1888 Ormonde Safety ‘No 2’

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Dan Albone was one of the cycle industry’s renowned innovators, but there are only a handful of known survivors of the Ivel marque. When I first came across this bicycle, in 2012, the owner John Hearne, of Bedford, told me it was an Ivel. After he died my friend Leon bought it. Ray Miller recently wrote an excellent book ‘Dan Albone: Cyclist, Inventor & Manufacturer’ (thoroughly recommended) and is the VCC marque enthusiast for Ivel. So, after I purchased the bicycle from Leon, I asked Ray’s opinion.

Ray examined the pictures and and spent time comparing them with Ivel advertisements, catalogue illustrations and the few other known Ivel safety bicycles, but he concluded that, though it has some similarities, it’s not an Ivel.

So I consulted my own database of early safety bicycles and eventually found that the only similar model shown in illustrations of the time is the 1888 Ormonde ‘No 2’ safety. The most interesting aspect of this discovery is that the ‘West London Cycle Stores’, maker of the Ormonde, was actually the London agent for Ivel bicycles. Ray commented:

“I note in my Encyclopaedia that: ‘In the early years the chain drive was on the left’ …West London Cycle Stores became the Ormonde Cycle Co …The Stores may well have had more of a connection to Dan Albone than just being his agent but I don’t have any confirmation for that. If there was such a connection that could account for cross similarities. It’s the greatest pity that Dan’s widow destroyed most of his papers leaving us with more questions than answers.”
In my composite picture below you can see this bicycle, with an 1891 Ivel illustration below it and the 1888 Ormonde ‘No 2’ illustration on the right. Comparing them, the lower frame stay mounting, rear mudguard stay and lack of upper frame stay match the Ormonde illustration but not the Ivel. 30″ wheels are common to the Ormonde No 2 specification but not to the Ivel (which had 32″ front and 30″ rear).

Though the shape of the open steering head is different on all the other cross frame safety bicycle pictures I’ve found, it appears to be the same on the 1891 Ivel ‘No 1’ and 1888 Ormonde ‘No 2’. We don’t know why. Did Ivel Cycle Co or West London Cycle Stores supply the other with that component, or with the cycle frame, or use each other’s old stock?
British cycle companies had a lively export business in the late 1880s, particularly in the USA. The US cycle industry was still new at this time and many American companies started out as agents, importing British bicycles to comprise their stock, before building their own cycles. Within a few years, once the US cycle industry was established, its government set import tariffs to protect it but, until then, British cycles were marketed extensively there. Ormonde’s follow-up model, the 1890 Light Safety, was a semi-diamond cross frame (below) which was well-promoted in the USA. After several years of selling through agents, Ormonde opened an office in New York.
Ormonde had a long and interesting history as a company. Between 1900 and 1904 the company built motorcycles, and was then taken over by Taylor & Gue, who had been building their frames, to become Veloce Ltd. As maker of the Velocette, one of Britain’s leading motorcycles, Veloce Ltd existed until February, 1971.
This Ormonde Safety ‘No 2’ could therefore be considered an ancestor of the Velocette motorcycle.

1888 Ormonde Safety ‘No 2’

with left-side chainwheel and curved steel open fork blades

22″ Frame

30″ Wheels

Jos Lucas & Son ‘Holophote’ King of the Road lamp

Jos Lucas & Son No 60 King of Bells

(Now sold)




Rather than having hollow forks, ie tubular, this machine has curved steel open fork blades front and rear (photos above and below). As tube technology improved year by year – the weight of tubing became lighter but still strong – this style of fork became obsolete.

























































The 3rd Earl of Sheffield’s rhododendrons appear to be only slightly younger than this Ormonde safety bicycle. The manager of the Park asked me to point out that bicycles are not normally allowed inside – I received special dispensation out of visitor hours. We regulalrly visit Sheffield Park and would recommend it.


I found this Ivel tool pouch at Beaulieu autojumble last year. I suppose it’s rarer than an Ivel bicycle. As Ray Miller is ‘the Ivel man’ I gave it to him, when we met up  just a few weeks ago …and now I’ve found a bicycle made by Ivel’s London’s agent.  I’ve already asked leather master Paul Watson in Australia to make me a replica Ivel pouch 🙂


79 Wells St, Oxford St, London


According to Ray Miller’s ‘Encyclopaedia of Cycle Manufacturers’, the company started in 1885 as an agency and repairer of bicycles. As well as their London locations, they had a factory at The Tower, Princip St, Birmingham (in 1896). The directors were Ernest J Willis, Robert Willis and Elena Canepa.

One of the leading London cycle shops, the West London Cycle Stores also had branches at 25 Castle St East and 22 Holborn Viaduct. The Viaduct, completed in 1869, took six years to build, and this area became a centre for bicycle shops: Gamages based their business there, which obviously brought in a lot of business.

According to the notice (below) in the London Gazette of February, 1891, the West London Cycle Stores was wound up in December, 1889. The business subsequently became the Ormonde Cycle Co.

west london cycle stores



Freeman St, Adelaide, Australia

1893 ormonde australia

Ormonde also features in Australian history. The Ormonde Bicycle Depot, at 31 Freeman St, Adelaide, Australia was where Vivian Lewis started his business, initially as a cycle importer and reseller and then making his own cycles, motorcycles, and a few cars. He was one of the founders of the Australian cycle and motor industry. Events in May 1898 were to change the course of the Lewis Cycle Works: visiting with her Gladiator motor tricycle, French racing cyclist Mlle Serpolette made her Adelaide base at the Lewis Cycle Works. This was the first motorised vehicle to be brought to Australia.

When the motor tricycle wouldn’t run, works manager Tom O’Grady spent time first repairing then test riding it. Within ten months, O’Grady had obtained plans and built a small internal combustion engine, which was fitted to one of the pacing triplets and tested in Freeman St in March 1899. Though bicycles remained the focus through 1899, O’Grady’s motor was developed further and fitted to a tandem, then removed from the tandem to be the power unit of the first Lewis car, which took to the streets of Adelaide in November 1900. From that date on the name of the business changed to reflect its new-found interests: Lewis Cycle Works became Lewis Cycle & Motor Works.

1903_Lewis motorcycle


Around 1895, Ormonde Cycle Co amalgamated with the St. Andrews Cycle Co of Romford, the latter company’s large factory being used by the new concern. Subsequent companies were the New Ormonde Cycle Co and, after 1900, the Ormonde Motor & Cycle Co (described as the Ormonde Motor Co in their motorcycle advertisements. Their first motorcycle was introduced in 1900.



1913 Veloce

An interesting footnote to the company history of the West London Cycle Stores and Ormonde is that, like other manufacturers of ‘motor bicycles’ the company realised that their prototype machine with an engine mounted into a normal bicycle was not strong enough to cope with the extra stresses of motorisation. So subsequent motorcycle frames were made for Ormonde by Taylor Gue Ltd.
This company was run by William Gue and John Taylor (previously known as John Goodman or Johann Gutgemann: the Goodman family were Jewish refugees from Germany named Gutgemann). After joining the Ormonde company in 1904, they took it over in that year in order to produce their own motorcycles. Their first new motorcycle, a 2hp belt-drive machine called The Veloce, was not successful.
Veloce Ltd was established in 1905 by John Taylor to sell cycles and associated products (presumably those previously made by Ormonde as well as their own items). Meanwhile, John’s sons Percy and Eugene set up New Veloce Motors in 1907 to to make and market a Veloce Motor Car. The car did not go into production, and the company offered general engineering and various non-motorcycle products.
John’s firm, Veloce Ltd, started work on a new motorcycle in 1908, with engines supplied by his sons’ company. It took a few years for Veloce sales to pick up but, by 1912, the 2.5hp machine (illustrated above) started to sell well. In 1913, a lightweight two-stroke model was added, the Velocette and, in due course, Veloce Ltd became one of Great Britain’s most famous motorcycle manufacturers.
In my vintage motorcycle days, I owned many examples of the marque. The 1922 Type E2 pictured below is the one I most regret selling.
1922 Velocette E2
The only Velocette I still own is the one below. It’s much easier to park than a full-size LE Velocette 🙂

Catalogues and advertisements with thanks to the VCC Archive and Ray Miller – http://veterancycleclublibrary.org.uk

V Lewis, Australia, history and photos with thanks to Leon Mitchell – http://earlymotor.com/lewis/history/html/ormonde.htm

Velocette history with thanks to the Velocette Owners Club – http://www.velocetteowners.com/