History: Brentwood bike shop thrives during the ‘bicycle craze’

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:12 17 January 2019

Rippon’s Cycle Shop, owned by Ebenezer Rippon, in High Street, Brentwood, in the 1880s. Picture: Sylvia Kent

Rippon’s Cycle Shop, owned by Ebenezer Rippon, in High Street, Brentwood, in the 1880s. Picture: Sylvia Kent

Sylvia Kent

This week, historian and vice-president of the Brentwood Writers’ Circle Sylvia Kent talks about how one Brentwood shop flourished when the “bike reigned supreme”.

It’s strange to think of Brentwood town before the present day traffic chaos.

Residents with long memories and access to some of the old photo albums enjoy glimpses of the town when bicycles were the quickest and easiest form of transport.

From 1880s, the bike reigned supreme in many households, but, due to initial high cost, they were carefully maintained.

If tyres, puncture repair kits or any spare parts were needed, you would probably head for one of the bicycle repair shops in the High Street.

Ebenezer Rippon’s Cycle Shop flourished from the very start of the bicycle craze.

At one stage, an “ordinary” or penny-farthing bicycle wedged on the front of Rippons premises advertising his services.

His shop - now the site of the Brentwood Arcade - was built on the nursery garden formerly owned by John Mann pre-1880s.

In the 1920s, when the motor car business was expanding rapidly, the Rippon Brothers bought more land at the back of the shop and began concentrating on repairing and selling motor vehicles, using part of the frontage as a showroom.

Many teenagers served their apprenticeship at Rippons garage which was alongside St Thomas Road.

“I can never forget the workshop floor which extended back to half the length of St Thomas Road and was always black with solid grease,”, remembers one former motor mechanic who worked at Rippon Brothers during the 1950s.

“But we received a really sound engineering training.

“I remember the petrol pumps with the overhead gantry that stood on the frontage.

“By then, the firm was owned by F & FW Rippon Bros.”

Changes are inevitable and much redevelopment took place along the High Street over the years.

In 1954 the Brentwood Arcade was re-developed to include sixteen shops along its length.

Celebrity in the form of radio personality Barbara Lyon, star of Life with the Lyons and daughter of the famous Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon, performed the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The Brentwood Museum hold some fascinating photographs of this event.

These days shops seem to close and new ones open up frequently and there have been numerous other changes to the old arcade site with new business on both floors, but many older residents will surely remember the good old days when life was far more simple.

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