There are perhaps some few firms in the trade who occupy larger factories than the Centaur Company, and turn out a larger number of machines per annum, but there is not one which has done more towards the development of the modern bicycle, or which has consistently held its place in the very front of the industry.
– R.J. Macready, in The Irish Cyclist magazine
Formerly Thos. Townsend & Sons, the Centaur Bicycle Co, of West Orchard, Coventry, was established in 1876 under the direction of Edmund Mushing and George Gilbert, the latter formerly of the Coventry Machinists Co. Mushing was responsible for marketing and administration (later Managing Director); Gilbert was the design engineer. With many innovative design features, the company was one of the pioneers of the cycle industry and they started developing motorcycles and cars by the turn of the century (although the cars did not go into production).
Below you can see Edward Mushing driving a 1904 prototype Centaur car. His wife is sitting behind, and next to Mr. Mushing is Henry Tricket, the car’s designer. They are passing the Shoulder of Mutton public house, in Grandborough, about 15 miles from Centaur’s Coventry factory.
Edward Mushing died in 1910, and the company was taken over by Humber, who discontinued the Centaur name in 1915, during WW1, though it was brought back after the War for a cheaper range of Humber bicycles.
1911 Centaur ‘Lightweight’ Roadster
(Specification No 5)
American Export Model
New Departure Coaster brake
Frame No 156048
Fitted with Every Ready Electric Headlight
This 1911 Centaur was purchased in the 1950s or 1960s by the Californian cycle shop West Coast Cycle. The company was owned by Leo Cohen, whose policy was to buy secondhand old bicycles in case parts were needed for repairing other machines. This particular machine was obviously not needed for parts donation, as it remained in storage until 2012, when it was sold by my friend Howie Cohen, who started working for his dad’s business in 1957, aged eighteen.
A New Departure coaster brake is listed in the British Centaur catalogue as an optional extra, costing 6/- on top of the sale price of £8 15/- though I assume it would have been a standard fitting for a Centaur sold in America. A pull-up front brake is also fitted. Another interesting addition is an Ever Ready ‘electric’ (ie battery) headlight.
EVER READY ELECTRIC BICYCLE HEADLIGHT
BROWN ‘300’ SADDLE
1913 CENTAUR CATALOGUE
PHOTO LOCATION: ROTTINGDEAN BEACH
The location for these photos is Rottingdean/ Ovingdean Beach, characterized by serrated wrack draped over chalk boulders.
Between 1896 and 1901 this was the site of the ill-fated Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway, known as the Daddy Longlegs because the track was raised on concrete pillars. Concrete slabs – such as the remains of the one in the background of the above photo – were used to support the railway tracks.
Centaur car photo and info – http://www.conferencehmc.co.uk/downloads/Motoring_Moments.pdf