I wonder if any CR Listers ever smugly seal a winning deal at a bike jum ble, like getting a rare RH for $25, and then sidle off to the exit, w ith the frame dangling,held by two fingers from the top-tube, , so th at all the other jumblers cannot help but see just what an ace deal-sealer and lucky-punter you are?
Well...a couple of months ago..just a few days before I set off on anoth er marathon holiday in France..I did just that! Got myself the deal of the decade..and felt pretty good and smug about myself as I coasted across the car park towards my ever-faithful Citroen, gently swinging from my right-ha nd fingers, so that the exotic paintwork would catch the sun's rays and the reby give added value to the master bargain that was the Bill-Hurlow- built Hobbs of Barbicon for which I had paid out very very little money...b ut exactly what the seller asked! And he thought he'd got the bargain of th e day!
What's that I hear you say? Bill Hurlow never built for Hobbs of Barbico n! Well read on!
The frame is an absolute beauty..and it's a 24" one at that. Beautifully hand-cut cast lugs, an incredibly exotic paint job, double-box lining, a u nique..possibly..twin-plate fork crown, Super Champion front and rear drop- outs..and the head-lugs are painted chrome yellow, just like Peugeot did wi th their PX1O in the 1950s...and all is original and in good fettle.
The seller told me that he had bought the frame from the daughter of the original owner who had ordered it from Hobbs in the late 30s, with lugs cu t and the frame built by Bill Hurlow. Apart from the Super Champion dr op-outs the frame shows slightly scratching on the down-tube and the r/h ch ain-stay where an "osgear" type gear has been fitted ie quadrant style leve r, underslung tension arm, and striking fork respectively. From this spec a ll would seem to be in order for a late 30s frame..as the seller explained. I had spotted the yellow-painted Hurlow intricately cut lugs from the othe r side of the room..and the seller concurred with my designation of the lug -cutter.
Before leaving for France I had no time to inspect the frame..but since returning home this weekend I have pored over it..and Googled..and consulte d the CR archives and home page ad nauseam...and the more I consulted, the more confused I became. Nothing I found on those sites convinced me...so I remain more..and very confused. So I have been attempting since, to re write the history of frame-building, 1930s/40s era, as witnessed in London.
First of all it appears that Bill Hurlow started his career with Fred Gr ubb in or around 1935 at the age of 14./15.and left not two years later to join Claud Butler..followed by short periods here and there including at Gi llott's and Paris, in the later years, but there is no trace of him stoppin g at Hobbs' long enough even to build this one single frame.
As for Hobbs of Barbicon..they started in the Barbicon area of London an d then later went out to Dagenham...but at all times the frames were "Hobbs of Barbicon"
Now..if Bill actually built my frame, and assuming it was a 1939 one..th en he would have been about 19 years old..old enough to put together a decent enough frame...and to have learnt how to drill and fret fancy lugs . So far so good..or almost.
Now this Hobbs frame of mine is just that...a Hobbs..with none of this " of Barbicon" fancy stuff. But the headbadge is almost identical to the head badges/transfers that Hobbs of Barbicon used, but instead of giving an addr ess at either the Barbicon, London or Dagenham...it states HOBBS.."Spe cialists Frame Design", 619 Romford Rd, London E12. The "HOBBS" transfer on the down-tube is not in copper-plate script but in block letters, hand-pai nted on.in chrome yellow paint ..just on the L/H side of the tube. It is ob viously original and not super-imposed at a later date because the red and yellow double-box lining runs from the D/T head lug down the tube to the "H OBBS.".and then stops..and then restarts after the HOBBS finishes. The Reyn olds tubing transfer states simply "REYNOLDS 531 BUTTED TUBING".
So far we think we know that Bill Hurlow never worked for Hobbs..and it appears that we might know that Hobbs of Barbicon never had a shop or works hop in Romford Road..nor did the company ever trade as anything other than "Hobbs of Barbicon"..well not towards the end of the 30s for certain.
SO..did Bill Hurlow work on the side for a company called "HOBBS" who op enly plagiarised their namesake's head-tube transfers..or is this all smoke and mirrors..?
Answers on a postcard please..or better still by email..and a bottle of 2006 Sancerre sauvignon blanc "Chateau de Thauvenay" (eat your heart out yo u other wine-producers) will be sent to the first Lister providing the corr ect answer.
Do I know the correct explanation? Now that is a leading question..but I think that I am 50% of the way there..and the answer is not that it's a su perb replica built by Brian Bayliss..although the exotic paint job is almos t..but not quite... up to Brian's high standards.
To assist you in your cogitating, I hope to put pictures on the Flickr s ite ASAP.
Norris Lockley, Settle UK
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