1852 Bradbury & Company Ltd. of Oldham was the first company in Europe to manufacture sewing machines. Production began in 1852 at The Wellington Works and by 1887 the firm's annual output was between 26,000 and 30,000 units. They also produced machine tools, bicycles and motorcycles as well as prams and children's toys.


1874 Bradbury and Co was established on 5 May, to acquire the business of sewing-machine makers of the firm of the same name, and the business has since been extended to cycle and tool manufacturing. [1]


By 1890 around 600 factory staff were employed with a further 800 at 60 depots.


By 1898 Bradburys had produced it's first motorcycle and, although sewing machines continued to be the firm's main product, a vigorous and sustained effort was made to enter the automotive industry after 1900. As well as motorcycles, a prototype motor car was developed but for some reason it did not go into production.


In 1903 Bradbury were making large turret lathes.

At the end of 1905, when the company employed around 1,500 workers, a range of motorcycles was available.




By 1914 Bradbury's were reducing their reliance on the sewing machine market through diversification and had achieved some success in the motor industry. The firm was experienced in mass production techniques and was probably set to realise the fruits of previous years development of motorcycles and quite possibly cars as well.

1913-1917  A list of the models and prices of motorcycles from the 1917 Red Book
1913-1917 A list of the models and prices of motorcycles from the 1917 Red Book





WWI During the war Bradbury & Company Ltd. supplied motorcycles and bicycles to the British forces. They probably also supplied machine tools to munitions factories and in all likelihood produced munitions themselves. After the war the company reintroduced it's range of sewing machines and other products .

By the end of 1923 they experiencing financial problems and it is believed that all production ceased around this time.



1924 Bradbury ceased all production in 1924, at the lowest point of the post-war slump. In the sewing machine market they were in competition with the Jones Co of Audenshaw as well as the Scottish subsidiary of the American firm Singer.


1929 May. Bradbury & Co. Ltd. was officially dissolved




Bradbury and Co: Motorcycles



They produced motorcycles from 1901 to 1924 and introduced one of the earliest forms of variable gearing, using manually adjustable pulleys.


1901 The firm started out by hanging a Minerva engine from the down tube of a standard bicycle ( Minerva was a Belgian motor car producer in Antwerp but supplied engines to the early Motorcycle producers ).


1902 Late that year they produced machines built to the Birch design.

Bradbury New Model Cycle. BIRCH Patent
Bradbury New Model Cycle. BIRCH Patent

Birch were motorcycles produced from 1902 to 1904 by Birch and Co. . Founder was John North Birch. In 1890 Birch started as cycle maker, Birch and Walker, at Windmill Lane, Coventry before moving to Priory Mills, Coventry the following year. He later separated from the family business and set up in Nuneaton to make the George Eliot motorcycle . Produced the George Eliot motorcycle, named after his father George Eliot Birch. Machines were built to his design with the crankcase cast around the frame tubes. In every other respect the machine was a typical primitive of the period. It was a very basic motorcycle, which had the crankcase and bottom bracket as part of the main frame. The engines were manufactured in several sizes: 2hp, 2.5hp and 3.5hp. The design was also built under licence , by Bradbury & Co. 1903 Sold the design to Bradbury and Co.1905 Birch emigrated to New Zealand

November 1902
November 1902



This had the crankcase cast around two of the main frame tubes. In other respects they were similar to the new Werner design and were fairly primitive. The principal model, listed as the Peerless ( Peerless were motorcycles produced in Oldham, Lancashire, from 1902 to 1905.Some of the early Bradbury and Co. machines were sold under this name ), had a 2.5 hp engine. A lightweight was also listed and this had a Clement-Gerrard engine inclined above the frame down tube. It drove a counter-shaft which was mounted ahead of the bottom bracket, it then went to the rear wheel and both drives were by chain. Other than that it was no more than a heavy-duty bicycle.

The 26th Stanley Cycle Club Show held at the Agricultural Hall in November 1902.
The 26th Stanley Cycle Club Show held at the Agricultural Hall in November 1902.

Bradbury and Co, Oldham, have in their new motor-bicycle struck out on somewhat new lines. The engine is placed vertically, and the case of the engine is a malleable casting in which the whole of the lugs and the crank bracket shell are included. Consequently the crank case of the engine can, without any fear of fracture, be used as part and parcel of the frame. The pulley side of the crank case is an aluminium plate. The cylinder dimensions are 66mm. bore by 76mm. stroke. The cylinder is cast in one piece with the head, and the silencer is placed close to the exhaust outlet. A surface carburetter is provided, but a spray is optional. A wipe contact is used with a Peto and Radford accumulator, and a trembler coil with Carpentier trembler. The positive terminal of the contact breaker has a spring behind it to keep it always up to its work.

The connections for the wiring are exceedingly simple and effective, as they are effected by spring snaps. The first movement of the exhaust valve lifting lever cuts the current. Lubrication is provided by a pump placed conveniently at the fore part of the tank, where the oil reservoir is situated. The drive is through a Lincona belt, the gearing being about seven to one. The girder front forks are particularly good. On a 2.5 h.p. machine shown there is provided an extra rear seat readily attached and detached, and carrying an extra tank, with compartments for both oil and petrol. The rear passenger places his feet on a pair of pedals provided for the purpose. A well-designed trailer is exhibited, and a motor-bicycle driven by a Clement engine with a chain drive is also shown.


1903-1908 The model continued with a few modifications and the crankcase cast to the frame. Various power outputs were available as well as a tandem backseat frame. This was a pillion seat with handlebars. There was also a forecar with a 4hp water-cooled engine and chain drive.



1909 Still of the same construction, but now with sprung forks, the firm standardized on a 3.5hp model - followed by transmission models.


1912 Variable gearing was introduced.


1913 Late that year 3.5hp flat-twin model appeared. This had its magneto mounted on top of the crankcase, a three-speed chain-driven gearbox, the choice of chain or belt final-drive and drum rear-brake.


1914 A 6hp V-twin model was added. This had a three-speed gearbox, all-chain drive and drum rear-brake.


1915 The models continued and the single was rated at 4hp.


1916 The V-twin and the single, with various transmission options, were available that year. Throughout World War I those models remained in production for service use.


1919 After the war, that line still continued with the addition of a 2.75hp, two-speed single with chain-cum-belt drive.


1920 Just three models were available, as the 4hp single was dropped.


1922 The smallest model had transmission options.


1923 That model was now only available with three speeds and chain drive.


1924 They were now down to just two models, both of which had been redesigned and enlarged. Early that year the firm failed and production came to a close. The stock was sold on to an ex-employee who, for some years, sold spares and built machines from those parts.


  • Note: The original machines were badged Peerless.




Peerless (Motorcycles)

From GracesGuide

Sources of Information

  • The British Motorcycle Directory - Over 1,100 Marques from 1888 - by Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth. Pub: The Crowood Press 2004 ISBN 1 86126 674 X
  • [1] Cyber Motor Cycles web site