When we were given the task of writing about something unique about our cities, the first thing that came to my mind about Nottingham was the tale of Robin Hood. However, Robin Hood seemed too obvious a choice and I wanted to learn something I did not know about Nottingham in the process of writing this article. So I asked a few friends, visited the city tourism centre and to my delight discovered something I personally had never known about Nottingham.
Nottingham is the home of Raleigh bikes! (Maybe only cyclists like myself will get excited about this). A man called Frank Bowden invested in a small bicycle company (Wood, Angois and Ellis) which was making a mere three bikes a week. This small workshop was situated on Raleigh Street, hence the formation of the “Raleigh Bicycle Company” in 1890. In the short space of 42 years, the Raleigh Bicycle Company increased produced from three bikes a week to 62,000 bicycles a year!
Another reason I found this interesting was that the start of the bicycle craze happened to coincide with the feminist movement. At this time, women who cycled were viewed as flouting their home maker roles and what they wore when cycling became one of the suffragette’s many battles. During this time, Raleigh were keen to monopolise on these changes in society, so they started manufacturing and advertising ladies’ bicycles alongside their own riders outfit for women. Their advertising displayed fashionable women riding elegant bicycles, this style of which can be still bought today from their ‘Classic De Luxe’ range. Other iconic Raleigh models included the children’s Raleigh Chopper which was manufactured in the 1970s and the Burner BMX (shown in the first photo).
Sadly the last Raleigh Factory in Nottingham closed down recently (they still manufacture elsewhere) and the site was bought by The University of Nottingham. Despite this, the name of Raleigh Bicycles continues as a well known and loved English institution.
Did you own a Raleigh bike when you were younger? Do you still ride a Raleigh? If so, share it with us in the comments section below!