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Classic Lightweights UK
Classic Builders 
 

Percy Barnard (P Barnard and Son)

Author  Alan Barnard
 
Barnard Builders 1The bicycle repair and frame shop of Percy and Bert Barnard was at 65 Station Road Brixton. Herbert William Barnard was my father and Percy my grandfather. My grandfather's experience of cycle repairs goes back to 1905 - a century ago. The shop was not in the railway arches as sometimes said but on the opposite side of Station Road. The shop eventually closed owing to a compulsory purchase order in 1960, it was not that small. It was double-fronted with double doors between the two windows. In addition, there were the two workshops behind, a yard, and the paint shop. I think Dad also owned the premises to the left between the paint shop and Vic and Kits shop. It probably looked small because it was so cluttered with things. My grandfather died a few years later but my father, Herbert, went on to become a director at Holdsworths. He died about 35 years ago but my mother still survives at age 93.  My brother-in law has located and purchased a 1921 Barnard frame - presumably this would have been made by my grandfather.

This has awakened a new interest in the old business. My memories of the shop and workshop go back about 50 years; my mother's would go back another 10 years or so. We have very little knowledge of the origins of the business or how my grandfather became involved.

The two cycle clubs that were mentioned when I was a child were the De Laune and the Old Kent Road (I can find no mention of the latter now). I believe my grandfather was well known in the cycling world in his younger days, but when I knew him he was already quite old and worked quietly in his workshop at the back of the shop making and repairing frames.

Does anyone have any memories of the business in those old days? My mother would be very interested. The shop was due to be demolished after it closed and to be replaced by a blank wall. I was surprised to find that Vic and Kit Clark's shop next door still survives as the Market Office although everything else including some roads have disappeared. My father mentioned an even older shop. As far as I can remember, he showed me the place where it stood next to the then existing shop. Even my mother knows nothing about it so it must have been demolished before the War or destroyed during it. It was very small.  Not only did the shop deal in bikes it also had a great smell of paraffin for they maintained all the “Hurricane Lamps” for the market stalls. Percy Barnard was known to the stallholders as "The Lamplighter". In the early days of Brixton Market before the days of communal electric light Percy lent  one of the traders an acetelyne lamp, this was so successful that before long he was hiring some 300 lamps to the traders.

Barnard Builder 3
1932 Blanchard lamp. Dad used to store them, maintain them, and light them, for the
stallholders in Brixton market. Some stalls had electric lights. When the shop closed, a few
kept their oil lamps and looked after them themselves, but most went over to electric lighting.

 I can remember dad carrying me in the seat on the back of his bike until I was too big to fit. I suppose I spent a lot of time in the shop – going to Brixton on the No 2 bus on a Saturday and serving paraffin from the big tank in the workshop. There was another big tank and a small tank in the yard with a hand-pump on the wall. When both tanks were empty, a tanker would deliver 500 gallons to fill them up again.

I can remember so many details – the socket on the wall behind the counter where dad would test light bulbs to show that they worked before handing them to the customer. Atlas used to decorate one of the shop windows to advertise their light bulbs – the other window was full of cycle parts. There was a little panel beside the counter for testing cycle lamp and torch bulbs and batteries – I started to learn about electricity using that. I can remember the oil lamps that they used to maintain and light for the stall-holders.
Barnard Builder 2
I used to take trips to ‘the city’ to take the frames to be ‘sand’ blasted. I have always looked out for a ‘Barnard’ bike but I have never seen one – I suppose not very many ever came this far north. I wonder what happened to all the old ‘Barnard’ transfers? Dad always kept a good supply of other names to put on frames that he repainted.

I have drawn a plan of the shop (see plan below) – the best I could from memory. To the left was the place where Bob and Sid kept their stall as well as their stock – washing soda is all I can remember, they had sacks of the stuff and weighed it out into 4lb paper bags. To the left of that was Kit and Vic’s shop – it was very small and sold sweets. To the left of that was some waste ground – Dad showed me the outline of the original shop which was still visible as a square of bricks level with the ground. The street market started a bit further along the road. The railway arches contained various businesses, one was a coal merchant (complete with horse); there was also a timber merchant; I cannot remember much about the others.

Barnard Builder 2

I have received a letter from Eddie Wingrave. Amongst many other things, he told me that he had (until recently) a Barnard tandem built by my grandfather in 1927. He speaks of it with great fondness and says that it was the best tandem ever built.

My mother has sent me a press-cutting (probably from about 1960) which mentions that my grandfather had held the national quarter-mile record. This would presumably be at Crystal Palace or Catford before WWII.  My father was in the Thames River Fire Service during the War.

Alan mentions Catford Cycle Track :- This was a 3.5 laps to the mile cinder running track inside a banked cement 3 laps to the mile cycle track. It opened on 18th May 1895 but went out of use by the early 1900s. There was a grandstand at the track and was used as a warehouse after the track was lost until about the mid 1990s when it was demolished. There was also a temporary grass track at the nearby Private Banks Cricket and Athletic Club Grounds which was used for meetings from at least  1911 and was the base of Blackheath Harriers.

Les Pyne writes:- I will try to let you know a bit about Percy and Bert Barnard as you may know they had a shop in Station Road Brixton, I don’t know how
many years they were there for. I got to know them when I first joined the De Laune which was around the mid-thirties.

The work that the two of them turned out was very first class. old Percy was the Frame Builder and Bert was a first class finisher, they could do anything that came along, tandems (Ted Pinchen had one), wheel building, track bikes and at the back of my mind I am almost certain he made bikes for the actors who lived In Somerlation Road, Brixton, Uni- cycles and the like for their stage work. One thing that stands out in my mind. Barnard could never be rushed into getting a bike done Ken Whiterod drove him mad phoning up every afternoon to see how his new bike was coming along, eventually old Barnard said to him it is all done good.