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Fothergill, James

Posted: Tuesday 02nd June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

More information is needed on Fothergill.  One example is listed in Readers’ Bikes. If you are able to supply any further details, please let us have them. Contact details are on the home page.

The first to respond with some details is Bob Williams of Mersey Roads Club who relates:

“James Fothergill was a well-known and respected dealer whose large shop at 250 Smithdown Lane would be full of club cyclists on most Saturdays.

He ran the successful business from 1938 to 1989. Some time in 1980 the premises were compulsorily purchased for road widening and the erection of multi-storey flats since demolished.   At that time the business moved to premises at 23/25 Smithdown Road and then off Wavertree Road in Marmaduke Street. Here they repaired cycles and light motor cycles but the manufacture of the famous bike finished when they moved from Smithdown Lane.

However Sandra Pickersgill tells us that

she remembers the shop being in Smithdown Road in 1956 when her father bought her first bike there. Her uncle still has a Fothergill bike which he rides until this day.

At the peak of the boom in cycling in the 1950’s his work force was 15 including four frame builders producing at their busiest period 5000 frames p.a. Fothergill specialised in fancy lugs and pioneered the oversize 1â…›” top tubes. Some of this output was sold in the trade for other shops to put their own names on. They also produced a number of tandems and a small number of trikes.

The death of Jim’s son Andrew at the age of 34 from a brain tumor in the late 1980’s was a cruel blow from which he never really recovered and he died in 2001. He was a member of Mersey Roads Club 1949 to 1990.”

Tony Smith says:

I’m not sure if someone will remember but James Fothergill also built a ‘lugless’ frame.

Back in the mid 1960’s I acquired a lugless frame which was originally thought to be a ‘Paris’.  It was eventually identified as being a Fothergill.  It was in bad need a respray so I took it to Fothergills -then on Smithdown Road- who was so pleased to see it. He recommended, as always, that it be given to C&G Finishers (then in Back Falkner Street) for refurbishment.

Being a simple teenager (just) cash was tight but nevertheless I let Jim have it. Some two weeks later I went back to the shop and there in the shop was this magnificent magenta and gold bike frame that looked nothing like anything I could ever afford to own !!!  It was the talking point of the shop that Saturday.

Jim then surprised me and told me that there was NO CHARGE for the refurb just that I ‘look after it’. I had planned to take the frame home on the bus but Jim would have none of it and commandeered one of  his mates to run me home with the bike on the back seat!!.  I lovingly added the best of what I could afford to the bike and had it for some years during my membership at Walton C&AC.  At 15 I broke a leg and the bike was stored in a shed.  One of my old school mates eventually bought it from me and, I heard later, swapped it for a motorbike !!! I wish I could see the thing now, I would pay many a quid to get it back.

David Parr lived close to Fothergill's and relates:

A friend has recently acquired a Fothergill frame and as he knew I bought a Fothergill some years ago he told me about your site. From 1938 until 1960, I lived in Upper Parliament Street in Liverpool 8 district. Fothergill’s shop in Smithdown Lane was about 200 yards from my house, at weekends there was always a large number of cyclists at the shop which was very busy all day. My parents bought me a Fothergill bike when I was thirteen in 1951/2. I ordered it to my own specification and I still have it. I gave it to one of my sons about 20 years ago and he changed a number of things like gears and a different chainwheel and hubs.

Fothergill had a small unit in a factory building in what was the Milner Safe company factory . The factory was occupied by a company called Pearsons during the war, the building sretched from Smithdown Lane alongside Aigburth Street to Upper Parliament Street. Fothergill had a very small unit and the entrance was just like a house door, this entrance was more or less oppositethe house where I lived.

The company Pearsons assembled most of the army lorries sent to the UK from America during the last war as most came into the UK through the Liverpool Docks, the factory was only about two miles from the docks. There is a web site which might be of interest giving details of the work undertaken by Pearsons during the war.

When you bought a cycle from Fothergill you could buy one off the shop floor or have it made to your own specification, I did the latter. He had a wide range of lugs to choose from and you could obviously choose the colour and lining of the frame. You then specified the hubs, wheels, handlebars, gears etc. so you had a bespoke cycle, this was not unusual at the time. I think he had his frames painted by C&G Finishes.

Some time ago I considered having the frame repainted as my son had repainted it black when he had it. C&G Finishes have moved from their original premises but are still in business and still provide an exceptional quality service. At the time I was looking to have the frame repainted Fothergill transfers were not available so I did not proceed. I now see transfers are available but I do not know if they are available in white and with Liverpool 8 on the headstock transfer. Maybe you would knowif this combination is available. Fothergill later moved from Smithdown Lane and I think ended up in Wavertree Road which I think is in the Liverpool 7 district. The Smithdown Lane shop was in Liverpool 8 ditrict more widely known as Toxteth. I hope this adds a little to your information of the Fothergill cycles.

Steve Chambers adds that the welded Fothergill mentioned above is:
” Le Classique” Ref JF/10A Gents ALWELD Frame and Forks 73/71º with 10½” Bottom Bracket. with 26″ wheels, will take 27″ wheels for racing. Sizes 22″, 23″, 23½” and 24″ all with 23″ Top Tube. Constructed with Reynolds famous 531 Quality Butted tubing, accurately mitred to precision limits, and welded by A.I.D. approved welders.

Mick Butler sends us a good scan of vinyl cuts for Fothergill and informs us that they are available from Rapier signs in Wisbech:
Rapier Signs
Sunbeam House, High Rd,
Guyhirn, Wisbech,
Cambridgeshire PE13 4EQ

Below are some images, showing lug details, etc., of a Fothergill, believed mid-1950s which belongs to Sam Lingo who restored it in the original colours after having decals made. Also included is a scan of the original head-tube decal sent to Sam by Mike Hand
Tel: 01945 450487

Paul Gittins (left - photo Geoff Hughes) on his Fothergill - this shot is probably April '63 and taken on the old D1 Chester by-pass course.
Paul Gittins (left - photo Geoff Hughes) on his Fothergill - this shot is probably April '63 and taken on the old D1 Chester by-pass course.

I had thought for years that it was taken in a 50 but on reflection probably not as I have no food in my pockets, my jersey is tucked into my shorts, and I don’t have a bottle. It is therefore probably a 25.

The bike has Milremo centre-pulls with Universal levers, Stronglight 49D cranks with a Milremo steel 47/50 double rings, Unica saddle with Campag seatpin, Gransport gears with bar-end levers, GB bars with Pivo stem.  32/40 LF Record hubs with Fiamme rims, possibly Barum tubs (although I did have a ‘Radium’ one which wouldn’t wear out!).

The frame was enamelled for me by C&G Finishes of Liverpool who did virtually all the Liverpool frames and always did a super job.  It was bright yellow with bright darkish green seat bands edged in black and black lug lining.

C&G tended to ‘sign-write’ the makers names and mine was ‘James Fothergill’ in black.

Brian Griffiths sent in the following:

I thought you might be interested to know that a friend, Norman Fenn, and I co-own the magnificent Fothergill tandem built for Alan Griffiths and Jim Blackhurst to break the Liverpool to London RRA record and subsequently the 50 and 100-mile records back in 1954.  The tandem remains in almost original condition and earlier this year Alan and Jim were re-united with this machine after more than sixty years.  Unfortunately Alan has since died.

The frame is brazed/welded at all joints and has the double twin-tube configuration. Although there is a gear lever boss on the down tube for the pilot, the lever is on the rear top tube for the stoker to operate. Note, a bit of weight saving on the cable which takes the shortest route from lever to changer

Norman and I have used the tandem on many occasions both for racing and for touring and have even done a Lands End to Jon o’Groats ride on it.  It is a pleasure to ride and is very stable under all conditions.  I believe it was built by Laurie Hopper who worked for Jim at the time.

Thanks for reading

Posted: Tuesday 02nd June 2020

Author: Peter Underwood

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