Posted: Tuesday 02nd June 2020
I first heard about Harry Daycock as a bike shop owner and frame builder many years ago but as an example of his work failed to come to my attention until recently he had been filed away in the section marked mythical in my mind’s eye.
Someone who worked in the shop for eight years from the mid 70s told me that Harry was of modest character, highly skilled but had no formal engineering qualifications. However, this did not stop him from carrying out essential engineering work during WW II. Despite being born in the East End he never spoke with a Cockney accent and he was well turned out in tweeds with shirt and tie. This attire very much defined a person especially before the war. (The same was true of H R Morris where the pictures of him in jumper and bobble hat in later life were out of character). Of slim build and spritely in old age he would chase mischievous kids down the street who would creep in when the shop was empty and with Harry upstairs re-arrange the stock so that he could not find anything!
Henry Robert Fraser Daycock was born on 27th July 1908 in Bethnal Green, and in 1911 the youngest son of George Fraser Daycock who was a successful sawdust dealer in the area. He had a number of elder brothers, the youngest John Thomas, four years his senior, may also have made bicycles including a ‘twin tube’ frame but they apparently fell out. It is thought that Harry first became interested in bicycles when only 14, making roadworthy second-hand bikes and at some point progressed to making bicycle frames under his own name. He was clearly a talented craftsman by those who knew him and his work speaks for itself. He first appears on the electoral register in 1931 at 255 Green Street, Bethnal Green, E 2, a shop he seems to have owned and remained in for many decades. He married Florence Gadston in 1938 and they continued to live above the shop. Unusually, she always referred to him as ‘Daycock’ in company I was told. By 1945 the street became an extension of Roman Road so the address changed to 257 Roman Road.
I suspect that his clientele were drawn from the many East London clubs that existed before and after the war but he gave up frame building sometime in the 1960s we believe. Nevertheless he remained in business at this address until the early 1980s when the premises were scheduled for demolition and he was offered a new shop under some flats further down the road. A move took place but Harry now in his 70s eventually sold the shop on and he and Florence retired to live with their daughter in East Preston near Worthing. He died in Worthing in 1993 and his wife a year later. Several shops that carry his name remain to this day.
The few examples of his work that have come to light so far show what an accomplished frame builder he really was with his own distinctive lug styles and detailing. I, myself have acquired a frame made I think in the early 1950s which has spear-point hand cut lugs with some lovely details. There were at one time notes and illustrations made of these lug styles which cannot at present be traced.
A shortlist of known bike frames is as follows:
|‘0969 DAYCOCK’||c1930s||offside rear drop-out|
|‘1079’||reliably dated to 1938 by original owner’s son.||offside drop-out|
|‘1118’||?1940s||offside rear drop-out (purchased secondhand in 1946 but told a date of 1931 from a visit to the shop which seems from the style questionable)|
|‘1140’||?late 1940s||Bottom Bracket|
|‘1161’||?early 1950s||Bottom Bracket|
|‘1188’||? mid 1950s||Bottom Bracket|
|‘1323’||? late 50s early 60s||Bottom Bracket|
|‘?489’ ‘(47)’||?late 50s or 1960s||Bottom Bracket|
|‘1339’||reliably dated as 1960 by original owner (said to be the last one made)||Bottom Bracket|
It seems that the early head/seat transfer had the initials HFD with the address 255 Green Street, London E. 2. As all the family were given the name Fraser Daycock this is reflected in the initials early on. These were still being used after the street was renamed Roman Road and probably did not change till the old stock had ran out, possibly in the early 1950s. These were coupled with a down-tube transfer that showed ‘H.DAYCOCK’ in an unusual font or block letters in red.
The later ones have HD encircled by Roman Road a London E2 in an attractive renaissance design. The down-tube ones feature H R Daycock in script.
Very late transfers show a simplified name and address in a circle and an art deco ‘daycocks’ for the down-tube.
I am grateful for the help given to me by Graham Adams, John Browning, Bob Drake, Graham Rapley, Jun Sato, John Summerfield and Gary Wooten.
I would be grateful to hear from anyone who knew Harry, owns one of his bikes or has relevant photographs to get in touch with me by e mail at clarkesharman(at)aol.com