Strata Engineering Co.
Posted: Tuesday 16th June 2020
Much has been written about the numerous cycle manufacturers that flourished in this country during the ‘golden age’ of lightweight cycles. Not so much is known about the relatively small number of UK manufacturers of lightweight cycle components from this period. The excellent stream of articles written by Steve Griffith for this site and for News & Views, the V C-C bi-monthly journal, has inspired me to study some of these companies beginning with the makers of ‘Stratalite’ products.
Researching this company has proved to be something of a challenge as there are few records surviving of their existence.
Strata were manufacturers of a wide range of products encompassing handlebars, stems, pedals and brakes among other items and were based at Newbreck Mill, Oldham, Lancashire.
This was a Victorian cotton mill that had been leased to various companies after cotton production had ceased there in 1933.
During WW2 a company named Fieldings Ltd operated from this location, making parts under contract to the Air Ministry for AVRO and Short Brothers. There can be little doubt that they manufactured aircraft components for AVRO as the Chadderton plant was close by, where more than 3,000 Lancaster Bombers were produced.
The earliest reference I have found to Strata is from an advertisement in ‘Cycling’ from December 1946.
At the cessation of hostilities contracts for war work dried up and many engineering companies were forced to find alternatives to stay in business. Fieldings Ltd commenced the manufacture of metal kitchen furniture in 1946 but this was short lived, possibly due to the government imposing a heavy tax on these products, and sales collapsed. I suspect that it was around this time that The Strata Engineering Company was formed and manufacture of cycle components commenced under the ‘Stratalite’ brand name.
Whether the Strata name was a brand adopted by Fieldings is open to conjecture. There are no records that I can find of a limited company bearing the Strata name. However, it may be that they were completely independent and simply leased part of Newbreck Mill.
Judging by the scarcity of Strata components it would seem that the company failed to capture a significant share of the market whilst Gerry Burgess was enjoying huge success with ‘G B’ branded components, particularly brakes, stems and handlebars.
Strata components were certainly of excellent quality, with much thought going into the designs. Examples being the construction of their stems which were claimed to be almost unbreakable and their extra width pedals with grease nipples built into the pedal caps. Whilst stems and bars, particularly Maes bends, are readily available, brake sets and pedals are very elusive.
Ultimately a large range of handlebars and stems were made, including adjustable track stems. I believe that Strata were the first company to produce alloy bars with a ‘bulge’, thus ending the need for an additional sleeve when fitting bars. This was introduced summer 1949. Other innovations were stainless steel toe clips which Strata claimed to have originated. They also developed a process known as ‘Stratalizing’, which was a protective treatment applied to alloy components.
Strata also offered a comprehensive range of aluminium feed bottles. The ‘Century’ model, introduced in early 1952 was of interesting design in that it was tapered which enabled it to fit into a very simple holder either singly or in pairs.
The last reference to Strata that I have been able to find is an advertisement in ‘Cycling’ dated 11 November 1954. The Strata Engineering Co seems to have ceased trading at around this time. Newbreck Mill was demolished in 1955 and despite searching I have been unable to locate any photographs of this building.
The author would welcome any additional information or corrections especially photographs and can be contacted through the website.
My thanks go to Christine Drummond, Senior Local Studies and Archives Assistant of Oldham Borough Council, for help with research, and to Terry Kearns for the supply of photographs.