Hail opens for Heritage day

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In support of Heritage weekend, Hail were asked by Tony Paplauskas if they could include a visit to the Swift Cycle Works. We were delighted to oblige and welcomed Tony, Zorena, and their members for a lok around the factory that has not been seen by the general public for over 40 years.

The Swift Motor Company began life as the Coventry Sewing Machine Company, which was founded by James Starley and Josiah Turner in King Street, Cheylesmore, Coventry in 1859. The original aim of the company was to import and market American sewing machines. However, it wasn’t long before they changed the name of the business to The Coventry Machinists Company and began manufacturing their own.

In 1869 they began manufacturing a wide range of cycles which included two, three and four wheeled models. The Swift Cycle Company grew to become the second largest cycle manufacturer in the country. In 1898 they produced their first motor cycles, and by 1901 their first motor car was in production. Another name change came in 1902 when the company became The Swift Motor Company, and from then until around 1915 they produced several models a year.

Like most other factories during the First World War, Swift switched its production to war work. As well as munitions they produced, amongst other things, Aircraft Engines and Military Bicycles. After the war came another name change to Swift of Coventry Ltd.

In 1905 the company took over what were known as the Quinton Works. The works had recently been occupied by the Rademaker’s Chocolate Factory. Before they were the home of the Beeston Motor Company who moved into the building in 1896, and produced motor cars commercially from 1897 to 1900.

The surviving buildings

The buildings date from the birth of the motor vehicle industry in Coventry. In fact a motor tricycle produced at the works was the only British built vehicle entered in the first London to Brighton run in November 1896, so it can rightly claim to be the oldest surviving motor vehicle factory in the city. The offices for the Quinton Works were built for the S & B Gorton Cycle Works in 1890. Despite being close to the city centre they managed to survive both the blitz and the redevelopment following the Second World War. Between 1998 and 1999 the building was restored and is presently used as a hotel with Hail taking over the factory in February of this year.

Our aim is to re-introduce cycle manufacture back to the city, where we currently have four models of e-bike that are aimed at the micromobility sector.