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Wearwell were motorcycles produced from 1901 to 1904, by a firm
based in Pountney Street, Wolverhampton.
1868 Henry Clarke founded the Cogent Cycle Co in Darlington Street, and
was joined by his five sons; Tom, George, William, Jack, and Henry.
1889 Henry Clarke senior died in 1889 at the age of 52, and George, William,
Jack, and Henry formed a new company, in new premises a little further
down Darlington Street. The new business was called the Wearwell Cycle
Company with William as Managing Director. The company soon became
one of the most important cycle manufacturers in the town.
1896 The Wearwell Cycle Co was registered on 27 May, to take over
the business of William Clarke.
1899 William Clarke had the idea of producing powered vehicles. He formed
the Wearwell Motor Carriage Company, and opened new premises in
Pountney Street. They produced a 4 wheeled, powered vehicle which had two
Butler, 2¼ hp engines, mounted
side by side. It was not generally liked. William saw the early Stevens
machines and realised that this was the way forward. The company already
had links with the Stevens, who supplied spokes and screws for the bicycles.
An agreement was entered with Stevens
and a contract drawn-up. Stevens agreed to supply a minimum number of engines each week, which were fitted
to heavy duty bicycles. The new motorcycles were sold using the Wearwell-Stevens
1901 Having already been involved with the production of cycle components,
bicycles and even cars, the company produced its first motorcycle. It was
a true primitive, based on a heavy-duty bicycle fitted with a 2½ hp Stevens
engine mounted inclined above the downtube and with direct-belt drive.
The machine sold well.
1901 The first machine appeared in the spring of that year. It was fitted
with a 2½ hp, air cooled, four-stroke Stevens
engine, with automatic inlet valve, and mechanically operated side exhaust
valve. The engine was mounted above the front down tube, had accumulator
ignition, a surface carburettor, and a twisted leather belt drive to the
back wheel. It sold for 42 guineas. The machine was very popular and was
shown at the 1902 National Cycle Show at Crystal Palace. A number of improvements
were made, including a choice of surface or spray carburettor. Demonstrations
were given at the exhibition, the price was reduced to £40,
and orders poured in.
1903 Further changes were made that year. The rear wheel was now driven
by a Lincona vee belt, and the surface carburettors were discontinued in
favour of the spray type.
1903 The same year saw the introduction of the Motette powered tricycle.
It was a modified version of the 2½ hp bicycle. The front wheel was replaced
with a two wheeled axle, onto which an upholstered wicker seat was attached.
The machine sold for 53 guineas (£55.65), and a conversion
for two-wheeled machines was available for £16.5s.0d. (£16.25).
These products proved to be unpopular.
1903 It was joined by the Wearwell 'Motette' forecar, which had its two
front wheels and wicker passenger-seat fitted in place of the motorcycle
front wheel. At the late crystal Palace show, the 2½ hp model was joined
by one with a 3¼ hp engine mounted vertically in the frame. It was of
sturdy construction and with braced forks, but it still had belt drive.
The Motette was revised to that layout, but its 3½ hp Stevens
engine was water-cooled and drove a Bowden
rear hub that incorporated a clutch by chain.
In 1905 a redesigned and sturdier model was launched using the Wolf
name. It was fitted with a 3¼ hp Stevens engine, which was vertically mounted near the bottom bracket.
By 1906 there were more than a dozen models, and a wide range of engines
to choose from. Prices ranged from 37 to 42 guineas (£38.85
to £44.10). Lightweight, heavy duty, and commercial versions
of the powered tricycles
were also produced. The lightweight version was like the original Motette
except that it included a 4½ hp, or 5hp, water cooled, vertical twin engine.
It had a two-speed gearbox, a leather saddle, and sold for 75 guineas (£78.75).
The heavy duty version was more like a car. It had body panels, and was
fitted with a steering wheel. It had a 7hp or 8 hp, water cooled, vertical
twin engine, a three-speed gearbox and clutch. The cheapest version sold
for 100 guineas (£105).
The cheapest machine was the Wolf featherweight, which was similar
to the earlier powered bicycles and sold for 19 guineas (£19.95).
also started to supply the company with frames, and the company sold the Stevens
1½ hp motor set, complete with all parts for £14. The Stevens
brothers also started to ride Wolf machines in reliability trials
and speed events with great success. The WolfGrand was launched
in 1909, and sold for £35.10s.0d. (£35.50)
1909 Disaster struck when it was discovered that the Company Secretary,
Mr. King, had been using the company's money to gamble at pool in a local
public house. A large sum of money had disappeared, which led to the company
going into liquidation. Mr. King tried to commit suicide, but William Clarke
did not bring any criminal charges against him, because he discovered that
one of his brothers was also involved.
1911 After the liquidation, William still wanted to continue producing
Wearwell bicycles and so he purchased the ailing Wulfruna Cycles
from John Barratt. He attempted to revitalise the business and reintroduced
the Wearwell and Wolf names at new premises in Brickkiln
Street. The production of cheap machines continued, as a 2.5h.p. Wolf
was on sale in 1914 for just 22 guineas (£23.10).
Note:' The Wolf name carried
on until 1940, except for a short time when Wulfruna was used as
another company branch name. These machines had a production life of just
three years. The company then returned to using the Wolf name.
1914 Directory lists them as Wulfruna Engineering Co, Great Brickkiln
Street, Wolverhampton and as motor cycle manufacturers.
1920s A range of Wulfruna machines was available until the early
1920's, after which the company concentrated on its Wolf trademark.
1922 William died.
1928 Theo Waine and his brother Mr. G. A.Waine, took over the Wearwell
Cycle Co Ltd from the liquidators of the Wulfruna Engineering Co
Ltd The Waine Family were lock makers in Willenhall, and used to supply
large numbers of locks to the far east. They also used to make steel heel
tips for shoes, and supplied them to the army in the first world war. They
used to import their steel from Belgium, and in those days it only cost
£4 a ton.
When Theo inspected the Brickkiln Street works, he decided that it was
not suitable for their purpose. The family owned the New Griffin Works
in Colliery Road, and so the cycle business was moved there. Part of the
works was occupied by the cycle company, the remainder was occupied by
the family's other business, Vulcan Engineering. Vulcan was a general engineering
company, who were producing all kinds of things, including items in stainless
steel, as early as 1934.
1931 The factory expanded, the production of Wolf motor cycles commenced
and a trade stand was taken at Olympia. Mr. H. V. Waine, a keen motor cyclist,
was responsible for the design and production of both motor cycles and
cycles, while Mr. T. A. Waine was responsible for sales. The first machines
used Villiers engines. The
Cub, which had a 98c.c. engine sold for only £15.15s.0d.
(£15.75) The WolfSilver Super Sports was powered
by a 196c.c. Villiers engine.
This sold for only £34.
Wolf motorcycles continued in production until the outbreak of World
War II. After the war the company decided to concentrate solely on the
manufacture of pedal bicycles, and so no more motorcycles were produced.
Note:Wearwell Cycle Company - Production of the cycles continued
after the Second World War and in the 1950s, 75% of the company's production
was exported to over 30 different countries. In 1972 the company moved
its production to Alveley, near Bridgnorth, and with them went the end
of major manufacture in the city of Wolverhampton.