Posted: Thursday 07th May 2020
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 (see comment by Keith Butler below) 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
Allins was started before the First World War by A H Allin and it is believed to have premises at 132 Whitehorse Road. These they kept until they went to 81A Whitehorse Road at an unknown date. Arch was in business with Grubbs both sides of the Great War but it would appear to be a rather loose arrangement. Arch was definitely on his own in the mid-1920s and at 132 Whitehorse Road.
Mr father and ‘Ching’ Allin went into partnership after the Second World War and began trading at 81A. Very shortly after that they bought 57/59 Whitehorse Road. This was well before 1950 as I have a photograph taken of Dad, Ching and myself outside on opening day – probably 1947 or 1948. It was a single shop premises but sometime before they bought it, numbers 57/59 had been converted from an Ice Cream Parlour that had combined two shops. It had solid concrete floors downstairs and while there were cellars they were sealed off as more often than not they were subject to flood water! That part of Croydon was, at one time, a gravel pit!
The 1963 Belgique model was indeed designed as a racing frame I rode the original in Belgium and won the Professional/Independent National Championship on it in 1964. This was in Gitane blue resprayed to look like my given ‘pro’ machine which actually weighed many kilos more than the Allin. I do not have this frame now as it went under a car nearly taking me with it in the 1970s.
When I returned to the UK at the end of 1966 I signed up with Viking Cycles but they went bust so I rode a couple of seasons as an ‘Allin’ professional getting 2nd place in the National Professional Sprint Championship.
Allins did make Bicycle Polo frames. Originally they were built by ‘Norman’ down in Ashford in Kent but when this firm went bust Allins started to build their own. The Norwood Paragon team, of which Ching was a regular member won the National Championship in 1933 and then every year until 1939. After the war they won it again but ‘anno domini’ took its toll and the next to last time they won it was 1950. The last time they took the title it was played at Cowdray Park before Prince Philip and was the ‘warm-up’ match before the Horse Polo National Championship. In this match they beat Solihull and it was a question of youth and speed against age and craft. This time the age and craft won and I was there to see it happen.
George Brake was the man instrumental in promoting bicycle polo. They actually had a summer season playing at the football grounds of Brentford, Chelsea, Arsenal and Crystal Palace and , I think, four other teams. Normally the games were played on Council recreation parks. In the Croydon area Coulsdon, Mogador and Purley Way were the most used but Tooting Bec and other grounds around London were utilised as competition was centred on the whole London area. The grounds at Mogador had an unfortunate experience during the War when a solitary bomb demolished the shed Polo bikes were stored.
I was only involved in the last part of the Allin story but the early information sounds the same as I was told by Ching and Stan. I joined the shop after John Hutt and Ray Moore had parted, it was 1986 I was 16 and just out of school. I worked in the workshop and on the shop floor. Working alongside among others Cliff Shrubb who did build Allin frames as well as his own. I also worked with Ching Allin who still worked two mornings a week building wheels. Stan Butler and his wife Ann would also come back and help run the shop when John and Linda went away.
John was partners with Linda Burrows who also worked in the shop. Unfortunately John was taken ill and passed away, but before he did John married Linda and she became Linda Hutt. After John passed away Linda started working less at the shop and I became more involved in the running of it working on my own lots. My brother Paul started working part time with me at the shop until it closed.
The business was never sold to David Rutter, he had a wholesale cycle warehouse selling to the trade in the Thornton Heath area. This went bankrupt which is why he moved to Bognor Regis I think, he was part of a bike shop called Chain Reaction in the area. Do not think in is the same Chain Reaction that is on-line.
David had no other business connections to Allin cycles other than selling us cycle parts and later becoming Linda’s new partner.
Unfortunately Allin cycles ceased trading at the end of February 1998. I had my dates wrong I was at Allin’s from 06/1986 to 12/1998 12 great years. I then moved to Finch cycles in Reigate another long running cycle shop.
Allin’s did build bicycle polo bikes we had a whole team in Ireland the bikes all came back for re spray when I was at the shop, also Cliff Shrubb did build some new ones. The shop did have a professional cyclist for a while, if I have the name right Mikey Oliver (see message below from Michael Oliver) rode in the Tour of Britain and the city centre races.
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.
“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.
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!
Michael Oliver (mentioned above by Glen Bates):
I own two Allin bicycles and am the ‘Mikey’ Oliver referred to on the Allin page as having raced as a professional and competed in the Tour of Britain etc, which is correct. I raced for two years, 1986 and 1987, as a single-sponsored pro, for Mintel Publications-Allin Cycles. We also had some Allins branding on the kit for the Kirk-Matchbox team which took part in the 1987 Kelloggs Tour of Britain.
I still own three Allin bicycles. I have what I was told is a 1952 Allin touring bicycle, frame number 948. I was given this by my uncle in 1978 and I used it for time trialling up until 1983, when I switched to an oval-tubed Allin time trial bike, which I still have. I don’t know about the frame number on this one, I think it was built by Ray Moore, when he and John Hutt owned Allins.
I also had a road bike built up by them, I would guess in 1983 or possibly 1984 which started off in green with chrome forks and seat stays but was resprayed for 1986, my first season as a pro. I rode this bike for most of that year and I still have it.
Then in 1987 Ray and John supplied me with a new Mavic groupset-equipped road bike and this went back to them at the end of the season. I stopped riding as a pro at the end of 1987 as a place I thought I had agreed in a team fell through and I couldn’t face another season riding as a single-sponsored rider because it was very dispiriting!
Bob Johnson sends in details of the following interesting Allin frame:
Measurements: Seat tube 22.25″ (56.5cm) C to C. Top tube 21.5″ (54.5cm) C to C. Wheelbase 39″
Allin Cycles built frames for pro racers as well as for local clubmen. This particular frame was built as a time trial bike for a member of the South Eastern Road Club and painted in the club colours, Orange, Green and Black. (Most clubmen rode time trials on fixed wheel bikes at this time)The Allin catalogue in 1963 stated the ‘Club’ Model was made of Reynolds 531 tubing and “sif-bronze welded to ‘Stan Butler Standard’ dimensions” and available as a road frame or track frame “with heavy track ends”.
This was a special build to commemorate Keith Butler’s successes on the continent, especially the low countries (Keith is Stan Butler’s son). This was introduced by Allin for the 1964 season (possibly the only year it was offered). One of my sources, including a former 20-year employee of the shop, suggests very few were built and that they were all the same livery – same price as a Hetchins (eighteen pounds seventeen and six); he has not seen another.
He also suggests that Allin built the Belgique from a Reynolds tubeset similiar to 531SL, this was of course many years before the commercial availability of 531SL, perhaps Allin had some leverage with Reynolds as a result of Keith’s successes.
Mike Baker submitted the following images of Keith Butler in action and a Keith Butler reference in Allins advert:
I bought two Allin frames. 1807 was a club standard 25.5 inch dating from July 2 1965. I still have this frame and the receipt with Stan Butler’s signature across the then obligatory 2d stamp. At the time I was a growing teenager coming up to 17 and the £12/19/6 was a lot of pocket money. Frame 2104 was a February 28 1972 purchase and increased the seat tube size to 26.5 inches. A Stan Butler special this time and £26.75 in new money. No 2d stamp receipt though as they went out with decimalisation. A good steady rider, but quite flexible if I tried sprinting on it. Serious touring machine and I won the 1974 BCTC on this in appalling weather.
Both machines are in the garage downstairs and 2104 still in original but battered green, though having used 1807 as a hack machine it had a couple of resprays on the way.
Cliff Shrubb was always up for a challenge and he reconstructed the frame jig at 81A to make me his biggest ever frame at 27.5 inches in 1987. Quite a monster as you may imagine and the seat stays are getting on for vertical as the geometry deviated from the usual diamond shape! Cannot remember the price though it was more than the Allins. Cliff spent many years at Pearson’s in Sutton after leaving the workshop at 81A.
As you may gather I am a bit above average size. A 37 inch inside leg makes trousers and bike frames expensive!
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