1888 Bayliss, Thomas ‘Excelsior’ Dwarf Safety

 PREV  ITEM 62 / 247  NEXT 




In the early years of the industry, Bayliss, Thomas was one of the world’s leading cycle builders. In 1877 it was said to be the fourth largest cycle manufacturer after the Coventry Machinists Co. Ltd, Singer & Co., and Haynes & Jefferis. The company’s first safety bicycle (1886) had a conventional backbone, its styling being similar to the ‘Premier’, but by 1888 they had developed the unique duplex backbone illustrated on this machine.

bayliss thomas

1888 Bayliss, Thomas ‘Excelsior’ Dwarf Safety

22″ Frame

30″ Front Wheel

28″ Rear Wheel

Frame No 311

(Now sold)


This Excelsior is fitted with a 30″ front wheel and 28″ rear. According to H. Griffin’s book ‘Bicycles and Tricycles of the Year 1888’, the Eureka, a heavier machine, had 30″ equal wheels. The framework on this machine is unique: ‘The backbone is an extension of the rear weldless, tubular steel forks, which gradually approach each other, and are joined by the boss carrying the seat pillar, by other cross bridges, and a cap at the end.’




bayliss thomas



Observe in the three photos below how the twin oval frame tubes extend from the steering head to the rear axle and the interesting joint where it crosses the seat tube.



bayliss thomas














bayliss thomas


Thomas Bayliss was originally a mechanic making gun mechanisms. He came to Coventry in 1868 when engaged by James Starley of the Coventry Sewing Machine Co. (later the Coventry Machinists Co. Ltd) for the purpose of developing boneshakers under their first contract. Thomas was prominent in the Coventry cycle industry, an active clubman, and a member of the City Corporation.

The firm was formed when Bayliss left C.M.C. in 1874 and joined up with John Thomas, who had been a C. M. C. representative. John Slaughter was also one of the founders of the firm. In 1877 it was said to be the fourth largest cycle manufacturer after the Coventry Machinists Co. Ltd, Singer & Co., and Haynes & Jefferis.

The first premises were at St Mary’s Works, Earl Street, Coventry, Warwickshire, but more space was soon needed and they moved to 78 Much Park Street in 1875, but it was still known as St Mary’s Works. Expansion was rapid so that in mid-1877 there was a further move to Excelsior Works, 80 Lower Ford Street, and then another factory was acquired at nearby Cox Street, known as No.2 works. It claimed to make over 2,000 machines from January to October 1879.121 Thomas Bayliss and John Slaughter patented a gear wheel drive as used on the ‘Excelsior’ tricycles (1879/4,842).

The firm became a public limited company in 1896 with directors Baron Rose, Thomas Inger Stevens, Thomas Bayliss, John Slaughter (also district manager in Liverpool at 10 St George’s Crescent) and John Thomas. It had a London depot from late 1895 at 103 Newgate Street with manager W. Rymill Thomas. By 1903 the address was given as 3 Holborn Viaduct, London. Between 1902 and 1908 it ceased to be a limited company. From about 1900 the company had ventured into the manufacture of motorcycles. By 1910 the firm had been renamed as the Excelsior Motor Co., and in 1919 the business was sold to R. Walker & Son Ltd. Cycle production had already ceased in 1914.

It made the ‘DEHF’ (Duplex Excelsior Hollow Fork), ‘Duplex Excelsior’, ‘Excelsior’, ‘Harvard’ (for the American market), ‘Rudder Excelsior’ and ‘Victor’ high-wheelers from 1874-89. An 1876 ‘Excelsior’ 50 in. was claimed to weigh 45lb. The ‘Duplex Hollow Fork’, ‘Duplex Racer’ and ‘Duplex Excelsior No.2’ were made in 1879. It also made the ‘Stanley Excelsior’ before 1892. It was one of the first companies to fit cone bearings to high-wheelers and also hollow drawn forks. It also made safety bicycles. The ‘Acme Excelsior’ was unusual in having an inner rim supported on five tubular spokes from a hollow spindle (see illustration).

Also produced numerous tricycle models including the ‘Eureka Excelsior Roadster’, ‘Excelsior Central Gear Roadster’, ‘Young Ladies Two-Track Roadster’, ‘Everycycle Excelsior Roadster’, ‘Duplex Excelsior Tandem’, Duplex Tandem Racer’, ‘Victor Excelsior Racer’, ‘Victor Pet Roadster’ ‘Victor Roadster’ ‘Excelsior Convertible Reversible Tandem Roadster’ (with the facility to be either a front or rear steerer), ‘Excelsior Two-Track Roadster’ and the ‘Everycycle’ a double driving balance geared folder. Early examples of the ‘Eureka’ tricycle had the frame attached to the rear axle only at the centre but by 1886 two additional bearings had been added.

The ‘Excelsior’ tricycle achieved great popularity for a while. It had a driving mechanism of an intermediate wheel, rather than a chain. The rim was hollow and fitted with studs carrying friction rollers meshing with teeth on the other two wheels. This arrangement was intended to dispose of chain stretch. It weighed 65lb. The name ‘One-two-three’ was later given to it. Similar machines were made by a number of other manufacturers including Coventry Machinists Co. Ltd (who were first in the field) and Hillman, Herbert & Cooper.

In 1881 the company secured a contract to supply the Post Office with carrier tricycles. The ‘Duplex Excelsior Tandem’ was the first successful tandem tricycle in 1882. It had two 40 in. driving wheels geared up to 46 in. and a small rear steering wheel. Each rider drove one wheel through the Excelsior gearing. It weighed 112 lb.








bayliss thomas












bayliss thomas


Townend Brothers sold a safety bicycle constructed on very similar lines to the Bayliss, Thomas Safety. I assume the frame was either supplied by Bayliss, Thomas or that Townend paid them royalties to make it themselves.

1888-Townend-similar BT


bayliss thomas