Classic Lightweights UK
Classic Frame Builders
By John Bompas
We have had some useful information from a reader who worked with Wal over 45 years ago which makes a good base to start a page on W G and we invite further contributions. We would also like some good images of details from a Wally Green machine including the head badge or transfer:
Wally, as well as being a frame builder was also a well known speedway rider (see image on right). He captained the England speedway team in 1954.
"I was with him at Vivian Avenue, Hendon, and then up at the Boroughs, Hendon in 1959-61. There were three of us working with Wal and Harold Peters, his business partner. Harold (Pete) was the really skilled frame builder and he had previously been at Mark Hines' shop building frames. I think it was at the fork in the main road through Finchley where it splits to go down to "Naked Lady" or to Hendon. (I've not lived in London for over 35 years now so my geography is getting rusty)
Harold & Wal started up in Hendon and one of their early employees was Stan Pike, who later moved down to the west country and started up his own very succesful frame building business and bike shop.
Our workshop was at the back of the shop, where we sold frames and lightweight equipment. I suppose our best shop customers were members of the Edgeware, Wembley, Willesden and other NW London clubs. Saturday mornings we couldn't get much work done because the shop became a sort of clubroom.
In busy times the production was up to 35 or so frames a week; in quiet times down to a dozen or even less. In the quiet periods we often built stock frames, which were in two or three standard measurements. They were virtually all built in 531 DB throughout but occasionally some had plain-gauge stays or forks or both. I remember one occasion though, when a customer wanted us to build for him using his supplied tubing. Wal considered it was "gas pipe" and said so, which upset the customer, but as it was a quiet time and he was paying, the job was taken on. Even then we waited a long time to get the money out of the customer. I'd better not say who he was, even after all this time.
The vast majority of frames were built with the standard Nervex lugs of the day, although we did use some very plain Italian style lugs. These became very fashionable 30 years later on! We also did one of the very first frames with a cut away bottom bracket, on the customers insistance. This had a large section cut out underneath it and a transparent plastic sleeve inserted, supposedly to keep the weather out. Harold was not happy cutting into such a vital part of the frame at all. However, the rider for whom the frame was built went on to break the 25 competition record several times on it: Alf Engers.
Frank Ward (team member) on his Wally Green finished in the team colours of red and white.Most frames in those days were made to the rider's individual measurements, as requested, but some shops also ordered standard frames for their own stock, sometimes in quite large quantities. The frames were collected "in the rough" by the spraying company, which was over in East London somewhere, and generally came back to us a week later. A lot of them had quite fancy colours as requested by the riders and of course all but the most cost conscious rider would also have lug lining. This I seem to recall was usually done by young ladies, who seem to have been very good at the delicate work. There was also a fashion for a while to have chrome fork ends and sometimes 6 inches of chrome up the front and rear forks and chainstays.
Time trial 1959 Milk Race
Down tube transfer has 'Wally' in italic and 'Green' in block lettering.
More images and information from Frank below.
Some of our customers were international standard or national champions on road, track or time trial, either on frames with Wally Green transfers, or a trade customer name.
In about 1960 we had an Independents team for a couple of seasons or so. Wal did a deal with Albert Beurink (not sure of the spelling) of the Cafe den Engel, Ghent, to supply the team clothing and be an extra sportif sponsor. The bikes were white with pale green box panels on the seat tube and the block lettered WALLY GREEN transfer on the down tube. The team members that I remember were: Johnny Morris, Trevor Smith, Bob Spencer, Johnny Pratt and for a time an Australian who'd been racing in Europe, Morrie Horder.
When the cycle trade went into a bit of a decline the shop was closed down and we moved up to a old but bigger workshop on the hill at the Boroughs, Hendon. The trade still declined and gradually we were made out of work. In the same yard were some small lock-up garages and one was used by the Samuelson brothers who were starting up in the film lighting business. They later became, I believe, the biggest company of their type in the world. When Wal's business finally became non-viable and was closed down, he was offered a job by the Samuelsons and soon went on to a high position in their firm. Harold Peters died suddenly in the early '60's - I can't remember whether it was before or after the frame business folded.
A lot of the trade customers used to visit the workshop, especially if they had quite a few frames to collect, instead of us sending them by carrier, so we got to know a lot of names in the trade.
Some of the other trade names we built for:
Sid Mottram, Jackson of Leeds, Carter & Hall (Portsmouth), Shepherds of Poole, Hindes, Ernie Whitcombe, Fred Dean, Claud Butler, Dave Davey, Jensen of South Africa, Hobbs Brothers, Lomas of Oxford, Alan Shorter, Ivor Clark of Harrow, Mal Rees. There must have been many others that I can't remember off hand. We also built under our own name for a very large percentage of NW London racing cyclists.
We also did quite a lot of frame repairs. Mainly cutting or melting out corroded seat pillars, handlebar stems and what we called double tubers. These were where the rider had invariably gone into the back of a car or bus and bent the top and down tubes. These were cut out and completely replaced. The frames we built for Claud Butler were when his business was nearing its end (it was alleged that he was drinking all the profits of the firm!).
Wal died early this year (2007), just prior to his 81st birthday
Frank Ward has contacted us with some images from his time as a rider in the Wally Green team:
"I was surprised and delighted to see potted history of Wally Green Cycles. There are a few discrepancies in the write up and the following observations may help.
The independant team was formed in 1959 and consisted of John Morris, Trevor Smith, Bob Spencer and myself Frank Ward, later to be joined by Morrie Horder.
Our first big win was by myself in the Tour of the North Downs International. Although, for diplomatic reasons, I was riding for No 1 ESD, my army unit with Ernie Scally and John Hockley. Wally made a big window display because I was riding his frame in the event.
The frames were red with white panels with 'Wally' in script and 'Green' in capitals on the down tubes. There was a transfer on the head tube.
I have included photos taken on the Milk Race 1959 in which John, Trevor and myself rode for London. We are wearing London jerseys in the photos which were basically grey. The Wally Green team jerseys were red, white and blue bands.
Trevor smith and Frank Ward - Milk Race, 1959
Trevor Smith, John Morris and Frank in Milk Race, 1959
(Ron Newton leaning on post in background)
Cheddar Gorge in the rain. Frank in third place, Alan Ramsbottom in fourth
Frank in Wally Green kit chasing the peleton after a puncture'
cheered on by members of the Wembley Road Club
Frank Ward's name listed along with the great Fausto Coppi plus many more
international riders in the Manx Premier Professional Road Race - 1959
© 2007 Peter Underwood and Patricia Killiard