Cogent Bicycles
Wearwell Bicycles
Wulfruna Bicycles



Henry Clarke

Henry Clarke, a skilled wheelwright and blacksmith joined the 38th Foot Regiment in 1855, at the outbreak of the Crimean War. He was wounded in the attack on Redan, and subsequently discharged. On making his way home via Paris, he saw his first bicycles. These would have been hobby horses with wooden wheels, which were very similar to the carriage wheels that Henry was familiar with. He realised that he could easily make this type of wheel himself and so he made contact with some of the French manufacturers who were interested in his skills. When he returned to Wolverhampton he set up the 'Temple Street Wheel Company' to make all kinds of wooden wheels for export to France, including some for velocipedes.

At around the same time he married Harriet Powney from Wombourne and they had six daughters and five sons.

In the 1861 census the family is listed as living at Baptist End Lane, Dudley. Henry Stephen Clarke, aged 28 was born in Pattingham, and was a Chelsea Pensioner and a Wheelwright. His wife Harriet, age 25 was born in Wombourne. Their children were Thomas Clarke, aged 4, born in Wombourne, George Edward Clarke, aged 4, born Wombourne, and Sarah A. Clarke, aged 3, born in Netherton.

Their other children were Henry, born in 1863, Elizabeth, born in 1865, William, born in 1867, Jane, born in 1869, Fanny, born in 1871, John, born in 1875, Harriet, born in 1878, and Emma, born in 1880. By 1863 the family had moved to No. 2, Court, Darlington-street, Wolverhampton.

In 1887 George Edward Clarke's son died under tragic circumstances, as can be read in the following newspaper report:

Death of his son. 'An inquest was held Yesterday, at the Newmarket Inn, Cleveland Road, Wolverhampton, touching the death of Henry Stephen Clarke, 4½, son of George Edward Clarke, blacksmith, Great Hampton Street. The child was, on Thursday morning, in the kitchen with a sister eight years old, when he reached some matches from a chimney, and some of them being struck, his nightshirt caught fire. The mother extinguished the flames with a woollen shawl, but not before the child had sustained severe burns, from the effects of which he died in the hospital two days afterwards. - A verdict of "Accidental death" was returned.

Being a skilled blacksmith he soon picked up the necessary skills to build complete bicycles and decided to manufacture them himself.

In 1868 he founded the 'Cogent Cycle Company' in Darlington Street, and was joined by his five sons; Tom, George, William, Jack, and Henry. The first Cogent machines appeared in 1869 and sold extremely well.

By 1877 'Cogent Penny Farthings' were selling at prices from £8 to £10 and the company was very successfully producing many different models. Hubs were made in two halves and when built-up secured the spokes, and rounded case hardened cone bearings helped to reduce friction.

Bessie Clarke riding an early Cogent tricycle in about 1870. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.
A short description from "Bicycles of the Year 1877" by Harry Hewitt Griffin:

"The Cogent.- Henry Clarke, Cogent Bicycle Works, Darlington Street, Wolverhampton. In days of bone shakers Henry Clarke was well known as a maker, and he cannot fail to have gained great experience as to how a bicycle ought to be built.

An improved form of rounded cone bearing is adopted, which appears to be superior to the ordinary; the working parts being of case hardened steel, friction is therefore greatly reduced; the hub is double (something like Deacon's), and put on in halves, in which the spokes are firmly secured.

Small good rubber pedals on flat cranks are used, and the Stanley head is employed. The handles are low and in front of the neck. The spring is of a good shape and very pliable. A 50in. machine weighs about 44lb. Hollow backbones are in every case employed. The machine is finished half bright, and will be found a very fair all round bicycle. The Spider is made at £2 less."

   
View the 1883 Cogent catalogue
   


An advert from 1877.

The Cogent No. 20 tricycle from 1887. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.
The company also produced a number of tricycles.

The 'Cogent' No.20 of 1887, sold for £15.10s.0d. It had ball bearings, a large front wheel to reduce vibration, and a hollow steel frame, part plated with an enamel finish.

The 'Cogent' No.5 high wheeler had seven eighths of an inch, and three quarters of an inch non-slipping tyres. The wheels had Crescent rims, and 60 and 20, No.11 direct spokes.

The back wheel was 16 inches in diameter, and the large wheel had four and a quarter inch G.M. Hubs, and a ten and a quarter inch axle.

The bicycle had rat-trap coned pedals, and the cranks had a throw of five and a quarter inches. The machine cost £4.10s.0d.

The Cogent No. 5 ordinary from 1887. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.

Courtesy of John Bradshaw.
John Bradshaw's Cogent No. 5 in unrestored condition.
John Bradshaw and his fully restored Cogent
No. 5.

John is planning to publish a book about Cogent. His website is at: www.jrbpub.net


The Cogent No. 18 safety from 1887 priced at £12.10s. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.
In the early 1880's the so called safety bicycles appeared. They were the modern type of machine with a rear-wheel drive.

The penny farthing then became known as the 'Ordinary' bicycle. The machine shown here is the 'Cogent' No.18. The wheels had ball-bearings, and the chain was adjustable. The frame was part plated and enamelled.

The 'Gent's Popular' had a weldless steel tube frame, 28inch wheels, rubber or rat trap pedals and was finished in black enamel. The machine was priced at £5.17s.6d.


The Cogent Gent's Popular. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.


The Cogent Ladies' Popular. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.

The Ladies' Popular' had a weldless steel tube frame, 26inch wheels and was finished in black enamel. The machine was priced at £6.5s.0d. 
The following is a short description of the Cogent No. 10 from "Bicycles & Tricycles of the Year 1889" by Harry Hewitt Griffin:

"The Cogent No. 10 Dwarf Safety Roadster (H. Clarke's Executors, Darlington Street, Wolverhampton). The framing is composed of strong double tubing, with extra long centres; the chain adjustment is effected by drawing forward by a set screw on the slotted fork end. The curve of the front forks brings the handles well back. The machine has no striking peculiarity, but is well and reliably made, and is to be depended on. It is finished with all the usual details, including direct plunger brake, and with balls all parts, etc. The price is £16.10s."

 

Wearwell's works at 46 Darlington Street.

In the 1881 census Henry Clarke is listed as living at Darlington Street, Court 2 with his wife Harriet, sons Henry, William, and John; and daughters Elizabeth, Jane, Fanny, Harriet, and Emma. His occupation is given as a bicycle maker employing 3 men and one boy. Presumably his other sons, Tom and George, had left home by this time.

Henry Clarke senior died in 1889 at the age of 56, and one of his sons took over the running of the business. This appears to have been unacceptable to the other brothers, and so Joseph Parker took over for the executors. This resulted in Tom Clarke leaving for Manchester, where he set up the Express Cycle Company, while William, Jack, Henry and George founded Wearwell.


An advert from 1892.

William became Managing Director, and the works were situated at 46 Darlington Street, a stone's throw from Cogent, which eventually went into liquidation. William Married Agnes Ann Pickard and they had three children: Elsie Elizabeth Clarke; Henry Steve Clarke; and Albert Clarke. By 1911 they were living at 6B Oaks Crescent, Wolverhampton: with William's father-in-law John Pickard, and a servant. It seems that Cogent ran for at least ten years after the formation of Wearwell, trading as Henry Clarke's Exors. This can be seen from the date on the poster below.

 


The 1893 Wearwell tricycle. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.

Wearwell listed 9 Models in 1893, including the standard cross frame safety bicycle, which sold for £10 with solid tyres, or £10.10s.0d with cushion tyres. There was also a tricycle that cost £23 with solid tyres, or £29.10s.0d with Dunlop pneumatics.

The most expensive machine, the model 'A' had a double tubed frame and was claimed to be the strongest on the market. The bicycle included ball bearing hubs, a Reynolds Roller Chain and sold for £18 with solid tyres, or £23.10s with pneumatic tyres.


An advert from 1893.

      
View the 1893
Wearwell catalogue

The following description of the company is from the "Illustrated Towns of England Business Review of Wolverhampton" from 1897:

Henry Clarke's Exors., "Cogent" Cycle Works. A firm that has gained distinction in the cycle trade in Wolverhampton is that of Henry Clarke's Exors., widely known as the Cogent Cycle Works. The enterprise was founded in 1868, and has had a career of prosperity, and the evolution of the cycle from the old bone-shaker to the splendid machines now in the market, has been due to such enterprise and inventive skill as has characterized this firm.

We may state that the year 1896 proved one of unprecedented success for this firm, the demand for their machines being considerably in excess over former years, in fact, the resources of the establishment were frequently taxed to meet the increased trade. In consideration of this expansion, additions in plant, machinery, and apparatus have been made and also extensions in the factories to enable the firm to execute the anticipated greater demand. The works are prominently situated and splendidly equipped with the best improved machinery and appliances.

The productions are notable for elegance of design, quality of material, superior workmanship and finish; while prices are consistently low, in fact, this firm prides it upon its ability to supply a machine of unsurpassed excellence at the lowest possible price. They are built with the celebrated seamless steel tubes, the bearings are made from the most reliable steel, and the gearing and fittings throughout are of the finest quality. Either racers or roadsters, for ladies, gentlemen, or youths are manufactured upon the most scientifical principles and improved construction. For specifications and prices an illustrated catalogue may be obtained from the firm.

The Cogent cycles have won golden opinions from the most competent judges and experts, testimonials being received from all quarters as to their special merits. An extensive export trade is done, whilst in the home markets the Cogent cycles are duly appreciated. An adequate staff of experienced artisans finds constant employment, and no efforts are spared by Mr. J. Parker, the manager, to enhance the reputation of the firm.

William Clarke, Managing Director of Wearwell Cycles.
 

Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.


From the 1893 catalogue.

Sales continued to grow and the company soon became one of the most important cycle manufacturers in the town.

In 1899 William Clarke had the idea of producing powered vehicles. He formed the Wearwell Motor Carriage Company, and opened new premises in Pountney Street on the site that is now occupied by J. W. Braithwaite & Son Ltd, bookbinders.

They produced a 4 wheeled, powered vehicle which had two Butler, two and a quarter horse power engines, mounted side by side. It was not generally liked.

This photograph, which came from Albert Clarke's collection, was given to us by Geoff Stevens. It shows a small part of the Wearwell works in Pountney Street during construction.

The street was originally made up of mainly housing, which was slowly replaced by factories as the area became industrialised.

The Wearwell works eventually covered much of the site that was occupied by Braithwaites. It is now a banqueting suite. The photograph shows the original building nearing completion. The houses on each side would eventually disappear as the works were extended.

The engraving on the company's letterhead gives a good impression of the large area covered by the factory.


A letterhead from 1907.

William saw the early Stevens brothers' motorised bicycle and realised that this was the way forward. The company already had links with the Stevens Motor Manufacturing Company, who supplied spokes and screws for the bicycles.

An agreement was entered with Stevens and a contract drawn-up. Stevens agreed to supply a minimum number of engines each week, which were fitted to heavy duty bicycles.

The new motorcycles were called Wearwell-Stevens machines, and sales were very good.

See the motorcycle section for more details.

Mr. and Mrs. Albert Clarke with a 1901 Wearwell-Stevens motorcyle.
Photo courtesy of the late Geoff Stevens.
The model B from 1893. The basic bicycle with solid tyres weighed 38lbs and sold for £16. Dunlop pneumatic tyres were £5 extra and a Carter's gear case could be fitted for another £3.

Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.

 

A ladies cycle from the 1893 Wearwell catalogue.

Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.

An advert from 1904.


The Wearwell Road Racer.

By 1905 the company was displaying about 15 models. There was a 7 guinea gentleman's roadster machine, with Crabbe back and front brakes, Micrometer, Hyde, or Crabbe free-wheel, Brampton's chain and Clincher B, or Warwick tyres. The machine was finished in black enamel and gold lining. The ladies version cost £7.12s.6d. There was also a path racing machine weighing 19 pounds and a road racer which weighed 21 and a half pounds.
The model 'B' weighed 38 pounds, and sold for £16 with solid tyres. Dunlop pneumatics were an extra £5 and a Carter's Gear Case cost another £3.
By 1908 about 500 machines were produced each week, many of which were exported. One of the main importers was Holland, from where orders of up to 10,000 cycles were not uncommon, with machines being sold for as little as 27 shillings each. At the same time the company produced about 20 Wolf motorcycles per week.

Another very different product were 4 wheeled and 2 wheeled roller skates. At the time roller skating was extremely popular and most towns had at least one skating rink. Wearwell designed a skate with rubber shock absorbers and about 500 pairs a week were sold. 2 wheeled versions were also widely used and Wearwell produced a version of their own.

Disaster struck in 1909 when it was discovered that the Company Secretary, Mr. King, had been using the company's money to gamble at pool in a local public house. A large sum of money had disappeared, which led to the company going into liquidation in 1911. Mr. King tried to commit suicide, but William Clarke did not bring any criminal charges against him, because he discovered that one of his brothers was also involved.
The company manufactured and distributed Pickard's Patent Lining Apparatus, as can be seen from this advert from 1917.

 

Read about Pickard's
lining apparatus


An advert from 1921. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.

After the liquidation, William Clarke purchased the ailing Wulfruna Cycle Company from John Barratt. He revitalised the business and reintroduced the Wearwell and Wolf names at Eagle works in Great Brickkiln Street.

William died in 1922 and the business was sold to Theo Waine in 1928.

Some members of the Clarke family continued in the motorcycle business. Jack joined the Stevens Company in 1911 and became manager, and Albert, who was Henry's grandson joined H.R.D in 1925 as works manager, when one of their machines won the Isle of Man T.T.
Read about the Wulfruna Cycle Company


The Old Wulfruna bicycle works in Great Brickkiln Street.

Joseph Waine & Co. Ltd, were general lock, latch & bolt makers, and brass and iron founders at Imperial Works, Wood Street, Willenhall. Joseph had three sons, John Vincent Waine, G. A. Waine and Horace T. Waine.

John Vincent Waine, and his brother G. A. Waine, started the Vulcan Manufacturing Company at Blackheath,  Birmingham, in about 1910. The company manufactured Heel Tips, Toe Plates and had the most up to date machinery in the world. The factory turned out 288,000 pairs of heels per week, under their Vulcan brand name.  The company specialised in a number of products including No. 0 and 1 York heels, 21B heels, mule & horse shoes for the Indian, Turkish, African and  South American markets, and japanned and galvanised door bolts. A large number of other products were produced including the following:

Brass, chromium-plated and special finishes, stainless steel, garage bolts, cabinet bolts, shelf brackets, aluminium door and gate latches, casement stays and fasteners, hasps and staples, hinges, brass and steel gate and tee, gutter brackets, swivel ties, tinned angle brackets, rim, dead and mortice locks, latches, padlocks, stamped brassware and  household soldering sets. 

The works covered over an acre. Extensive trade was done with the War Office, the Army and in various parts of Europe. Horace T. Waine was also involved in the business, and due to his international travels the products were also sold in Japan, Burma and Egypt. The company also had an establishment in the Potteries. 

In 1913 the Directors decided to move the three factories to one site to improve the company's efficiency. In June a large disused works was purchased in Colliery Road, Wolverhampton and the three factories were combined under one roof, and called the New Griffin Works.


The New Griffin Works today. They are occupied by hydraulic equipment manufacturer Hydrofix. All that is left was originally part of the Vulcan Manufacturing Company. The Wearwell works have gone.

1914 Whitakers Red Book, Who's Who in Business:

Joseph Waine & Co., Ltd., Merchants and Manufacturers, with which are amalgamated Luke Lawrence & Co., Mills & Green, Green Brothers, Isaac Waine & Co., David Furguson & Co., John Arnold & Co., The Brook Tile Co., Lincoln Pottery, Burslem; New Griffin Works, Horsoley Fields, Wolverhampton. Hours of Business: 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Established in 1880 by Joseph Waine. Continued by G. A. Waine, J. Vincent Waine, and H. T. Waine.

Incorporated as a Limited Company in 1909. Directors: G. A. Waine (Managing Director), J. V. Waine, H. T. Waine. Of the firms amalgamated, Messrs. John Arnold & Co. has been established 100 years, and is under stood to be the oldest firm in the Brass Lock trade.

Staff: Total of amalgamated firms, 100 hands, and Lincoln Pottery employ eighty hands. Depots and Branches: At Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Colombo, Karachi, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Batavia, Singapore, &c. Specialities: Locks of all descriptions, Door Bolts, Safes, Hinges, Rabbit Traps, Combs, Floor Tiles, Brass Foundry, Tools and General Hardware, &c. Patents: Numerous. Connection: United Kingdom, Foreign, Colonial, Egypt, Holland, France, South Africa, Canada, Ceylon, India, Java, China, Japan, Burma, Australia, New Zealand, &c. Telephone: No. 521 Wolverhampton. Bankers: Lloyds Bank Limited.


The works back on to the canal where barges could be loaded and unloaded.
In 1928, Theo Waine and his brother Mr. G. A.Waine, took over the Wearwell Cycle Co. Ltd. from the liquidators of the Wulfruna Engineering Co. Ltd.

Their sons, H. V. Waine and T. A. Waine were issued with one ordinary share each, and were appointed directors at the first shareholders meeting, which took place at the New Griffin Works.

The new company was registered as the Wearwell Cycle Co. (1928) Ltd.

Initial finance was provided by the issue of £4,000 worth of £100, 7% debentures which were the responsibility of H. V. Waine, who had also been appointed company secretary. At a second meeting shortly afterwards it was resolved to purchase from the Vulcan Manufacturing Co. (Wolverhampton) Ltd, the plant, tools and stock-in-trade of the cycle manufacturing side of their business, for £10,209.16s.5d. 
A full range of machines were on offer in 1929 including tradesmen's cycles, juveniles, scooters, and the 'Duplex' with a distinctive cross frame consisting of a thin top tube running from the seat lug to the fork crown, with twin tubes running from the steering head to the rear hub.

The very strong frame weighed only about one pound more than a conventional diamond frame.


The Wearwell stand at the 1934 motor cycle show.

The 'Le Grand' road racer had a double cog gear hub, 2 calliper brakes and a very attractive selling price of £5. The top model the 'Golden Roadster' had a 3 speed hub, oil bath gear case and sold for £6.17s.6d. The following year the machines were on display at the 1930 Olympia Show and again at the 1931 show with the addition of the new 'Schneider' sports machine. It had Endrick rims, 'No Weight' mud guards, Pelissier brakes and a swan neck handlebar stem. The new machine sold for £7.10s.0d. A cheaper version called the 'Wanderer' was also on offer at £6.


The company's stand at the 1931 Olympia Show.

The top of a Vulcan Manufacturing Co. order showing the company's letterhead. Courtesy of Peter Waine.
The Vulcan Manufacturing Co. (Wolverhampton) Ltd applied for 6,000 ordinary shares of £l each to be issued for cash and in 1931 the factory was expanded and the production of 'Wolf' motor cycles began. The company prospered and sales continued to increase, though the works were damaged by fire. In March 1932 fire fighters battled for eight hours to control the fire which caused £10,000 worth of damage.
Mr. H. V.Waine, a keen motorcyclist, was responsible for the design and production of both motor cycles and cycles, while Mr. T. A. Waine was responsible for sales. In July 1932, Mr. G. A.Waine, and Mr. J. V. Waine of the Vulcan Manufacturing Co. were each issued with one share each, and appointed advisors to the company. Waine Eastern Agencies of Singapore, were appointed sole selling agents for India, Ceylon, Burma, Straits Settlements, Siam and China. Other agents elsewhere were subsequently appointed.
The 1949 'Tradesmen's Carrier' costing £14.6s.2d.


An advert from 1950.

A considerable number of cycles were exported to India, and post war Wearwell (India) Ltd, a wholly Indian owned company, manufactured cycles with technical support from the Wolverhampton company, which had reverted to the title of the Wearwell Cycle Co. Ltd. in 1933.

Motor cycle production ceased during the war and was not restarted post-war. H. V. Waine, who was an air raid warden during the war, remarked one night during the blitz that there was quite a blaze on the horizon, only to discover it was his own factory!  The workers set-to the following day and soon had some production restored. The factory buildings were soon rebuilt, though fire damaged machinery was not all cleared away until after the end of the war.

After the war the cycle side of the business continued to be successful with 75% of sales going to around 38 different countries and the company cycle team won the Tour of Britain cycle race in 1953.

By this time the company was employing several hundred workers. The company also developed a toy department which made childrens' tricycles, swings and other items.

The company's bicycles were sold in many countries including the U.S.A. The Waine family had discussions about different product names for different countries and decided to use the "Vulcan" name for their products destined for North America.

The photograph opposite shows the badge on a Vulcan bicycle from the mid 1950s.

 


Courtesy of Thomas Collette.

Thomas Collette's excellent Vulcan bicycle from around 1954.

Courtesy of Thomas Collette.

In 1969 the Vulcan Manufacturing company went into voluntary liquidation, and the goodwill was sold to Tippers, who were in the same line of business.

The Wearwell Cycle Co. was also sold, though production continued on a smaller scale at Alverley, under Martin Wells, with Mr. H. V. Waine acting as Chairman.


The 1949 'Anglo Continental' that sold for £16.14s.11d.

After retirement he continued to work for the company on a part time basis and initially about 300 bicycles were built each week.

The business was soon sold to the Elswick-Hopper Cycle Company and production moved to Brigg in Humberside. Unfortunately sales started to decline due to the recession and the company closed.

A 'Wulfruna' bicycle that was made at the New Griffin Works in about 1957.

photo courtesy of Peter Hällström.

I would like to thank the late Peter Waine, and Charles V. Waine for their encouragement and valuable assistance.


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