Video: Blast from the past! Witcomb Cycles c.1974
"If getting measured up for a new suit of clothes turns you on, then just wait for your first fitting for a bicycle!". So runs Michele Brown's introduction to ' The Bespoke Bicycle', a five-minute film about Witcomb Cycles from their 70s heyday.
The short was an edition of This Week in Britain, a weekly news magazine presenting and promoting life in Britain to overseas audiences, that was produced produced by the Central Office of Information for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Every edition was a five-minute film on a single topic, shown in cinemas as well as on television across the world. From 1959 the series ran until 1980, by which time over 1100 stories had been produced.
Witcomb Cycles, established in 1928 in Tanner's Hill, Deptford by steelworker Tom Witcomb, have a long history of producing the highest quality bikes and frames. A Witcomb bike, piloted by Stan Britten, finished the Tour de France in 1958 and in 1970 they were contracted to supply the road and track bikes for the British Olympic team. The following year Witcomb were chosen to represent the British cycling industry at the British Fair in New York.
The firm has also had a big hand in tutoring and training some of the big names in the hand built bicycle world. Richard Sachs, Ben Serotta and Peter Wiegle all trained with Barrie Witcomb in the 70s, who himself turned down a personal invitation from Eddy Merckx to become chief framebuilder at his factory in Belgium. Legendary wheel builder Harry Roland also learnt his craft at the Witcomb workshop. Presently the company is orchestrating a move from its Deptford home to a custom-built facility in Pembrokeshire.
The original footage was discovered by chance in Witcomb's workshop and was digitised by film editing company The Quarry, whose director Jonnie Scarlet is a part owner of Witcomb Cycles. In addition to interviews with Ernie and Barry Witcomb, the film shows the shop and workshop as they were in the 1970s. Lily, Ernie's wife and co-founder of the company, can also be seen in her office while frame-builders are busying themselves in the workshop.
You can find out more about Witcomb are doing today at www.witcombcycles.co.uk
This Week in Britain - No 795
The Bespoke Bicycle
Directed by Charles Leigh-Bennett
Presented by Michele Brown
Production: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Camera: AI Films
Producer: Tony Hinton