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.313 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 from 1929.

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Items in this Collection

1896 Chater Lea Fittings Machine 05

1896 Chater Lea Fittings Machine

1904 Chater Lea X Frame Raleigh Pattern 5

1904 Chater Lea X Frame Raleigh Pattern

1909 Chater Lea X frame Lady-back Tandem 05

1909 Chater Lea X frame Lady-back Tandem

1910 Chater Lea No 8 Lady-back Tandem 0

1910 Chater Lea No 8 Lady-back Tandem

FOR SALE 1910 Chater Lea X frame 5

1910 Chater Lea X Frame (Raleigh Pattern)

FOR SALE 1920s Chater Lea Rover 1

1924 Chater Lea Track Racer (Rover badge)