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'I Worked at Raleigh' website chronicles life at iconic Nottingham bike factory

Accompanying app provides tour of vast bike-making plant

For many years Raleigh’s huge plant on Triumph Road, Nottingham was one of the city’s biggest employers, and one of the world’s largest bike factories. Now its history is being preserved on a website launched today that gathers together images and video and audio interviews with the people who worked there.

I Worked At Raleigh has over 50 interviews with former Raleigh staff, and scores of images including views inside the factory, staff newsletters, prototypes that never made production, sponsored racers and lots more.

It’s hard to imagine today how vast a part of the British cycling landscape Raleigh was. At one point in the 1950s the factory covered 60 acres, employed over 6,000 people and made 5 million bikes per year.

In 1960, after Raleigh was acquired by Tube Investments, bikes from the various TI-Raleigh brands — including  Phillips, Hercules, Rudge and BSA as well as Raleigh itself — comprised 75 percent of British bike sales.

The plant in Nottingham made everything from spokes to handlebar grips, and Raleigh owned both saddle maker Brooks and hub gear manufacturer Sturmey Archer, a level of vertical integration of manufacturing that’s now virtually unknown.

The Alpha, a prototype that never got to production. (Courtesy I Worked At Raleigh)

I Worked At Raleigh brings together some of the company’s history. The site and accompanying app is the result of a three year collaboration between the Nottingham University, which now occupies some of the former Raleigh site, and theatrical event team Excavate, formerly Hanby and Barrett.

Former analytical chemist Terry Sleaford, 64, of Nottingham, said: “I was at the factory between 1970 and 1986 and I would test virtually anything from steel tubing to brake blocks to make sure they were safe before they were put on the bike.

“The working environment for us was not bad but on the factory floor it was very noisy and smelt like machine oil.

“I have been interviewed and an audio recording will appear on the website.

“I think the project is a great idea and it is something that was not there before and it is going to be a resource that anyone can use.”

Professor Christine Hall, head of the school of education at Nottingham University, told the Nottingham Post: “This project has been about capturing the voices and stories of local people who worked at Raleigh, an industry which has been hugely important to the history of Nottingham.


“We wanted to explore and celebrate the history of our site and make what we found out available to as wide an audience as possible.

“We hope that the website will be used in schools, in the university and by anyone interested in local history, and that visitors to the Jubilee Campus will enjoy using the app.”

The app version of the website is allows you to walk the site of the former factory, hearing voices and seeing images from the past as you stand in the place where once thousands of people worked making bicycles. The app allows you to position yourself in the factory as you access the audio and image files.

Writer Andy Barrett from Excavate said: “We really wanted to tell the story of this iconic Nottingham factory from the people who worked there; from across the ages and across the many, many departments.

“The best way to do that is to go and meet the workers, to have a cup of tea and to chat.”

Producer Julian Hanby added: “We’re really proud of both the quality and quantity of material that the website contains.

“The site isn’t an official history of the company, with lists of statistics, it is a collection of memories of what it was really like to work at a huge twentieth century factory.”

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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Flying Scot | 10 years ago

I found the Raleigh wheelbarrow I once owned.

Beefy | 10 years ago

Mine was a Raleigh Dart blue with a removable cross bar so could be unisex  17

Gkam84 | 10 years ago

I was hoping to finally find the name of my first "big" bike, but can't see anything there. Purple frame with black wheel covers

Beefy | 10 years ago

Now that is a cool chopper  4

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