NORTHAMP­TON’S MO­TOR­CY­CLES

Richard Jones con­tin­ues his tour of the mo­tor­cy­cling mid­lands, cel­e­brat­ing those Bri­tish bikes built in Northamp­ton­shire. This time he re­calls a mar­que you may recog­nise, Ce­dos, al­though you may not have ap­pre­ci­ated its ori­gins…

Real Classic - - With lies within - Photos by Richard Jones, VMCC, Trevor Pin­fold, Mor­tons Archive

Richard Jones con­tin­ues his tour of the mo­tor­cy­cling mid­lands, cel­e­brat­ing those Bri­tish bikes built in Northamp­ton­shire. This time he re­calls a mar­que you may recog­nise, Ce­dos, al­though you may not have ap­pre­ci­ated its ori­gins…

In May 1919 the Han­well broth­ers, Cedric and Os­car, sub­mit­ted a patent for im­prove­ments in spring forks for mo­tor­cy­cles. This was es­sen­tially a hous­ing with a spring un­der com­pres­sion which al­lowed back­ward, for­ward, and up and down move­ment. Then in Oc­to­ber a sec­ond patent was ap­plied for in re­spect of im­prove­ments to mo­tor­cy­cle un­der-shields. These patents may not have been en­tirely orig­i­nal as there is a pass­ing re­sem­blance e to Tri­umph equiv­a­lents. But that very same month a two-page ar­ti­cle ap­peared in The Mo­tor Cy­cle herald­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the Ce­dos 2½hp mo­tor­cy­cle. ‘An en­tirely new and well-de­signed light­weight em­body­ing many prac­ti­cal fea­tures.’

The broth­ers’ fa­ther, Her­bert, was a plumber, and the Lon­don Gazette of Jan­uary 1919 ad­vises that the Han­well Pen­dant Com­pany Ltd had ac­quired Her­bert’s gas fit­ting busi­ness. It also adopted a new ob­jec­tive, to ‘carry on the busi­ness of gen­eral en­gi­neers and mo­tor en­gi­neers and me­chan­ics, in­clud­ing the man­u­fac­ture and deal­ing in mo­tor cars and ve­hi­cles, mo­tor and other cy­cles, aero­planes and other air­craft.’ The Han­well Pen­dant Co be­came Han­well and Sons Com­po­nents, prob­a­bly in Septem­ber 1919, ahead of the launch of the Ce­dos (CEDric and OS­car) that au­tumn.

It’s pos­si­ble that some of the ma­chine’s en­gine de­sign may have been cour­tesy of a Min­erva en­gi­neer who was work­ing with Ad­vance in Northamp­ton. A later report men­tions Mr E Smith work­ing with Ce­dos, who was ‘for a long time as­so­ci­ated with a con­cern man­u­fac­tur­ing a well-known ma­chine pos­sess­ing a high pre-war rep­u­ta­tion’. This may well have been Ernest Smith, who then be­came the works man­ager for Ce­dos.

De­spite the fact that only one mo­tor­cy­cle had been built when they an­nounced its ar­rival, The Mo­tor Cy­cle was very com­pli­men­tary. They de­scribed the Ce­dos as ‘one of the most care­fully thought out lightweights we have yet been priv­i­leged to ex­am­ine’. The ma­chine had been de­signed with ex­ten­sive braz­ing and weld­ing to re­duce any ir­ri­tat­ing rat­tles. Much was made of the 211cc, sin­gle cylin­der, two-stroke en­gine with its bore and stroke of 62mm by 70mm; ap­par­ently ‘all parts are beau­ti­fully made’.

Many de­sign fea­tures were high­lighted in­clud­ing the ex­haust ports, which were di­vided into two parts to pre­vent pis­ton rings from catch­ing and to im­prove gas flow. The car­bu­ret­tor was also said to be very in­ge­nious, al­though The Mo­tor Cy­cle were pre­cluded from ex­plain­ing it in any de­tail as the patent was still pend­ing. It in­cor­po­rated a vari­able choke that en­abled the en­gine to run ex­tremely slowly and two-stroke reg­u­larly.

The two-speed gear­box de­sign with its han­dle­bar mounted thumb lever change also came in for praise. The drive chain ten­sion could be ad­justed by sim­ply slack­en­ing off a sin­gle bolt and ro­tat­ing the gear­box through a few de­grees with a tommy bar. Fi­nal drive was by belt, and much was made of the un­der-shield, which started life at the bot­tom of the rear mud­guard, spread out ei­ther side of the alu­minium foot­boards and ter­mi­nated as a shield to pre­vent the rider be­ing sprayed with mud.

In com­mon with other pi­o­neer mo­tor­cy­clists, the Han­well boys didn’t be­lieve in front wheel brakes. In­stead two belt rim brakes were pro­vided to the rear wheel, one act­ing on the outer part op­er­ated by the left heel and the one on the in­side by the right toe. All the frames were formed on jigs to en­sure vari­a­tion was neg­li­gi­ble; spe­cial forks were man­u­fac­tured by Ce­dos which pre­sum­ably in­cor­po­rated their patent im­prove­ments; the fuel tank held two gal­lons, and the ex­haust pipe was rea­son­ably quiet. The colour scheme was pur­ple, the paint ap­plied over a coat­ing of zinc phos­phate (a rust-proof­ing process which led to the metal be­ing ‘Cosle­tised’), with the frame be­ing a slightly deeper shade than the tank. Pur­ple was and is as­so­ci­ated with roy­alty and Ro­man em­per­ors, and was far from cheap. Per­haps Ce­dos were in­still­ing their qual­ity mes­sage sub­lim­i­nally with this paint­work? Fi­nally The Mo­tor Cy­cle com­mented that apart from rub­ber and leather goods and ig­ni­tion prod­ucts, ev­ery­thing else was man­u­fac­tured in-house. Prices were de­scribed as ‘rea­son­able’ and de­liv­er­ies were due to start the fol­low­ing Jan­uary.

In Novem­ber 1919, the Ce­dos ap­peared in The Mo­tor Cy­cle’s Olympia show pre­view to­gether with a di­a­gram of that clever twin­choke car­bu­ret­tor. It re­turned in the show report with il­lus­tra­tions of the mo­tor­cy­cle and the flywheel and chain cover.

One month later the Ce­dos is back in print in a ‘New Ideas in 1920 Model En­gines’ fea­ture. It’s of ‘re­mark­able in­ter­est… full of good points and redo­lent of ex­pe­ri­enced clev­er­ness’. The ex­haust bulb into which the ex­haust port passed the en­gine gases was of par­tic­u­lar note and the writer com­mented that any issues with tur­bu­lent gas flow were out­weighed by the ‘free and im­me­di­ate ex­pan­sion the bulb al­lows’.

You have to hand it to Os­car and Cedric. In a sin­gle year they ap­plied for at least three patents, set up a pro­duc­tion line, man­u­fac­tured their first mo­tor­cy­cle and got four favourable re­ports in one of the main mo­tor­cy­cle pub­li­ca­tions of the day. Can you imag­ine that hap­pen­ing to­day and what the cost would be? Never mind how much red tape would have to be cut? Still, they didn’t get it en­tirely for free: some things never change. The 18th De­cem­ber edi­tion of The Mo­tor Cy­cle fea­tured a full page ad­ver­tise­ment for the two Ce­dos mod­els. The Gents ver­sion re­tailed for 60 guineas while the Ladies model (‘ The Real Scooter’) was two guineas more. In to­day’s money these prices are be­tween £9500 and £10,000.

Press cov­er­age con­tin­ued in Fe­bru­ary 1920 when Mo­tor Cy­cling took a Ce­dos for a test ride. Dur­ing a trip around the works, con­ducted by Cedric, much was made of the Han­wells’ res­o­lu­tion of two issues which plagued two-strokes at that time – fourstroking and ‘dry­ing up’. Cedric en­cour­aged the jour­nal­ist to ‘stick it’ to the lit­tle Ce­dos, which he did for three miles and up a stiff

hill, find­ing no signs of knock­ing, rat­tling or fall­ing off in power.

The jour­nal­ist then set off for Kent and a 200 mile ride dur­ing which the only un­planned stop was caused by a punc­ture. He com­mented on the ab­sence of vi­bra­tion and four-stroking, the fact that the ma­chine stayed in top gear prac­ti­cally all the way to Lon­don and that it went up hills ad­mirably with­out run­ning out of steam. The only crit­i­cisms were that it would ben­e­fit from a lower bot­tom gear or a third gear, and one very an­noy­ing fault: first gear did not en­gage on ev­ery oc­ca­sion when chang­ing down, ne­ces­si­tat­ing a stop to achieve this. How­ever, over­all, the jour­nal­ist ‘parted with this pleas­ant lit­tle mount with gen­uine re­gret’.

Lady rid­ers also ap­peared to en­joy the ben­e­fits of a Ce­dos. I met Terry Spencer, a Ce­dos afi­cionado and owner of two ex­am­ples, who told me of Mar­garet May­cock, a pho­to­graphic as­sis­tant from Wol­las­ton in Northamp­ton. Mar­garet rode to work on her Ce­dos ev­ery day – at the Bull Ring in Birm­ing­ham. This is about 70 miles us­ing the M1 and M6, so back in the early 1920s it was quite some trek. Terry’s mother-in-law, Laura, also toured Devon and Cornwall on a Ce­dos in 1925; an­other ma­jor un­der­tak­ing in those days be­fore mo­tor­ways and tar­ma­cadam. It cer­tainly seems that the Ce­dos was a wellengi­neered and re­li­able mo­tor­cy­cle, ar­guably as good as if not bet­ter than many of its con­tem­po­rary lightweights.

Cov­er­age of the 1920 Olympia show makes men­tion of the Ladies and Gents mod­els, now priced at 70 and 72 guineas, and two new mod­els: the Gents Sport­ing and the Ladies side-carette. Both had two-speed gear­boxes and both fea­tured a new 247cc two-stroke en­gine which re­tained the bore of the smaller ca­pac­ity en­gine but fea­tured a longer 70mm stroke. An ad­vert in Fe­bru­ary 1921 her­alded a price re­duc­tion to 60 and 62 guineas, as well as achiev­ing 166mpg in of­fi­cial French con­sump­tion tri­als.

Later in 1921 Cedric Han­well won a gold medal in the Scot­tish Six Days Trial aboard one of his Ce­dos ma­chines. Gear­boxes now came from Sturmey Archer, the cylin­der head was de­tach­able (an un­usual fea­ture for the time) and a new clutch and kick-starter were noted. Black was now the stan­dard colour al­though pur­ple was avail­able as an op­tional ex­tra.

This was also when Ce­dos met fi­nan­cial prob­lems, per­haps un­sur­pris­ing given the rapid ex­pan­sion of the com­pany. Trad­ing was sus­pended and Her­bert sold his house, but re­gret­tably for Os­car and Cedric these ef­forts were for naught. When a new com­pany, Ce­dos En­gi­neer­ing Co Ltd, re­turned in Oc­to­ber 1922 the only em­ployee – now a direc­tor – to sur­vive from Han­well Com­po­nents was Ernest Smith. Han­well and Sons was vol­un­tar­ily wound up, and the Han­well fam­ily leave our story.

Os­car seems to have dis­ap­peared from the scene and died in Der­byshire in 1950. Brother Cedric reg­is­tered a patent in the US for, of all things, a ‘toy can­non, pis­tol, gun or the like’ and in later years had patents reg­is­tered in the US and Canada for threaded el­e­ments on studs and bolts as well as a thread gen­er­at­ing ma­chine and a shaft bear­ing. He also trav­elled to New York in 1948 and Madeira in 1951; even­tu­ally his jour­neys came to an end and he died in Yar­mouth in 1972.

The Ce­dos lived on, how­ever. That Septem­ber The Mo­tor Cy­cle fea­tured Ernest Smith’s new en­gine de­sign with its de­tach­able cylin­der head, which was to be in­tro­duced at the Paris Salon for 1923 with a three-speed gear­box. The ar­ti­cle starts: ‘The Ce­dos twostroke was ob­vi­ously too good to go un­der when the com­pany went into liq­ui­da­tion.’

In May 1923 The Mo­tor Cy­cle an­nounced that Ce­dos would en­ter the TT with two iden­ti­cal ohv Black­burne-en­gined 350cc ma­chines and one 349cc side­valve. All would be pro­vided with three-speed Sturmey Archer gear­boxes, Amac car­bu­ret­tors and Druid forks – very dif­fer­ent from the ethos of ‘ev­ery­thing in-house’. Rider Nor­man Black fin­ished fifth in the Light­weight but failed to com­plete the Ju­nior. That was Ce­dos’ one and only at­tempt at the TT.

A new 198cc model was an­nounced in July. It re­tailed at £30 for the Gents and £34 for the Ladies mod­els; this went on to win an­other gold medal for Ce­dos in the ACU six day trial rid­den by Edith Spokes, of more whom later. Oc­to­ber saw the an­nounce­ment of the 348cc Brad­shaw-en­gined model go­ing into pro­duc­tion with the Gents and Ladies mod­els sell­ing for £57.10s and £60. Titch Allen felt that Ce­dos should have ad­ver­tised this bike ‘as the 350 that goes like a 500. It sure packs a big punch. Smooth with it too. You would never be­lieve it’s only a 350 when you let the clutch in. The flywheel weight is gen­er­ous, that helps, but the en­gine punches away with a won­der­ful solid feel to it and ac­cel­er­ates as if the chair were not there.’

Mean­while the 247cc cook­ing mod­els had come down in price to £42. The Olympia show of 1923 saw all these ma­chines on dis­play along with the Ce­dos Black­burne, with a 348cc four-stroke side­valve en­gine and in­ter­nal ex­pand­ing brakes, as well as a loopframe replica of the ma­chine Edith Spokes rode in the ACU Trial, priced at £60. Of course

there had to be a TT Replica and, to cap it all, a Ce­dos with a 976cc JAP side­valve V-twin was also dis­played for the 1924 mar­ket. This Olympia show was also re­mark­able be­cause Mr and Mrs Gren­fell ar­rived at the event aboard two 2¼hp Ce­dos mo­tor­cy­cles. They’d rid­den the pair some 680 miles over the snow-cov­ered Jura moun­tains from Geneva, a jour­ney which speaks vol­umes about the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of Ce­dos bikes. They ap­par­ently av­er­aged 100mpg and a half pint of oil for the whole jour­ney; to­tal run­ning costs of 10s.

In Jan­uary 1924 The Mo­tor Cy­cle made a brief men­tion of a new oil-cooled Ce­dos with a Walm­s­ley Brad­shaw en­gine. Then in Novem­ber an­other new 250cc two-stroke was an­nounced with twin in­duc­tion and ex­haust ports. But once again all was not well with the com­pany’s fi­nances. In 1925 sup­pli­ers started ask­ing for cash with any or­ders from Ce­dos, while sig­nif­i­cant dis­counts were of­fered on bikes by the com­pany and its net­work of deal­ers, and pro­duc­tion was also cur­tailed. The Ce­dos En­gi­neer­ing Com­pany was wound up that au­tumn fol­low­ing a pe­ti­tion by the Dun­lop Rub­ber Co. After its as­sets were auc­tioned the out­stand­ing li­a­bil­i­ties amounted to around £7500.

The ac­tual cause of the fail­ure is not known, but the com­pany had ex­panded very quickly. The con­tin­u­ing in­tro­duc­tion of new mod­els must have been quite a drain on re­sources and the lat­est ma­chines were far from af­ford­able. The 1925 8hp Ce­dos Su­per Sport V-twin with a JAP en­gine cost £105, or as much as £150 if fit­ted with the op­tional 100mph ohv JAP en­gine – al­most as much as a Har­ley-David­son or In­dian and these had to be im­ported. Ce­dos had moved away from its roots of well-engi­neered, light­weight mo­tor­cy­cles, mainly man­u­fac­tured in-house, and this could well have been its un­do­ing.

Still ev­ery cloud has a sil­ver lin­ing and Ce­dos’ end was not quite yet in sight. A tri­umvi­rate of three lo­cal busi­ness­men founded a new com­pany called Ce­dos Mo­tor­cy­cles Ltd. Two of the three weren’t ex­actly versed in the man­u­fac­ture of mo­tor­cy­cles; John Ad­kins was a dec­o­ra­tor and builders’ mer­chant. Al­bert Neale, who ran a bingo hall in Lu­ton, be­came the sales man­ager. Percy Spokes was an ex­ist­ing agent for the mar­que and a keen Ce­dos en­thu­si­ast who owned his own mo­tor­cy­cle shop – he was mar­ried to Edith Spokes of SDT fame and even­tu­ally be­came known as Northamp­ton’s ‘Mr Mo­tor­cy­cle’. So keen was Mr Spokes that he and Edith rode to the south of France aboard their new Ce­dos side­car out­fit and then rode back in time to com­pete in a lo­cal event. Percy Spokes was a fa­mil­iar sight around Northamp­ton, rid­ing his Brad­shawengined out­fit with Wat­so­nian side­car. He took the out­fit to the Northamp­ton cy­cle pa­rade when it was new in 1924, and made a fi­nal ap­pear­ance at that event in 1963.

The res­ur­rected Ce­dos com­pany was set up in Fe­bru­ary 1926, trad­ing from Brunswick Place. The 1926 Ce­dos range fea­tured five light­weight mod­els priced be­tween £25 and £35, three with fi­nal belt drive and two with chain. All had the Ce­dos-man­u­fac­tured 247cc two-stroke en­gine; two mod­els had three­speed gear­boxes from Sturmey Archer but none had a front brake – talk about keep­ing up a tra­di­tion. There were also two 350cc four-stroke ma­chines, one with a Black­burne en­gine (£60.10s) and one with the oil-cooled Brad­shaw unit at £55.10s (or £71.15s with a side­car); both had front brakes. Fi­nally there was the 247cc Queens (Ladies) Model with all chain drive, three-speed gear­box, kick-starter and a fin­ish de­scribed as ‘De Luxe’ for £50.

Au­gust 1926 saw Ce­dos earn yet an­other gold medal, this time in the In­ter­na­tional Six Day Trial at an av­er­age of 38mph. The rider was works fore­man, Frank Wilkin­son, who was ‘nei­ther fast nor very steady,’ but ‘he pre­served a clean score to the end.’ Wilkin­son was the only com­peti­tor in his class to clear the round. Mrs PC Spokes (pre­sum­ably Percy’s wife Edith again), also en­tered but rid­ing a 3.46hp Royal En­field. She had some dif­fi­cul­ties, first stop­ping ‘tem­po­rar­ily three quar­ters of the way up’ Black­er­mill Hill near Bux­ton; the fol­low­ing day she got lost and then fell off three times due to the ‘greasy con­di­tions’ but only bruised her hand. Com­pet­ing in such a test­ing event at a time when women rarely rode mo­tor­cy­cles, she did fan­tas­ti­cally well to have taken part. The fol­low­ing year she and four other rid­ers were de­scribed as ‘the Bri­tish ladies who tri­umphed in the in­ter­na­tional tri­als.’ As our cousins from the USA would say: ‘Way to go, Mrs Spokes!’

All seemed to be set fair. Two other lightweights were added to the Ce­dos col­lec­tion in 1928 with 147cc and 172cc Vil­liers en­gines. Known as the CV1 and CV2, they were priced at £39.5s and £42. Ex­cept it things weren’t ‘set fair’ or even any­thing like it. De­spite what Ce­dos may have been ad­ver­tis­ing in the press or telling jour­nal­ists, there are no known ex­am­ples ex­ist­ing from after 1926. It’s doubt­ful if any ma­chines were sold at all in 1927 while none at all were man­u­fac­tured in 1928. The fol­low­ing year saw the Wall Street crash and the start of the De­pres­sion, which made the globe’s more re­cent eco­nomic woes pale by com­par­i­son. Ce­dos mo­tor­cy­cle pro­duc­tion came to an end that year and, while the New Ce­dos En­gi­neer­ing in St James Road con­tin­ued un­til the 1970s, Ce­dos Mo­tor Cy­cles Ltd was struck off the com­pa­nies reg­is­ter in Jan­uary 1932.

The stars of the show – the mo­tor­cy­cles them­selves – are still around to­day. Sev­eral thou­sand may have been man­u­fac­tured but now there are about 18 left. Most are lo­cated in the UK al­though three are thought to be in Hol­land (where many were sold and spe­cific cat­a­logues were pro­duced for this mar­ket), and one in Nor­way. There is also one in South Africa which is known to have taken part in the 700km Dur­ban to Jo­han­nes­burg Run, quite some­thing for a 1920s ma­chine. There are ru­mours of a V-twin in Australia but noth­ing sub­stan­ti­ated, so if any read­ers know of this ma­chine or have pho­to­graphs then please take one step for­ward.

Percy Spokes de­parted in 1964 but his Ce­dos side­car out­fit still lives on. It was the tested by Titch Allen and ap­peared at a Bon­hams’ auc­tion in 2014 when it sold for a tad un­der £10,000. Not a bad in­crease on the £71.15s pur­chase price – al­though Mr Spokes, as a direc­tor and de­vel­op­ment en­gi­neer, may well have re­ceived a dis­count!

Above: Ce­dos en­tered one ‘Stan­dard’ model into the 1926 ISDT and it per­formed per­fectly. It even fin­ished the speed laps at Brook­lands with six min­utes to spare!

Left: Mar­garet May­cock com­muted aboard her Ce­dos dur­ing the early 1920s

Above: The firm’s rep­u­ta­tion was built on lightweights so maybe their ven­ture into the heavy­weight side­car mar­ket was a mis­take. The big V-twin fea­tured a be­spoke, short wheel­base frame ‘with large di­am­e­ter heavy gauge tubes and sub­stan­tial webbed...

Above & right: Spot the dif­fer­ences be­tween 1921 and 1923 mod­els (no points for notic­ing that one used belt drive while the other was by chain)

Below: A 1921 Gents two-stroke 250

An­other un­usual talk­ing point: the Ce­dos ex­haust ‘bulb’ which we’d prob­a­bly call an ex­pan­sion cham­ber

Above: ‘A well-de­signed light­weight’, re­mark­able in 1919 for util­is­ing the firm’s own en­gine, gears and forks rather than us­ing pro­pri­etary equip­ment Right: An early glimpse of the first Ce­dos mo­tor­cy­cles, in De­cem­ber 1919

Much was made of the Ce­dos car­bu­ret­tor which pro­vided ‘a per­fect mix­ture for all en­gine speeds… the cool run­ning ob­tained through the per­fect carburation of the fuel is one of its most strik­ing ad­van­tages’

Ce­dos typ­i­cally didn’t bother with front brakes, and this is the sort of stopper you’d find on the back of a 1920 211cc light­weight

Above: The Brad­shaw-en­gined Ce­dos out­fit once owned by Percy Spokes sur­vives to this day Below: Percy’s Ce­dos fea­tured Granville Brad­shaw’s 348cc air/ oil-cooled en­gine, which used oil pumped into an al­loy jacket to cool the cylin­der

Mr Mo­tor­cy­cle of Northamp­ton: Percy Spokes who steered Ce­dos Mo­tor­cy­cles for a while in the 1920s

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