1904 Chater Lea X Frame Raleigh Pattern


William Brighton Chater Lea (b.18/08/1859) acquired his engineering skills as an apprentice at Linley and Biggs, maker of the ‘Whippet’. He had ridden a Whippet with some success in the renowned Catford hill climb in 1888, 1889 and 1891.

He invented an easily adjustable ball head for the ordinary (1889/14847). In 1890 he patented an ingenious chain-protecting cover, consisting of an endless rubber band, U-shaped, and reinforced by a canvas insertion. It enclosed the outer surface of the chain, and rotated with it, and necessitated the use of a dry lubricant which did not perish the rubber. About a year later he brought out a light mudguard that could be rolled up like a blind.

Chater Lea manufactured fittings and component parts from 1891 at a small workshop in Richmond Street, Clerkenwell, London. The company produced a double top tube frame from 1895 in sizes up to 28 in. Orders for tandems were passed to F. H. Scott while the orders for bicycles were passed to the Raleigh Cycle Co. As the business expanded new premises were acquired in 1895 at Great Sutton Street and in 1896 the business moved again to 114-120 Golden Lane, London EC1.

In 1895 William Chater Lea patented a domed spring cap to fill up the open end of front fork blades and this sold in great numbers until the adoption of the box crown (1895/17192). He was a great believer in large diameter ball bearings, using 5/16 in. balls in the bottom bracket.

In 1912 a new factory was built at 74-84 Banner Street, London and two years later additional premises were obtained at nearby Garrett Street. The company supplied under licence from F Bowden of Raleigh Cycle Co a cross-frame actually made by the Raglan Cycle Co.

It appears that the hyphenated name was adopted in the early 1920s but only by the company, not the individual. W. Chater Lea died on 15 September 1927 and control passed to his two sons. In 1928 the company relocated to New Icknield Way East, Letchworth. The company stopped making complete machines in 1929.

1904 Chater Lea X Frame Raleigh Pattern

with Fagan 2-speed gear (No 35314)

Bowden rear brake

24″ Frame

28″ Wheels


By 1904, when this Chater Lea X Frame was built, the original patent holders had every permutation of cross frame covered, and there was really no way to cross or twist the tubes of a bicycle to create a new X frame version that avoided the original patents. So Chater Lea used Raleigh’s X frame design under license. Chater Lea at this time were primarily a fittings manufacturer. According to Ray Miller’s Encyclopaedia, the frames were built for Chater Lea by Raglan Cycle Co.

It has been interesting examining this Chater Lea X Frame to see how it differs from the Raleigh. The machine is in superb condition and I’ve been riding it around Falmer, where these photos were taken at the village pond.


















































As well as selling complete machines to the public and the trade, Chater Lea also sold fittings for companies to build their own bicycles. Here’s an example from a South London company who advertised a Chater Lea X Frame where, as you can see in the description in the catalogue extract below, a customer could choose any number of options to have it built to their own specifications.




Chater Lea info with thanks to Ray Miller’s Encyclopaedia