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November 2002
Raleigh past and present
Raleigh factory sign
Raleigh factory sign
A brief history of Raleigh from Sir Frank Bowden to the closure of the factory on Triumph Road, Lenton.
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FACTS

The story of Raleigh starts with 3 men. Woodhead, Angois and Ellis. In 1886 they started making bicycles at a small workshop on Raleigh Street in Nottingham.

Raleigh was founded in 1888 when Sir Frank Bowden bought an interest in a small bicycle company on Raleigh Street in Nottingham, England.


Its early commercial success was based on quality machines raced by international cycling champions.

By 1892 Raleigh led the world in bicycle racing success, winning over 2,300 prizes worldwide.

At the beginning of the 21st century, around 300 people were being made redundant with the closure of the Raleigh factory on Triumph Road in Lenton.

The company will employ 4 people at the Eastwood site making wheels for spares or repairs. They believe 100,000 will eventually be produced there each year.

This year the firm has seen a 20% increase in sales on last year - they stand at around 500,000.

The Triumph Road site had become simply an assembly plant in recent years, sourcing most of its major parts from abroad. It ceased to make its own parts years ago.

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The Past
The story of the Raleigh factory starts with three men, Woodhead, Angois and Ellis.

In 1886 they started making bicycles at a small workshop on Raleigh Street in Nottingham.

They were only turning out three bikes a week - but they still caught the attention of Frank Bowden a local lawyer.

Bowden was to transform their company beyond all recognition.

Sir Frank Bowden
In 1887 Frank Bowden was told he had only months to live. Rather than accept hs fate, he chose to follow the advice of his doctor who told him to take up cycling to save his life.

To improve his health, he went to Raleigh Street, where he found 12 men in a small workshop producing three cycles a week.

Bowden then decided to buy the workshop and the Raleigh Cycle Company was founded.

In December 1888, The Raleigh Cycle Company was founded.

A five storey factory - close to the original workshop - was taken over, and production rose to 60 bicycles a week and the workforce shot up to 200.

The Present
At the beginning of the 21st century, around 300 people were being made redundant with the closure of the Raleigh factory on Triumph Road in Lenton.

Raleigh bikes are now to be assmbled abroad at three factories in the far east.

The company's sales, marketing, design and distribution divisions will be based on Church Street in Eastwood, where around 120 people will be employed there.

Every Raleigh bike sold in Britain will now come from that one depot, the bikes will be sent over from abroad to the Eastwood warehouse.

The company's also retaining its fleet of 18 trucks, which are specially designed to carry bicycles in such a way as to avoid damage in transit.

The firm says it's the only bike manufacture in Britain to have such a fleet of trucks - other manufacturers rely on regular couriers who transport their goods along with other freight.

The company will employ 4 people at the Eastwood site making wheels for spares or repairs.

They believe 100,000 will eventually be produced there each year.

It's a far cry from the height of the company's success when it employed well over 8000 people making 2 million bikes a year.

This year the firm has seen a 20% increase in sales on last year - they stand at around 500,000.

Reasons for closure
There's been huge investment in bike factories in the far east in recent years - it means raleigh are now satisfied they can make bikes cheaper but crucially to the same quality abroad.

The company's previous owners sold the Triumph Road site to the University of Nottingham during a period of severe financial crisis.

That meant the company had to move out of its current home by the end of 2003.

It was planning to build a brand new factory in Nottingham at a cost of around 11 million pounds.

But with the costs and quality of production in the far east becoming so attractive while negotiations over that new factory continued, the company decided it could no longer justify investing in British production.

The Triumph Road site had become simply an assembly plant in recent years, sourcing most of its major parts from abroad. It ceased to make its own parts years ago.

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