Lunch Break in 1896
My colleague Andrew has been busy the last two weeks finding information and photographs for a television programme about the history of the British bicycle manufacturing industry.
For me the downside of all Andrew’s hard work was a less than thrilling hour scanning photographs of the interiors of various Coventry bicycle firms but one photograph of workers outside the Coventry Machinists Company really caught my eye.
The photograph is from Commerce February 26, 1896 just one of several cycling journals in the History Centre Cycling Collection.
Originally manufacturers of sewing machines, the Coventry Machinists Company was one of the most advanced bicycle manufacturers in the country. At their Cheylesmore works off Little Park Street over 10,000 people were employed. By 1896 up to 600 Swift bicycles and tricycles were produced every week and dispatched all over the world. The company had sales offices in Holborn, London and in Paris and supplied specially designed bicycles for the British Army.
The age of the boys at the front of the photograph is really striking. Some may have been as young as 11 (the school leaving age 1893-1899). There are no women on the photograph as their lunch was likely to have been in a separate part of the factory to the men but many were employed by the company for light production work and for the lacing-up of dress guards of ladies’ bicycles.