On Friday, as Sturmey Archer chased orders from their big stand at IFMA Köln, the 300 workers in Nottingham were summoned to a midday meeting, told the company was closing and were given ten minutes to leave

Insolvent Sturmey Archer closes

[Uploaded to BikeBiz.co.uk on 17th September]

A skeleton staff is working this week to complete existing orders but no new ones will be taken until a buyer has been found for the 99-year old Nottingham company. Sturmey Archer produces sintered steel products for the automotive industry as well as the world-famous AW 3-speed Wide Ratio Gear first introduced in 1936.

Sturmey Archer was bought from the Derby Corporation (US owners of Raleigh) at the beginning of July for a reported £3m. The buyers Lenark Ltd. of London acquired the assets and goodwill but did not acquire Sturmeys Triumph Road site.

This site, and the rest of shrunken Raleigh empire on Triumph Road, was sold by Derby to the University of Nottingham for a student housing development.

The Nottingham half of Sturmey Archer was said to be relocating but the Birmingham half which makes Brooks saddles – stayed put.

According to Sturmey Archer MD Colin Bateman the closure was not because of a lack of sales or no profits but due to Lenark not finding new premises for the company. A relocation to either of the Nottingham suburbs Basford and Calverton was talked about but never realised.

At the time of the sale to Lenark a new and exciting and different product was promised by Sturmey Archer. This, and the 98-year history of the company, will likely be snapped up cheap by a new buyer. Sturmey Archer and Brooks are strong brands and the receivers (Smith & Williamson) should be able to sell them on quite easily.

However the fate of the 300 workers is less clear. Many were long standing employees of the company and have been left shocked by the news. There were no warnings such as three-day weeks or lay-offs.

Staff were told the closure was to take effect immediately.

Bateman, MD for nearly 18 months, said: "This is a sad day for bicycle manufacturing in Nottingham, not to mention for all the staff that work here. We feel very let down. It is a devastating blow."

Sturmey Archer had a long association with Raleigh and in fact the company was created at the turn of the century by Raleighs then owner and virtual founding father Frank Bowden.

In 1902 Bowden set up the Three-Speed Syndicate Ltd. to capitalise on an idea patented by James Archer (but in fact the work of William Reilly) and then copied 11 days later by schoolmaster Henry Sturmey. Bowden, Sturmey, Archer and Reilly were the companys first directors. Raleigh and Sturmey-Archer Ltd as the company was lated called, won worldwide acclaim for the new three-speed gears and the rest, as they say, is history.

Brooks is an even more historical name. It was founded in 1870 by John Boultbee Brooks (1846-1921) to produce leather saddles for the new safety bicycles. Brooks was the first company to patent a sprung leather saddle. By 1955 the company had a workforce of 15,000, and sold 55,000 leather saddles and 25,000 mattress saddles a week.

Raleigh bought the saddle division of Brooks Industries Limited in 1958. Raleigh itself was taken over in 1960 by th British Tube Investments Group (TI), which then transferred Brooks and Sturmey-Archer first to its automotive and then to its bicycle division.

In 1962 Brooks moved to the Downing Street Works, Smethwick, Birmingham, to be combined with the Wright Saddle Company, then part of T.I., to form the Raleigh Saddle Division.

In 1987, Raleigh, Brooks and Sturmey Archer were taken over by the US Derby International Group.

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