Wearwell , Wolf and Wulfruna Motorcycles

In 1868 Henry Clarke founded the Cogent Cycle Company in Darlington Street, Wolverhampton, and was joined by his five sons; Tom, George, William, Jack, and Henry. It was very successful. 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.

In 1899 William Clarke had the idea of producing powered vehicles. He formed the Wearwell Motor Carriage Company, and opened new premises in Pountney Street on the site that was occupied by J. W. Braithwaite & Son Limited, bookbinders, now a banqueting suite. 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 Motor Manufacturing Company, who supplied spokes and screws for the cycles. 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 name. 

Mr. and Mrs. Albert Clarke with a 1901 Wearwell-Stevens motorcycle. Photo courtesy of the late Geoff Stevens.
The first machine appeared in the spring of 1901. It was fitted with a 2½ hp. air cooled, 4-stroke Stevens engine, with automatic inlet valve, and mechanically operated side exhaust valve.

The engine was mounted above the front down tube. It had accumulator ignition, a surface carburettor, a twisted leather belt drive to the back wheel, and sold for 42 guineas.

The machine, which became very popular, 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.

Orders poured in after demonstrations were given at the show, and the price was reduced to £40.

In 1903 further changes were made. The rear wheel was now driven by a 'Lincona' vee belt, and the surface carburettors were discontinued, in favour of the spray type.

A close-up view of Albert Clarke's motorcycle.

Courtesy of the late Geoff Stevens.

Another Wearwell -Stevens machine, as found in 1953.

Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.

1903 saw the introduction of the 'Motette' powered tricycle, 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, and a conversion for two wheeled machines was available for £16.5s.0d. A 3¼ hp. version was also available for £75.

Unfortunately the products proved to be unpopular. 

A 'Motette' with Harry Stevens as passenger, and Fred Adey driver. Photo courtesy of the late Geoff Stevens.

An advert from 1902.

An advert from 1904.

An advert from 1904.

Another advert from 1904.

An advert from February 1904.

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. 

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 5 hp., water cooled, vertical twin engine. It had a two-speed gearbox, a leather saddle, and sold for 75 guineas.

The heavy duty version, the Wolf Carette, was more like a car. It had body panels, and was fitted with a steering wheel.

It also had a 6 h.p. 2-cylinder, water-cooled, Fafnir engine, a 2-speed gearbox and clutch. It had an inclined pillar steering wheel, a lubricating pump, and a shaft drive to a bevel gear on the rear wheel axle.

There were two powerful brakes, a 6 gallon petrol tank, and a weldless tube frame.

The car weighed 3½ cwt., and sold for 90 guineas.

The Wolf Carette.

Another view of the Carette.

The cheapest machine was the Wolf featherweight, which was similar to the earlier powered bicycles and sold for 19 guineas. Stevens 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 'Wolf Grand' was launched in 1909, and sold for £35.10s.0d. 

Disaster struck in 1909 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.

By 1910 the Wolf machines looked more like a conventional motorcycle.

The machine in the advert opposite has a direct belt drive, a magneto mounted behind the cylinder, and a normal type of petrol tank.

An advert from 1910.

Another advert from 1910.

After the liquidation, William still wanted to continue producing Wearwell bicycles and so in 1911 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. A 2½ hp. 'Wolf' was on sale in 1914 for just 22 guineas. 

An advert from 1913.

An advert from September 1913.

The model 'F' lightweight Wolf machine that's on display at the National Motorcycle Museum, Birmingham.

It has a 147c.c. Villiers 2-stroke engine, flywheel magneto, petrol lubrication, Amac carburettor and 2-speed gearbox.

From the 1914 catalogue.

From the 1914 catalogue.

From the 1914 catalogue.

From the 1914 catalogue.

From the 1914 catalogue.

From the 1914 catalogue.

From the 1914 catalogue.

From the 1915 catalogue.

A range of 'Wulfruna' machines was available until the early 1920's, after which the company concentrated on producing machines carrying the 'Wolf' name.

William Clarke died in 1922, and in 1928 Theo Waine and his brother Mr. G. A.Waine, took over the Wearwell Cycle Company Limited from the liquidators of the Wulfruna Engineering Company Limited. The Waine Family were originally lock makers in Willenhall, and used to supply large numbers of locks to the far east. They also used to make steel heel and toe 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.

A modern view of New Griffin Works.

When Theo inspected the Brickkiln Street works, he decided that it was not suitable for their purpose. Everything was extremely old, and run down.

The family owned New Griffin Works in Colliery Road, Wolverhampton, and so the cycle business was moved there. Part of the works was used for the manufacture of bicycles and motorcycles, the remainder being used for the family's other business, Vulcan Manufacturing (Wolverhampton) Limited. Vulcan was a general engineering company, producing all kinds of products, including locks, and items in stainless steel, as early as 1934.

A letterhead from 1956.

An advert from 1930.

In 1931 the factory was expanded, and a trade stand was taken at Olympia. Mr. H. V.Waine, a keen motorcyclist was responsible for the design and production of both motorcycles and cycles, while Mr. T. A. Waine was responsible for sales. The machines used Villiers engines. The 'Cub', which had a 98c.c. engine sold for only £15.15s.0d. The 'Wolf Silver Super Sports' was powered by a 196c.c. Villiers engine, and sold for only £34.

The Wolf stand at an exhibition in the 1930s. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.

View some of the company's other products

An advert from 1933.

The specification for the Wolf Vixen.

The company's stand at the 1934 Motor Cycle Show.

The Black Country Living Museum's 148 cc. Wolf 'Vixen' from 1936.

Wolf motorcycles continued in production until the outbreak of World War 2. After the war the company decided to concentrate solely on the manufacture of pedal cycles, and no more motorcycles were produced.






The late Derek Spencer riding his favourite motorcycle, the Wolf 'Vixen' at the Black Country Living Museum.

Nigel Martin's Wolf motorcycle at the Penn History Fair in 2017. This is a late version of the 'Unit' that was manufactured just before production ended.

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