Charles Waine, son of Wearwell’s production Director and later Chairman Vincent Waine, has recently finished compiling a book that documents the history of the Wearwell Cycle Company as well as the other businesses once owned by the Waine family. Ahead of its launch we spoke to Charles to discover what he remember of the Wearwell business growing up.
“The things I remember most distinctly are Wearwell’s modern final assembly line which was state of the art back in the day, but there are also things like the smell of fresh paint wafting through the factory and the image of my father in his office opening letters from all over the world.”
And letters really did come in from all over the world back in the middle of the 20th century. Wearwell not only was extremely successful in the domestic UK market but also as far afield as India, Burma and America.
As the son of a cycle company owner, it was no surprise that Charles was given first pick of many of the different designs of bike that came out of the Wolverhampton-based Headquarters.
“Essentially I was loaned cycles as they went back to the factory as I grew out of them. My first was a red tricycle from the top end of the range. Next was a pedal car which was a deluxe prototype and the envy of all the kids and too expensive to go into production. I must have had a small cycle of some sort before I got a boys Juvenile with a Sturmley-Archer 3 speed – which despite looking great - was not much fun to ride. Then I got lucky, on the way back from a show one of the just introduced 'Tour of Britain' models suffered some mishap and was passed to me. It was a revelation with its 10 speed cyclo gears and went like a rocket.”
The “Tour of Britain” was of course the model of bicycle used by the Wearwell Racing Team throughout the season, and it took its name after the event which the team saw their greatest success. Waine remembers Wearwell’s presence on the national race circuit fondly,
“I was at Llandudno for one of the Tour of Britain stages, but alas the team did not win that stage. I was also present for other local events such as the hill climb up Wenlock Edge. I used to see members at the works occasionally and I recall the Wearwell team captain Les Scales coming out to fix my bike. It was the Tour of Britan model. He took it for a test run up the A41 to Newport and back and was almost as quick as I could do it in my first car!”
Waine, a research scientist and professional technical author by profession has printed several books himself and explains more about how he began his career in publishing.
“When my University contract ended I set up Waine Research initially doing technical illustrations, then into publishing and finally into printing as I could buy a press for less than it would cost to print my first book which was to be in colour. I then concentrated on producing further specialist books, mostly on ships.” And how did he come to write the book about Wearwell? “A sprained ankle meant I was housebound with the time to go through father’s papers and grandfather’s diaries and it was in those that I uncovered a wealth of information about the history of Wearwell and its sister companies such as Vulcan.”
The diaries also contained some closely guarded secrets that would certainly have raised a few eyebrows within the industry at the time had they been discovered.
“Perhaps the most interesting was the fact that Wearwell made many frames for the nearby Viking bicycle company who also competed against us in the Tour of Britain!”
The book is available from Wearwell (click here) or Mogul Diamonds bookshop, Albrighton as well as through independent booksellers.