A BRIEF HISTORY OF MERCIAN
The name Mercian Cycles relates to the ancient kingdom of Mercia.
The capital of Mercia was the picturesque village of Repton where Mercian kings are buried in St Wystan’s Church in the crypt dating back to the 7th Century. Mercian Cycles began as a cycle shop in London Road, Derby in 1946. Shortly afterwards Mercian frames were being built in a small workshop in Castle Street, off London Road.
1940's and 1950's
THE FRAME BUILDING UNIT MOVED TO BLOOMFIELD STREET AND OSMASTON MILLS FOLLOWED BY A MOVE IN THE MID 1950’S TO ASCOT DRIVE INDUSTRIAL ESTATE.
The Mercian shop in the 1950’s still evokes strong and happy memories amongst cyclists of Derby and beyond. Alan Gifford, life member of the Derby Mercury, remembers the shop being known locally as “Crowbars” (relating to the surnames of founders Tom Crowther and Lou Barker) and recalling the frame building workshop in the late forties. He wrote:
“You went in through a wicket gate in large double garage type doors. To us, as new enthusiasts, it was entering heaven - when we looked at the club bikes to be seen hanging in the workshop we knew we had to get one. There were all sorts of equipment hanging on the walls and we used to watch the careful filing of the lugs, to produce attractive designs, before they were assembled and brazed up as frame & forks”Alan Gifford
This photo was taken outside London Road Mercian shop in 1950, when members of the Mercury Cycling Club met for their run to Whitemeadows’ Youth Hostel. This event started the social season off.
Lou Barker can be seen in the doorway. Tom and Ethel always made cyclists of all clubs welcome in their shop, if only for a chat.
All the railway apprentices who were cycling enthusiasts made their way to the shop in their dinner breaks to ogle at equipment they would have to save up for. Eventually becoming experienced club cyclists and winning racing lads
Pictures below of Eileen Sheridan – The Mighty Atom.
There is a lot of information on Eileen Sheridan on the Internet and it makes fascinating reading. Born in 1923, Eileen is a retired English cyclist who specialised in time trialling and road record breaking. She broke all the records of the Women’s Road Records Association during the late 1940s and 1950s. They included Lands End to John O’Groats.
Eileen rode her Mercian for several National Championships and record-breaking runs as an amateur. At different times the bike was equipped with a Sturmey-Archer multi-speed hub (as below right), and in some instances, she used it as a fixed gear single-speed.
Below Beryl Burton OBE, was an English racing cyclist who dominated women’s cycle racing in the UK, winning more than 90 domestic championships and seven world titles, and setting numerous national records. She set a women’s record for the 12-hour time-trial which exceeded the men’s record for 2 years.
Beryl pictured here riding a Mercian. Could Beryl be the inspiration for this hand painted sign we have in the Workshop? – “Everyone’s Going Faster on a Mercian”
1960's & 70's
Mercian Bantel Team
Accompanying letter :
February 21st 1967
Mercian-Bantel Pro Team
Reference our telephone conversation some weeks ago about equipment for our Pro.Team, I can now confirm that Bantel have agreed to come along with us in this venture. Three riders have already been signed for the team, and a forth is at present being negotiated for. The three riders so far are Derrick Woodings, Eddie White and Mick Ives.
I have now compiled a list of equipment that the team would like to use, and have attached this to this letter. I trust that I have given sufficient detail and look forward to hearing from you in due course.
p.p. Mercian Cycles Ltd.
(The fourth rider we believe was Bill Painter).
Pictured below: Jeff Bowler thinks this could be Vin Denson pictured with the Mercian Bantel team support van.
In 1965 a larger purpose-built workshop was built on Pontefract Street, off Ascot Drive, Derby – where craftsmen of Mercian Cycles still hand-build and finish frames today continuing to use the traditional methods to create frames that are recognised worldwide for the quality of workmanship, accuracy of construction and beautiful long lasting finish.
The Mercian shop remained on London Road until 1971 when it moved to bigger premises at The Cavendish, Normanton (black and white picture below with Jeff Bowler on the left). In 1984 the shop moved again to a larger premises in Alvaston. Late 2018 saw the closure of the Alvaston shop mainly due to the influence of the internet and we all moved to our workshop premises on Pontefract Street.
At Mercian we are proud of the heritage, history and traditional frame-building methods still used today.
We keep frame records dating back to the 1970’s which are often referred back to, when owners want to trace the beginnings of their Mercian frame, as well as for subsequent frame orders for customers wanting exactly the same geometry and size that they have had before.
As the records aren’t computerised, we do ask for a £20 fee for a frame search. But please bear in mind – the earlier 1970’s and 80’s frame records don’t always have a lot of information, in those decades shops around the world were ordering 10 – 20 frames at a time, just specifying sizes and models, built to the standard specification, (which can be seen in the brochures at the bottom of this page) and the colour information was left to the sprayshop to choose. https://www.merciancycles.co.uk/online-shop/home/mercian-frame-search/\ Another source of frame identification for frames earlier than the 1970’s is Chris Barbour’s Mercian register, where pictures may help you identify earlier frames:
In 1984, the Mercian shop moved to larger premises at Shardlow Road, Alvaston.
The transfer style was updated further in the late 1980’s with the introduction of the new ‘block’ style of transfer, although the Gothic style remains the most recognisable and the popular choice for new and renovated Mercians today.
In the picture above left with the Blue/Yellow Harvest/Mercian team from the the early ’80s, the team was run by The Spoke bike shop in Boulder. We found from http://bikeretrogrouch.blogspot.com that the auburn-haired rider in the front row, centre, is none other than Marianne Martin – who won the first edition of the Tour de France Féminine in 1984.
We hope you enjoying browsing our collection of Mercian brochures, we’ve recently added 7 more from c1952-1956 right up to 1997, which were sent to us by Jon Asher, so thanks to Jon for the newer additions.