Posted: Tuesday 02nd June 2020
William Hinds was a member of a dynastic family of jewellers who parted company from his brother Frank after WW1 to become an entertainer and entrepreneur in stage and film whilst also maintaining the jewellery business. He had a lifelong interest in cycling and his jewellery business offered silverware, medals and time pieces directed at the cycling fraternity over many decades. (See image at end of page)
With the demise of Claud Butler’s business in October 1956 he seems to have seen an opportunity to enter the cycling world more directly and bought up three of CBs old shops establishing W. Hinds (Sports and Cycles) Ltd at the Lewisham, Ealing and Harringay although the latter was short lived, possibly not lasting more than a few years. Therefore the remaining two branches traded as the Lewisham Cycle Centre, 32/34 Lee High Road Lewisham SE 13, and The Ealing Cycle Centre, 16 Bond Street, Ealing W 5. This situation remained until 1967 when another branch was opened at 1 Ascot Parade, Clapham Park Road, SW 4 that for decades had been the home of ‘Southern Cycles’.
Tragedy had struck in 1957 when William died in a cycling accident near his home in Leatherhead, Surrey and therefore it must be presumed that his eldest son ‘Bill’ carried on managing the various arms of the business.
Hinds embraced the small wheel revolution in the mid 1960s by becoming agents for Moulton which at the time had captured the public’s imagination and were even being raced as well as breaking records.
It is my impression that the Lewisham branch was perhaps the premier one which is not surprising when one knows that the charismatic ex Claud Butler employee Ken Bird was the manager. Ken was not only an ace wheel builder but mechanic for the British Team at the Tour de France for several years until the death of Tom Simpson according to Griff King-Spooner. What is surprising is that his right hand man at Lewisham was the frame builder Tom Board. In the published interview with Tom in the ‘Bicycle’ there was never any mention of him working for Hinds. Instead he is always referred to as building frames for F W Evans at that time but perhaps he was employed by both firms. Griff visited the Lewisham branch on a number of occasions and got to know Ken and Tom pretty well. It is not known whether Tom built any frames for Hinds and Hilary Stone has always made reference to Bill Gray as the builder of many of their top frames.
Perhaps Hinds high point came in 1967. There is a bullish attitude in their advert for the Lightweight Show at Earls Court in ‘Cycling’ where they offered no less than nine bikes with the Super Leggera being the top model.
Bizarrely, a similar report in the Motor Cycle and Trader (below) refers to the same model as the ‘Golden Hind’ but this is not mentioned elsewhere.
The writer having recently acquired a Hinds frame in poor condition from the same period revealed that too appeared to be a version of the popular Holdsworth Mistral but having long straight top eyes to the seat stays instead of the long wrap over associated with a number of Holdsworth models. It had what remained of a Lewisham head transfer. However, I cannot identify the model. A small cache of original transfers that came from Holdsworth gives testimony to their dealings with that firm at this time. Despite this Hinds in any form are thin on the ground. Some years ago I rode with someone who had what he described was a Hinds ‘team’ bike, a very rare sight indeed which I think must have been a Super Leggera.
After what seemed to be a rosy future there was little in the press afterwards. In October 1968 the Lewisham branch suffered a flood which prompted a sale of damaged goods. There was a further advert in ‘Cycling’ at the beginning of 1969 but nothing else after and no customary greetings at Christmas that year. We must deduce that along with other parts of the business W. Hinds closed its doors.
Ken Bird may have already left Hinds before it closed to join his brother Alec at the Clive Stuart organisation that burst onto the scene in 1967 and who rapidly expanded their business in 1968. Reg Barnett too joined them as one of their star riders. Alec told me he was taken on as manager and therefore was not in a position to build their bikes. His name appears as the branch manager at 69 Bellegrove Road Welling when it opened.
In the broadest terms the end of Hinds coincides with Tom Board’s move from Evans to Pat Hanlon building for her and Condor in 1971.
I’m sure there are those out there who can add more to the Hinds story.
I am grateful to Griff King-Spooner for his memories and the photo of the Lewisham Branch taken in the mid 1960s (above) and to Steve Ford at H Lloyd Cycles for permission to use the decal of Hinds head badge (below).
Tom Board was definitely manager at Lewisham in 1968; Ken Bird, still working for Hinds had moved to Clapham.
Tom did work on frames in the workshop, which was to the right of the shop as viewed from the road. The Quaggy River ran directly behind the shop, and flooded around September 1968. The plate glass windows went when the fire brigade created a tidal wave driving through the flood waters. The shop was still in business in early 1970 and I was tempted to join Tom as Assistant Manager, but in the end I accepted a better job elsewhere.
Tom had a frame jig on the wall of the workshop, but I never saw him use it. Whether this came from Evans, I could not say – perhaps he built one himself from the Evans design. He told me he had built frames for Evans having learnt the art elsewhere, but he considered that he was still more or less an apprentice at that time. Occasionally at Hinds he would light his torch and do some brazing, but managing the shop did not seem to allow him much time for building. I saw him build a trike by attaching a Holdsworth axle to a solo, but I cannot say whether he had built the solo himself. The finished job was a complete trike, as the axle was brazed in place with fixed stays. He also designed and built a lightweight small-wheeled shopper, for which I think he utilised a tandem drainpipe tube.
Tom sold me a Hinds frame that had been built by Bill Gray, Nervex Pro lugs, “fast back” seat stays i.e. attached to the seat bolt fixing instead of regular top eyes, and sloping crown forks. The rear ends were Simplex vertical drop-outs. My girlfriend called it the “Flying Banana” on account of its yellow paint scheme. This went when I bought my first Grandini from Youngs further up Lee High Road.
Tom later moved to the Clapham shop. I don’t remember what name it was trading under when I saw him there around 1972, but he had started building frames that he named Ciclo Parigi which he claimed was Italian for Paris Cycles. He also built frames for Condor and is actually pictured in the chapter on Condor Cycles in “The Custom Bicycle” Kolin & De Rosa 1979 p.52.
However, I suspect the leading light behind the Hinds brand was Ken Bird and his departure to the Clive Stuart organisation probably led to the demise of the Hinds involvement in cycling. Bill Gray was one of 5 frame builders that Ken claimed were building frames for Clive Stuart.
The difficulty with identifying Hinds frames and distinguishing them from Holdsworth would in part arise from the fact that so many builders were turning to Prugnat or similar Italian style lugs, and unless they used a unique feature (such as Ron Cooper’s three little holes) most frames tended to look alike. Holdsworth probably sprayed frames for a number of builders, so it is not surprising that the works carried a stock of transfers.
By the way, William Hinds chose the name William Hammer for his stage name, and this led to his founding of the Hammer Film company in the late 1930s. The W. Hinds shops always displayed the result of the Bath Road 100 in the window. Hinds was a BRC member.
I would think that the Charing Cross Road address in the Hinds piece from Cycling was the Registered Office. I have heard that Hinds did not have much choice in acquiring the Claud Butler business, as the firm was a major creditor. Tom’s boss was a man called Halpern. That surname was borne by the man who became head of the Burtons Empire – same family?
Hinds was still in Lee High Road in August 1970, as I remember calling in there, having just lost that better job I’d got. But by that time I was using Youngs and found employment in Catford with Lewisham BC, and I never went to Hinds again.
Bryan Clarke April 2018