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Excel Cycles - Fred Genner

Posted: Sunday 07th June 2020

Author: Griff King Spooner

Fred Genner’s shop in Woolwich started a little earlier in the century before Fred’s incumbency as Blackett Bros. Cycles. This shop (proprietors being Jimmy and George Blackett) first opened for business in Cross St. Woolwich, just by the Woolwich Arsenal, in 1908 and some time within their first year of trading moved location to 26 Woolwich New Road SE18.

Eric Cole's Excelite frame headbadge showing both Colliers Wood and Woolwich New Road address
Eric Cole's Excelite frame headbadge showing both Colliers Wood and Woolwich New Road address

The business prospered but for reasons unknown to this day during the Great War the two Blackett brothers fell out with each other (….speculation has it that Jimmy liked a bit of a flutter!) with the end result being George upping sticks and opening up his own bike shop in a secondary trading position 100 yards further up and around the corner in Anglesea Road. Meanwhile Jimmy Blackett’s Woolwich New Road shop continued to trade with Harry Perry coming aboard in 1921 as a frame builder and eventual shop manager.

In 1929 Fred and Alice Genner acquired the ongoing business from Jimmy Blackett, retaining Harry Perry to continue building their lightweight frames, as Harry had quickly established a good reputation for his quality craftsmanship in the locality.  We believe the shop was renamed “The Excel Cycle Company”. Some time in the mid-1930’s around this time the prodigal Blackett brother George moved back to Woolwich New Road, trading right opposite Excel’s. Competition between them was healthy but tolerable as Fred Genner concentrated on hand-built lightweights for the serious cyclist and George Blackett dealt more with family and utility bicycles. The two shops with their respective owners stayed together like this for almost the next fifty years

Fred Genner died in August 1939 with the business now being run by his widow Alice. It continued with Harry Perry at the helm until Alice chose to retire in 1955, after selling the shop on to Harry, whose popularity with the local club cyclists in the Woolwich CC, Cambrian Wheelers, Eltham Paragon et al ensured the business continued to flourish (….former Tour de France rider John Clarey rode on Excel frames prior to turning professional).  In order to keep pace with the demand and so concentrate on his frame building Harry employed up-and-coming Mephisto CC rider Paul Mepham in 1964 as his full time assistant and mechanic.

Harry sadly died in April 1973, therefore it was a natural rite of passage that Paul and his wife Kathleen took over the reins of Excel’s Woolwich shop on the 1 July 1974, renaming the business as a tribute to their former boss and friend as “Harry Perry Cycles”.  In the early 1980’s this central area of Woolwich was greatly redeveloped, necessitating in Paul and Kath having to move the shop around the corner in 1983 to Wellington Street, and from there in 1997 to where it is today in Macbean Street, Woolwich SE18. Now simply called “Perrys Cycles” it still provides hand-built frames, continuing the legacy of Fred Genner and Harry Perry.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Sunday 07th June 2020

Author: Griff King Spooner

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