alleged that 'every loom in Coventry and district was well employed. More business was done then than at any time before or since'. (fn. 153) Nevertheless ribbon weaving in Coventry had suffered a heavy blow from the attempts of its workers to maintain an outdated system, and the revival did not last.
The industry did not, however, die out. Cash's survived at the price of converting the model cottage factory into a conventional factory. (fn. 154) Moreover a bid to bring about a revival in the industry was made by Thomas Stevens who invented the 'Stevengraph', the pictorial bookmark, and the illuminated ribbon. He worked quickly, for in January 1862 he patented his invention for 'manufacturing book markers by machinery for weaving ribbons, and . . . producing figures, designs, and mottoes thereon of various descriptions and colours, according to the nature of books for which the markers are intended'. (fn. 155) The pictures became very popular and they, as well as the looms on which they were made, were exhibited at the Crystal Palace in 1868, at the London International Exhibition in 1870, at York in 1879, and on the continent and in the United States. (fn. 156) From 1862 to 1867 Stevens's catalogues contained from 500 to 900 varieties of bookmarks, pictures, fans, badges, embroidered neckties, and sashes. (fn. 157)
Partly as a result of the general development in the city of high-class fancy and figured ribbons and scarves, and partly following the introduction of new methods of manufacturing chenille the trade survived. Indeed in 1884 London was said to be largely supplied with chenille and other trimmings by Coventry which was successfully rivalling continental producers. The number of power looms in 1884 was, however, only about a third of that in 1860, while the number of operatives employed was even smaller in proportion, though somewhat larger than in 1883. (fn. 158) In 1890 it was reported that the silk ribbon trade in the town 'fluctuates as fashion dictates, and has been in a depressed condition all the year'. (fn. 159) In the mid 20th century, however, there still existed in the city a flourishing trade in the more specialized aspects of ribbon production. In 1927 there were still some 30 manufacturers with about 7,000 employees engaged in the textile industry in Coventry, not including the production of artificial fabrics. By 1935 the number of firms had fallen to thirteen and of employees to 5,000. (fn. 160) In 1950 the number of firms had risen slightly. Five firms were making woven labels, the best known of these being J. and J. Cash, and seven were making regalia and medal ribbons, hat bands, embroidered badges, trimmings, braids and elastic braids, pompoms, tassels, and fringes. They were without exception long-established firms, dating from as far back as 1835, when William Franklin started business in the ribbon trade, or as late as 1919 when Oakey and Cox began weaving ribbons and hatbands of a specialized kind. (fn. 161) In 1964 Cash's was employing 900 people. (fn. 162)
WATCHMAKING. (fn. 163)
The Coventry watch trade has also been described in another volume of this History and this should be referred to. (fn. 164) Some additions may, however, be made to that account. Such public timepieces and chimes as existed in Coventry in the 15th and 16th centuries were maintained by order of the leet or of the council. (fn. 165) During the later 17th century a local trade was beginning to appear. A clockmaker was made sheriff in 1686, a Coventry watchmaker was working in London in 1695, and John Patson and Joseph Huet were looking after the clocks in the Market Place in Cross Cheaping and at the grammar school: Huet was paid 20s. in 1669 for making a balance wheel and spindle for the school clock. (fn. 166) In the 1680s new clocks were set up at the New Gate and at the school, the latter being made by Benjamin Brockhurst, who was elected mayor in 1708. (fn. 167) About this time the trade received a severe set-back, for the council, as part of an effort to put its financial affairs in order, resolved in 1706 that no further payments should be made for the care of the clocks. (fn. 168) Nothing more is heard of clock- and watchmaking or keeping in Coventry until the mid 18th century, when Samuel Vale, the first of the Rotherhams, John Bottrill, and probably others were beginning to develop the trade. Vale was particularly prominent in the affairs of the council and was four times mayor, while other watchmakers by the beginning of the 19th century were sufficiently established to hold office as constables - there were seven in 1802 - chamberlains, wardens, and bailiffs. (fn. 169) In 1813 nine watch- and clockmakers were constables, in 1819 and 1824 thirteen, (fn. 170) and this in spite of a recession in 1817.
By 1830 there were at least 53 watchmakers who were sufficiently noteworthy to find their way into West's Directory of Warwickshire; (fn. 171) of these, at least 20 remained among the 142 listed in 1850, and six still survived in 1935 out of a total of 53 watchmaking firms. (fn. 172) The period of greatest development was clearly between 1830 and 1850. The watch trade could never compete with ribbon weaving in the numbers of workers employed, but it had an attraction which ribbon weaving did not share. Watchmaking required a higher degree of skill and was not amenable to methods of mass production; the factory did not at any time threaten the trade, which was carried on mainly in watchmakers' shops, particularly in the Spon End and Chapel Fields area. In the 1830s 48 per cent. of apprentices in Coventry went into the weaving trade and 28 per cent. became watchmakers; but in the 1850s only 20 per cent. were becoming weavers, whereas 54 per cent. were going into the watch trade, and an average of more than 50 weavers a year were apprenticing their sons to watchmaking. (fn. 173) Some indication of the watchmakers' standard of living is provided by their houses; those still standing in Chapel Fields were built in 1846 for and by both masters and journeymen, (fn. 174) and one of the remaining watchmaking firms, S. Alexander & Son, still occupies the original premises there, although considerably expanded. The typical journeyman's house was no bigger than that of the weaver but a watchmaker's wife - who did not normally work, as a weaver's wife did - was able to give time to the running of the home which was more comfortable as a result. (fn. 175)
In 1851 there were 776 heads of households engaged in the watch trade, while the total number of people thus employed was over 2,000. (fn. 176) They lived less in Holy Trinity parish than in St. Michael's, where concentrations of watchmakers were to be found in Spon Street and the network of streets between it, the Butts, Queen's Road, and Queen Victoria Road; at Spon End; and in the Chapel Fields area to the west. Quite a number lived in the Gosford Street area, but they were scattered among men of other trades, whereas in the Spon district there is every indication of an area given over almost exclusively to watchmaking: in Spon Street alone there were 137 heads of houses who practised one or other branch of the watch trade; in Sherbourne Street and Square there were 28; in Butts Lane there were 30; in Thomas Street, 37; and in Moat Street, 25. In the Chapel Fields area, Craven Street contained just over 40 households, only 3 of them practising trades other than branches of watchmaking, Duke Street had 10 households, all in watchmaking, Lord Street 7, 5 in watchmaking, and Allesley Old Road 7, again with 5 in watchmaking. The watchmakers' shops at Spon End and Chapel Fields are now converted to other uses, but they are still distinguishable from the outside. The great majority of watchmakers were small craftsmen, specializing in one of the many aspects of the trade and perhaps employing about 4 workmen, but in 1851 there were 21 manufacturers who between them employed 631 men, having from 7 to 80 each. (fn. 177)
The watchmaking trade continued to be of some importance during the rest of the century, and Rotherham's were developing to such an extent that by 1899 they were employing 400-500 men and producing 100 watches a day. (fn. 178) Edward Loseley, who was chosen to make the new Market Hall clock, is said to have been an apprentice at Rotherham's, but he was described in 1866 as a chronometermaker living in Leicester. The appointment was considered by three Coventry watchmakers, who apparently came to the conclusion that he was the best man available for the job. (fn. 179) As has been noticed already, the number of watchmaking firms had declined sharply by 1935 to roughly the same number as in the forward-looking days of 1830 before Chapel Fields was developed, but the 20thcentury firms, of course, employed a larger number of hands. After the Second World War only two firms remained, both of them in their original, though greatly expanded, premises. Rotherham & Sons celebrated their bicentenary in 1950 and S. Alexander & Son their centenary in 1960. Two other well-established firms owed their foundation to the local watchmaking industry - the Coventry Movement Company, which was founded in 1889, and F. Lee & Company, which began in 1900 as makers of jewels for watches but by the middle of the century was concerned entirely with the production of jewel bearings for precision instruments. (fn. 180)
CYCLE MANUFACTURE. (fn. 181)
During the latter half of the 19th century the ribbon-weaving industry in Coventry declined, (fn. 182) and population in the city fell between 1861 and 1871 as workmen left to find jobs elsewhere. (fn. 183) Coventry avoided any permanent industrial eclipse, however, by its emergence as the centre first of the British cycle trade and later of the motor industry.
The cycle trade grew almost accidentally out of a nascent sewing-machine manufacture which was established by the Coventry Sewing Machine Company in 1863 (fn. 184) to exploit the skill of the large body of trained watchmakers in the city. (fn. 185) Lack of capital and American competition made expansion difficult, and although the company survived and extended its factory (fn. 186) trade was slack towards the end of the 1860s. (fn. 187) In 1868, however, Rowley B. Turner, the firm's Paris agent, persuaded the company to diversify production by accepting an order for 400 'boneshaker' bicycles for sale in France, where the cycle had been developed. (fn. 188) The firm, which became the Coventry Machinists Company in 1869, (fn. 189) began to manufacture a machine largely of the Michaux 'boneshaker' type. Improvements were incorporated which derived from the mind of James Starley, the works' foreman, who had already experimented with a velocipede in 1865. (fn. 190) The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War just before the completion of the order led the Coventry Machinists to develop the home market for cycles, and from this decision came the emergence of Coventry from commercial depression and the creation of a British cycle industry centred on the city. (fn. 191)
The Coventry Machinists' new venture flourished and soon the company had to import mechanics used to the running of heavier machinery. (fn. 192) At the same time the industry expanded in the city. Starley left the Machinists in 1869 and started on his own at the back of a house in St. John's Street, where, soon in partnership with William Hillman, he produced sewing-machines and bicycles. Here he designed the 'Ariel', a cycle of the 'high' or 'pennyfarthing' type, known as the 'ordinary' bicycle. This was the first attempt to produce a light all-metal bicycle. Starley permitted the 'Ariel' to be manufactured under licence by Haynes and Jefferies who established in Spon Street the first Coventry factory devoted solely to cycle production. (fn. 193)
Coventry once more became prosperous. The Coventry Machinists Company (which became the Swift Cycle Company in 1896) made additions to its premises at Cheylesmore in 1872 and in the same year Starley expanded his own factory and the firm became Starley Brothers in 1876. (fn. 194) Other firms also appeared during the 1870s. Townend Brothers was founded by George Townend in 1871. (fn. 195) In 1874 George Singer founded the firm which in 1894 became Singer and Company and in 1896 the Singer Cycle Company. (fn. 196) Hillman and Herbert, forerunners of the Premier Cycle Company, was established in 1875, (fn. 197) and the Centaur Cycle Company in 1876. (fn. 198) In 1878 J. K. Starley, the nephew of James Starley, started the business which in 1896 became the Rover Cycle Company. (fn. 199)
Competition, however, was sharp and there was a continual movement of small firms in and out of the industry. A few well-managed firms, however, like Singer, the Coventry Machinists, Rudge, and the Premier grew steadily, organizing sales and installing capital equipment in the shape of new machinery. (fn. 200) Most striking was the development of the Rudge Company, an amalgamation in 1880 of the Tangent and Coventry Tricycle Company (established in 1879 by George Woodcock who bought the works of Haynes and Jefferies) with the Wolverhampton firm of Dan Rudge. The Rudge works were transferred to Coventry. Expansion of the firm's trade followed from the increase of capital in 1885 when Woodcock was joined by several Birmingham men in a limited company, D. Rudge and Company. (fn. 201)
Coventry, like Birmingham, was well suited as a centre for the expanding industry. Little capital was needed and production was often carried out in small premises. Many firms assembled components and accessories manufactured by the innumerable lightmetal works of Birmingham and the Black Country which were also able to supply unfinished and partly finished materials. From Sheffield came bar steel for bearings and wire for spokes, saddles came from Walsall, and springs from Sheffield and Redditch. (fn. 202) The introduction in the 1880s of Bessemer and Siemens-Martin steel in the place of wrought iron, which had been difficult to machine, was a stimulus to the production of lighter, cheaper standardized parts, and as the cycle became popular, expansion both of cycle works and machine-tool and accessory firms followed. (fn. 203) Coventry did not secure any monopoly in cycle production, but while the industry spread all over the midlands, Yorkshire, and to parts of London, and while Birmingham became the mass-production centre, Coventry was for long important, particularly for quality cycles. (fn. 204) In 1881 only just over 1,000 people were engaged in cycle manufacture of which 700 were in the midlands, 400 of them in Coventry. (fn. 205) By 1885 the industry had grown and it was estimated that Coventry employed 3,000 of the 5,000 engaged in cycle production. (fn. 206)
The expansion of the 1880s was due largely to three developments in cycle design. First there was the wide adoption of the penny-farthing bicycle which reached the summit of its popularity about 1885. Secondly the tricycle attained a peak of success in the early 1880s; and thirdly, in the second half of the decade, the safety bicycle was largely perfected. (fn. 207) During these years Coventry was a centre of the experiment and improvement which these developments involved. The Bayliss-Thomas ordinary bicycle of 1879 was an improvement on Starley's models; Singer brought out a children's ordinary in 1880, while the Rudge bicycle of 1884 was lighter than any before it, and the 1892 Rudge was one of the first to be fitted with Dunlop pneumatic tyres. (fn. 208) By that time, however, the safety bicycle was beginning to take the lead. The geared ordinary bicycle such as the Singer 'Xtraordinary' of 1878, and the 'Kangaroo' produced by Hillman, Herbert, and Cooper in 1884 were variations of the ordinary which tended to lead to the safety machine. (fn. 209) Experiments with monocycles, dicycles, and quadricycles proved dead ends, but the Coventry Lever Tricycle, marketed by James Starley in 1876, resulted in tricycle production becoming important in Coventry and elsewhere in the early 1880s. In 1878 H. J. Lawson adapted rotary action, chain drive, and other refinements to the tricycle in the Coventry Rotary Tricycle, and soon the Centaur Cycle Company, the Coventry Machinists, Rudge, Singer, Swift, the Tangent and Coventry Tricycle Company, and Bayliss-Thomas were all making tricycles in Coventry. The last named produced the first tandem tricycle in 1882 as well as obtaining a contract for the supply of tricycles to the Post Office for deliveries, a purpose soon adopted by tradesmen. (fn. 210)
The use of the tricycle did not decline until the and of the 1890s, but the boom in ordinary bicycles end tricycles lasted until only the mid 1880s, the eclipse of both types being due to the development of the safety bicycle. Early safety bicycles had been produced by H. J. Lawson. His first was made in the year 1873-4 in Brighton, (fn. 211) and his design of 1876 was energetically pushed by Singer and Company of Coventry. (fn. 212) It was not until 1885, however, that J. K. Starley, of Starley and Sutton, made in Coventry the first really practical safety bicycle. This machine, the 'Rover', established the safety bicycle commercially. (fn. 213)
The design of the safety bicycle soon became standardized by the general acceptance of the diamond frame in the late 1880s, and the 'safety' appeared in its modern form in 1890. (fn. 214) At the same time the adoption of the pneumatic tyre did much to ensure the cycle's popularity. The trade was further encouraged by the development of the free wheel after 1897 and the introduction of the 3-speed gear in 1903. (fn. 215)
A period of prosperity was thus ushered in. A prediction of 1890 that 'cycles will eventually be propelled by electricity and then the demand will be almost unlimited' (fn. 216) was not fulfilled, but the trade became an important sector of midland industry. In 1889-90 the manufacture of cycles in Coventry increased 'in leaps and bounds', factories were enlarged and new ones built. (fn. 217) By 1891 about 71 per cent. of the 8,300 employed in the cycle industry were in the midlands. Over 4,000 of them were in Coventry, and 2,600 in Birmingham and Aston, the next largest centre. (fn. 218) Much of the expansion which these figures represented had occurred very rapidly. In 1891 it was estimated that the number of factories in Coventry had more than doubled in the previous five years, expansion being most marked in the last two. (fn. 219) Humber and Company of Beeston (Notts.) opened a factory in Coventry in 1886, (fn. 220) and a number of entirely new firms started up in the city. These included the Bonnick Cycle Company (later to become the Riley Cycle Company), Lea and Francis, Hotchkiss, Mayo and Meek, Allard and Company, Clarke, Cluley and Company, and S. Belmann and Company (later the Triumph Company). (fn. 221) There were, however, said to be not less than a hundred cycle workshops in the city employing any number of workers from a dozen to 500, (fn. 222) and it was anticipated that 2,000 more hands would be employed in 1891 than in 1890. (fn. 223) S. and B. Gorton (later the Quinton Cycle Company), a firm which had only been in business since 1888, employed 380 men in their fitting shop in 1891. (fn. 224) The Coventry and Midland Cycle Company employed about 50 hands, (fn. 225) and Clarke, Cluley and Company over 40. (fn. 226)
In the same year it was reported that 'both old and new firms are working to capacity'. (fn. 227) The older firms expanded their works, and new capital was attracted into the industry. By 1896 there was a boom in the cycle trade. In that year the Premier Cycle Company (formerly Hillman, Herbert and Cooper and in 1896 becoming the New Premier Cycle Company) claimed that its Coventry cycle works was the largest in the world, with 600 hands and an annual output for 1893-4 and 1894-5 of over 20,000 machines. (fn. 228) An output of 33,000 for 1896 and 40,000 for 1897 was claimed. (fn. 229) In 1896, too, the Coventry Machinists, which became the Swift Cycle Company, claimed a weekly production of 700 machines and an establishment of nearly 1,000 workmen. (fn. 230) The Quinton Cycle Company with an output of over 5,000 machines a year, and the Triumph Cycle Company with about 6,000, (fn. 231) were also important. Many Coventry cycles were exported. The Coventry Machinists had an extensive French connection, (fn. 232) and in 1896 Singer and Company had a Paris branch, and Starley Brothers had depots in Europe as well as in the U.S.A., Africa, and Japan. (fn. 233) Hillman, Herbert and Cooper had established a factory in Germany as early as 1888, (fn. 234) and by 1891 the Austrian Small Arms Factory was manufacturing 'Swift' cycles under licence from the Coventry Machinists. (fn. 235)
Overproduction, foreign competition, and foreign tariffs resulted in this rapid expansion being followed by a slump which began in 1897-8 and continued into the 20th century. (fn. 236) The industry recovered within a few years but although cycle manufacture remained very important in Coventry Birmingham had by then taken its place as the chief seat of the trade. This was in part due to the beginning of the manufacture of motor cars and motor cycles in Coventry, a development which is dealt with below. By 1911 some 5,800 Coventry workers were employed in the cycle trade, compared with about 9,000 in Birmingham and Aston. (fn. 237) Coventry's share of employment in the midland cycle industry had thus fallen from 49 to 26 per cent. in twenty years. (fn. 238) The actual number employed in the city, however, had increased by 1,800, and the number of cycle manufacturers in the city did not noticeably diminish during the years before the First World War. In 1896 Porter's Cycle Directory listed some 50 Coventry producers. (fn. 239) Other sources give approximately the same number in 1905 (fn. 240) and in 1912. (fn. 241) These lists are probably incomplete but what is significant is that only about 30 per cent. of the firms listed in 1896 were still in existence in 1912. This suggests a two-tiered structure in the local industry with a fairly rapid turnover of small firms on the one hand, and on the other the emergence of a number of larger more permanent units.
The development of the bicycle was from 1900 a matter of further standardization and from 1926 of refinement. Between 1900 and 1925 production was mainly in the hands of a few old-established firms including, in Coventry, Bayliss and Thomas, the Coventry Eagle Cycle and Motor Company, RudgeWhitworth, Swift, and Triumph. (fn. 242) The last three were among the six Coventry firms which were making very large profits by 1905. The others were the Rover Cycle Company (formerly J. K. Starley and Company), (fn. 243) the Centaur Cycle Company, and Humber Ltd. (fn. 244) Rudge Whitworth employed 1,800 workpeople and produced some 75,000 machines in 1906. (fn. 245) In that year 310,000 cycles were made in the city. (fn. 246)
Even among the larger cycle firms, however, competition was intense at this time and the future was never secure. (fn. 247) In 1904 Singer despite increased output had a debit balance resulting from price cutting, (fn. 248) and at the same period the Swift Cycle Company was forced to adopt a policy of large output and small profits. (fn. 249) By 1910 the Centaur Cycle Company, whose profits dropped sharply in 1907, (fn. 250) went into liquidation, being taken over in 1911 by Humber. (fn. 251) More significantly several firms attempted to strengthen their position by entering the motor industry. Rover, for example, in financial difficulties until 1904, turned successfully to motorcar and motor-cycle production. (fn. 252) By 1911 Humber, Triumph, Premier, Rudge Whitworth, Swift, Lea and Francis, the Progress Cycle Company, the Allard Cycle Company, Singer, and Riley were all combining cycle production with the manufacture of motor cycles or cars, or, in some cases were making all three. (fn. 253) Humber's profits rose from £16,500 in 1905 to £106,500 in 1906, and £154,400 in 1907. (fn. 254) In Coventry the motor industry thus gradually gained the ascendancy over cycles. In 1912 Rover ceased to produce cycles and turned over entirely to motor cycles and cars. (fn. 255)
The First World War stimulated the cycle industry. Rudge-Whitworth, for example, delivered thousands of cycles and motor cycles to the army. (fn. 256) In the early 1920s, however, there was another slump, (fn. 257) the competition of motor cycles and cars helping to cause a decline in the popularity of bicycles. (fn. 258) From 1926 mass-production methods reduced the number of cycle manufacturers. Like Rover, Singer, which had acquired the Coventry Premier Cycle Company (formerly New Premier), (fn. 259) Swift, Triumph, and Riley all gave up the cycle side of their businesses in the face of competition from the mass-production firms. (fn. 260)
By the mid 1930s the cycle industry was manifesting distinctly oligopolistic tendencies. The three largest British manufacturers - B.S.A., Raleigh, and Hercules, all outside Coventry - accounted for 70 per cent. of total employment and 55 per cent. of output. (fn. 261) Rudge-Whitworth, the largest Coventry concern, was taken over by the Gramophone Company in 1934 and in 1939 moved its production to Hayes (Middlesex) being absorbed by Raleigh in 1943. (fn. 262) In 1936 Coventry Bicycles Ltd. took over the manufacture of Triumph bicycles moving in 1938 to the old Triumph factory in Priory Street. (fn. 263) During the later 1930s the number of cycle manufacturers and assemblers in Coventry was between 20 and 25. (fn. 264)
After the Second World War British production became even more concentrated and Coventry's share in the industry dwindled. During the years 1945 to 1959 the only cycle manufacturers in Coventry were Associated Cycle Manufacturers, the name assumed by Coventry Bicycles in 1939. and the Coventry Eagle Cycle and Motor Company, In addition there were a number of assemblers like Smith and Molesworth, and George Stokes. (fn. 265) By 1960 90 per cent. of British cycle production was in the hands of Tube Investments, (fn. 266) but the manufacture of complete cycles by any Coventry firm had ceased. Associated Cycle Manufacturers was taken over in 1954 by Raleigh Industries (later itself absorbed in Tube Investments) and the manufacture of 'Triumph' cycles shifted to Nottingham. The Coventry Eagle Cycle and Motor Company finally moved to Smethwick in 1959. (fn. 267)
MOTOR-CYCLE MANUFACTURE. (fn. 268)
The application of power to the cycle linked the cycle and the motor industries. The idea originated in Germany and France. It was not until 1881 that in England A. E. Bateman adapted for Sir T. Parkyns a 'Cheylesmore' front-driving tricycle to carry a small twin-cylinder steam-engine and flash boiler; but this did not lead to serious commercial production. (fn. 269) In 1900, however, a batch of Belgian 'Minerva' petrol engines designed for clipping to pedal cycles, was brought to England and sold to various cycle manufacturers. Bayliss-Thomas of Coventry claimed to be the first to exhibit one, but other Coventry producers, including Progress and Triumph, soon fitted them to their cycles. (fn. 270) In 1900, too, Perks and Birch of Coventry produced a motor wheel which could be fitted into the rear forks of a pedal bicycle, or the front forks of a tricycle. This reached the market through the Singer Company, (fn. 271) and may be regarded as the forerunner of the 'Cyclemaster' motor wheel of fifty years later. (fn. 272)
Destined to be more important than the motorassisted cycle, however, was the true motor cycle, which likewise originated on the continent. Early attempts to found an English industry were unsuccessful. Edward Butler of London patented a design for a motor tricycle as early as 1884, and the German Hildebrand-Wolfmuller machine was demonstrated in Coventry in 1895 by M. J. Schulte of the Triumph Cycle Company, but it was never built in England. (fn. 273) Construction of two Pennington motor cycles of unusual and doubtful design was undertaken in the Humber works at Coventry in 1896, but they proved unsuccessful. (fn. 274)
It was only after the repeal in 1896 of the 'Red Flag' Road Acts of 1861 and 1865, that any real advance could be made in Britain, and that Coventry could begin to add the production of motor cycles and cars to its prosperous cycle manufacture. (fn. 275) In the London-to-Brighton 'emancipation run' of 1896 the only English participant was a 1¼ h.p. Beeston tricycle, one of the first motor cycles made in Coventry. (fn. 276) This was manufactured by the New Beeston Cycle Company to which Harry J. Lawson granted rights of production under his De Dion Bouton patents. (fn. 277) In Britain designs at first concentrated on motor tricycles, for two-wheeled machines were more prone to side-slip. (fn. 278) In 1898 Lawson designed his Accles tricycle, on the De Dion Bouton principle, for the British Motor Syndicate, which he had founded, thus helping to provide the initial impetus which gained for Coventry the lead in design and production. (fn. 279) In 1899 the Motor Manufacturing Company, another of Lawson's projects, put on the market a 2¼ h.p. machine of the De Dion Bouton type which in the same year was supplied to the War Office for use in the South African War. (fn. 280)
It was about this time that midland cycle manufacturers generally began to take a serious interest in motor cycles. (fn. 281) During the period 1898-1903 at least 61 makes of motor cycle were produced in England, mostly in the Coventry-BirminghamWolverhampton area. Coventry makes included Allard, Beeston, Coventry Motette, (fn. 282) Coventry Eagle, Hillman, Humber, M.M.C., (fn. 283) Riley, Rover, Singer, Starley, Swift, and Triumph. (fn. 284)
In the early years of the 20th century the motor bicycle, as opposed to the motor-assisted bicycle, began to be developed further in England. Some early copies of the French Werner motor bicycle had been made by the Motor Manufacturing Company, which turned out 300 machines in 1898 and 500 in 1899. (fn. 285) Most early machines, however, derived from the Werner motor bicycle of 1901. (fn. 286) Examples in Coventry were the Humber motor bicycle of 1902 and the 1904 Triumph. The latter, constructed by M. J. Schulte, was the forerunner of the later Triumph models which did so much to establish the motor bicycle industry. (fn. 287) Other Coventry firms producing machines to the Werner formula at this time included Singer, Rex, and Bayliss-Thomas. (fn. 288)
About the same time English proprietary engines began to appear, one of the earliest being the 3 h.p. White and Poppe engine of 1903. By 1902 most cycle makers, including Triumph, were producing component machines, (fn. 289) but soon complete English motor cycles with their own engine types came into being, including such Coventry makes as Humber and Rex. Rover entered the industry in 1902-3 with the 2½ h.p. Imperial motor bicycle. (fn. 290) There was a mild boom in motor cycle production in 1903-4 (fn. 291) when Humber, Triumph, and Coventry Eagle were all doing a good trade. (fn. 292) In 1905 22 Coventry firms were listed as motor-cycle manufacturers. (fn. 293) In the years 1905-7, however, there were signs of a slump, and some Coventry cycle manufacturers, like Rover in 1906, (fn. 294) gave up producing motor cycles. (fn. 295) Others, like Rex, Triumph, and Coventry Eagle, persevered. (fn. 296)
Between 1908 and 1914 important developments were made in motor cycle design, and in these developments Coventry firms played a significant part. Engines became more efficient; a 1908 Triumph (475 c.c.) developed about 4 h.p. A basic improvement was the introduction by 1910-11 of a freeengine clutch and promising variable hub gears which disposed of the run-and-jump start, and by 1910 Triumph machines were supplied with a simple hub-clutch. (fn. 297) Thus by the outbreak of the First World War, although subsidiary to motor cars, motor cycles formed a not unimportant sector of Coventry's industry. Triumph, which in 1904 had sold only 270 machines, was as early as 1909 selling over 3,000 a year. (fn. 298) The output of Rover, which had begun to manufacture motor cycles again in 1910- 1911, rose from 480 in that year to 1,435 in 1914. (fn. 299)
The First World War interrupted motor-cycle development. Only a few of the 1915 designs were permitted to be manufactured and military needs were met largely by machines of 1914-15 design, including the Triumph 4 h.p. chain-cum-belt-drive machine. Several firms ceased to produce altogether in the war years. (fn. 300) The 1919 Olympia Show, however, gave the fillip needed to produce new ideas. In 1921 H. H. Ricardo designed a single-cylinder, push-rod-operated overhead 4-valve engine for Triumph, Humber brought out an improved version of the twin-cylinder horizontally-opposed form of engine, and Coventry Victor yet another new design. (fn. 301)
Other machines developed at Coventry between the two World Wars included the 650 c.c. Triumph Twin engine machine, one of the first commercial examples of the vertical twin-cylinder engine. The Coventry Eagle 'Pullman', and the Francis Barnett 'Cruiser' were examples of models with all-enclosed engines. (fn. 302) The gap in production caused by the war and the subsequent rise in prices led to post-war development of cheap low-powered machines of such varieties as the cycle motor unit, the autocycle, the ultra-light-weight motor cycle, and the motor scooter and monocar. Triumph continued making the 1935 vertical twin-cylinder type of machine, producing the 'Speed-Twin', and later the larger 'Thunderbird' and 'Tiger 110' models. From 1950 they were producing the 'Terrier', a small fourstroke single-cylinder-engine machine. (fn. 303)
In 1922 there were at least twenty motor cycle manufacturers in Coventry, approximately the same number as in 1905. (fn. 304) Only eight of them, however, dated from the early period. These included the Coventry Eagle Cycle and Motor Company, Humber, Rex, Rover, and Triumph. Rover dropped out in 1923 to concentrate on motor cars. (fn. 305) The model P Triumph began a price war in 1925 which lasted until the following year. The price of the standard Triumph 4.94 h.p. machine in 1927 was 35 per cent. less than before the war. (fn. 306) This situation led to the disappearance from motor-cycle production of some producers, such as the Coventry firms of A. Barnett and Company and Mars Ltd. which were unable to compete with the larger firms. Others, such as Lea-Francis in 1925, turned over completely to motor-car production. (fn. 307)
By 1928 there were nine manufacturers in the city, eight of which had been in existence in 1922. (fn. 308) About this time the place of Triumph as the backbone of the industry began to be taken by B.S.A. (fn. 309) By 1937 there were seven producers in the city, (fn. 310) and in 1939 Rudge-Whitworth moved to Hayes (Middlesex) and ceased to make motor cycles. (fn. 311) Triumph Engineering moved to a new factory at Allesley, just outside the city boundary, in 1942. (fn. 312) By 1950 there were only three Coventry producers left - Coventry Eagle, Francis and Barnett, which became part of the Associated Motor Cycles group in 1947, (fn. 313) and Triumph Engineering. (fn. 314) Coventry Eagle removed to Smethwick in 1959. (fn. 315) Francis and Barnett continued to make motor cycles in Coventry until 1961 when manufacture was moved to Birmingham. (fn. 316) By 1962 only Triumph, since 1951 part of the B.S.A. Group, remained, employing over 1,000 hands. (fn. 317)
MOTOR-VEHICLE MANUFACTURE. (fn. 318)
In 1897 disbelief was expressed that there was 'any motor car industry, properly so-called, carried on at Coventry for other than company promoting reasons'. (fn. 319) This criticism was levelled at the dubious financial activities of Harry J. Lawson who together with Ernest T. Hooley and Martin Rucker had in 1895 purchased the British patent rights of the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft from F. R. Simms's Daimler Motor Syndicate. On acquisition of these rights Lawson had formed the British Motor Syndicate (fn. 320) and had then unsuccessfully attempted to create a monopoly in the British motor industry almost before it had been born. (fn. 321) In 1896 he floated the Daimler Motor Company with a capital of £100,000 of which he himself accepted £40,000 for the licence to manufacture the results of the Daimler patents. (fn. 322) This left £60,000 working capital for the use of the inexperienced board. In the same year the company was set up in disused cotton mills formerly occupied by the Coventry Spinning and Weaving Company, with J. S. Critchley as works manager and Simms as consulting engineer. (fn. 323)
In the same year Lawson had floated the Great Horseless Carriage Company which was offered to the public for subscription with a capital of £750,000. Of this £500,000 was said to be in respect of a contract for licences to use patent rights belonging to the British Motor Syndicate including among them the Daimler, De Dion, and Pennington patents all of which had been purchased in the hope of creating a monopoly. Another contract gave the Great Horseless Carriage Company the right to purchase Daimler motors from the Daimler Motor Company at ten per cent. less than the market price. (fn. 324) By the midsummer of 1896 the former cotton mills, renamed the Motor Mills, housed, as well as Daimler, the Great Horseless Carriage Company together with two other Lawson projects, the New Beeston Cycle Company (fn. 325) and the Coventry Motor Company, formed by Lawson's secretary C. McRobie Turrell as a subsidiary of the British Motor Syndicate. (fn. 326)
Despite all this activity, however, none of Lawson's companies had manufactured any cars during 1896, and both Daimler and the Great Horseless Carriage Company were already facing financial difficulties. (fn. 327) Indeed watered stock imposed by Lawson was a difficulty which Daimler had to struggle for many years to overcome. (fn. 328) Lawson, however, resigned from the chairmanship of Daimler in 1897 but remained active in the Great Horseless Carriage Company (from 1898 the Motor Manufacturing Company). (fn. 329) Meanwhile, probably in the first two months of 1897, the first Coventry-built Daimler car was produced (fn. 330) and by the summer some twenty cars had been turned out by the company. (fn. 331) In 1897, and in the following year, the Coventry Motette, a modified version of the continental Léon Bollée tricar of 1896, was made by Turrell of the Coventry Motor Company. (fn. 332) These and Pennington tricars were also built at the Motor Mills in these early years, under licence, by workers of Humber and Company who had been housed by Lawson in the mills after their own works had been damaged by fire. (fn. 333)
By November 1897 the British Motor Syndicate could claim that 'whereas last November no Britishmade motor car was in manufacture, today over 200 motors and motor cars have been turned out by our various licensees in Coventry and motor cars are being delivered weekly'. (fn. 334) The Great Horseless Carriage Company produced a few cars in 1897, (fn. 335) and the Beeston Motor Company was already making motor tricycles and quadricycles in 1898 and exhibited a light car in that year. (fn. 336) This Lawson firm was wound up in 1900, (fn. 337) but the Coventry Motor Company and the Motor Manufacturing Company were then still in existence, and other manufacturers had started in the city. By 1905 Coventry had become, in the words of a witness before the Royal Commission on Motor Cars, 'more or less, the home of the motor cars'. (fn. 338)
A variety of reasons has been suggested to explain the development of the industry in the west midlands generally and Coventry in particular. The seasonal character of the local cycle business combined with severe depression in that industry in the 1890s, particularly in Coventry, was an inducement for cycle manufacturers to find other outlets. Engineering concerns elsewhere were sceptical of the future of the motor trade, but the midlands were able to provide the varied types of skilled labour and the wide range of engineering establishments capable of supplying the multifarious finished parts and semimanufactured products required. The way was thus open for the establishment there of the new industry. (fn. 339) At Coventry, in particular, the cycle industry had created a demand for machine tools of a more complex kind than those used in most other industries, and which could readily be adapted to the needs of motor manufacturing. (fn. 340) To this must be added the advantage of the established business in carrying the costs of experiment and production of the first model before returns began to flow in. (fn. 341)
The economic advantages of Coventry itself in the early years of motor manufacturing must not, however, be exaggerated since they were to some extent shared by other midland towns. Moreover, while it is true that eleven per cent. of all component firms were concentrated in Coventry in the years 1901-5, (fn. 342) at this stage in the industry's development the existence of local component suppliers was not the attraction it later became, for the bigger manufacturers made most of the car themselves. (fn. 343)
Indeed, although in Coventry many pedal-cycle firms turned to making motor cars, they did so only after the Lawson companies, specifically set up for the purpose of manufacturing cars, had been established in Coventry. (fn. 344) The Daimler Motor Company, however, had settled in the cotton mills (off Sandy Lane, Radford) only by 'a lucky fluke', for it had searched in Cheltenham and Birmingham before being offered accommodation on favourable terms at Coventry in 1896. (fn. 345) Other firms, too, in the early years of the 20th century began in Coventry purely as motor manufacturers, and may well have been attracted to the city partly by Daimler's existence there, for in 1900 Daimler and M.M.C., with Lanchester of Birmingham, were still the chief manufacturers. (fn. 346) The firms so attracted included the Maudslay Motor Company, the Deasy Motor Manufacturing Company, and the Standard Motor Company. (fn. 347) The last named, under R. W. Maudslay, took over a small works in Much Park Street, aiming at building a few models with standardized and interchangeable parts, and the first Standard car was produced in 1903. (fn. 348)
It remains true, however, that once the industry had begun in the city cycle firms were quickly attracted to a type of manufacture they could undertake without a great deal of trouble. By 1914 there were in Coventry several large concerns combining the manufacture of cycles with that of motor cycles or cars, or both, (fn. 349) combinations which continued to be common in Coventry into the 1920s. (fn. 350) Coventry cycle firms which developed in this way were many: the Swift Cycle Company (later Swift of Coventry) began car production in 1899 (fn. 351) and Lea and Francis began to manufacture cars in 1903. (fn. 352) The Allard Cycle Company produced cars from 1899, the earliest possibly being made for the International Motor Car Company of London. Later the firm became Allard and Co. and in 1902 amalgamated with the Birmingham Motor Manufacturing Company, changing its name to the Rex Motor Manufacturing Company. (fn. 353) Singer and Company (to 1903 the Singer Cycle Co.) marketed its first motor car, a two-seater tricar, in 1906. (fn. 354) The Rover Cycle Company (from 1906 the Rover Co.) first produced a car in 1904. (fn. 355) The Riley Cycle Company in 1898 made a car claimed to be the first with mechanically-operated inlet and exhaust valves. (fn. 356)
There were others too, but perhaps the most important of the Coventry cycle firms which turned to motor manufacture was the Humber Cycle Company, which besides the Pennington tricar and the Bollée-Coventry Motette, mentioned above, produced a tricar, the 'Sociable', in 1898 (fn. 357) and made a motorised quadricycle, the 'M.C. Voiturette', powered by a 2¼ h.p. De Dion engine, in 1899, under licence from Lawson's British Motor Syndicate. In the following year the company was re-formed as Humber Ltd., breaking away from Lawson's group, and began to manufacture the 5 h.p. 'Humberette'. In 1903 the firm opened a new factory at Beeston (Notts.) to build larger, more expensive models, but light-car manufacture continued at Coventry. By 1905 the company was producing there 6½ h.p. and 7½ h.p. models as well, and in 1908 all the firm's production was concentrated again in Coventry. (fn. 358)
At least two electrically propelled vehicles were made in Coventry in the late 19th century, the first, a tricar, being built by J. K. Starley about 1888, (fn. 359) and up to 1900 the motor industry was in an experimental stage. It soon became clear in Coventry, however, that for small vehicles at least the petrol engine was superior to steam or electricity. (fn. 360) Such a conclusion was confirmed by the success of the Daimler Company and of several other of the firms which had begun manufacturing petrol-driven cars in Coventry before the turn of the century. What is striking is how many of these pioneer Coventry firms flourished for a long time, (fn. 361) since in these years, although entry to the industry required comparatively little capital and little organization or training of personnel, survival was difficult because of intense competition and the rapidly changing nature of the product. (fn. 362) Besides Humber, Riley, Swift, Singer, Allard, Daimler, the Great Horseless Carriage Company (M.M.C.), the Beeston Motor Company, and the Coventry Motor Company, at least two other firms began to make cars in Coventry before 1901. They were the Endurance Motor Company which apparently produced only between 1898 and 1901, but was not wound up until 1908, (fn. 363) and the Progress Cycle Company which began to manufacture in 1899. (fn. 364) Humber, Riley, Singer, Swift, and Daimler were all still manufacturing in 1930.
Daimler's financial position had improved during 1900 when a profit of over £1,000 was made. (fn. 365) Lack of capital, however, prevented expansion, (fn. 366) and in 1904 a new company, the Daimler Motor Company (1904), was floated to obtain working capital. (fn. 367) The old company was wound up and sold to the new one, and when the Motor Manufacturing Company was liquidated in 1910 Daimler acquired its building. (fn. 368) The number of Daimler employees was doubled, branch depots were established in 1905 and 1906, and increased orders followed. (fn. 369) After a setback in 1908, due to overproduction, large profits were made in 1910. There was no guarantee, however, that profits would not continue to fluctuate and the amalgamation with the Birmingham Small Arms Company, which occurred in 1910, was probably due partly to the desire of the Daimler stockholders for additional security. (fn. 370) The merger, as a result of which the company was re-formed as the Daimler Company, was described at the time as 'one of the most important [combinations] ever effected in the motor industry'. (fn. 371) It did not, however, involve any radical reorganization of either B.S.A. or Daimler. B.S.A. continued to produce its own car, though with a Daimler engine, (fn. 372) and Daimler continued with its own production until after the Second World War.
From the beginning of the century until the early 1920s a period of small-scale competition existed in the British motor industry. (fn. 373) Between 1901 and 1905, in company with a large number of small firms, often tiny engineering concerns, 22 Coventry manufacturers entered the industry. (fn. 374) Since production was on a very small scale, entry on fairly equal terms was relatively simple, but owing to the lack of working capital, to the large number of competing establishments, and to the depression of 1907 many of this second generation of motor manufacturers had only a short life. (fn. 375) The Crawford Gear Company produced cars only in 1901, Brooks Motor Company only in 1902, the New Centaur Company from 1901 to 1904, (fn. 376) the Velox Motor Company from 1902 to 1904, the Carlton Company and the Priory Motor Company (fn. 377) for some time between 1901 and 1905. Ryley, Wood and Bradford produced in 1901 and 1902 (fn. 378) but had ceased to make cars by 1905. The Duryea Motor Company, which up to 1904 had sold American Duryea cars, made some 50 Coventry Duryeas only, between 1904 and 1907. (fn. 379) It was then taken over by Sturmey Motors. (fn. 380) The Forman Motor Manufacturing Company and the Ridley Autocar Company, which both began to make cars in 1901, had ceased to do so by 1910. So too had White and Poppe, which had produced the Climax from 1905. (fn. 381) By 1910 the Coronet Motor Company, which had itself begun to manufacture in 1903 on absorbing the Clarendon Motor Company, had also fallen out. (fn. 382) The Iden Motor Company, which first made a car in 1904, was liquidated and its factory bought by the new Deasy Motor Car Manufacturing Company in 1906, (fn. 383) and although another Iden Motor Company was formed in 1907, (fn. 384) and yet another, George Iden Ltd., in 1911, (fn. 385) there is no evidence of manufacture of Iden cars after the period 1906-10. (fn. 386) By 1915 Payne and Bates (first cars, 1901), West Ltd., producing the West from 1904 and the Academy from 1906, and Johnson, Hurley and Martin, producing the Alpha from some time between 1901 and 1905, had similarly disappeared as car manufacturers. (fn. 387) The Clement Motor Company, which up to 1909 had sold French cars and then Coventry-made vehicles, was liquidated in 1914. (fn. 388) The Maudslay Motor Company, which had begun in 1902, continued to make a few cars into the early 1920s, but of the 22 firms which had entered the industry between 1901 and 1905 only three - the Rover Company, the Standard Motor Company, and Lea and Francis (later Lea-Francis Engineering, and from 1945 Lea-Francis Cars) (fn. 389) - survived as car manufacturers into the thirties. (fn. 390)
After the first perilous rush of the century the years 1906 to 1914 saw somewhat fewer entries into the industry in Coventry. The new firms were, however, stabler and tended to survive longer. Of the fourteen firms which began to make cars in the city in this period (fn. 391) only seven had dropped out by 1915. These were the Coventry Engineering Company, which produced a 20 h.p. car in 1908, (fn. 392) the Coventry Ordnance Company, a branch of Cammell-Lairds which made a car about 1907, (fn. 393) the Arno Motor Company, which produced as well as motor cycles a 35 h.p. car in 1908 but had ceased to exist by 1913, (fn. 394) Rudge-Whitworth, which produced a car in 1913, the Arden Motor Company, which produced cars from 1912, (fn. 395) the Ranger Cyclecar Company (1914-15), and Sturmey Motors, producers at various times between 1908 and 1912 of the Sturmey, Lotis, and the Duryea cars, and the Parsons delivery van. (fn. 396) The other seven were still manufacturing after the end of the First World War. (fn. 397) The Siddeley Deasy Motor Manufacturing Company (formerly the Deasy Motor Manufacturing Company) on its combination with Armstrong-Whitworth in 1919 became ArmstrongSiddeley Motors, under the control of the newlyformed Armstrong-Whitworth Development Company. (fn. 398) The Hillman Motor Company which grew out of the small Coventry engineering company of William Hillman, who with the aid of Louis Coatalen had first produced a competition car in 1907, (fn. 399) continued to make cars in Coventry after 1932 as part of Rootes Ltd. (fn. 400) Coventry-Premier Ltd. and the Buckingham Engineering Company, which began car production in 1913 and 1914 respectively, ceased production in 1923; Stoneleigh Motors and Calcott Brothers, which both began in 1912, fell out in 1924 and 1926; Crouch Cars produced between 1912 and 1928. (fn. 401)
Yet Coventry remained the great centre of the industry and in 1913 Alfred Herbert could claim that 'we in Coventry are largely concerned with motors'. (fn. 402) In 1911 6,838 male workers, nearly onethird of the personnel employed in the motor-car industry in the west midlands, and over 14 per cent. of those so employed in Britain, were concentrated in Coventry. This compared with some 5,400 in Birmingham, 1,300 in Wolverhampton, and 2,800 elsewhere in Worcestershire, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire. (fn. 403)
During the years before the First World War expansion was accompanied by very little concentration in production. (fn. 404) At Daimler's annual general meeting in 1897 it was said to be 'impossible however well-equipped and managed a factory might be to produce a motor car complete with a body etc., in less than 2 or 3 months'. (fn. 405) In that year, employing some 200 to 300 men, the company claimed to be turning out cars at the rate of two or three a week, (fn. 406) but in fact only 50 were produced in 1898, and in 1900 only 150. (fn. 407) The Rex Motor Manufacturing Company enlarged its works in 1902 with the intention of producing four or five cars a week, (fn. 408) while between 1899 and 1903 the Progress Motor Company made and sold about 500 cars, an output of only two to three a week. (fn. 409) It is true that there was a slow expansion among the larger firms. By 1903 Daimler was producing 250 a year, an output which was doubled by 1906, (fn. 410) while Rover produced 754 in 1906 and 1,211 in 1907. (fn. 411) Early in 1906 Humber claimed to be making 36 cars a week and to be unable to keep up with orders, (fn. 412) and in 1906 the company in fact produced about 1,000 'cars', (fn. 413) but this figure probably included vehicles like the Humber Olympia which were really adapted motor cycles. (fn. 414)
The depression of 1907 delayed further expansion. Daimler, Rover, and Humber all suffered severe losses; (fn. 415) Rover's output fell to 869 in 1908, 663 in 1909, and 705 in 1910. (fn. 416) Thus it was that by 1914 the industry in all but a few cases was still one of comparatively small units. Nevertheless although the two largest British producers, Wolesley and Ford, were not in Coventry, it has been estimated that by 1913 about 9,000 cars a year were being made in the city compared with some 5,000 in Birmingham and 3,000 in Wolverhampton. (fn. 417) Singer, Rover, Daimler, and Humber were by then the largest manufacturers in Coventry. The first three of these firms turned out some 1,000 to 1,500 vehicles a year. (fn. 418) Rover's output in fact increased from 791 in 1912 to 1,563 in 1913, and 1,943 in 1914. (fn. 419) Humber, which in 1910 claimed a production capacity of 4,000 vehicles a year, (fn. 420) produced 2,500 vehicles in 1913, a total probably including 2,000 small Humberettes. (fn. 421)
Rover, Singer, and Humber were still making cycles but at this period car production began to dominate their business. (fn. 422) Singer employed 600 hands in motor manufacture in about 1909, (fn. 423) and Humber, which had employed 1,300 workers on cycle production in 1897, was employing 1,500 on car and cycle manufacture in 1906, and 2,500 to 3,000 in 1913. (fn. 424) Daimler employed about 2,750 operatives in 1907, 4,000 in 1910, (fn. 425) and about 5,000 in 1913. (fn. 426)
A second rank of producers at Coventry at this time included Swift of Coventry (formerly the European Sewing Machine Company, the Coventry Machinists Company, and the Swift Cycle Company successively) (fn. 427) which had manufactured only 24 vehicles in 1902 but which in 1913 turned out 850, and Standard which manufactured 750 vehicles in 1913. (fn. 428) The Deasy Motor Car Manufacturing Company claimed a production capacity of ten cars a week in 1910, employing some 200-300 men, (fn. 429) but actually produced about six cars a week in 1912. (fn. 430) The majority of firms at Coventry, however, as elsewhere in Britain, were on a much smaller scale. In 1913 the Hillman Motor Car Company manufactured only 63 cars, Maudslay Motors 50, and only fifteen Riley cars were made. (fn. 431)
Such a size structure partly resulted from the fact that the accessory and component industry was at this period insufficiently developed to supply parts in large numbers so that, while many of the smaller firms did buy engines, chassis, and other components to assemble the few cars they marketed as their own product, the larger motor manufacturers had to make much of each car themselves. (fn. 432) Daimler and Humber in the early days made all their own engines, bodies, and major components. (fn. 433) In 1914 Rover did all its own work except for the pressed steel frames, wheels, and the largest of the drop forgings, (fn. 434) while at the works of Crouch Cars 'practically the whole car is made: the gears are cut, the cylinders bored, the body built, trimmed and painted'. (fn. 435)
The types of motor vehicle being produced at Coventry in the early years of the industry varied greatly. There was the motor car proper which was often expensive and high-powered, like the 24 h.p. Deasy car which sold for 500 guineas in 1906. (fn. 436) In addition there were 'voiturettes', and much lighter vehicles which developed from motor cycles. Many of the smaller vehicles were produced in Coventry. The Coventry Motette of 1897, the Humber Sociable of 1898, and the Humber Phaeton had single-cylinder engines. These were all threewheelers, and the Humber Olympia was a motor cycle made into a tricar; the Triumph Cycle Company also produced a tricar based on its motor cycle. Other medium-powered tricars were made by Riley, Rover, and Singer. Swift and Humber produced motorised quadricycles. In 1905 Singer brought out a two-cylinder tricar and Riley and Rex followed suit. (fn. 437) During the same period the voiturettes produced in Coventry included the M.M.C. and the Humberette, (fn. 438) while the 8 h.p. Rover car of 1905 is regarded as a link between voiturettes and the later light cars. (fn. 439)
Until the passing of the Finance Act of 1909, legislation favoured concentration on high-powered expensive cars. (fn. 440) This Act, however, put a penalty on large engines and consequently production of cyclecars (fn. 441) and larger light cars (fn. 442) was further developed, and there was something of a boom in light cars. (fn. 443) Of these the 'Singer Ten', produced in 1912, was one of the most successful. (fn. 444)
By the end of 1914 the improved light car had established itself and the 70 odd models on the market included, apart from the Singer Ten, cars made by the Coventry firms of Standard, Riley, Swift, and Calcott. (fn. 445) Cyclecars also appeared in large numbers after 1908. Some, like the Swift twincylinder cyclecar of 1912, were well designed, (fn. 446) but the defects found in many others caused the cyclecar movement to fail and the field was left open for the development of light cars. (fn. 447) Some cyclecars, however, continued to be made in Coventry after the end of the First World War; they included the Crouch, the Coventry-Premier, the Omega, and the Stoneleigh. (fn. 448)
Besides private vehicles, commercial vehicles were also manufactured in the city before the First World War by such firms as Humber and Standard. (fn. 449) The two most important Coventry producers in this field, however, were the Maudslay Motor Company and Daimler. Maudslay was one of the producers of petrol buses and goods lorries and in 1902 began to supply the London Road Car Company. (fn. 450) Besides making a variety of commercial vehicles from about the turn of the century Daimler, too, in 1910, began to specialize in buses, and in 1912 also made some agricultural tractors. (fn. 451)
During the First World War private car sales were limited and the resources of the industry were adapted to wartime needs. The Maudslay Motor Company supplied heavy vehicles to the armed services. (fn. 452) Daimler manufactured tractors, ambulances, wagonettes, lorries, buses, engines and transmissions for tanks, and aero-engines. (fn. 453) Standard devoted its energies at its new Canley factory to the manufacture of aircraft, (fn. 454) and Riley made aircraft engines, ambulance equipment, fuses, shells, and bombs. (fn. 455) Humber produced aero-engines, aircraft fuselages, steel darts, and shells, together with a limited number of cars. (fn. 456) Rover also continued to produce cars and motor cycles; in 1914 1,943 cars and 1,435 motor cycles were made by the firm, and in 1915 1,235 cars and 1,105 motor cycles. In 1916 and 1917 production of Rover cars fell to 149, and 536, and motor cycle production ceased. Between 1915 and 1917, however, 490 Rover lorries were made. (fn. 457) Siddeley Deasy produced Stoneleigh lorries, mobile field kitchens, ambulances, and staff cars for the Russian army as well as cars, aircraft, and aero-engines for the British government. (fn. 458)
In the years immediately following the First World War the British motor industry expanded largely as a result of the increase in new firms and the expansion of established companies, encouraged by the emergence of a bigger accessories and components industry (fn. 459) and by the heavy accumulated demand for private cars. (fn. 460)
In the post-war years Rover expanded its capacity when it acquired a large factory at Tyseley, Birmingham, in 1919 (fn. 461) and extended its Coventry works by obtaining an adjacent site. (fn. 462) Daimler, after the war, took over a factory in Birmingham to make a new range of B.S.A.-Daimler cars. (fn. 463) In the early twenties Singer took over the car factories of Coventry-Premier, and Calcott Brothers, as well as absorbing the Coventry Repetition Company and the Sparkbrook Manufacturing Company. In 1927 the firm also acquired a large factory at Small Heath, Birmingham. (fn. 464)
Between 1919 and 1926 twelve other Coventry firms began to manufacture cars for the first time. (fn. 465) T. G. John Ltd. in 1919 took over the engineering works belonging to the American firm of Holley's Brothers, (fn. 466) produced the Alvis car, and in 1921 became the Alvis Car and Engineering Company and in 1936 Alvis Ltd. (fn. 467) Clarke, Cluley and Company, although it had produced a tricar in 1904, (fn. 468) manufactured the Cluley light car only between 1921 and 1928. (fn. 469) Wigan-Barlow Motors, connected with the Lewis Ordnance Manufacturing Company, produced a few cars between 1923 and 1924, some probably at Coventry. (fn. 470) The others were the Dawson Car Company (which began production 1920), Marseal Motors (1919), the Williamson Motor Company (1916), Albatros Motors, (fn. 471) the CoventryVictor Motor Company (1926), the Cooper Car Company (1923), Emms Motors (1923), W. J. Green, motor cycle manufacturers who produced the Omega three-wheeler in 1925-7, (fn. 472) and the Triumph Motor Company, which began to make cars in 1923. (fn. 473)
This was the last large entry of local firms into the industry. Some were producers on a very small scale and had by that time little chance of success against larger established firms. Armstrong Siddeley Motors just after the First World War was producing some 3,000-4,000 vehicles a year. (fn. 474) Rover's output was 1,400 in 1920,4,603 in 1921,6,466 in 1922,5,217 in 1923, and 6,749 in 1924. (fn. 475) Marseal Motors on the other hand employed only 40 to 50 workers in 1922, and turned out about six cars a week; between 1919 and 1922 it made only 80 cars. (fn. 476) Even the 55 cars a week produced in the early twenties by Calcott Brothers, which had been making cars since 1912, fell short of the output needed to cover overhead expenses, (fn. 477) and it is not surprising to find that between 1920 and 1929 thirteen Coventry firms (fn. 478) ceased to make cars, in the company of some 70 other British manufacturers. (fn. 479) Those that disappeared as car manufacturers included the Maudslay Motor Company (ceased car production in the early 1920s, but continued to make commercial vehicles), Crouch Cars (1928), Clarke, Cluley and Company (1928), Marseal Motors (1925), Wigan-Barlow Motors (1923), Albatros Motors (1924), the Cooper Car Company (1923), Emms Motors, which appears to have produced only a sports car, in 1923, (fn. 480) and W. J. Green (1927). In addition Coventry-Premier Ltd., producers of the Premier, was taken over by Singer in 1920 and the Premier ceased to be made in 1923. (fn. 481) The Buckingham Engineering Company (formerly J. F. Buckingham), which had made the Chota and Buckingham cyclecars, (fn. 482) and light cars, and was re-formed in 1922 with T. G. John of Alvis as a director, (fn. 483) ceased to manufacture in 1923. (fn. 484) Humber, although it had absorbed Commer Cars of Luton in 1926, was in financial difficulties by 1928 and was forced to amalgamate with Hillman. (fn. 485) Stoneleigh Motors, a subsidiary of ArmstrongSiddeley, ceased production in 1924 after an unsuccessful attempt by the parent company to use the firm to enter the low-priced car market with the Stoneleigh car. (fn. 486)
Three of the firms which thus ceased production had entered the industry between 1912 and 1914, and eight since 1916. Indeed of those which began production in the post-war years and early twenties only Alvis, Triumph, and Coventry-Victor survived into the thirties. (fn. 487) Coventry-Victor produced cars up to 1937 or 1938, and continued to make commercial vehicles. (fn. 488) Alvis, which in 1922-3 built some 50 commercially unsuccessful Buckingham cyclecars for the Buckingham Engineering Company, in 1924 narrowly escaped following that company into oblivion. (fn. 489) Daimler, part of the B.S.A. group since 1910, was forced to sell its factory in Birmingham in the late 1920s. (fn. 490)
By 1930 there were only eleven Coventry firms retaining their own independent identity. In addition there were Daimler, and the HumberHillman combination which came under control of Rootes Ltd. in 1932. (fn. 491) Siddeley Deasy had combined with Armstrong Whitworth and Company in 1919 and Armstrong Whitworth's aircraft and motor section was subsequently transferred to Coventry. The new company, Armstrong-Siddeley Motors, managed to offset the effect of the difficult times of the early twenties by the development of aero-engines. (fn. 492) Some forty other firms which at some time or other had made cars in Coventry, however, had dropped out before 1930.
The decimation of car firms in the 1920s was perhaps partly due to the general slump of those years, (fn. 493) but was probably connected more directly with the adoption by a few firms of flow production and standardization of parts. Indeed the reduction in the number of firms was accompanied by expansion of production and a fall of 25 per cent. in production prices. (fn. 494) The hold of the cheap American car on the market was broken and a new class of customers emerged. (fn. 495)
In 1929 it is estimated that three British manufacturers shared some 75 per cent. of the national production of cars. Of these the Coventry firm of Singer was the third, accounting for perhaps 15 per cent. (fn. 496) Singer's output by 1927 had been 10,000 cars a year (fn. 497) but by 1929, as a result of expansion, it was producing some 28,000. (fn. 498) After Singer the next largest producers in Coventry were Rover and Standard. Rover, after a setback between 1925 and 1928, produced 7,225 cars in 1929. (fn. 499) Standard probably had a production figure at that time of between 4,000 and 6,000 cars a year. (fn. 500)
In the field of commercial vehicles the Maudslay Motor Company and Daimler continued to produce independently. In 1912 the Associated Equipment Company of London had been set up, as a result of growing ties between Daimler and the London General Omnibus Company, to make components. Between 1926 and 1928 the Daimler Company and Associated Equipment amalgamated their commercial vehicle interests in the Associated Daimler Company. In 1936, however, a new company, Transport Vehicles (Daimler), was set up to deal independently with all the commercial side of Daimler's business. (fn. 501)
By 1921 18,692 Coventry workers were engaged in the manufacture of cycles and motor vehicles. This was 9 per cent. of the total so employed in the country, and compares with 28,863 in Birmingham (14 per cent.), 6,252 in Wolverhampton (3 per cent.), and 11,023 (5 per cent.) in the rest of the Birmingham district. (fn. 502) The 1930 Census of Production gives a total of about 109,000 persons (compared with some 96,000 in 1924) engaged in the manufacture of motor vehicles and cycles in Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Staffordshire, somewhat less than half the number so employed in England, Scotland, and Wales. (fn. 503) A high proportion of the midland figure was to be found in Coventry and Birmingham. In 1931 19,285 workers were employed in Coventry in the motor and cycle industries and 27,206 in Birmingham. (fn. 504)
The thirties saw a further struggle for domination in the British motor industry and the disappearance of more independent firms. The gap between the greater and thelesser producer, however, stillremained small enough to allow a few energetic smaller firms to rise to importance. A greater emphasis on variety and frequent change of model and a shift of demand to lower horse-power models somewhat reduced the advantages of mass production (fn. 505) and permitted specialist producers to survive. Thus while Autovia Cars failed to break into the market, and had only a brief existence between 1936 and 1939, (fn. 506) another Coventry firm, S.S. Cars (from 1945 Jaguar Cars), successfully marketed a specialist car. S.S. Cars had grown out of the Swallow Coachbuilding Company, originally of Blackpool, but from 1928 of Coventry, in 1933. (fn. 507) In 1934 nearly 1,800 S.S. cars were produced and in 1936 2,500, about 7 per cent. being exported. Just before the Second World War S.S. production reached over 5,000 cars a year. (fn. 508) LeaFrancis, the first British company to sell to the public a supercharged model, (fn. 509) was considerably reorganized in the 1930s while Alvis, after a decline in sales in 1931, (fn. 510) strengthened its position from 1936 by developing also the manufacture of aeroengines and military vehicles. (fn. 511)
Others, however, were not able to survive. Triumph, which had expanded its factory space about 1930 at a time when it was exporting 25 per cent. of its output of cars, (fn. 512) had by 1937 fallen on bad times and was employing only about 250 workers. (fn. 513) In 1939 it ceased to produce cars and passed into receivership. (fn. 514)
Swift of Coventry disappeared in 1931. Riley, producing well below 1,000 cars a year, and on the verge of liquidation, became part of the Nuffield group in 1938, (fn. 515) its most important asset being its name. In contrast Daimler was in its heyday in the mid 1930s and acquired the Lanchester Company of Birmingham in 1931, transferring Lanchester's car production from Sparkbrook to Coventry. (fn. 516) The most successful British producers in the years between the wars, however, were those which concentrated on mass production of a limited number of low horse-power models. (fn. 517) The most important development in the thirties in the Coventry industry was the emergence of two very large producers - Standard and Rootes Securities Ltd. Both owed their success to their ability to meet the demand for 8 and 10 h.p. cars, for which there were no established models. (fn. 518) This was achieved by stream-lining production methods. Rootes Securities Ltd., comprising the Coventry factories of the Hillman Motor Company and Humber Ltd. together with Commer Cars of Luton, standardized tools and products throughout the group (fn. 519) thus halving the average cost of its vehicles between 1929 and 1936. (fn. 520) Heavy initial losses made by Rootes were quickly turned into profits of £245,000 in 1934 and £330,000 in 1939. (fn. 521) Standard was raised to the top rank of car manufacturers largely as a result of the reconstruction carried out by Captain J. P. (later Sir John) Black, formerly of Hillman, who joined the company in 1929. Retooling, abandonment of manufacture of easily purchasable components, and the introduction of the 'Big' and 'Little' 'Nines', 'Twelves' and 'Sixteens' turned a loss of £18,000 in 1928 into a profit of £40,000 in 1930, and of £318,000 in 1939. These developments involved a striking increase in output. In 1930 6,000 Standard cars were made, in the years 1933-5 some 21,000-25,000 a year, in 1936 34,000, and in 1939 about 50,000 vehicles. (fn. 522) In 1936-7 annual production of Hillman cars reached 52,000, (fn. 523) and by 1938 Rootes and Standard shared with four other firms outside Coventry 90 per cent. of British car production. (fn. 524) Singer, which had been adversely affected by a fall in exports in the early 1930s, (fn. 525) and perhaps had followed an unenterprising capital policy, (fn. 526) was displaced from its former position of pre-eminence in the Coventry industry, while Rover's output although remaining healthy only exceeded 11,000 in 1939. (fn. 527)
Another significant feature of the thirties was the development of 'shadow' factories. In 1936 some of the chief motor-car firms, including Daimler, Rover, Austin, and Rootes, were asked by the government to pioneer a 'shadow factory scheme' by which new factories were set up and firms worked together to mass produce aero-engines. Each factory was government owned but controlled by the firm concerned. These works began production in 1937. During the war Coventry firms were active in other directions, too. Daimler, for example, made among other things armoured cars, tank transmissions, gun turrets for aircraft, bus chassis, rocket projectiles, and parts for automatic weapons. (fn. 528) Humber made staff cars, scout cars, and armoured cars, (fn. 529) Rover made aero-engines, tank engines, and aircraft parts, (fn. 530) and Armstrong-Siddeley developed and produced torpedo engines, gyroscopes, and depth valves, and also increased the production of aero-engines. (fn. 531)
After the Second World War Rootes and Standard quickly re-established themselves as Coventry's largest producers of cars. Both expanded by the acquisition of former shadow factories (fn. 532) and by absorption of other firms. In 1945 Standard took over the Triumph Motor Company, which had gone into receivership in 1939, and became associated with the Ferguson Tractor Company. (fn. 533) Rootes took over Singer Motors in 1955. Singer had suffered greatly from air-raid damage to all its three Coventry factories, and after the Second World War vehicle assembly was confined to its Birmingham factory. The Coventry works concentrated on casting cylinder blocks, machining, spares, and service. On absorption by Rootes production was down to about 50 cars a week, and the firm was on the verge of bankruptcy. (fn. 534)
Standard's and Rootes's share of total British production of private cars rose in the post-war period. Rootes's, which had been 9.6 per cent. in 1938, was 10.7 in 1946, and rose to a peak of 13.0 in 1950; Standard's, whose share had been 9 per cent. in 1938, was 11.6 in 1946 and rose to a maximum of 12.6 in 1951. After that the share of both was adversely affected by the expanded output of the Ford Motor Company of Dagenham, (fn. 535) but they nevertheless remained in 1955 among those five largest British producers making over 100,000 vehicles a year, the two Coventry firms between them accounting for 20 per cent. of British output. (fn. 536) Their success was due in part to increasing export sales. While the smaller manufacturers of more expensive 'quality' cars, like Daimler, Alvis, and Lea-Francis found great difficulty in selling abroad, Standard exported over 75 per cent. of its output in the years immediately after 1947, compared with 15 per cent. before the war. (fn. 537) The Rootes group likewise exported a high proportion of its vehicles in the post-war years. (fn. 538) Post-war expansion by Standard and Rootes was also partly the result of concentration on fewer models. The Rootes group companies had 22 models, and Standard and Triumph 24 before the war, but both groups had only seven in 1946. (fn. 539)
Specialist producers in Coventry also reduced the numbers of their models. Daimler with Lanchester, for example, made only five models in 1946 compared with eleven before the war, but this did not prevent its share in total British production from falling from 1.2 per cent. in 1938 to 0.6 in 1947. ArmstrongSiddeley, however, while still producing four models, slightly increased its share from 0.6 to 0.8 per cent., while that of Alvis, producing only one model, remained constant at 0.3 per cent. (fn. 540)
The Coventry industry continued to be affected by post-war rationalization. The production of Riley cars, which had been carried on in Coventry by the Nuffield group after 1945, was transferred to Abingdon in 1949 and the former Riley works was integrated with the Morris Motors Engines Branch factory which with a Morris body-building factory had been established in Coventry. (fn. 541) ArmstrongSiddeley Motors which from 1935 was controlled by the Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Company (an amalgamation of the Armstrong Siddeley Development Company and Hawker Aircraft) merged with Bristol Aero-Engines in 1959 to form Bristol Siddeley Engines. This company is now jointly controlled by the Hawker Siddeley Group, which Hawker Siddeley Aircraft became in 1948, and the Bristol Aeroplane Company. (fn. 542) In 1961 Bristol Siddeley Engines ceased to produce cars. (fn. 543) Standard, which in association with the Ferguson Tractor Company had assembled Ferguson tractors at its works since 1946, sold its tractor manufacturing assets to Massey Ferguson in 1959. (fn. 544) In 1961 Standard began to feel the pressure of the recession in the motor industry and, as Standard-Triumph International, became a subsidiary of the Lancashire firm of Leyland Motors. (fn. 545) Daimler, the doyen of British motoring firms, had in the thirties set its face against mass production methods but the relative decline in the market for luxury cars led the B.S.A. Group in 1960 to allow the Daimler Company (and with it Transport Vehicles (Daimler) Ltd.) to be taken over by the expanding Coventry company of Jaguar Cars. (fn. 546) Lea-Francis, another pioneer motor manufacturer, long a producer of high quality cars, gradually fell out of car manufacture after the Second World War. The firm was hard hit by the price gap between the high quality specialist car and the cheaper mass-produced models, and the imposition of purchase tax accentuated this difficulty. In 1952 production was cut to about six cars a week (fn. 547) and in 1953 Lea-Francis decided not to exhibit at the Motor Show (fn. 548) and, after 1954, not to produce cars until the tax should be lifted. (fn. 549) Apart from a sports car with a Ford engine, the 'Leaf-Lynx', produced experimentally in 1960, (fn. 550) no further LeaFrancis cars were made and the company was in financial difficulties in 1963. (fn. 551)
The Rover Company left Coventry for Birmingham in 1945, its Coventry factory having been severely damaged by enemy bombing, (fn. 552) and by 1963 only two completely independent motor manufacturers remained in the city - Alvis and Jaguar. Alvis's production remained on a small scale, but Jaguar provided a remarkable record of expansion and apart from acquiring Daimler purchased Guy Motors of Wolverhampton in 1961, (fn. 553) and in 1963 obtained a controlling interest in Coventry-Climax Engines, the makers of engines and fork-lift trucks. (fn. 554) Rationalization in the field of commercial vehicles led to the Maudslay Motor Company being taken over in 1948 by the Associated Equipment Company, the name of which was changed to Associated Commercial Vehicles in the same year. (fn. 555)
Despite those initial difficulties of rehabilitating the industry in Coventry after the Second World War (fn. 556) which had led to the removal of Singer and Rover, reduction in the number of business units went hand in hand with increased output and mass production by a few large firms. The importance of Coventry as a motor centre was thus not diminished. Indeed its share of the national output was some 2 per cent. higher in 1947 (about 27 per cent.) than it had been in 1938. (fn. 557)
Standard's post-war output had soon reached 40,000 cars a year and nearly 50,000 Ferguson tractors. (fn. 558) In 1954 Standard was employing about 12,000 workers at its three main factories in Coventry, including the Banner Lane tractor works. (fn. 559) Jaguar, which had taken over one of the largest Coventry shadow factories in 1952, (fn. 560) rebuilt its works in 1957 after a fire (fn. 561) and by 1959 the firm's production, swollen by enormously increased export sales, reached about 20,000 cars. (fn. 562)
The 1935 Census of Production shows that in Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Staffordshire 124,135 people were engaged in the manufacture of cycles and motors, compared with 108,865 in 1930. More than half the workers in the United Kingdom were employed in establishments with 1,500 workers and over. (fn. 563) The average number of employees per establishment in the midland area rose from about 380 in 1930 to about 400 in 1935. (fn. 564) In 1938 35 per cent. of the total insured population of Coventry was to be found in the motor and cycle industries. This represented a 21 per cent. increase between 1935 and 1938, a growth sufficiently large to make Coventry the fastest growing of all midland towns in these years. (fn. 565) In 1939 the Humber and Hillman factories employed about 6,000 workers, (fn. 566) Jaguar about 1,500, (fn. 567) and Rover some 4,000. (fn. 568)
In 1947 137,000 people, representing some 45 per cent. of the industry's total national labour force, were to be found in the central midland area, the second largest concentration being London with 81,000 workers. Of the 137,000 midland workers about 54,000 were employed in 19 establishments (fn. 569) making cars and light vehicles, some 2,000 in 4 establishments making heavy goods and public service vehicles, and some 8,000 in 10 establishments making vehicle bodies. (fn. 570) Concentration continued to be high in subsequent years. The 1948 Census of Production showed that 43.3 per cent. of the total value of British output in the cycle and motor industry was produced in the central midland area. (fn. 571) By 1950 161,000 workers in the area accounted for 46 per cent. of that value. (fn. 572) Between 1948 and 1955 specialization in the motor industry in the midlands became somewhat more pronounced, accounting for some 22 per cent. of all manufacturing employment in 1949 and about 27 per cent. in 1955. (fn. 573) In 1960 over 81,000 people were employed in Coventry in the production of motor vehicles, tractors and aircraft. This represented a 30 per cent. increase over 1951. (fn. 574)
OTHER INDUSTRIES. (fn. 575)
Although the economy of 20th-century Coventry rests very much, as it has done in the past, on a single industry, there has in recent years been a degree of diversification. It is true that this has mostly taken the form of engineering of one kind or another, much of this connected with the cycle and motor industries; nevertheless, without possessing the variety of trades to be found in neighbouring Birmingham, Coventry has been the home of a large number of industries, the history of only the more important of which can be given here.
As the ribbon and watch trades gave way to cycle manufacture there was a growing demand in Coventry and the midlands generally for complex machine tools, the manufacture of which emerged towards the end of the 19th century as another important local industry. (fn. 576) One of the earliest engineering firms in Coventry, Willdig and Hatton, which had begun the manufacture of the Coventry Challenge Pump about 1859, was among the pioneers of the machine-tool industry in the city. It made lathes, drilling machines, and other tools required by the cycle trade. (fn. 577) Early in the field, too, were E. S. Brett, Webster and Bennett, and Alfred Herbert.
E. S. Brett (later the Brett Patent Lifter Company) began the manufacture of drop-forging machinery for its own stampings for the cycle and accessory industries in 1892. Webster and Bennett was established in 1887 as general engineers, and soon began the manufacture of machine tools for the cycle industry, then dependent largely on the machinetool makers of Manchester and Birmingham. Later the firm specialized in the vertical boring and turning mill. Alfred Herbert began in partnership with William Hubbard in 1889, and took over the selling rights in the United Kingdom for welded steel tubes made by a French company, La Société Commerciale et Industrielle des Métaux. Herbert bought out Hubbard's share in the business and formed Alfred Herbert Ltd. in 1894. The first turret lathe was made in 1890, and milling and grinding machines, lathes, drills, a hub lapping machine, and a power hacksaw were all being sold to Coventry cycle manufacturers before the end of the century. (fn. 578) When they began Herbert and Hubbard had about a dozen hands; by 1896 Alfred Herbert was supplying nearly every cycle manufacturer in Europe. (fn. 579) In 1897 about 250 men were employed, (fn. 580) and by 1903 930. Soon machine-tool making in the midlands was competing successfully with the American industry. (fn. 581)
The development of the motor-vehicle and the components industries increased the demand from the last years of the 19th century for machine tools (fn. 582) and such tools as gear-cutting machines were developed. (fn. 583) In 1910, for example, Humber had over 1,000 machines in its machine shop, (fn. 584) and as flowproduction techniques became common the motor industry increased its use of machine tools. In 1930 Standard had 500 machine tools; in 1954 the firm used 5,800 of them. (fn. 585)
In 1905-6 there were some seven tool manufacturers in the city. They included Webster and Bennett, White and Poppe, and Alfred Herbert. (fn. 586) By 1910 Herbert's employed 1,500 men, and in 1927 about 2,500. The firm then specialized in capstan lathes, turret lathes, automatic screw machines, and ball-bearing drilling machines and had two large works, one in the Butts and another at Edgwick. (fn. 587) In 1928 the whole organization was transferred to Edgwick, and in 1945 the former premises of the Rover Company in Red Lane were additionally acquired. (fn. 588) By 1963 the firm claimed to be the world's largest machine-tool organization with four production factories in and about Coventry and five subsidiary companies in Great Britain. In Coventry it employed some 5,000 workers. (fn. 589) The number of Coventry firms engaged in machine-tool manufacture increased in the 20th century. In 1936 there were eleven, in 1950 21. (fn. 590)
Another by-product in Coventry of cycle and motor production was the growth of the accessories and components industries. Ball-bearing making machinery was designed by W. Hillman and was first made in Coventry by his firm, the Auto Machinery Company, in 1893. By 1896 the firm was producing 80,000 balls a day and supplying many cycle manufacturers. (fn. 591) By that time, too, there were a number of local firms which specialized in providing cycle parts. William Middlemore, for example, made cycle saddles, saddle springs, and tool bags. (fn. 592) Other firms included the Beeston Pneumatic Tyre Company (later the Amalgamated Pneumatic Tyre Company), established in 1893 and the Beeston Tyre Rim Company, founded in 1888 as Barton and Loudon, which as well as making rims, mudguards and hollow forks for the cycle trade catered also for the motor industry. (fn. 593) The Pneumatic Tyre and Booth's Cycle Agency (later the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company) was established in Ireland in 1889, and in 1890 an assembling factory was set up in Coventry. (fn. 594) The Coventry Chain Company was founded in 1896. (fn. 595)
It is true, however, that while Coventry specialized in the production of cycle frames, bearings, and the completed cycle, the city was always largely dependent on Birmingham and other parts of the Black Country for many cycle accessories and for steel tubing. (fn. 596) The growth of the local motor industry, however, increased Coventry's importance. By 1902-5 some 11.9 per cent. (about 40 plants) of accessory and component firms in the country were concentrated in Coventry, compared with about 15.8 per cent. in Birmingham and 38.5 per cent. in London, the two other largest producing centres. (fn. 597) In 1905-6 over a hundred Coventry firms were listed as being engaged in the manufacture of motor and cycle accessories, components, motor-car bodies, and tyres. (fn. 598) Between 1911 and 1915 the majority of firms entering the component industry were in Birmingham, Coventry, and London reflecting the growing connexion between vehicle manufacturers and the producers of components. (fn. 599)
Although early car manufacturers attempted to produce most of their own components a very substantial motor components industry had emerged by 1914. (fn. 600) White and Poppe, established in Coventry in 1900, specialized at first in motor-cycle engines but later in car engines, and in 1906 began to make carburettors. During the following six years the firm sold 20,000 carburettors. (fn. 601) In 1912 another Coventry firm, the Motor Radiator Manufacturing Company, was supplying about one-fifth of the radiators required by the motor-car industry and its customers included several of the largest motor-car manufacturers. (fn. 602) Besides manufacturing for their own use some motor firms sold components and accessories to the trade. In 1912 Rover described itself not only as a motor-car manufacturer, but as a maker of castings, carburettors, chassis, cylinders, hoods, motor bodies, wheels, engines, and components. (fn. 603) After the First World War Coventry became an established source of components for Morris Motors. In 1919 Hotchkiss and Mayo of Coventry, producers of machine guns, began to make engines for Morris. (fn. 604) By 1922 the factory was turning out 300 engines a week and in the following year was taken over by Morris, becoming Morris Motors Engines Branch. (fn. 605) About this time Morris also obtained radiators from Doherty Motor Components of Coventry, while another local firm, Hollick and Pratt, became the main suppliers of bodies for Morris Cowley cars. (fn. 606) The latter firm was bought by Morris in 1923 and re-formed as Morris Motors Bodies Branch in 1926. (fn. 607) In 1927 Morris Motors Engines Branch was making up to 2,000 engines and gearboxes a week for Morris vehicles and employing some 2,000 workers. (fn. 608)
In the early 1920s vehicle production became more widespread in Britain and this was reflected in the distribution of component and accessory manufacturers. Though Coventry, London, and Birmingham remained important centres their share of the number of accessory and component firms dropped somewhat. Coventry's fell from 11.9 per cent. in 1902-5 to 8.3 per cent. in 1922. (fn. 609) The number of persons employed in these industries in Coventry in 1921 was about 1,300, approximately one-tenth of the number so employed in Birmingham and some six per cent. of the total for the Birmingham area. (fn. 610)
By 1929, however, the size of car manufacturing firms had become greater in the west midlands than elsewhere and this resulted in the concentration of large-scale producers of components and accessories in the area, especially in Birmingham and Coventry. (fn. 611) The Dunlop Rim and Wheel Company, for example, claimed in 1933 that its works in Holbrook Lane were the largest of their type in Britain. It employed over 1,400 people in the manufacture of cycle and motor-cycle rims, wheels of various kinds, pressings, and hub equipment. (fn. 612) Another large firm was the Coventry Chain Company which had associated with Brampton Brothers of Birmingham in 1925 and merged with Hans Renold of Manchester in 1930, becoming the Renold and Coventry Chain Company and from 1954 Renold Chains. (fn. 613) In 1936 24 Coventry firms were listed as manufacturers of cycle and motor accessories, and another eighteen made engines, gearboxes, and gears; there were eighteen body-builders. (fn. 614) At the outbreak of the Second World War the west midlands still supplied the bulk of components for the British car industry and has continued to do so. (fn. 615) In 1947 some 73,000 persons were employed in Coventry, Birmingham, and the central midland area in 60 establishments making motor accessories and components. The number of workpeople represented nearly half the national labour force employed in those industries, and the plants concerned served not only midland motor manufacturers but also large producers elsewhere. (fn. 616)
The production at Coventry of aero-engines and aircraft by motor-car firms has been described above particularly with reference to the two world wars. (fn. 617) Both these industries have been dominated in the city during peacetime by the activities of those firms which since 1948 have formed the Hawker Siddeley Group. Despite the production of aircraft by Humber as early as 1910 and the activities of various car firms in the First World War the aircraft industry did not become really important in Coventry until the early 1920s when Armstrong Whitworth's aircraft and motor sections were transferred to Coventry. (fn. 618) Armstrong-Siddeley Motors then developed the production of aeroengines, (fn. 619) while the Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Company, formed in 1920 and also controlled by the Armstrong Siddeley Development Company, began to produce aircraft. In 1923 the aircraft company moved from London Road to Whitley where production of fighter aircraft commenced. In 1926 the firm entered the civil aircraft field and as early as 1930 was employing some 1,200 men. (fn. 620) In 1935 the Armstrong Siddeley Development Company amalgamated with Hawker Aircraft to form the Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Company which became the Hawker Siddeley Group in 1948. (fn. 621) In 1961 Armstrong Whitworth was merged with Gloster Aircraft becoming Whitworth Gloster Aircraft. (fn. 622) Alvis entered the aero-engine trade in 1935 when the firm built a newfactory for this purpose next to its motorcar works. (fn. 623) In 1963 this side of Alvis's activities accounted for a substantial part of its turnover. (fn. 624)
The castings and forgings industry became important in the midlands after 1914. Drop forging started in Coventry just before 1900 to cater for the cycle industry. (fn. 625) The earliest firms in Coventry included E. S. Brett (fn. 626) and Thomas Smith (later Smith's Stamping Works). (fn. 627) Even in the early years of the 20th century, however, the majority of castings and forgings were imported from the continent, British car production being too small to cause the development of a specialized industry to meet the needs of the motor trade. (fn. 628) An exception was in aluminium castings which were one of the most important elements in the manufacture of components. These tended to be concentrated in vehicle-producing centres such as Coventry. (fn. 629)
The First World War forced the British motor industry to find its supplies at home, and as production increased the castings and forgings industry as a whole was by 1922 concentrated in the west midlands, particularly in Coventry, Birmingham, and Walsall. (fn. 630) By the 1930s Coventry foundries were principally engaged in making castings for the motor, aircraft, and machine-tool industries. (fn. 631) By 1936 there were sixteen manufacturers of castings in the city, (fn. 632) and by the outbreak of the Second World War forging and stamping was almost exclusively confined to the west midlands. (fn. 633)
A landmark in Coventry's textile industries was reached when Courtaulds founded a factory for the production of rayon in Coventry in 1904. A site in Foleshill Road, near to railway and canal, was selected and at the end of 1905 Coventry spun yarn was being produced in small quantities. Progress was, however, slow. The staff worked twelve hours a day, employees suffered in health from the chemicals used, residents of the district complained of the smell, and the machinery broke down. Nevertheless towards the end of 1906 nine spinning machines were in operation. The yarn was used for braid, embroidery, tassels, and pompoms, and then supplied a local market. In 1907 the factory had 332 employees and production costs of the previous year were halved. Within a year the first processing machine had been installed and the number of spinning machines was increased yearly. By the middle of 1909 the output was more than ten tons a week. In 1910 the factory employed 2,000 people and before the First World War broke out there were four spinning buildings and 3,000,000 lbs. of yarn a year were being produced. The war severely curtailed business, but in 1918 the first staple fibre was produced at Coventry and in 1925 a site in Chapel Lane was acquired for the production of cellulose-acetate yarn. (fn. 634) The new works was opened in 1927. The Coventry factory was the headquarters of the yarn production, sales, research, and engineering activities of the firm, which by 1950 claimed to be the largest rayon manufacturing concern in the country. (fn. 635) In 1941 the first nylon yarn made in this country was produced at Coventry, (fn. 636) and by 1964 there were about 6,000 Courtaulds'employees in the city. (fn. 637)
Certain other firms still important in various types of trade were well established at Coventry in the early 20th century. These included the General Electric Company, whose Coventry works, then the Peel-Conner Telephone Works, were completed in 1921, and British Thomson Houston which came to Coventry in 1912 and which since 1960 has formed part of Associated Electrical Industries (Rugby). Both of these firms have manufactured telecommunications equipment for lines and radio, while British Thomson Houston has also produced aircraft accessories, sound-film projectors, and many types of fractional horse power motors. In the First World War the company supplied 40,000 magnetos for use in aircraft. In 1925 British Thomson Houston's Coventry factory was the first in England to manufacture the moving-coil loudspeaker and in the same year producedthe firstelectric gramophone. In the Second World War over 500,000 magnetos for aircraft were produced by the company at Coventry.
The British Oxygen Company, manufacturers of industrial gases and equipment for welding, was established in the city as early as 1886. Many of the 21 printing and process engraving firms which were at work in the city in 1950 were long established, some dating from the mid 19th century. (fn. 638) Other firms of long standing still in existence in the mid 20th century are Fred Lee and Company, originally watchmakers but later jewel-bearing manufacturers, which reached its fiftieth anniversary in 1950, (fn. 639) and Thomas Bushill and Sons, makers of cardboard boxes, paper merchants, and printers. Bushill and Sons was first established in Coventry in 1862 in Old Palace Yard to serve the needs of local ribbon manufacturers. At the outset Thomas Bushill had seven employees, but by the early 1890s it was employing 185, and in 1939 over 500. (fn. 640)