Classic Lightweights UK
Hawkes of StratfordAuthor Bryan Clarke
It is clear that although Hawkes were a well-established and important lightweight bicycle business, very little about them has percolated down to us in recent years and many people with a knowledge of the post war London lightweight scene are unfamiliar with the name.
However, regular small adverts from Cycling in the 1930s state ‘Hawkes, the pioneer of rigid lightweights in the East, (East London) builders since 1890’ and ‘the old-fashioned builders of lightweights, one of the few firms who specialise in built-to-order cycles and tandems’(1936). Hawkes and Sons Ltd had shops at 89 and 203 Leytonstone Road, Stratford, East London as well as a branch at 323 Barking Road, East Ham. Of the small number of their bikes I have come across, some down-tube transfers refer to L&A Hawkes, which one presumes were the ‘sons’, one of them being Lou Hawkes who I am told was associated with the Hainault Roads Club.
My interest started when I purchased a frame that the original owner told me was built in 1960. Similarly, another came my way built I was informed in 1948. Some years earlier I had seen at the Ripley jumble a Hawkes that had split swallowtail lugs of the type used by Bill Leach (Leach Marathon) in the 1940s? A very attractive pre war bike came the way of a friend in the VCC as well as a pre-war frame sold by Hilary Stone and now in the US.
It seems to me that although Hawkes may have built their own frames originally they probably out-sourced them in the post war period. This is confirmed by Chris Mills, VCC Marque Enthusiast for Stokes of London who discovered that the firm was responsible for building frames for Hawkes in the 1950s. My 1948 model shown here has unusually long fluted tops to the seat stays of the type used on occasion by Hobbs of Barbican and therefore we might look in that direction for the builder in this instance. The frame dating from 1960 could be a Wally Green.
I am sure there are those out there who can tell us more and this is a way of inviting them to get in touch with the website. Just recently, a photograph (below) taken inside one of their shops was sent to the website for identification. The people featured are ‘Dolly’, Sarah Chard’s great aunt Alice who worked in the shop with we presume the proprietor, Lou Hawkes? taken in the 1950s. Note the photos of racing cyclists that adorn the wall on the right.
Hawkes advert December 1954 - The Bicycle
Hawkes used two types of down tube transfer, ‘L&A Hawkes’ in a small script and a very large ‘Hawkes’ script in various colours edged in black. Both versions are found on the pre-war frames (as above). The oval head and seat transfers remained consistent and show all their addresses. The 1960 frame, obviously refurbished, has replacement head and seat transfers that show only the Barking Road address, and one might speculate that this was the only shop remaining when they finally closed down. (late1960s?)
Jack Greeley, Billericay, Essex adds: I came across your site and others by accident and have become addicted to becoming transported back to the 1940's. I joined the Victoria Cycling Club in 1946 aged 21 when Lew (or Lou) Hawkes became a vice-president. Many members became friends and some congregated at the shop especially on Saturday mornings - not necessarily to buy anything! My wife and I had four frames from him altogether, two of which went recently to John Yates's collection at Billericay. I photographed Lew's daughter's wedding and had cards from her until recently, her parents having died years ago. What has shattered me was to see a photo of Lew and his shop assistant Alice Covington displayed on the Hawkes computer entry in the list of makers, as I possess an almost identical picture. As you entered the shop there was a large board on which Lew fixed the pictures he had been given, including a couple of mine - the Victoria Hobo Run for example. Lew said Alice had a tragic life - her marriage broke up early and she died at only 47 - and she had been very helpful in the business, building wheels for instance. I see a great- niece is mentioned with the photograph.
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