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The Raleigh Record Ace Chainset


There are some conflicting views of the manufacture of this gorgeous component which is unique to the post War Raleigh Record Ace

David Rodd published a fantastic article in the “Boneshaker” magazine of the Veteran Cycle Club in the Summer of 2014 which details the history of this component, and as a result of some meticulous research by David concludes that its manufacture was by Walton and Brown.

Having spoken to David I have reproduced this article word for word:

Patent 577887 and the Raleigh Record Ace Chainset by David Rodd (For details of this patent please click HERE)

Some time ago, somebody, somewhere, posed the question: ‘Who made the RRA chainset? Was it Chater Lea?’ My immediate thought on reading this was: ‘I can’t see Raleigh paying Chater Lea prices, and anyway, the resemblance is too slight.’ I then filed the query in my mind, although unfortunately failed to note its origin.

This must have been around ten years ago, because at that time I purchased on ebay a Cycling Manual dated 1948. In the adverts section was one for Walton and Brown, featuring a right-hand crank and chainwheel (Fig.1). The crank was chamfered on the edges, very much in the style of the RRA crank, and it occurred to me that Walton and Brown may well have been the manufacturer of the RRA chainset, but how could it be proved?

WB advert

Above: Figure 1

Some years later, an unused chainring with an unusual pattern was offered on ebay, not the usual circle (Williams C34, Chater Lea etc), nor the triangle (Williams C45), nor the Continental pattern of two short arms meeting at each fixing point (Simplex, Gnutti etc). In fact, this looked something like a letter ‘H’ (Fig. 2). I purchased this ring, thinking that it would fit my Williams C1200 crank, as the dimensions appeared to be the same, and placed it into ‘stock’. The ‘H’ ring bears a patent number, 577887, (Fig. 3) but no manufacturer’s name. I did some research on the internet and established that this patent, dated 1946, referred to a new method of making a pressed chainwheel. However, I was unable at that time to establish who made the patent application. It seemed probable that the ‘H’ related to Hercules.
RRA Chainset Figure 2
Above: Figure 2
RRA Chainset Figure 3
Above: Figure 3
Some while after that, I inherited a pair of Williams C1200 cranks (with chainring), nicely re-chromed but no longer bearing the Williams marks, said to have been formerly the property of Pete Salisbury, the shoemaker. Again, these cranks were placed into stock against the day when I needed a pair of steel cottered 6¾″ cranks.

More recently, I wanted to use these cranks, and removed the Williams ring to fit one more to my requirements. It did not fit, but I had removed a Williams ring, so why not? Close examination showed that the ring in question had been adapted to fit the crank, which in all other respects appeared to be identical to the C1200. I assumed it must be a Continental make, and that there was a difference between the metric-sized rings and the English equivalent. In this assumption I now find I was wrong. Both are 116mm BCD. Anyway, the crank length was definitely 6¾″, not 170mm. However, I then tried the ‘H’ ring on a Chater Lea crank, but they did not marry up. I knew that Chater Lea and Williams C1200 rings are interchangeable, so what have I got here? Lo and behold, this ring fits the spurious C1200!

Within the last few weeks I have purchased another chainring on ebay from Peter Paine. This also bears the patent number 577887 (See original patent document here), but instead of an ‘H’ pattern, this is almost a triangle, except that the bars do not look quite straight (Fig. 4). In fact, the central triangle resembles a shield, and it seemed to me that this might be from a James, although Peter could not say with certainty (Fig. 5). He thought it might be made by Brampton.
RRA Chainset Figure 5
Above: Figure 4
RRA Chainset Figure 6
Above: Figure 5

Thanks to the assistance of the British Library I have been able now to establish that patent 577887 was granted to Walton & Brown Ltd, and Frank Randells. The patent refers to the making of pressed steel chainrings in such a manner as to produce a sharp flange below the teeth, as opposed to the more rounded flange of earlier and cheaper rings. This is achieved by stamping a groove on the rear side of the ring immediately below the teeth. In adverts, this is referred to as ‘coined’.

The final proof in relation to the RRA chainset is that the Raleigh chainring also bears patent no: 577887 (Figs. 6 & 7). I think that this definitely proves that the RRA chainset was made by Walton & Brown, which became a TI company in 1950 and that Walton & Brown were also supplying quality chainsets to Hercules and James. Hercules had been bought by TI in 1946, but James remained independent until 1951 when the company was sold to AMC, the cycle division eventually joining the TI group in 1954.
RRA Chainset Figure 8
Above: Figure 6

RRA Chainset Figure 7
Above: Figure 7
Examination of many stock chainsets will show that Nicklin were a major supplier of these to many of the big manufacturers, including Raleigh. So it is interesting to speculate the reason for the switch to Walton & Brown. Was it the invention of patent 577887? From the offside, these rings are indistinguishable from the forged products of Williams and Chater Lea and would therefore be attractive to the prospective clubman purchaser of the featured machines. The Walton & Brown catalogue listed on the V-CC library website shows that they also made frame parts such as the type of bridges between chain- and seat- stays used on the RRA, and the Raleigh-pattern fork crown in two widths, standard and narrow. So it seems as though there were commercial links between the firms.

It would be interesting also to know what other firms used Walton & Brown’s patent chainring. Clearly, they were able to adapt the pattern of the ring to different companies’ logos. Has anyone come across any other makers using the patent chainring?

Finally, I did some research for Walton & Brown on the internet, and came across an article relating to Phillips (http://www.icenicam.ukfsn.org/articles1/art0021.html if you wish to follow this up). This mentions that in 1959 Hercules and James, by now part of British Cycle Corporation, had moved to the recently vacated Brampton works in Downing Street, Handsworth. The chainring had turned full circle!

Incidentally, the Downing Street works appear to be occupied by Brooks saddles these days!

Footnote February 2016:

David has some further information to add to the above:

“As I re-read my article, I find that my knowledge has increased since the time I wrote it. I have put that Walton & Brown were a subsidiary of Bramptons. In fact, I now know that Brampton Bros was originally acquired by Renolds chains early 20th Century. In 1937 there was an announcement that Renolds, by now part of TI had disposed of the Bramptons interests except chains. The pedals went to Phillips, and the chainsets and frame parts went to Walton & Brown. So it’s more a case that Bramptons were a subsidiary of Walton and Brown”