1910 Chater Lea Carrier Tricycle
28 & 30 Great Eastern St, London, E.C
In March 1889, Albert and Ernest Brown rented the company’s first premises at no 7 Great Eastern St and began dealing in cycles, cycle spares and tools. In that same year, Dunlop patented and developed the pneumatic tyre. With the arrival of Starley’s Safety Bicycle in 1884 and, by 1990, practical tyres to replace the solid tyres previously used, bicycles suddenly became hugely popular. The 1890s were the cycle trade’s first boom years, and Brown Brothers were in an ideal position to capitalize.
Their first catalogue, of 1890 (front cover illustrated above), had 170 pages. In 1891, they expanded into premises on the opposite side of Great Eastern St, which became their headquarters. In the following year they opened a branch in Paris, and many other branches followed.
In 1893 the Birmingham Small Arms company decided to diversify from the manufacture of guns, and started producing bicycle hubs. Brown Brothers ordered 2000 hubs and convinced BSA to make bicycle pedals too, ordering 1000 as an incentive. Soon, BSA were making complete sets of bicycle fittings for sale by Brown Brothers.
This was an important development. Small engineering workshops and bicycle shops all over the country were starting up, and bought in components from the larger manufacturers to supply local customers. Brown Brothers stock of every component necessary for making a bicycle meant their job was now much easier. And they also had a ready supply of spare parts available should they be necessary after sale. (It is because there were so many small companies making cycles from proprietary parts in the first few decades of bicycle production that it’s now so hard to identify many of the lesser-known manufacturers if a cycle does not show the maker’s name).
With a slump in cycle sales by the turn of the century, Browns diversified into the motorcycle and automobile business, as well as aircraft spares. The Brown 14hp car is seen below in front of their car new showroom in Newman St, London.
Their famous Vindec bicycle trade name was registered in 1903. The company had the honour of being on His Majesty’s Governments’ list of contractors, and the company slogan became ‘When in doubt, send to Browns.’ They celebrated their centenary in 1989 (above information from the book The Story of Brown Brothers 1889-1989 by Susan Lake).