H. Williamson, or Time Flies

This post is about a number of things; two bikes, my old haunt, and, as the title says, how time flies. What´s the most important of them? Let´s see.

About 30 years ago I used to work in Tameside, a borough in the Greater Manchester area. I enjoyed myself greatly and learned a lot, how English and serious cycling go, among other things. As both English and serious cycling have been important parts of my life ever since, you can imagine what I think about my time there.

Little did I know that more than 30 years before I came there, there was a cycleshop in Dukinfield, one of the towns making up Tameside, which made bikes under its own brand. I can´t really say if they also made their own frames, but a cyclist who lives in the area and also has an H. Williamson (that´s what the cycle shop was called) tells me he did. I guess we´ll never know for sure, but that´s not really important.

MWdownttransf

This is what the site of the cycle shop in King Street looks like today:

Tyres1

 

Tyres2Yes, right, the shop has been demolished.

Anyway, this hasn´t: This is what the surroundings of King Street, Dukinfield look like today, and have for the most part looked like for decades:

Brewery DukTownHall KgSt KgStpart KgstturnPeople will say: Well, so what. I say: It´s the backdrop to one of the happiest and most useful periods of my life. Or is it that the “Well, so what” is a commentary on my photography skills? Then you´re right.

Not far from King Street, Dukinfield (nothing really is far in that small place), this beauty of a Williamson bike resides.

BEWillfullBEWillbb BEWillchainset BEWillext BEWillextlamphook BEWillforkcr BEWillframenr BEWillfrontfkBEWillheadclip BEWillheadtransf BEWilllwrheadlug BEWillreardo BEWillseatclAnd, you know what? It came with its original bill of sale. No original paintwork, but the bill of sale. Here it is:

451BillSo we know that frame #451S is very early 1942. Try and remember this.

In the Spring 2005 issue, p. 34f, its owner wrote a short article in the Boneshaker, the mag of the Veteran-Cycle Club, relating some useful data and a lot of memories on H. (Harry) Williamson. Born late 1890s, fought in WWI, founded Dukinfield cycle shop 1929, sold up 1950, died 1968. Avid cyclist, thoroughly likable chap. The article gave him a face, too:

WillPhot

The day before I visited Russell (the man with the bills of sale and the photo, thank you!), his wife (the woman with the tea and the biscuits, thank you!), and his bikes, I had been so lucky as to score my own H. Williamson. Lucky because it seems that there´s only four left, not just in or around Dukinfield, but in the world, so the odds of riding a bike “Made in Dukinfield” aren´t very good.

Mine doesn´t have its bill of sale, but some original paintwork.

MWcompleteIn his TB article on H. Williamson, Russell writes that Harry W. used to paint his own frame by hand and the paint was cured in a home made heating cupboard. Hard to see in the photos, but the paint on my bike definitively is brush painted.

MWbbbottomAnyway, it came with a beautiful celluloid covered North Road bar, recently upturned, a Cyclo three speed unit rear hub (wow), some mismatched BSA chainset, a Brooks integrated seat stem, very nice and narrow Dunlop Stainless 26×1 1/4 rims and with a lot of rust, neglect and a strange carrier rack. Needless to say, I love it, also because there´s only about three or four cms missing to my very own frame height.

MWcomplrearI had to take the bike to bits in order to fit it into my Volvo (by now 23 years old, and 400,000 kms on the teller), but then I quickly saw that there was a lot of work on it, so I am now in the process of dismantling it. I also took a closer looks at the frame.

MWfull

MWHeadclip

Headclip assy. with some non-original bits

MWforkcr

Beautiful lugs

MWheadtransf

Not much left of this transfer

MWmudgrearlighteyes

Eyes for mudguards and rear light/reflector

MWrusstype

Russ-ish bend

MWseatcl

Seat tube top looks very thirties

MWseattransf

A little more left on the seat tube

MWbb  MWreardo MWreyntransf The frame number, what about dating the thing. There´s bills of sale after all, actually Russell has one more, alas without the bike:

Bill521So 531 is 1944.

Yes, well, good old Harry must have been in a hurry, or whatever, but the number on my frame is only partly legible. It says 4 (?) 9 S. The “(?)” could be a three, a nine, or perhaps a two. It´s just not there. So my bike must be around 1942, that´s all I can say. Good enough. Only strange that my bike still has definitively thirties seat stay tops, and the other one´s are the later type. Also lugs are completely different.

So what will happen with my bike? I´ll not re-finish it, that´s for sure. I´ve had a weird comment on that from an elderly lady neighbour when collecting the frame from a friend who filled a hole in a seat stay (yes, it´s that bad). Still, no repaint. Next I´ll have to rebuild the wheels, some spokes are gone, and I´ll have to find some of those elusive 26 x 1 1/4 tyres. I´ve already got an idea who to ask. I´ll need a l/h side fluted BSA crank, though, and some idea what to do about the derailleur-less Cyclo three speed hub. Pair of wing nuts and a rag, perhaps.

Time not only flies, but often has the answer, too.

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