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Classic Lightweights UK
Classic Builders 
 

H M Dickinson Cycles

Jim Leach 
 
Dickinson builder 1 head transfer early
Harold Miles Dickinson launched H. M. Dickinson Cycles during 1934 at 112 Eden Street Liverpool, aged 29. Both he and his wife Doris were Life Members of the CTC and active riders who rode with the local Section each Sunday.

A successful business soon forced a move to a larger shop on the west side of Tunnel Road, although even this was quite compact when compared with competitors nearby.

Thanks to an old diary still held by Harold’s daughter Valerie Thomson, we know the exact date of this move. There is an entry on 27th February 1935 "took shop", then on 5th March "opened shop at 11 am". For a time it seems Eden Street was retained, possibly for storage or maybe initially as a fall back.

Harold had served as an apprentice at the Merseyside ship’s engineers Dunlop and Bell, but the 1920s depression hit hard and he had to find a living elsewhere. This included a number of basic unskilled jobs, but he continued to attend night school classes to hone his engineering skills. It was not only Harold who could sort things out though, wife Doris was in charge of the shop and daughter, Valerie, remembers that this included repairing punctures while her father concentrated on the workshop situated over the back of the premises. As in Eden Street, the family home was part of the same property. Attention to both the customer and technical detail resulted in appointment as CTC Official Repairer soon after opening at 184 Tunnel Road.

Dickinson builder 4 advert CTC
Advert from CTC magazine

Already famous for the quality of the wheels he built, Harold began to build lightweight frames sometime before WWII. A stock book dated January 1943 lists tools and materials used for that purpose, which would have been virtually impossible to buy by a ‘new builder’ after 1940. Regrettably no records have been found that give details of type or quantity built.

Dickinson builder 3 harold with tandem
Harold Dickinson, wife Doris and daughter Val on triplet, c.1948

Frame production was carried out in a variety of places within the confines of the property. As Valerie says;
“Originally, work was done in the attic at Tunnel Road, this was during the war years - I can remember standing on a chest and seeing the city centre, which was about 1½ miles away, in flames. I still have the chest! After the war dad worked in the air-raid shelter in the back yard, which was a smaller edition of the street shelters. I have no recollection of it being built, but when that happened I suppose I was only about two. He had the brazing hearth and, later on, welding equipment in there”.

After the war, Harold’s brother, John began working as frame builder in premises rented from wheelwrights T .F. Jack's & Son.

Dickinson Builder 2 John and tandem
John Dickinson, Else and Pat outside the shop c.1947

Valerie Thomson (neé Dickinson) still owns and rides the bike built for her in 1955, when she was eighteen.

Dickinson Cycles continued to trade in Tunnel Road until the early 1960's, when Harold and Doris closed up and went into semi-retirement at Manley in the Delamere Forest, near Frodsham, However they kept as busy as ever, Doris serving light refreshments (renowned for her home made apple pies) and Harold, carrying out light repairs in an adjacent wooden workshop. That kept them and the cycling fraternity happy, because it became an essential visiting place for clubs from an extensive area.

All good things come to an end; Harold died at Manley in 1987, aged 82 and Doris moved to Frodsham, later to Llangollen where she passed away in 2003, aged 94.

(Edited from a piece written by Jim Leach that first appeared in the V-CC magazine ‘News & Views’ in 2008)

From the advert above it can be seen that Harold Dickinson Cycles sold Saxon, Carlton, Armstrong and Elswick cycles as well as supplying their own lightweight frames built to customers specification.  They also undertook repairs and resprays as well as supplying the local bicycle polo clubs with equipment.  Many lightweight dealers in this era had another line to balance trade during the winter months, often it was radios and acumulator charging, sometimes toys as an addendum to the children's bikes.  Harold however sold gramophones and records so maybe these were another interest of his.

There is a fine example of a 1951 H M Dickinson in Readers' Bikes