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Spirc Motorcycles

A Brief History of the Marque

Spirc were motorcycles produced by W. W. Crips of Sidcup Hill.

Walter William Crips.
He was the second son with this name, his elder brother having died in 1866. The following narrative was created from interviews with surviving relatives.

... Together they formed the "SPIRC" Cycle and Engineeering Works" (SPIRCS Bikes) which is shown in the 1905 photo.

Full Text


A Brief History

Preamble The following narrative is based on my researches into the CRIPS (with one "P") family about in about 1995. There are at least 3 "Crips" families which can be traced to the East end of London in the early 19th Century, but as yet I have not been able to link them to a single ancestor. Perhaps some day….

The three families are:

William Arnold Crips, born in 1799 - lived in Bermondsey (S of the Thames)

Thomas Charles Crips, born in 1800 - baptised in Hackney (Now site of the Olympic Games!)

Henry Crips, born about 1810, and my great-great grandfather. He lived in Bethnal Green (near Hackney).

This article is about the family of William Arnold Crips.

William Arnold (1) Crips He lived at 6 Bermondsey Wall (which is close to the R Thames) and married Rebecca Turner in 1828. He was a journeyman Ship Smith, and founded what could be loosely described as the "Crips engineering dynasty" which lasted for almost 150 years.

He and Rebecca had four children: Mary Ann (1829), Helen Sarah (1831), Jane (1833) and William Arnold (1836). At some stage he established a factory at 108 George Row, Bermondsey which is described in the 1853 Post Office Directory as "W A Crips Ships Smith and Tyre Manufacturer". One of his descendants has a painting of the factory which shows a Fish Shop at one end of the building. He had his own foundry and made ships’ anchors.

William died in 1856 of "natural causes" and a "suspected disease of the heart" - possibly a heart attack. His daughter Helen Sarah was present at the death.

William Arnold (2) Crips It seems that WA2 took over the business at the age of 20, since the business was still in operation in 1875 as a "Shipsmith".

William married Mary Ann Manwaring in 1857 and they had 15 children:

William John 1858; Emma and Minnie (twins) in 1859); Henry William 1861; Frederick William 1862; Arthur William (1863); Walter William (1865) died in 1866, Mary Ann (1866); Alice (1868); Ada (1870); Walter William (1871); Edgar William (1873) but died at birth; Jessie (1876); Edith (1880), Edgar William (1882).

By 1894 WA2 had brought his sons (which ones is not clear) into the business which was described as "CRIPS WA and Sons, Builders, Smiths".

By 1902 and until 1919 the business was described as "CRIPS WA and Sons, Builders, Smiths, Iron Door Makers, Iron and Steel Bridge Builders and Mill Furnishers", although by 1908 the business had apparently moved to or near 49 George Row.

The business continued in similar vein in George Row until the last entry in 1976 which reads "WA CRIPS Steel Fabricators". During 1942-1944 an emergency address of 42 Canadian Avenue, SE6 was given, presumably as a result of enemy action.

Walter William Crips He was the second son with this name, his elder brother having died in 1866. The following narrative was created from interviews with surviving relatives.

Walter William never married and died in 1953 aged 82. He lived in Sidcup where he ran a cycle shop, but apparently was a poor businessman, and wouldn’t collect bills. When his brother Edgar was 16 years old in 1898, their father insisted that Edgar go into business with him. Together they formed the "SPIRC" Cycle and Engineering Works" (SPIRCS Bikes) which is shown in the 1905 photo. Walter was a sleeping partner in the business an apparently preferred growing chrysanthemums. So the business was managed by Edgar and his family almost entirely.

It is not clear who was running the original "WA CRIPS" business in Bermondsey.

Edgar William Crips He seems to have been the true entrepreneur of the family, effectively taking over his brother’s business and running it single handed from the age of 16. The 1907 photo, believed to have been taken at another location shows Edgar on the left of a group presumably exhibiting the range of their products. Edgar is riding what is clearly a motor bike, and this is presumably the first of the motorised "SPIRCs Bikes". The engine is mounted above the front wheel, which is belt driven. Presumably it was a 2-stroke and one wonders how stable was the steering and where the petrol tank was!!

Edgar married Grace Eleanor Yeomans in 1908, and they had two children, Arnold Edgar in 1909 and Maud Eleanor ("Peggy") in 1911.

The business expanded into the car trade in about 1906-1910 and at some stage moved to a prime site on the main road to the coast, on a corner in Sidcup High St, which has become the legendary "Crips Corner".

The business continued until 1946 when Edgar died. Edgar’s will left the business to his wife Grace, and the business itself was managed by his son Arnold. There were 4 people on the board of Directors, Walter William, Grace, Maud and Arnold. The photo of Arnold was in 1966 at the age of 58.

Grace died in 1952, presumably dividing her shares equally between her children Maud and Arnold. When Walter William died in about 1953 he left his shares to Arnold and Maud such that Maud retained a controlling interest.

After the death of her husband in about 1959, Maud was persuaded by the accountants to take over the running of what was then known as the "Crips Automobile Engineers and Body Builders" since Arnold too had poor business skills. Maud ran the business as Managing Director for 15 years and had up to 60 people working for her.

What happened at the end is not clear, but at some stage the site and the business was sold to "the Big Boys" in order to pay death duties, but the legendary SPIRCS Bikes and Crips Corner remain as a memory of a bygone age.

~ Dennis Crips

July 2010

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