Posted: Wednesday 03rd June 2020
Theo Parsons of Altrincham was one of the many frame builders who set up shop in the Manchester area immediately after WWII.
He was born in 1917 in Broadway, Worcestershire. In the 1930’s he raced bicycles, mostly in the Cotswolds area, sadly he died in June 2015 aged 98 years. During WWII he served in Northenden and Wythenshawe as an aerial artillery gunner in the Royal Artillery. After the war he worked in Billy Burrell’s cycle shop in Timperley for a few years until, in 1948, he set up his own cycle shop in the Manchester Road in Broadheath, Altrincham. At this shop he sold cycling accessories, was an agent for Thanet frames, and built his own bespoke frames.
In the late 50’s, he moved his shop to Brooks’s Drive, Timperley, Altrincham. Whilst there, he also undertook to do frame enamelling for Pemberton’s who were located in Sale and produced a cycle called the Pemberton Arrow. In all Theo produced approximately 100 frames. In the mid-1960’s, Theo closed up shop and moved to a smallholding at Fells Tosside in North Yorkshire, where he lives to this day.
I have been able to correspond with Mr. Parsons whose mind is sharp, and his letters are written in a strong, clear hand. He is a charming and friendly correspondent, and I wish that I could meet him in person. I am indebted to the late Ron Sant, Graham Trunks and Richard Dudgdale of Manchester CTC, and Jim Boydell of Seamons CC for this biographical information.
I have a frame which was originally commissioned by Jeff Robinson and ridden by him for both competition use and daily transportation. Jeff now lives in Dallas and I met him through a local bike shop. I am a native of Dallas and Jeff is originally from the Manchester area. He and I are both members of the Seamons Cycling Club (Altrincham & Sale). I bought the bike from Jeff in 2005.
At the same time that Jim was writing this piece we heard from Phil Staples, who also owns a Parsons machine, who says:
It is a Parsons ( Phil thought it was Thaddeus T.) hand built with Reynolds 531 tubing made, I believe, by T Parsons himself some time in the early 1950s in Timperley, Cheshire. It was made for the man I bought it from and was one of two he had specially built. He and his then girlfriend toured all over Europe on them before they got married and eventually gave up cycling. They were both beautiful looking cycles with lovely lugs.
The two cycles stood for a long time in his garage deteriorating as if in a time capsule from the 1950s, unused ever since when he and his then wife gave up their passion for cycling until 1980 when he showed them to me. I was then a keen cyclist myself and a member of the East Lancs. Road Club based near Rochdale and although the two cycles were by that time in a poor state, the rubber tyres long since perished, the aluminium parts corroded and the paintwork peeling off, I was very impressed with them all the same and could not believe how light they were. I had never seen a finish like it before. Originally the frames had been completely finished in chrome and then covered in a transparent lacquer. The one I bought from him was a beautiful deep blue with just parts of the chrome finish left uncovered such as the front and rear forks plus seat tube panels. The blue lacquer although by this time very much peeling off still shone when polished giving an insight into its former glory. The gears and chain set were Campagnolo, the saddle Brooks,
I was eager to purchase one of the bikes myself and jumped at the chance when he offered one to me. I was then a keen road racer and although the forks were curved and not straight, as was the fashion in the 1980s, I used the cycle myself to race for some time after a lengthy restoration job. Some things were changed to convert it for racing, e.g. the chainset and gear ratios, the old alloy touring wheels with large flange hubs were changed for racing tubs etc, the finish on the frame I had to have modified as the chrome was by that time too much deteriorated. It was in fact sent away to be stripped as I considered to be too expensive to have it re-chromed. It was instead re finished in two tone blue, but kept the original pattern as much as possible as it was when new in the 1950s.
Even in those days Theo Parsons had long since passed on (see article above, it seems that he is in fact still alive) but by sheer chance his wife who was then still living just happened to still have two complete original transfer sets for the emblem and sent them on to us so we could finish the restored cycle off just as it had once looked, the only difference was the light blue where it had once been just chrome.