My friend Ben Sharp’s enthusiasm for Saxon bicycles is responsible for my purchase of this machine, which may be the earliest known survivor of this marque. Our correspondence, from September, 2016:
1926 Saxon Club
Front Pull-up Brake
New Eadie Coaster Brake
Saxon was a lightweight pioneer, and the company started making bicycles in 1923. The ‘Club’ was their first model. It’s rare to find a 1926 example such as this. The more common 1930s models had small frames, whereas this early model is a 24″ frame size.
The wood lined fork seen here was introduced in 1926. It retains its original Saxon quick release wing nuts. An unusual feature is the coaster hub, which has Saxon wing nuts too (not really an ‘quick release’). As the machine has been fitted with 1930s metal mudguards – much more practical than celluloid – I assume a previous owner set it up with a period coaster brake too to provide a more efficient braking system.
1928 SAXON CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
UNDERSIDE OF 1926 SAXON CLUB
SAXON HISTORY (by Ben Sharp)
The Saxon Cycle Engineering Company ,today, is probably best known for their popular twin tube lightweight bicycle, which was produced for only a few years towards the end of the Company’s life.. The twin tube was typical of the innovative designs that came from Saxon since their beginning in the early 1920s. The earliest advert for Saxon appears in ‘Cycling’ (issue1674) February 15th 1923, introducing the Saxon as ‘tempered like a sword’, and built to modern scientific engineering practices. They offered ladies and gents lightweight club machines, tandems, track racing bicycles and track racing tandems made with BSA, Chater-Lea or Brampton fittings and all frames were built using Reynolds’ butted tubes. The address of the company was 123 Holloway Rd, London N7.
The company during the late 1920s-30s was a fairly large business employing about 34 people. Saxon had weekly adverts in various cycling magazines, many being half page and some full page. They had advertising and banners at many cycling sports events including having the board track at Wembley painted with their name in 1936.They were also regular exhibitors at the Olympia and Earls Court bicycle shows.
Not a lot is really known about the people involved with the Saxon Company and it is uncertain who started the company and the company’s background is a bit of a mystery. Although in an interview with Don Salmon (who worked at Saxon) by Hilary Stone in 1986 he said that the company was founded by S.J.Campaigne and Mr Barnmore* in 1923 and Mr Barnmore had a connection with Bertrand Cycles. In the early adverts Saxon placed in various cycling publications it is stated that every Saxon Bicycle is made under the supervision of the chief engineer, Mr S.J. Campaigne. Other adverts also states that S.J.Campaigne was also Works Manager and he introduced the Saxon Lightweight to the British public. Other names mentioned in a later catologue dated 1929 mentions F.W.Kiddie, H.H.J.Cadell and G.B.Chance as directors but nothing is known about them.
S.J. Campaigne was born in Salford, Manchester on August 22 1885. He had good career in marine, refrigeration, agricultural, motor and electrical engineering and whilst he was the general manager of the Imperial Motor Works in Rangoon, Burma he was proposed on 10.10.21 for Associate Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London. He became an associate member on 20.1. 22. It isn’t known if he had a cycling background and it seems he had left Saxon by 1929 because W.J.Bailey the World track racing champion had become chief engineer and his membership with The Institute of Mechanical Engineers had lapsed by 1931.
Saxon made great emphasis of the process of manufacturing their bicycles and they used the slogan ‘tempered like a sword’ as their trade mark on all advertising and catalogues. The manufacturing process was described by Saxon as a “new method of construction with the use of scientific devices”. “The frame is first assembled and each joint correctly fitted by expert fitters. Specially designed appliances called jigs are employed during the operation to ensure the accurate fitting of each tube in its lug,also to make certain that it fits close to the adjacent tube” (tubes were mitred to fit )
“The frame is then placed in a large jig frame, which holds it perfectly true whilst the the joints are drilled and pinned. A skeleton jig is introduced to obviate the possibility of a joint moving during brazing“.
“The method of brazing used is that all joints in one particular spot are brazed simultaneously, e.g. the four bottom bracket joints including the bridge are all brazed together under one heat and in one operation. The remaining tubes are similarly treated“.(1924 catalogue) The Tempering process is described in the same catalogue as “ with the old method of brazing a frame the greater portion of the tubes remained cold whilst the lugs and ends of the tubes became red hot…….this leaves the frame hard and soft in places and renders it liable to snap or bend at these various points. This is practically impossible with the Saxon method, because the frame is raised to one uniform heat throughout and then passed through specially prepared oils which equalise the carbon in the steel, rendering in one perfect unit of temper.
Don Salmon, when interviewed by Hilary Stone, said the frames were checked for ’truth’ with a straight edge and needle right hand bottom bracket but no cold setting was used at Saxon.
The first Saxon lightweights had simple cut out lugs and plain fork crown which was soon to be replaced with a fork crown with cut outs to match the frame.
The rear fork ends were either forward facing drop out (Model “A”) or, as described in the 1924 catalogue, “The Model “B” has the more familiar type is the ordinary slotted fork end and is favoured by those who prefer the old draw bolt method or hollow spindle hub” ( Chater-Lea made a hub of this description as did Bastide who offered this type of hub before the First World War using a modified BSA hub) In the catalogue the forward facing dropout on the model “A” looks somewhat exaggerated in the illustration but in reality it is big, about 4” long. It was designed to accommodate the double cogged, ’’flip flop,’’ hub and this drop out would allow for a 5 tooth difference between the two sprockets on the hub.
Saxon frames were made from Reynolds double butted tubes (19 /22 gauge) with tapered rear stays brazed to the seat lugs. Models offered were the Clubman’s model “A”, a ladies sports model also at, Gentleman’s Light Roadster “B” it had the same frame as the clubman but with flat bars and two calliper brakes and mudguards, this was also offered as a ladies model) Clubman’s Model “C” were all offered at £8.8.0 and theTrack Model which could be specified with forward facing or ordinary slotted dropout £9.17.6 ( 5 shillings extra if made to special measurements)
Saxons made with BSA fittings throughout cost £12.0.0, if Meredith hollow spindle hub was specified it cost 5 shillings extra and Chater-Lea fittings £11.12.6. Saxon also listed Tandems including a double gents racing tandem at £24.10.0.
Saxon advocated the idea of having as small as bike as possible, about 21 – 22 “ frames being suggested as the optimum frame size for rigidity and lightness. The Little Low Lightweight Bicycle was available in black, purple, Indian red, dark green, Royal blue, light saxe blue or grey.
Saxon grew quickly and in November 1924 they opened their new head office and showroom at 190, Pentonville Road, Kings Cross. London and they kept the 123 Holloway Road site as their North London branch. In the same year S. J. Campagnie introduced his patented Saxon Rigid Narrow Section Steel Rim in 26 x 1 ¼” or 26 x 1 3/8“ and the Patent cone locking device for their hubs. The rim resembled the Westwood pattern but the rolled over edges of the rim were brazed to the base so making the rim solid.
The hub, which was milled from a single piece of steel, had it’s adjusting cone made with a serrated surface on which a serrated washer was locked onto it by a normal hub lock nut. This was designed to eliminate the problem of the cones becoming unadjusted in use. This hub which won the CTC’s Silver Plaque Award in 1926 was standard on all Saxon Bicycles up to 1939.
1926 saw the introduction of “annular “ bearings in hubs and the bottom bracket as a special option on offer at £3.10.0 extra on the price of the bicycle.. Ash lined forks were also introduced in the same year. The forks had a removable top plate on the fork crown and after they had been enamelled had 4 “ long D shaped piece of ash wood with a V cut out at the bottom end inserted into the top of each fork leg after the they had been enamelled. This was instead of the usual practice of brazing a steel liner inside each fork leg and it was thought that the ash liner was more resilient and good insurance against fork breakage. The unbreakable fork was improved in 1928 by having a steel liner fitted as well as the ash insert.
Also in 1926 Saxon moved to their new works and showroom at 15/17/19 Arcola Street E8. This was a large modern building and it still stands today and is now the Arcola Street theatre.
Saxon introduced their own centre pull brake and special lever in 1927 which was similar to the Bowden centre pull brake. The Saxon brake was offered on all models as front or rear or both as in the case of the Saxon all weather bicycle which combined Bowden cables with roller levers on the handle bars.
In 1928 Saxon acquired the ownership of Moon Cycle Co of 5 Stoke Newington Road. N16. London. and also their other branches at 68, Goldhawk Road, W12 and 58, Well Hall Road., SE9. Which with 123 Holloway Rd became Saxon showrooms where you could buy or order Saxon Bicycles and a large selection of cycling clothes and shoes and bicycle accessories. With the acquisition of Moon Cycle Co Saxon introduced their Saxon Moon lightweight bicycle as a medium priced machine at £8.0.0. It had a fixed specification and could be bought in black, purple, pale blue or cane coloured enamel with plated fork ends and fork crown. Interestingly Saxon offered Cadmium plating instead of the usual Nickel plating offered by other cycle companies at that time. Saxon also offered a flamboyant finish on the Saxon Club and Saxon Super Club in Amber, Ruby, Emerald or Sapphire with plated fork ends or whole front fork plated at £11.0.0 or £11.10.0 for the Super Club.
In 1929 W.J. Bailey, the world champion track racing cyclist joined Saxon as Works Manager and he set about introducing some very nice bicycles for Saxon’s 1930 catalogue including The Saxon Deluxe and Saxon Bailey Path. Both these bicycles were made from Chrome Molybdenum tubing which Saxon claimed in their 1930 catalogue was the first time that this new steel alloy had been used in cycle construction. They were also made with steeper angles with the head tube being parallel with the seat tube and nicely cut out and filed malleable cast lugs. The Saxon Bailey Path Bicycle combined both head clip with expander bolt handle bar stem which had lugs cut matching the frame and the front fork crown cut out design had a long centre tongue extending down the outside of the fork about 3”. It could be ordered with 26”, 27” or 28” constrictor round or flat rims and Bailey pattern handle bars and Saxon or BSA fittings from £12.10.0. It could be ordered in any colour in flamboyant, stove enamel, cellulose or Saxons new Electric Bronze finish which was also a new introduction in the 1930 catalogue. It was a very popular machine with both track men and road time trialists during the 1930’s. The De Luxe and Club models had cable guides brazed to the frame as well as the usual fittings brazed on like the chain rest and mudguard eyes and could also be specified in any finish including the Saxon Electric Bronze finish which was claimed to be virtually resistant to chipping and scratching.
The famous Saxon Bailey resilient fork which were standard on the Club and De Luxe models were introduced for the first time in this catalogue. The were made with ‘D’ to round section tubing tapering from 1” from the fork crown to the round section being the last 6” of the fork blade and the rake of the forks occurs in this last 6”. They became the standard forks fitted to all Saxons except the Track models. By now the Club model had smaller less exaggerated rear drop outs and was still offered with double butted tubing but at cheaper price of £9.0.0. The Saxon Moon was dropped altogether and in its place a Saxon Sports made with double butted tubes was sold at £8.0.0.
The 1931 Saxon catalogue saw the introduction of Saxon’s Cotterless Steel Cranks which was made specially for them by Williams. The Cotterless cranks were very similar to modern cotterless chainsets except that the square ends on the modern chainsets bottom bracket axle were triangular on Saxons. They were also offered for cross over drive for tandems at 30/- and 12/6 for solos.
In the same catalogue The Saxon Rational Model makes it’s first appearance. This was a diamond framed racing bicycle made from double butted tubing for ladies who wanted a rigid gents lightweight bicycle but made for women who found that the standard gents frame had a reach that was to long for them and so it was built with a shorter top tube length of 20 3/8” and a wheelbase of 40” It could be ordered with the Club model or De Luxe model specification . With the
Club specification it cost £9.0.0.
Saxon during the 1930’s offered a popular or low priced good value range of lightweight bicycles called The Saxon Magna at £6.19.6 or The Saxon Sports at £8.0.0 but in comparison to this Saxon introduced in 1935 possibly the most expensive lightweight solo bicycle with an impressive specification that money was to be no obstacle. The Saxon Paramount was built with Chrome Molybdenum double butted tubing and lugs cut out in same pattern as the De luxe and Saxon Bailey Path Racer. It came with hollow octagonal steel cranks and conloy sprint rims and with Saxon special light weight hubs. It had Duralumin handle bars and brakes and Ormond Duralumin framed saddle. Saxon offered their own make of three speed derailleur gear that had a handlebar mounted twist grip control. Saxon claimed that you could change gear under sprint with this derailleur. The bicycle was priced at a staggering £17.17.0 !
Saxon also made a range of very good Tandems some marketed as The Wizard, Cyclone and Wings of the Wind. Double gents frames could be ordered with twin lateral stays from the head to rear dropouts , or with a single lateral stay or open double diamond and were priced from £16.16.0. A special track racing tandem was also offered with single lateral tube and supports in the rear triangle made from either Chrome Molybdenum or High Manganese steel tubing for £20.0.0 They also offered a triplet and in 1933 a special Family tandem with twin lateral stays and rear top tube an inch lower than the front top tube. It also had special brazed on attachments for the sidecar it came with.
Saxon also made a one off quad (four seater for Dublin University)
In Autumn 1936 Saxon moved their factory to Sidney Road, Homerton. London. E9 and also on 13 October they filed for registration of design for the twin tube tandem ( Regd des 815768 ) The written proposal mentions Josiah Partridge 61 Kenninghall Road, Clapton. London. E5 and Edward Evans and Co 27, Chancery Lane. London. It is not known what their connection is to Saxon or this design. The solo and tandem twin tube were introduced with a twin tube triplet in October 1937. The twin tube solo had it’s own design registration filled on 17 February 1938 with its own number 826293 ( copyright expired on 13 October 1945.)
These bicycles instead of having one normal seat tube in the frame had two smaller diameter tubes running parallel from a special cast bottom bracket with two little cast lugs to the special seat cluster. The rear wheel ran very close to the twin tubes and the mudguard would fit between the two parallel tubes. This made for a very short wheel base on the solo at 38 ½” and the tandem at 59” and the triplet at 80” and also made them quite distinctive and easily recognisable.The Super Wings of the Wind Twin Tube tandem was offered in Reynolds 531 for £21.0.0 and the triplet made with Chrome Molybdenum for £24.0.0. The twin tube solo was also made with Saxon’s favourite tubing, Chrome Molybdenum, all the cro-mo tubing offered by Saxon was supplied by Accles and Pollock from Birmingham. The tandem had the simple fish tail type lugs but the solo had very nice malleable cast lugs cut to a very pleasing design. Some models had the seat stay lugs filled and others not filled back. The solos were very nicely made and were offered in some very nice colourful finishes. The solo was offered as the Saxon T.T. Model made with cro-mo tubing and Saxon resilient front forks and supplied with Dunlop HP rims on Saxon hubs, Constrictor Boa pedals and Brooks saddle at £9.10.0. The T.T. Road Race Model was also offered with same fittings but with Reynolds Hiduminium R.R.56 handle bars and stem and New Ormond or Brooks Champion saddle on a 10” Hiduminium R.R.56 seat pillar for £11.0.0. The Twin Tube Path Model had straighter ’D’ to round forks in Chrome Molybdenum and rear track fork ends, Constrictor laminated wood rims on Saxon lightweight steel hubs, steel handle bars and stem with expander bolt and head clip for £12.10.0 .
Also a Super Path Model was offered in either single or TwinTube which was claimed to weigh 17 lbs 10oz and was made from Reynolds 531, It is not known if 531 was only used on the single tubed frame or on both.It had hollow steel cranks and 27” Constrictor wood rims and was priced at £15.10.0. The Saxon Paramount also became a twin tube model in 1938 and was still priced at £17.17.0 but now had Gloria duralumin calliper brakes and Hiduminium R.R.56 handlebars and stem.
The Saxon Club Model which was Saxons first bicycle went through a total redesign in 1938. It had the same new cut out cast malleable lugs as the Twin Tube and was made from Reynolds 531 double Butted tubing throughout. It was fitted with Reynolds R.R.56 handle bars and stem and seat pillar. The Saxon De Luxe was also redesigned in 1938 with the same lugs and made with Reynolds double butted tubing throughout and shared the same specification as the Club model with the exception that the De luxe was fitted with a Cyclo 3 speed derailleur gear as standard and was sold at £12.12.0. The Saxon Bailey Path Model remained un changed in design except that Reynolds 531 could be specified as an alternative to Accles and Pollack’s Cro-mo tubing and was offered at £12.10.0. The diamond framed ladies bicycle, Saxon Rational became the Saxon Enchantress in 1938 and it was based on the cheaper Magna an Sports models instead of the Club and De luxe models it had previously been based on. Saxon. In the same year Saxon introduced some cheaper roadster models. The Tourist Model had full chain case and cable brakes with North road handle bars was made from Accles and Pollock tubing was sold at £6.19.6. The Roadster Model with rod brakes was sold at £5.10.0 and The Saxon Light Roadster with a 1” drop on the top tube to the head was sold also at £5.10.0.
In 1938 Sidney Road was renamed as Kenworthy Road and at that time Saxon employed 5 or 6 frame makers, 1 fork maker and 5 filers and total workforce including the office was about 34-35 . They produced about 80 solo frames and 5 tandems a week. They employed 3 travelling salesmen, one for Scotland, one for the Midlands and one for the South.
Saxon closed on November 1939 the reason for this is unknown for know and it seems that H.H.Cadell was sole director. The Sidney Road site was totally destroyed during a bombing raid during the Second World War but the Holloway Road and the Arcola street sites still exist today.
After the war Claud Butler reintroduced the Twin Tube design and had bought the Saxon name and was named as copyright owner of the twin tube designs on the design registration documents. His Twin Tube differed greatly from the pre-war Saxon. The Claud Butler T.T. had a single seat tube going down from the seat pillar for roughly 6” before it split into two thin tubes continuing to the bottom bracket. It was also built by having the tubes brazed together without lugs and could be made from Cro-Mo or 531 tubing and was sold as the Saxon T.T. or Claude Butler T.T. A lugged version is known to exist as well.
Sometime in the 1950’s the Saxon trade mark was sold to Norman Cycles of Ashford , Kent and they made some bikes with the Saxon name on.
* Barnmore. Unsure of the name. The hand writing of the name is badly written on notes taken by Hillary Stone when he interviewed Don Salmon on 13.6.1986. Don Salmon was Pedaller Palmer in the Palmer tire adverts and was given a Saxon bike for the adverts. Nothing is known for certain about any date reference in the frame numbering.