Classic Lightweights UK
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J A (Jack) Holland

With material from Jack's daughter Joy and his wife Edith, edited by Peter Underwood

My father was always known as ‘Jack’ to all his customers.

Jack Holland at the turn in a 1939 time trial

The firm was started by my grandfather, W. Holland.  At first, it was situated at 122 Old Meeting St. (*see note at bottom of page), then some time before WWII, they moved to 106.  My father had an elder brother, also William, who was killed in the war, and a younger sister, now also deceased.

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Artwork done by H E Peace for W Holland's pre-war head transfer.
The 'Renovated by' section was removed for frames built on the premises
Image on left shows 'block' copyright statement used by H E Peace
After being demobbed, my father returned to the business and carried it out until the property, and those surrounding it, were compulsorily purchased for demolition to make way for road improvements.  This was in the mid 60s. Previous to this, my father was having difficulties carrying on because the firm supplying the tubes (I think it was TI) began a policy of only supplying very large amounts for any order, which was impossible to accept.  This would mean the end for small businesses and craftsmen like my father.

In the shop he had a special board against which a customer would stand to have exact measurements taken for the best proportion of the frame to give the most efficient ratio for speed. Nearly all the racing bikes were made to order as ‘one-offs’.

I remember some details about my father’s workshops and the kind of processes he carried out there.  He began with the bare tubing, and made the frames completely.  He did the brazing and welding himself.  He had an area with two large tanks into which the complete frames were lowered.   My mother says that one of them was used to clean completely a frame before it was enamelled, removing things like greasy finger marks etc, which would have prevented the enamel from adhering properly.  She also reminded me of the two ovens which my father constructed, to be used for the stove enamelling processes.

 The hangers to suspend the frames were made from old spokes which he bent into hooks (‘waste not, want not’ could nave been his main byword).  The enamel finishing was done in another part of the workshop. He had a spray gun for this. Lug lining and transfer fixing were done by hand.
A big treat for me in the school holidays was to go with him in the van to the ‘shot blasters’ or the ‘chromium platers’.  These small firms were situated in Birmingham, but I don’t know exactly where.  Old Birmingham was full of small places with their own specialities like this.
The noise of a hacksaw cutting through a tube, with the sound of the note it produces gradually falling in pitch instantly, returns me to childhood when I watched and heard this process happening so often.

Jack Holland's  National Clarion Cycling Club pin-on badge

The photograph of a Jack Holland in Readers' Bikes on your website is beautiful, but I think that originally most of these special machines would have more delicate and detailed enamelling.  Usually there was a base coat of one colour, and then my father made a contrast with another colour by skilled work with the spray gun.  He would make one colour gradually fade into another, an effect which I have not seen elsewhere (the owner of this bike describes it as originally having such a finish). He was very skilled at this. He had a colour chart sprayed on to an old fork, and would also do special requests from the customer, who did not want his machine to look the same as anyone else’s.  Plenty of time was taken over this aspect of an order.

My father did all the finishing by hand, lining the lugs with a very fine paint brush. This was a job he did in the evenings when the shop and workshops were closed. In the winter he would do this in the living room, giving the excuse that the paint must be kept warm in order to have a place by the fire. Another job done in the evenings was ‘trueing wheels’.
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Jack Holland's transfers produced by Eagle Universal

A popular choice for roadsters was ‘gunmetal’, although these were not usually given the same fancy treatment as the lightweights.

'Knockin Bags'  were made as a sideline in our shop, by my mother and me.  She had a sewing machine and made up bags in strong canvas.  The bags had a long canvas strap and it was carefully measured so that the bag did not go low enough to interfere with the rider's control of the cycle.  The contents were employed when the cyclist had a knocking sensation from his stomach. I was allowed to help in the cutting out and easy sewing parts. These were also known as Musettes which is, of course, French for bagpipes. I guess the bag was called this after the shape.

Mrs Edith Holland remembers that the frame numbering was under the bottom bracket and consisted of the month, followed by the year and then the frame number, e.g. 3 56 1234 would be frame no. 1234 completed in March 1956.   Robin Walker has Holland frame no. 25717.   So it dates Feb 1957, the 17th one built that year.

I will try to remember the names of some of the customers, who always came into the house for a cup of tea and a chat.

Frank Beeson, taken on 22.8.48.  I remember him well as he worked for my father for several years.
He belonged to Dartmouth  Cycling Club of West Bromwich  This would have been one of my father’s machines
and is fitted with an Osgear
The reason there is (was) a Dartmouth C C in West Bromwich is because a large piece of land there belonged to the Earl of Dartmouth,
 and some of it was given as a public open space, being known as Dartmouth Park.  The main town square was Dartmouth Square.

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West Bromwich Wheelers Club team at Donington Park in 1938.
 From L. to R.  they are:-  Frank Rose, Dennis Hughes, Stan Clark and Jack Holland
This picture is unusual in that it depicts road racing instead of the ubiqitous time trialling which was
prevalent at the time.  Donington Park would have been a 'closed' circuit.

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Jack Holland's silver medal from the West Bromwich Wheelers 1937 100-mile Time Trial in a time of 5h 17m 33s

Jack is only known to have built one tandem frame, and this was for his own use with his wife Edith as stoker when used for holidays and touring.  He also raced it from time to time but neither his wife nor daughter can remember the name of the rider who paired up with him for these events.

The Jack Holland built tandem during a tour with his wife Edith, shown here
steadying the machine from the stoker's 'cockpit'

Edith's turn with the camera to show Jack ready for action

Below are images of J A Holland riders which were displayed in the shop


D Waldron, Dartmouth CC on his Jack Holland road bike with Major Taylor stem


E Bridgewater, Rover RCC competing in a hill climb using fixed on his close clearance Jack Holland track 'iron' with sprints


This image is believed to be Jack Holland on his road bike with sprints (spare tubs on rear of saddle).
The gear is Osgear or Cyclo but with modified pulley on tension arm, front hub is Harden 'Bacon Slicer'

Midland C&AC Club member John Bishop has two Hollands that he purchased around the late 50s. His track frame is 2583,
 he also has a road frame 2537. Above is a photograph of him racing his road frame 2537 in a Midland C&AC time trial.

A younger rider on his Jack Holland machine with gears
Name not known

Believed to be Frank Beeson again with his Osgear

Another unknown rider, this time on fixed-wheel Holland machine, so no doubt in a time trial.
He had deep-drop bars on a Major Taylor adjustable stem

This picture has a tiny label photographed with it (why upside down, I don’t know).
  It says ‘National Championship 25 m. Course Castle Bromwich, 6th June 1945. Won by C. Cartwright'

* The origin of the name 'Old Meeting Street' is interesting. It dates back to the 1660s when an independent Congregational chapel was founded there. At first, meetings were held in a barn, but eventually enough funds were raised to build a chapel, which became known as the Old Meeting place. When the road became a more important thoroughfare, it was named after this chapel, i.e. Old Meeting St.  My father (Jack Holland) and mother both sang in the choir there and I went to the Sunday school. I also sang in the choir later.