Braysher, V T
Posted: Monday 01st June 2020
I became interested in V T ‘Tom’ Braysher as a London frame builder many years ago when I bought one of his frames. I found that like so many frame builders who had had a fairly successful career he had fallen somewhat under the radar, unlike Frank Lipscombe or H R Morris who were already established in Walthamstow before Tom arrived on the scene. I gathered what I could through enquiries made to members in the V-CC. However, in 2011 more information came to light through research made by Chris Hutchinson and the late Mick Scott of the Essex Roads Cycle Club that included making contact with Tom’s son Ken who had his own memories but also a number of interesting photographs. Bernie Davis who knew Tom well was also able to add greatly to our knowledge of Tom’s career.
It is not known where Tom Braysher learnt his frame building skills but this may have been before WWII. It seems that after the war Tom started building frames under railway arches at Bethnal Green for anyone who sought him out. He may even have worked for Hercules at some time. However, he seems to have been taken on by Monty Young at Condor to run the shop at Balls Pond Road and his son Ken remembers regular visits. He holds a number of photos showing Tom with other staff members and the Condor team van in those early days.
Whatever Tom produced for Condor, the frames were probably unremarkable and made little impact on a burgeoning company wanting to make a name for itself. An example of a Condor road/track frame made by Tom came to my attention some years ago and is now on CLs ‘Readers Bikes’ (image below) where the owner had written under the bottom bracket ‘built in 1954 by Vic Braysher’.
Outwardly there was nothing to distinguish it from many others made at the time. 1954 was an important year for Condor where the decision was made to take on Bill Hurlow as their ace frame builder whose reputation was well known and so raise the profile of the company, and the rest as they say is history.
Condor’s star rider Ted Gerrard had left about this time to start up his own business at 65 Woodhouse Road, North Finchley and he seems to have had no hesitation in hiring Tom as his frame builder. It is interesting to study the sort of frame being made for Gerrard which was very conventional and popular at the time – Nervex Pro lugs, plain or Campag ends, and not unlike the early Condors.
Examples of these appeared in the ‘Sporting Cyclist’ (shown at bottom of page) as part of Gerrard’s advertising campaigns with the slogan ‘Pay as You Ride’. However, with a good order book and things looking up Tom had moved to open his own shop with his brother John at 520 Forest Road Walthamstow and their first advert appeared in the May 1957 issue of The Sporting Cyclist.
Whilst Tom was engaged in frame making, John built the wheels according to Dave Broome who contacted me with information when I first made enquiries in 2003. Both had a long association with the Essex Roads Cycle Club and Dave was also a member at the end of the 1950s. He remembered the frame numbers of both Braysher frames he had owned which helped me form an opinion about dating that I will come to later.
An interesting aside is that John Braysher was responsible for bringing the talented rider Ian Moore from Belfast to London and introducing him to Jock Wadley who helped him experience a season of racing in France.
These exploits were told by a racing companion, Mel Davies, in the Sporting Cyclist where there are pictures of Ian riding a Braysher shown here. Dave also told me that Tom had made several frames for Barry Chick who was himself to become a frame builder for Shorter Rochford, Gerrard’s successor.
Although most Braysher frames reflect the fashion of the time for Nervex Pro lugs, Nervex Legere lugs, or in the case of the one that I own that is made with attractive Oscar Egg lugs, Tom did make some frames with hand cut fancy lugs in a very distinctive style. His son Ken, who on occasion was called upon to do a bit lug filing in his time, was able to provide copies of publicity photos showing these to great effect. At least one of these frames has turned up as shown here, now owned by Stuart Windsor. He once owned a track version in his youth.
Whether Tom continued to build for other people is debatable. Whilst this may have not been the case early on, there is strong anecdotal evidence that he did so in the 1960s and I was told he was capable of turning out a frame quickly if the need arose. The shop continued in business to the end of the 1960s and beyond but was sold to Malcolm Smithers who moved into motor cycles and cars, and where Tom continued to help with repairs. The business then moved further along the road to where Robins Bikes is today.
Tom’s great granddaughter is a junior member of the Essex Roads Cycle Club and therefore carries on the tradition and association with that club.
I once owned frame number 62222 and still own 62214. Dave Broome bought his first frame in November 1958 – number 5842 – then in Feb 1960 bought frame number 60112. Amongst the publicity photos there is a close up of a track end with the frame number 5713. The numbers are stamped on the off side rear drop-out.
If you have memories or photos of Tom Braysher or his bikes we would love to hear from you. Additional information and corrections are also welcome.