Classic Lightweights UK
Classic Frame Builders
Allin Cycles - CroydonAuthor: Bryan Clarke
It has been reported that Allin Cycles were established by A H (Arch) Allin in 1926. However, advertisements in ‘Cycling’ show that he was in partnership with Freddie Grubb for a short period at 132 Whitehorse Road (see pre-war badge below left), West Croydon in Surrey from December 1919 until March 1920 and he continued to trade as Allin and Grubb for sometime after Grubb had evidently started up on his own. They were responsible for an early chain tensioning quick release mechanism, which was featured in ‘Cycling’ on July 1st 1920.
Allin Cycles were to become a constant presence in Whitehorse Road for the best part of eighty years. At the end of World War II the firm was taken over by the pre-war cycling ace, Stan Butler in partnership with Arch’s son Charles William Allin, known as ‘Ching’ Allin, a nickname that he picked up during the war. Stan had been a salesman/representative at Bates in the late 1930s due his iconic status as one of the country’s top riders. Riding for the legendary club, the Norwood Paragon, he appeared in the BAR top ten no less than five times and was prevented from winning the title twice, in 1933 by his club-mate, the great Frank Southall and again in 1937 by Cyril Heppleston.
Contrary to some reports, Stan was not a recognised frame builder himself according to his son Keith, although both he ‘Ching’ could carry out emergency repairs. For the purposes of creating their own marque in 1946/7 they employed the skills of Peter Cobb, who like so many frame builders had learnt his craft with Claud Butler. He was to remain with them until he retired around 1980/81. However, those that had bespoke frames made at Allins would say that Stan was always there in the workshop to measure up prospective clients.
In the early post war period the shop had moved to 81A Whitehorse Road, but by 1950 the shop had moved again to number 57, with the other address kept on as a workshop. At some point in the 1950s the shop expanded to take in the premises next door; number 59.
In 1950 three models were advertised in ‘Cycling’. The ‘SB special’ was the top of the range at 15 guineas and was described as ‘the last word in frame design and finish’. Then came the ‘SB standard’ at 13 guineas with a welded model, the ‘Club’ at £10.19s 6d. Allins were regular advertisers in the ‘Sporting Cyclist’ in the late 50s and early 60s, listing six models to choose from, stating clearly the choice of frame angles relating to each model with the SB special described as having curly lugs. (As illustrated right).
The firm was to remain in the same hands until Stan sold the business to Ray Moore and John Hutt in 1980. From memory, the frame builder Cliff Shrubb operated from 81A Whitehouse Road at this period, building frames under his own name and for Geoffrey Butler (No relation!) and may have built for Allins after Peter Cobb’s retirement. The business was sold to Dave Rutter and Linda Allin in 1984 but they eventually closed the business and moved to Bognor Regis to open a new bike shop ‘Chain Reaction’. This must have been around 2000 as a friend of mine bought a touring bike from them in 1999.
Frame Numbering and Decals
Frame numbering was sequential starting with 500 (1946?) through to 2401, the last recorded number dated as 18/6/1981 in the surviving frame building notebook, this date may coincide with the retirement of Peter Cobb. Significant frame numbers and dates are as follows:
1422 July 1959
1448 1st January 1960.
2155 December 1972
All frame numbers were stamped on the left side rear drop out.
Allin headbadges feature a large capital ‘A’ with the words ALLIN CYCLES LTD above it and the address 57-59 WHITEHORSE ROAD CROYDON SURREY below, screen-printed onto light alloy (see photo). Earlier badges have the words THE ALLIN BY STAN BUTLER above the A. with the address as number 57 WHITEHORSE ROAD CROYDON. The very rare pre-war badges had A H Allin as well as THE DAVEY with the 132 Whitehorse Road address.
I also remember seeing Allins with large bold fairground down-tube transfers similar to Hetchins.
The Stan Butler standard and special models had their own seat tube transfers (see photos). There was also small fork transfer in script
The information presented here was collected from correspondence in the VCC News & Views 2000/1 and research provided by Norman Richardson
Michael Merrony from New South Wales, Australia writes:
"My father's family lived in Whitehorse Road in the mid-1920s and I guess my father would have been a contemporary of 'Ching' Allin. He tells me that he & my mother used to ride an Allin tandem my father had made for him. This would have been about 1930, before I was born. He said it had one of the very early derailleur gears fitted by Ching.
I bought an Allin cycle myself in Stan Butler's time in about 1949 or 1950, with a fixed wheel. I used it for time trialing and club social rides (the Redhill Cycling Club). I guess I was an average rider but did win the Oxford City RC 50 mile handicap on 25/6/1950 (I was 17 yrs at the time!) with a time of 2.15. My high point in my competitive cycling career ... I left UK for S Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1951 & took my Allin cycle with me.
I remember once seeing a game of bicycle polo along with my brother John, a game at which our father said Ching Allin was playing. Since the last email I've been speaking to John, who also lives in Australia near Melbourne. He was quite certain that the game was played at a Coulsdon recreation ground close to our home in Downs Road. It was located just off Marlpit Lane with an entrance opposite the junction with Reddown Road. He says the year would have been about 1945/46. I'm sure one team was the Norwood Paragon team & that Allin cycles made bikes for bicycle polo.
I have a few scanned photos from my cycling days with an Allin cycle but haven't attached them because it's impossible to pick out the maker's name. We all rode fixed wheels with usually just a front brake. I have a photo of a 1950/ or 1951 massed start race at Goodwood Motor Race track and a few are using derailleur gears.
My brother did an apprenticeship at the Monotype Printing Works at Salfords, just south of Redhill, in the nearly 1950s. I think with changing technology it's been closed down. He spoke of one of the apprentices from his time, Jack Taylor?, going to work for Allin cycles as a frame builder.
Graham Hare from March in Camridgeshire tells us:
"Archibald Henry Allin started a bicycle shop, where he also built bicycles, in Whitehorse Road, Croydon some time before WW2, none of the surviving family members can remember exactly when, but certainly by the early thirties. If the bicycle that you have seen advertised as built in 1921 is genuine that would be one of the earliest Allin cycles in existence.
The firm was known as A. H. Allin and Sons and the two sons were Archibald Edward Allin, (born 1903,died 1980) and Charles William Allin, born 1913, who died in October 2002. Charles William was known as Ching (he was definitely not Chinese). Both sons were members of The Norwood Paragon Cycle Club and both took part in racing, and in the thirties both played bicycle polo for the club team which won the National Championship for several years in succession. Naturally they built their own bikes for these events. I know that Archie, the older son, was a very successful time trialer over 25 and 50 miles.
The business was rather seasonal and in the winter when the bicycle trade was slack they spent a lot of their time drilling and filing frame lugs into elegant filigree-like patterns to lighten them - threading them on to long strings and hanging them from the workshop ceiling ready for the frame building in summer. They also sold gramophones to boost winter income. After the outbreak of WW2 the father looked after the shop while the older son, Archie (too old for war service) moved to Coventry, and got a job with The Standard Motor Co. assembling aircraft fuselages, where he met and, in 1943, married my mother. Ching joined the REME as an armourer and served in North Africa and Italy.
Left is an image of Ching in uniform sent by John Keen whose mother and father were friends.
The origin of the nickname Ching is rather obscure. At school he was known as Ding and perhaps he was called Charlie Ding which was later contracted to Ching. At any rate when other soldiers asked his name he replied 'Ching' and always preferred that to his given name.
After the war my stepfather decided to stay in Coventry and continued to work for Standard-Triumph until retirement in 1968. Ching used his war service gratuity to go into partnership with Stan Butler and set up Allin Cycles taking over the old premises from his father though later moving to different premises in Whitehorse Road. They built the well-known SB all-welded frame and Ching gained an enviable reputation as a wheel builder. I was given both of my stepfather's bikes and the last was rebuilt by the shop in the 1970's just before the partners sold up and retired. The build quality was excellent with my stepfather's superb lug work and Ching's wheels with alloy rims and hubs and stainless steel butted spokes, 5 cross on the rear wheel, 4 cross on the front. I was greatly upset when the bike was stolen 10 years later."
John Foster adds a few comments about Allin's - my family lived at the Thornton Heath end of Whithorse Road and ran several successful greengrocery shops and a milk business from the mid 1920's until the late 1970's.
Allins was always our local cycle shop; in fact my Father, John Foster purchased a secondhand GA from Allins during the war, and then in 1945 purchased an F.W Evans (again secondhand) tandem on which he and a friend cycled to Devon in August of that year.
My Grandfather Alfred Foster purchased a number of tradesbikes from Allins throughout these 40+ years - one we still have with the Allin's badge intact.
Based at the southern Croydon end of Whitehorse Road often referred to as"The Gloucester" after the pub that sat on the point at which Whitehorse Road met Windmill Road, Allin's I recall was always a mecca for bikies from the Croydon area: especially from, as previously mentioned, Norwood Paragon and other clubs and enthusiasts throughout the Thornton Heath, Selhurst, Norwood, Anerley, Penge and Sydenham areas of what is now South London.
I myself only ever had one bicycle from Allin's, when I was about 7 my parent's bought me a new Pavemaster - not seen one of those since!
If you have anything to add or have any interesting photos then please get in touch with the website.
More on the Allin/Grubb story and their links with Norwood Paragon by Mick Butler under Reminiscences.
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