Duckett, A G
Posted: Tuesday 02nd June 2020
Albert George Duckett was born on 18 October 1890 and died 25 August 1966.
His first cycle shop opened in 1922 at 619 Romford Rd, Manor Park, with cycles branded as ‘Elite’. An advertisement in Cycling magazine on 25 September 1925 claims “over 20 years’ reputation”. There was a workshop at the back where frames were made and bikes assembled. I have not been able to establish whether Duckett made the frames himself, but consider it likely. A fire in 1932 destroyed the workshop, which was uninsured, and led to closure of the cycle shop.
During WW2, Duckett made ships’ compasses but damaged his vision. He was able to save enough money to open a new shop at 719 High Rd, Seven Kings, as soon as the war ended, and took on school leaver Thomas Smith as mechanic, and also his son Jack when he returned from War service. Later, David Whiting was taken on also as a school leaver. He has been a major source of information in my researches.
Particularly in the 1950s, the shop advertised each week in Cycling and used the slogan “Wise men in the East All go to Duckett’s”. This family-run cycle shop is chiefly known for the quality of wheels, built to any specification. Racing men travelled considerable distances to buy wheels from the shop and occasionally wheels were sent to Australia and New Zealand. Despite failing vision in his later years, Duckett always finished wheels built while he was in the shop, by feel and sound. What is not widely remembered is that Duckett’s had a high reputation for his frames, made in a hearth at the back of the shop. The failing of his vision led to this work being passed on to other builders – Herbie Stokes from 1950 to 1958, and Vic Edwards from 1958 to closure of the shop.
It is said that Les Ephgrave made some frames for Duckett’s, though this has not been proved. There is one surviving example which is clearly an Ephgrave No 1 Super with a 1953 frame number, obtained by its current owner in 1970 with battered paint and Duckett transfers.
In the 1950s some felt that the Art Deco ‘Duckett Superlite’ head transfer was rather dated, so ordinary models were given the round pre-War ‘Elite’ transfer, complete with obsolete address. These can be seen on frames hanging on the shop wall.
The photos of the shop were taken by Alan and June Polley around 1957. They were professional photographers, and customers of the shop in the 1950s – they were regular callers, as often for social visits as for business.
Albert Duckett was a small, well-built man, always wearing a brown warehouseman’s overcoat in the shop. He was addressed as Mr Duckett, but is remembered as a very nice man, always kind and jolly, and a real gentleman. For many years he was a popular president of two local cycle clubs. The shop became a sort of informal clubroom, where people would stay after hours.
Tragedy struck this small family business when Jack was killed in a scrambles motorcycle race at High Wycombe on 11 September 1955. He was an able mechanic and a popular figure.
Around 1960 Albert Duckett retired and David Whiting left to manage another cycle shop, leaving Tommy Smith to run the shop on his own until its closure around 1967. In later years Duckett’s daughter Irene Pyner kept the books, maintaining the family connection.
I knew Dave Whiting quite well but really only after he had moved to Kenistons Cycles in Station Road Romford. I don’t believe Kenistons produced their own frames but like a lot of shops at that time had them built elsewhere, perhaps by Vic Edwards, and then attached their name.
I used to ride for the Hainault roads club, Essex in the early 1960s and my first racing cycle, I think was a Grubb, although I wouldn’t swear to it.
I bought it second-hand at Holdsworth’s in South London.
The second photo is the Ducketts from Seven Kings, that I had hand-made at their shop. The frame was fixed-wheel at the beginning, but the following
season I had the rear lugs changed and re-brazed with normal lugs and had a 10 gear Simplex set-up put on. I seem to remember one of the shop assistants
name being Arthur Stroud. He had a younger brother David and both rode for Hainault RC.
I have also included two photos of a Hainault medal I won on a club race in August ’62. I did have others but they have disappeared into the “lost
for ever” side of things.