1902 Royal Enfield Girder ‘Special Lightweight Roadster’


1907 royal enfield girder stress test

With extensive additions to the facilities at our command, we have every confidence in our ability to meet successfully and promptly the ever increasing demand for our productions, the growth and magnitude of which we attribute largely to the rider’s keen appreciation of the merits of the Girder Frame, which embodies a higher conception of scientific constructional principles than any which have preceded it, and has made possible that ideal combination of strength and lightness so long desired, and so much appreciated by the riders of the ‘ROYAL ENFIELD.’

As evidence of the great strength of this exclusive speciality, we would point to the certified result of Lloyd’s Proving House – a copy of which is reproduced above. This clearly demonstrates that, weight for weight, this frame gives a 50% increase of strength over the standardised diamond pattern – a point which has been enthusiastically emphasised by every rider who has put it to the severest tests upon the road.

Such tests have proved that the peculiar character of its construction entirely eliminates whippiness, and makes possible a complete utilisation of power, with the result that the rider can cover longer distances with less fatigue – negotiate the steepest hill with the greatest ease – and enjoy an entire immunity from side-slip.

– 1907 Royal Enfield catalogue extract

By the end of the nineteenth century, the first great cycle boom, considered to be the second industrial revolution, was starting to wind down. Fortunes had been made because manufacturers profits were high, the bicycle being aimed at the top of the market. But, by the end of the 1890s many cheap copies had flooded the market and, being of inferior quality, had affected consumer confidence. The average first time bicycle purchaser did not understand the difference between top quality expensive machines and poorly built bicycles that outwardly looked the same.

So the manufacturers came up with the idea of creating bicycles with extra tubes to strengthen the frame …and to also provide an immediate visual difference from the conventional diamond frame and any issues associated with it. The cross frame was the first design concept of this nature, and much debate ensued in the cycling press about the flexibility of the cross frame, if it added to the longevity of the bicycle, and how it might help rider fatigue.

Observing the robust public discussions about strengthened frames, other companies investigated ways of creating their own unique designs. The cross frame was already subject to various patents, primarily those of Raleigh, Referee, Components Ltd, Centaur and Elswick. So it was no longer easy to build a cross frame without infringing on one one of those patents. This led to the idea of extra tubes added to a diamond frame. Premier patented a frame with an extra tube added to the top tube, naming this model the ‘Royal.’ Royal Enfield’s offering was the Girder Frame. Introduced in 1901 to compete directly with the cross frame, the Girder Frame was a resounding success.

Sales of Royal Enfield bicycles during the 1906 season validated their decision to open a new specialised factory where they could double their previous rate of production. The distinctive flagship model, the Girder Frame, contributed greatly to the boost in the company’s finances.

In 1812, Lloyds of London requested that Lieutenant Samuel Brown leave the Royal Navy to set up the world’s first proving house for wire rope cables. The Anchor & Chain Cable Act of 1899 compelled manufacturers to use an independent proving house for cable and anchors supplied to all ships built to Lloyds classifications. In the 1950s, after other Lloyds Proving Houses were closed, only Newcastle and Netherton remained.

1812 lloyds proving house netherton



 1902 Royal Enfield Girder ‘Special Lightweight Roadster’

26″ Frame

28″ Wheels

Frame No C92750

‘New Patent Hub’ Coaster Brake

(Now sold)



Introduced at the 1901 Show, this very tall machine is one of the first girder frames that Royal Enfield built. The head badge reads ‘High Grade’ and there is no chaincase fitted, so this is the ‘Special Lightweight Roadster’ rather than Model Riche. (Until 1907 the Riche was a girder rather than a duplex).

The frame number is stamped onto the front of the headstock. At first I assumed the prefix ‘C’ was a designation for Girder frame machines, as I have another similar. But Royal Enfield frame numbers do not seem to follow any logical sequence. For example, the company produced diamond frame models called ‘Model A’ and ‘Model B,’ but the article reproduced at the top of the page mentions a girder with a frame number prefixed ‘A.’ If I ever make any sense of it, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, in lieu of any other precise dating information, I’ve dated it according to its rear hub: this hub was introduced in 1902, and superseded soon after by the Eadie Coaster and the Fagan Two-Speed Coaster.

The machine itself is in superb original condition, with top quality components and accessories.






















The ‘New Patent Hub’ was used for one year only, to be superseded by the Fagan Two Speed and Eadie Coaster in 1903.






The seeds of ‘ROYAL ENFIELD’ were sown when Albert Eadie (who died 17 Apr. 1931) formed a consortium with other businessmen in November 1891 to acquire George Townsend, & Co. Eadie obtained the services of Robert Walker Smith, formerly of Daniel Rudge & Co, where he had been assistant manager, to become works manager. Production continued at the Townsend premises at Givry Works, Hunt End, Redditch although the ‘Ecossais’ name was dropped and the model name ‘Enfield’ was first used from October 1892.

A new factory was laid down in 1896 at Lodge Road and Union Street, Redditch. On 25 June 1896 the company became the New Eadie Manufacting Co. Ltd and continued to make both components and complete machines, primarily for the trade. Eadie also formed the New Enfield Cycle Co. Ltd on 1 July 1896. The Eadie company marketed an eccentric chain adjuster in 1897 which others copied. The American ‘Morrow’ free wheel was made under licence from 1899. A cross and drop-frame machine was made from 1901. [The Girder was introduced in 1901, so the text may be referring to that as a ‘drop-frame?’]. The cross-frame had struts to the chainstays, similar to the Royal Enfield, and was probably the first with this design. In 1901 the New Beeston Cycle Co became defunct and the Eadie Manufacturing Co acquired the machinery to increase production of free wheels under licence from the James Cycle Co. Ltd.

A double cross frame was produced in 1901 which provided a very stiff mounting for the bracket. The ‘New Patent Hub’ was introduced in 1902. The ‘Fagan’ 2-speed hub was made under licence from 1903. The Eadie 2-speed coaster hub was made from 1905. The Eadie company was acquired by the Birmingham Small Arms Co. Ltd (BSA) in 1907.
































The octagonal Beacon Mill, weather-boarded above a stone base, was built in 1802. Beacon Hill itself reaches 216 feet above sea-level and was the site of a warning beacon, one of a coastal chain established by Henry VIII. There are records of an earlier mill on the site, thought to have been a post mill. The mill was working until 1881 and by 1890 was in such bad condition that demolition was considered. In 1905, the Marquis of Abergavenny had the mill repaired, but she was derelict again by the early 1920s. It was 1935 before she was restored again.

For two hundred years from the mid – seventeenth century the Rottingdean Gang of smugglers ran contraband cargoes from landing sites nearby. The goods included brandy, gin, tea, coffee, spices, lace and a range of other highly prized goods. They used caves dug into the cliffs, which led to tunnels connecting the cellars of houses and Inns under the High Street and up to the Green. The famous vicar Dr Thomas Hooker, whose bust can be seen in St Margaret’s Parish Church, was a skilled horseman and acted as a lookout for the gang. A Customs House was established in the High Street to attempt to curtail their activity. At night the cliff ‘preventative officers’ patrolled top paths. At one time Rottingdean’s windmill sails were used to signal that the coast was clear.

As traditional Sussex industries declined, such as fishing, weaving and iron production, men sought other ways of supplementing a meagre income. Tub carriers could earn up to 10/- a night carrying tubs from the beach up to local hiding places, which compared favorably to a laborers weekly salary. However, although smuggling could be highly lucrative it could also be exceptionally dangerous and although it was generally only the gang leaders that were convicted, these men risked their lives and their livelihoods. Sea smugglers faced naval service on a man-of-war and land smugglers risked transportation and possibly even death if convicted.

The remoteness of the village combined with its proximity to the sea made Rottingdean a popular spot with smugglers. The illegal merchandise was hidden anywhere and everywhere. Stashed in barns, tunnels and even churches, the goods waited transportation to the London black market.

These times were romanticized in Kipling’s, A Smugglers’ Song, “Five and twenty ponies/Trotting through the dark/Brandy for the Parson/Baccy for the Clark.” You can still visit some of the smugglers’ favorite haunts. The Black Horse is an inn reputed to have been the smugglers’ meeting place. Alternatively, there’s the Whipping Post House, where the infamous Captain Dunk lived. A butcher by day and a smuggler by night he ironically lived in front of the whipping post, stocks and ducking stool the posts being used to fasten people so that they could be punished for misdemeanors.

Rottingdean remained a haunt for smuggling with even the local vicar from 1792-1838 – Dr Hooker – acting as lookout. In 1814 an anonymous writer reported in ‘ Summer at Rottingdean’ – smuggling is the support of the inhabitants at which they are very Dexterous – a great deal being carried out at a Gap called Salt Dean Gap about 3/4 of a mile to the East’. When men could earn as much as 2s 7d for simply unloading cargo, over twice the daily rate for hard work as a farm laborer, it is easy to sea why smuggling flourished. The last case of smuggling in the area was reported in 1827 where Herbert Julyan writing in ‘Rottingdean and the East Sussex Downs and Villages’ that smugglers attacked and severely beat Liet. Digby of Saltdean Blockade Division.

Contraband smuggling took off along the south coast in the 1770’s when economic events in Britain started to downturn. Coastal communities, like the rest of the country, suffered increasing levels of poverty as the country’s national debt spiraled and the cost of living inexorably rose. This economic crisis had been sparked by the American War of Independence. For seven years Britain had waged an expensive and ultimately futile military campaign attempting to keep hold of the colonies, on which we relied for the bulk of our trade. When France and Spain joined the American rebels, Britain lost the war. Suddenly the nation teetered on the edge of bankruptcy and taxes rapidly went through the roof. The tax on tea hit an eye-watering 110%. Brandy and gin attracted 18 different duties totaling 250% and the tax on tobacco made up 95% of its retail price. Furthermore, by the late 18th century, the tax on imported salt was 40 times its actual cost, way beyond the reach of fisherman who used it to preserve their catches. Without salt they faced ruin and starvation. However, all of these heavily taxed products were available for a fraction of the price from nearby France and the Channel Islands. The time was ripe for a smuggling explosion.

By 1821 the National Coastguard Service was introduced. This evolved into a disciplined and uniformed body with shore based patrols, an offshore rowing guard and fast revenue cutters patrolling coastal waters. Coastguard cottages (such as at Telscombe Cliffs) were built at regular points along the south coast to house officers. In the war against smuggling the initiative had moved on from vicious renegade gangs to revenue authorities.

As detailed above, the most important factor in the suppression of smuggling was the significant reduction (or abolition) of many import duties. It formed part of a policy of Free Trade in the first half of the 19th Century. Add in the wholesale reform of the Customs service in 1853 which ensured a loyal and efficient force and the authorities were finally able to regain control. Smuggling became relatively unimportant and gradually declined.



Rotingdean smugglers with thanks to – http://www.rottingdeansmugglers.co.uk/history-of-rottingdean-smugglers/