William Campion was born in Nottingham in 1773 c.. In the early 1800’s he set up as a framesmith in Loughborough.

Brian is descended from his daughter Hannah but as with many of us he decided to flesh out his family story by looking sideways as well as backwards. This is how Brian came across the evolution of various Campion businesses. There is very little written about them and no company records have been deposited so he has had to go back to basics – the research is still not complete as he is still finding things out. Two of Hannah’s brothers were also framesmiths, William the elder moved to Sneinton in the 1840s and set up a business there as a framesmith, whilst George set up in business in Loughborough separately from his father.

William Campion was a very inventive person and was forever improving his machines and patenting these improvements. In 1858 George died and his eldest son, another William, moved to Sneinton to join with his uncle William. They are referred to as William Campion Snr and William Campion Jnr in Trade Directories.

They set up business on Woolpack Lane, as seen in a Trade Directory of 1860 – the first Trade Directory entry found – although they were already going by this date. The local Patent Office would often issue notices in the papers showing what had been agreed and warning about infringements. Their partnership continued for a couple of years then the London Gazette stated that the partnership between William Campion of North Street, Sneinton and William Campion of Campbell Grove Nottingham had been dissolved by mutual consent.

William Jnr then went on to form a partnership with Henry Johnson and they carried on making sewing and stitching machines for the hosiery trade, putting in patents etc and they occupied Hoyles factory on Woolpack Lane – possibly the same premises as used before.

William Snr meanwhile had formed a partnership with George Wilson in Sneinton and he too was patenting many improvements but he went bankrupt in 1864 and the contents of his factory were auctioned off.

Brian stated that he had much more information on William Snr but had to cut this to keep the talk within the timeframe. William Snr carried on being a framesmith and a prolific inventor even going to the States at some point putting in patents there. He returned to Nottingham and died there in 1899.

William Newton Wilson (known as Newton), was a brilliant business man who sold mechanical items in his shop at Holborn and is generally regarded as the pioneer of domestic sewing machines in Britain. He imported them from America but sold them as his own make. Needless to say the American patent owners were not too happy about this, so under threat of writs, Newton Wilson bought out William Jnr and Henry Johnson’s business in 1864, appointing William Jnr as Manager at the Hoyles factory where they made sewing machines for him. Initially these were blatant copies of patented American machines and as a result of writs etc the business folded and he filed for bankruptcy which meant the contents of Hoyles factory were auctioned off. Newton was soon back in business opening a place in Birmingham producing among other things bicycles and velocipedes as well as sewing machines. Some of the people who worked for Newton included James Singer who eventually went on to form his own company in Coventry and produced Singer motorcycles then Singer cars; William Hillman who also set up a business in Coventry making motorcycles which became Hillman cars and James Starley who set up a company in Birmingham and chose the brand name of Rover.

William Campion Jnr went to the 1867 World Exhibition in Paris showing his sewing machines and there he saw a velocipede which he was so impressed with he had one sent back to Nottingham. He asked his blacksmith to copy this, which he did and this was sold and then another and others. Despite this, William Jnr decided against continuing making velocipedes, but the blacksmith went off and started on his own – and his name was Thomas Humber. He went to Stretton Street where he started with velocipedes, eventually developing the Safety cycle. Humber then moved to larger premises in the Carrington Street/Queen’s Drive area then outgrew them, finally moving to Beeston, which were then expanded later on. William meanwhile went back to making sewing machines and industrial knitting machines, still submitting his patents which is how Brian located his various premises.



GB 2.477                             William  Campion

of the town and county of the town of Nottingham, Sewing Machine Manufacturer, for improvements in sewing machines.

Recorded in the Office of the Commissioners.

August 19, 1869


GB 2.927                 Newton WilsonWilliam Campion

of 144, High Holborn, in the county of Middlesex and William Campion, of the town and county of Nottingham, Sewing Machine Manufacturers, for improvements in sewing machines.

Recorded in the Office of the Commissioners.

October 8, 1869



William Snr. was involved in a couple of patents showing that the pair were still partly working together. Eventually William moved into Windley’s factory on Robin Hood Street and Roden Street. The Nottingham Guardian showed that in 1870 William Jnr sued a retailer in Liverpool. The retailer had purchased 500 machines and although he had received 100 he wanted the remainder upgraded at the same price which William was not prepared to do. They went to court and William won payment and damages but was then left with 400 machines labelled with this retailer’s name. This illustrated the quantity of machines that William was producing at this time. William patented a lock-stitch domestic machine which he called the Jenny Lind and this was one best-selling machines at the time, being sold through other retailers across the country priced 4 guineas. His knitting machines for the trade were also still being patented and produced, including some with his uncle William Snr. William Jnr was now living on Plantagenet Street but around 1876 he suddenly decided to sell up to a James Augustus Hine, the son of Thomas Chambers Hine. It appears that James was unable to continue the business as he had received several complaints about the reliability of the machines he was selling, so he took William Jnr to court to annul the original contract. This case was heard at the High Court in London and went on for some days, being reported in the Nottinghamshire Guardian. Within the details given it showed that Campion was not just making the hosiery machines but also had a section of his factory devoted to making the actual hose and he stated that this was being done for IR Morley. No report can be found for the outcome of this court action, but it would appear that William lost, because in 1878 his machines are being auctioned off. William also sold his domestic sewing machine business including all stock and patents to Gann Jones & Company. He had recently bought the Sir Colin Campbell public house at 11 Robin Hood Street situated virtually opposite where his factory had been and continued as a Licenced Victualler.

When William Jnr had originally come to Nottingham his younger brother Henry had also come along and they were living together on the 1861 census and he was also a framesmith but he too went into the pub trade. In 1877 he was awarded a licence and took the tenancy of the Hop Bloom Inn at 46 Blue Bell Hill. However, he appeared in court in 1882 for allowing drunkenness on the premises and his licence was suspended. In 1883/4 he was back at the Hop Bloom but went bankrupt in 1885. The paperwork showed that his brother had lent him £300 for this venture but that Henry had also paid his brother £180 for 2 years rent, showing that William owned the Hop Bloom as well as the Sir William Campbell. The London Gazette showing the bankruptcy stated that Henry was now lodging at Alderman Wood Inn, Charlotte Street. It so happened that this pub was run by another brother George Campion, who had also moved to Nottingham in 1858 working as a framesmith. George then took the tenancy of the Market Tavern on Longden Street off Bath Street, then to the Alderman Wood, then the White Lion on the corner of Alfred Street and Carlton Road finally moving to the White Lion in Bingham (the only one of these pubs still standing). George died in 1890 and was buried in Bingham churchyard and Henry too disappears from the story.

Back to 1882 and William Jnr tried to sell off the Sir Colin Campbell pub but it didn’t meet the reserve price. He left the pub and moved to No 36 Blue Bell Hill and his son Edwin William took over running the pub. It is noted that in 1887 there were 15 bicycle manufacturers in Nottingham, Humber being the most important at this time. They were bought out at this time and merged with cycle makers in Coventry and Wolverhampton. The continued popularity in cycles obviously stirred something in William, because in 1891 he applied for an unspecified patent for details to bicycles, eventually setting up a business manufacturing bicycles. In Wrights 1893 directory William Campion is listed as a cycle and turning off machine manufacturer with premises on London Road. In 1894 same manufacturer, same business address but home address is now the Sawyers Arms – yet another pub! The first adverts for Campions Cycles of the Byron Works, London Road appear March/April of 1893. By 1894 William had appointed Teddy Young as Manager.

In 1895 William Campion died. Later that year the company moved from London Road to more convenient premises on Roden Street – oddly enough where they were in 1869 making sewing machines. Campions opened a shop in 1896 at No 4 Carlton Street, having previously sold from the factory.

The company was by then known as EW Campion & Co. but through a couple of reconstructions became by 1897, The Campion Cycle Company Ltd, run by Edwin William Campion and Ernest Frederick Hutchinson.

By 1899 they had opened another shop, on Radford Road and were exhibiting at Trade Fairs in London as well as the annual one at the Albert Hall in Nottingham. They made cycles, trade tricycles and even tandems. A third shop was opened Edinburgh and over the next 10-15 years opened branches across the East Midlands –from Sheffield to Hinckley and Burton to Boston, as well as further shops in Nottingham, on Pelham Street and Wheeler Gate. Most cycle manufacturers sold through retailers, which Campions did also, but their business was built on this network of over 20 shops. As manufacturing processes improved, the price of cycles came down, with a basic new cycle now available at less than £6. The vast majority of the smaller cycle manufacturers in Nottingham eventually folded or were bought out by Raleigh, but Campions continued to prosper.

Around 1901 they also moved into the manufacture of motor cycles, building the frames and using third party engines and gearboxes. Campions were the largest motor cycle manufacturer in Nottingham, producing Forecars, sidecars and race winning machines.

By 1911 Edwin William has moved to Mapperley Hall Drive. He has put a manager into the Sir Colin Campbell pub and his sons are following in the family footsteps. The eldest son Charles William was shown as a motor engineer, Henry Edwin was a surgical hosiery manufacturer and George Frederick was a Cycle Depot Manager. Campions did look at going into car manufacturing even making a prototype, but the war intervened. During the war the factory made aircraft parts and afterwards returned to making cycles and motorcycles. Henry Edwin managed the surgical hosiery business Woodhead & Saxton in partnership with his Father,.

He died in 1929 and although Brian is not aware of any further Campion involvement the company Woodhead & Saxton is still in existence at Basford.

Most of the Campion shops were owned in partnership between two directors, Edwin William Campion and Ernest Hutchinson but in 1922 the partnership was dissolved and the shops were split. The shops in Grantham, Hinckley, Loughborough, Ilkeston and Worksop went to Edwin William the remainder were with Ernest Hutchinson. It is probable that at this time Edwin William actually left Campions. Certainly in 1922 Edwin’s sons Charles William and Alfred Herbert formed Campion Brothers based at Bathley Street in the Meadows, listed as Cycle Manufacturers.

About 1925 EW Campion & Sons was formed comprising Edwin William, Charles William and Alfred Herbert also based at Bathley Street and also making cycles.

The original Campion business ceased making motorcycles around 1926 and the whole company eventually disappeared in 1927 taken over by Curry’s. Curry’s had been founded in Leicestershire as a cycle manufacturer in the 1870’s. All their equipment was sold off by Curry’s as manufacturing then moved to Birmingham. Curry’s continued to sell Campion branded cycles, though 1927-29 adverts showed that E.W. Campion and sons cycles were still being sold around Nottingham being manufactured at Bathley Street.

Edwin William finally sold off the Sir Colin Campbell pub in 1929, to concentrate on his retail business having just opened a shop on Station Street This pub was infamous for having stuffed animals around the walls and hanging from the ceiling, which were sold separately to the Nottingham Natural History museum so could still be in the collection at Wollaton Hall. Edwin William’s company went from strength to strength selling motor bikes, cars and commercial vehicles, expanding on the branches he took when Campions shops were split and opening larger premises in Leicester, Grantham and Lincoln. At the Leicester premises they even built Fire Engines.

E W Campion & Sons had also started a bus company around 1933 running a service from Ruddington to Nottingham in conjunction with another company, Squires. This only lasted 2 years before being bought out by Bartons.

In 1935 Charles William retired from both Campion Brothers and EW Campion & Sons - oddly enough the two companies had existed side by side, Both companies then continued separately, Alfred running the former and being a partner with his father, Edwin, in the latter. Edwin William Campion had moved to Wymeswold Hall in 1921, before returning back to West Bridgford living at 55 Melton Road where he died in 1939.

George Frederick Campion had a separate shop on Burton Street, Nottingham mainly selling cars. He moved out of this business after the war to concentrate on his hobby of archaeology. He became an important member of The Thoroton Society and is regarded as the first man to map Nottingham’s extensive cave systems.

George died in 1955.

E W Campion and Sons continued to be run by Alfred Herbert along with Charles’s son Richard. Charles, of course no longer in the business, died in 1955.

Alfred died a year later but E.W. Campion & sons continued well into the 1960s run by Edwin William’s grandsons.

Campions were a major national company in domestic sewing machines, were the third biggest cycle manufacturers in Nottingham and also the biggest motor cycle manufacturers in Nottingham, over and above Raleigh

Thomas Humber and his early years in Nottingham

Thomas Humber

The Paul Nix Collection

By Joseph Earp

Thomas Humber was born on 16th October 1841. From the time Humber founded his factory at Beeston in 1869 to the time the company was sold in 1896, Humber established himself as the first maker of series production cars in England.

The young Thomas moved to Nottingham from Yorkshire in 1849 with his parents Samuel Humber and his wife Lucy, nee Turton. Thomas was to experience Nottingham’s Industrial life very young and was taken into the employ of a Mr Cross of Mortimer Street, Nottingham. He was not formerly apprenticed to Mr Cross’s trade of wheelwright and blacksmith but ‘picked it up’ well enough for his workmates and his foreman to notice his skill at forging parts for lace-making machinery.

After a year with Cross, Humber moved to join Bitterly Iron Co, and here, his exceptional skills and talent came to be noticed. Despite his success and the entreaties of his employer for him to stay, Humber wanted to broaden his experience and knowledge. The following years found him moving from employer to employer and learning his trade.

Prior to setting up on his own business, Humber was employed as ‘chief-blacksmith’ in the factory of William Campion on Roden Street in Nottingham. It was while working for Campion that Humber was inspired to go into bicycle making. In 1867, Campion visited Paris to exhibit the line of chain-stitch domestic sewing machines his company manufactured. While in Paris Campion saw and purchased a French velocipedes of Michaux type. This, he brought back to Nottingham and asked Thomas Humber to make six sets of copy forgings. At this date, the system where the pedals acted directly on the front wheel was a break through. Humber, however, was to improve this design and in 1868 created a safety bicycle whereby the pedals drove the rear wheel.

Humber now set up in business for himself, producing bicycles in a shed at the back of his house on Northumberland St. in Nottingham. Such was the high demand for Humber’s break through design he was forced to move to bigger premises on Stretton St, Nottingham. Here, Humber produced his ‘Spider Bicycle’ an early form of the ‘ordinary bicycle’ (penny farthing).

By the 1870’s Humber formed partnership with Frederick Cooper and Thomas Rushworth Marriott. The triumvirate proved to be a powerful combination with Humber continuing to devote his attention to design and production.

The now famous Humber works in Beeston was built in 1880. By 1892 Thomas Humber was employing 1200 people and when he branched into motor car production this rose to 1800. By this time the businesses were locating to other factories outside of Nottingham in Wolverhampton and Coventry. The Beeston Factory products however were synonymous with the highest quality.

By the time Humber died in 1910 of Cancer his work and legacy were revolutionary in influencing future motor and cycle companies. Even though Humber was not born in Nottingham it is his early working career in Nottingham industries that influenced the great man. From early years of small production in his shed at the bottom of his garden to becoming one of the largest motor and bicycle firms in Britain.

Article written by Joe Earp and Iris Tansley

The New Nottingham Hidden History Team

William Campion 1862 - pre 1876

Factory: Aberdeen Street, off Carlton Road, Nottingham.

Retail: A. Slater & Co. Wormwood Street, London. 

Machines Made:

Jenny Lind 1870 1871 (Design Registered 10th March 1870)



William Campion & Henry Johnson 1859 - Pre 1864

Factory: Hoyles' Factory, Woolpack Lane, Nottingham. 

Patent: 2nd September 1861 

Machines Made: Unknown but had links with Newton Wilson