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Posted: Tuesday 02nd June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

Ellis-Briggs was founded at Shipley, Yorks, in 1936 by Leonard Ellis and his brother-in-law Thomas Briggs (died 1953).  There was an acrimonious parting of the ways some years later, at which point the Briggs family kept control of the cycle buisiness whereas the the Ellis family settled for a subsidiary company, J T Rogers based in Castleford.

In the 1960s Ellis-Briggs introduced the Favouri in an attempt to create a different image with which to counter imported frames with more exotic names and to attract buyers from overseas. They were very successful in the export market during the 1960/70/80s, selling many frames in America/Canada.

Today Jack Briggs fronts the business while Paul works in the upstairs workshop alongside long-time frame builder Andrew Puodzianas, trained by Jack Briggs (snr) in the early seventies. Here they produce some twenty custom frames per year from Reynolds tubing, still using the traditional brazing hearth. Ellis Briggs (now minus the hyphen) specialise in Touring/Randonneur/Audax machines, with some steel track frames still made for both track use and by the new breed of fixed-wheel enthusiasts. They estimate that they spend some forty-hours building each frame by the older hand-crafted methods. They also offer frame resprays, restoration, and repair.

Possibly one of the firm’s first claims to fame came  when Ken Russell, sponsored by Ellis-Briggs, but riding as a lone entry, won the 1952 Tour of Britain competing against works and national teams. Ken had been trained in frame building at the nearby company of Whitaker & Mapplebeck, having started there at the age of 17 (1948), before moving to E-B in 1952. No doubt he spent time working in the business as well as training and racing, as was common back in the 1950s. Ken’s results in this race were:

1st overall – Tour of Britain winning:
Stage 2 Southsea – Weymouth 85½ miles
Stage 5 Aberystwyth-Blackpool 179miles
Stage 11 Newcastle – Scarborough 88 miles

Des Robinson riding his Ellis-Briggs in the World Selection Race at Donnington Park, 1950
Des Robinson riding his Ellis-Briggs in the World Selection Race at Donnington Park, 1950

In 1953, Ellis-Briggs produced five framesets including:
International – £16 5s 0d (see page from catalogue showing details of their top frame)
Superbe – £14 5s 0d
Allrounder – £11 5s 0d
Allrounder (all-chrome) – £15 5s 0d
Competition – £12 19s 6d
Which makes one wonder why they produced the cheapest frame as an aA, bringing its price up almost to that of the dearest.

Other well known Ellis-Briggs riders included Beryl Burton, Brian Robinson Peter Procter, Danny Horton and Arthur Metcalfe.

There are several Ellis-Briggs machines in Readers’ Bikes including the 1947 ex-Des Robinson (see image below), the 1951 ex-Ken Russell , as well as later 1969  and 1978 models.

Doug Fattic from Michigan relates :-

It was nice to see Ellis-Briggs frames included in your website.  I’m an American that apprenticed there in 1975. There is not a week that goes by when I don’t think back thankfully for the opportunity they provided me. Actually I’m even more thankful in hindsight than I was at the time. It wasn’t just by luck alone – I visited about every English framebuilder looking for a place to learn. Even so I don’t think I could have found a better place and neither did they have to accept my request. Their on-the-premises framebuilding was only part of a bigger operation, as such they didn’t need to rush making a frame to keep their books in the black. They were great people and I’ll see if I can write something up about my experience.

Gordon Claughton :-

tells us that the shop in Castleford was E E Rodgers, on the Junction of Pontefract Road and Ferrybbridge Road. It was a meeting place for cyclists and the “finish” of many a sprint. The manager was a prickly character called Howard and his mechanic was Gordon. I bought my first real bike there, a Wearwell Shadow, they stocked most parts but would also order for you if you wanted something not in stock.

J T Rodgers was a bike and fishing tackle shop in Crossgates, Leeds, I believe they are still there but only sell fishing gear.

This is a very brief note of what I have learned about Ellis-Briggs but if you know more please let me know (email on Home page).

Thanks for reading

Posted: Tuesday 02nd June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

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