1891 Solid-Tyre Safety
in the style of Sharratt & Lisle ‘Star’
Sharratt & Lisle created the Star Cycle Co in 1896. So this is a rare example of one of their earlier machines whose model name was The Star, but predating the formation of the later company.
This Star is well-built and rides well. The front wheel has been rebuilt, though two spokes need replacing on the rear wheel. Like most early safety bicycles, the frame is small (21″) and the narrow handlebars might take some getting used to if you have long legs. The front brake works well …a useful accessory at a time when these fixed wheel machines often had no brakes at all.
It’s rare to find original saddles that have survived the input of 120 years of riders’ posteriors. This one is getting a little worn around the edges but is still usable with care. (After breaking some expensive original saddles by using them on early bikes, I now use a replacement saddle for riding and put the original on when displaying the bike).
SHARRATT & LISLE
(STAR CYCLE Co)
A partnership formed in 1876 by Edward Lisle and Edwin John Sharratt. Edward Lisle already had premises at Moorfields, Wolver- hampton, Staffordshire, but new premises were secured in Pountney Street, Wolver- hampton, and later in Stewart Street.
Sharratt also formed a partnership with a Mr Parker and produced ‘Connaught’ bicycles from the Pountney Street premises. ‘Star’ high- wheelers were produced from c.1889-92. In 1883 the Star Cycle Co. (Sharratt and Lisle) Ltd was formed. The partnership was dissolved when Sharratt left to trade on his own account. Sharratt & Lisle was wound up in 1895 although machines continued to be advertised as Sharratt & Lisle until 1896 with the address as Stewart Street, Wolverhampton. In 1896 the Star Cycle Co. Ltd was formed by way of name change from the Star Cycle Co. (Sharratt and Lisle) Ltd and traded from the Stewart Street premises. Frame 10,317 was produced in 1895.
STAR CYCLE Co Ltd
Formed in 1896 with initial capital of £120,000 having previously been called Star Cycle Co. (Sharratt and Lisle) Ltd and trading as Sharratt and Lisle. The works were in Stewart Street, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. The company made some Pedersen machines under licence from the Dursley Pedersen Cycle Co. and sold them at £34 each. In the same year the Presto Gear Case Co. Ltd was formed by the Lisle family. This made bicycle chaincases which were easily opened and removed by withdrawing two screws. By 1897 the Star company employed some 400 workers and by 1898 production was running at 9-10,000 a year. In that year the chief machines built were the ‘Star’ path racer, ‘Star’ road racer, ‘Star’ light roadster, popular ‘Star’, single and double steering tandems, the lady’s ‘Star’, the lady’s popular ‘Star’ and youth’s ‘Star’. These are fitted with Dunlop, Clincher, Warwick, or Beeston tyres; saddles of standard make, and ‘Presto’ chaincases. It is known that the firm made machines for other firms in 1898 such as for Walton. W. W. King was the company secretary in 1898.
In 1899 production reached 10,000 cycles a year, and by 1904 Star was the largest Wolverhampton based cycle manufacturer. The top model was the ‘La Grande’, which had Roman aluminium rims, a Fagan two speed gear, a Hyde free wheel clutch, aluminium mud guards, was lined in burnished gold, and sold for 15 guineas. There was also a lady’s model for 16 guineas. At the time the cheapest machine sold for £6.15s.0d, and a juvenile machine was available for £5.
In 1905 four grades of ‘Star’ were offered. The highest grade was ‘La Grande Star’ at £15.15s. The machine was lined in burnished gold. The equipment included a ball-bearing free-wheel and also a two speed gear if desired. The brakes were now operated by a neat arrangement of revolving levers on the handlebar. The rear rim brake is also placed high up, and supported from the back forks, instead of from the chain stays. The Model A at £12 12s. possessed many of the features of its more expensive brother. An option was given of having a New Departure hub and a front-rim brake only in place of the usual two rim brakes, a choice which is also extended to purchasers of the ‘Star’ Model B; at £10 10s. The inverted lever brakes were retained on this machine, which was fitted with Dunlop tyres and Westwood plated rims. There was a further Model C at £8 8s. which weighed about 30lb., with a choice of tyres between Warwick’s and Clipper’s.
In 1905 a deep depression started in the bicycle trade. There was strong competition from German and American imports and sales were lost to the new motorcycle and car producers. Although sales improved a little over the next few years, Star decided to end cycle production in 1909 to concentrate on powered vehicles.
Frame number 35,000 would be approximately October 1897 (it seems that the numbering continued from Sharratt and Lisle).
Information and illustrations with thanks to Ray Miller’s Encyclopaedia (every home should have one!)