1914 Royal Sunbeam for Ladies


“In these Woulds there feed in great numbers, flockes of sheepe long necked and square of bulke and bone, by reason (as it is commonly thought) of the weally and hilly situation of their pasturage; whose wool being so fine and soft is had in passing great account among all nations”

– ‘Britannia’, by William Camden (written in 1610).

Unlike vintage cars and motorcycles, bicycles do not have registration documents to help reveal their history, and only rarely do they retain their original bill-of-sale. Some were ordered direct from the factory, but most were purchased from local cycle shops, who held agencies for the major manufacturers.
If a bicycle has stayed in the same family throughout its lifetime, they may remember where a it was originally purchased – because, as well as its maker, part of a bicycle’s history is the shop that sold it …as in the case of this bicycle, which has the shop transfer on Rear Mudguard: “AES Hyde Cycle Maker & Repairer, Stow-on-Wold, Glos”. The shop was on the Market Square, next to the Crown & Anchor Inn (below).

Stow-on-the-Wold is a charming market town (population c2000) and probably the best known of the small Cotswolds towns. It is sited on top of Stow Hill (800ft) at a junction of seven major roads, including the Roman Fosse Way. In 1646 it was the site of the final battle of the English Civil War.

The vast Market Square, with an ancient cross and the town stocks on opposite sides, has hosted fairs and meetings since 1330 when the right to hold an annual fair was granted. By 1476 there were two annual fairs taking place, during May and October, and at the height of the Cotswold wool industry, as many as 20,000 sheep could be sold in one day. Currently, there’s a Gypsy Horse Fair just outside town in May and October.


1914 Royal Sunbeam for Ladies

Two-Speed Epicyclic Gears

24″ Frame

28′ Wheels

Frame No 120237

Supplier’s Transfer on Rear Mudguard: Hyde Cycle Maker & Repairer, Stow-on-Wold, Glos

At 13 guineas, the Royal Sunbeam for Ladies with two speed gears was a very expensive bicycle in 1914, equivalent to around £1,300 nowadays. No wonder they were so often preserved and cherished by the families of their first owners. This is a classic example: the paintwork is in excellent original unrestored condition, and it retains all its gilt transfers proudly proclaiming its ‘Royal’ heritage.

It was in regular use until the 1970s when it was partly restored. In those days, less attention was paid to the need for original components, and the previous owner replaced the wheels with chrome rims. The rear hub is also chrome, but the front hub is nickel. After its rider gave up cycling, it was put into dry storage in attic, where it remained until recently. The top of the Brooks Model B42 Ladies Saddle suffered from mouse bites, but otherwise the bicycle was well preserved.

Recently, the front wheel was rebuilt with new spokes and both rims were painted black. The oil bath has been oiled and it’s ready to ride.

Despite being 103 years old, the Royal Sunbeam for Ladies rides as well as any modern roadster. After all, it’s a Sunbeam, the best that money could buy when Britain led the world in quality bicycle manufacture, and still unsurpassed.

1914 Royal Sunbeam 90