The First 30 Years
Star bicycles were
the creation of Edward Lisle, who was born in 1852 at 106
Dudley Road, Wolverhampton and baptised at Franchise Street
Church. His education at St. Luke's School ended in 1866,
when he had reached the age of 14, after which it is
believed that he joined his brother working on the railway.
In the 1871 census he is described as a machine fitter.
interested in cycles, and in his spare time he built a
velocipede in the cellar in his father’s house at 71 Park
Street, Wolverhampton. He entered some of the races that
took place in the grounds of the Molineux Hotel. In the
1870s the races were very popular and each meeting attracted
up to 20,000 spectators from all over the country. Edward
was very successful, riding a home-built machine, and this
led to a demand for his cycles, which he started building to
|A Lisle tricycle from
1869. Courtesy of Jim Boulton.
He continued to
produce cycles in relatively small numbers until 1876, when
at the age of 24, he went into manufacturing partnership
with Edwin John Sharratt, who lived at 15 Franchise Street,
Wolverhampton, where his mother Sarah had a shop. Edwin
Sharratt was the same age as Edward and is described in the
1871 census as an out of work coachman.
Edwin purchased the
ex-Humber factory in Pountney Street, known as the Star Cycle
Works, and joined Edward in the new business; Sharratt and Lisle. It seems that
Edwin had no previous experience in manufacturing or
mechanics and so that side of the business must have been
left to Edward alone.
|The partnership lasted for just 3
years, after which Edwin Sharratt decided that he did not
want to follow the same business path as Edward Lisle and
left to start his own separate business; Sharratt and Co. He produced bicycles using the Connaught
trade name and joined forces with a Mr. Parker. The company
went into liquidation in 1895 with debts of over £800. Both
firms still used the Pountney Street works, but whether they
were in separate buildings or had split one building between
them is not known.
A Sharratt & Lisle cycle. Courtesy of
In 1883 Edward Lisle founded the Star Cycle Company, but
continued to sell his machines under the Sharratt & Lisle
name until 1896, when he founded the Star Cycle Company
Limited, with a starting capital of £120,000. He also
produced large numbers of cycle components.
By 1889 the Star Cycle Company purchased
a factory in Stewart Street, which could well have belonged
to Hinde, Harrington & Company, who produced 'Desideratum'
The following is a
short description from "Bicycles & Tricycles of the Year
1889" by Harry Hewitt Griffin:
"The Star Dwarf
Safety Roadster (Sharratt and Lisle, Stewart Street,
A single-frame machine, with the backbone and rear forks
perfectly straight, and the seat pillar nearly so. At the
foot of the latter there is an improved and very simple form
of crank bracket; the balls run in channels so arranged that
they retain the oil instead of allowing it to flow out. The
case is practically in one piece, very light, firm, and well
fitted. Although the handle-bar is but little bent, it is
near the rider, owing to the great curve given to the front
The brake is a lever
plunger, and the steering on the centres or hinge principle.
The wheels-direct spokes, crescent rims, ⅞in. tyres to rear,
and ¾in. to front wheel, both being 30in. The machine is
made of good stuff, and is cheap at £10.10s., list price,
for balls all parts, &c. There is also a lower priced, with
plain details, at £8; a skeleton diamond, at £13.10s.; and a
light single frame roadster, at £12.l2s.; besides a number
of ordinaries. All are guaranteed by the makers for six
|The 1896 Star
catalogue. Courtesy of David Evans.
13th July, 1896 saw the
formation of the Presto Gearcase & Components Company
Limited which acquired the Presto Gearcase Company Ltd,
Fleet Street, Coventry. The nominal capital was £30,000 and
the directors were: C.E. Shaw, E. Lisle, E.A. Wilson, L.
Johnson, A. Goodby, H. Lisle. The Secretary was E. White, 32
Stewart Street, Wolverhampton.
about the Presto Gear Case Co.
|The 1896 catalogue includes 10 models and a range of
accessories. The cycles are as follows:
|The Star "Path Racer" is built around a frame that is
made of large diameter weldless steel tubes with 'D' shaped
The wheels are 28 inches in diameter and are fitted with
Dunlop Path Racing Tyres.
Transmission is via a 3/16" chain geared to 70".
Weight 22lbs. Selling price
The Star "Path Racer". Courtesy of
The Star "Road Racer". Courtesy of
|The Star "Road Racer" is a stronger version of the "Path
Racer" that is suitable for road racing. Fitted with 1.5"
Dunlop Road Racing Tyres, the best road racing saddle and an
effective steering lock.
Weight 25lbs. Selling price £23.
|The Star "Light Roadster" is built around a frame that
is made of large diameter weldless steel tubes with 'D'
shaped compression stays and a Humber dust-proof bottom
bracket. It is fitted with interchangeable gear wheels,
dropped handle bars, double plate crown and xylonite
detachable mudguards. Also included are dust-proof rat-trap
pedals, 28" wheels, best hardened block link chain and
steering lock. Weight 29lbs, selling price £19.
The Star "Light Roadster". Courtesy of
The "Popular Star". Courtesy of David
|The "Popular Star" is built around a large size frame,
made of large diameter weldless steel tubes and fitted with
a Humber dust-proof bottom bracket. It has interchangeable
gear wheels, dropped handle bars, double plate crown and
detachable steel mudguards. Also included are rubber or
rat-trap pedals, 28" wheels, best hardened block link chain,
roadster saddle, toolbag, and steering lock. Weight 33lbs,
selling price £17.10s.
|The "Special Popular Star" is built with a large size
frame, made of large diameter weldless steel tubes and
fitted with large bearings and a dust-proof crank axle
bracket. It has a special shoulder plate crown, 1" curved
dropped handle bars, and detachable steel mudguards. Also
included is a 30" front wheel and 28" rear wheel, hammock
saddle and tool bag. Weight 35lbs, selling price £16 (Dunlop
tyres), £15 (Clincher tyres), or £10.10s (Cushion tyres).
The "Special Popular Star". Courtesy
of David Evans.
The "Youth's Star". Courtesy of David
|The "Youth's Star" is fitted with a diamond frame of
best weldless steel tube, ball and socket head, curved or
dropped handle bars, and detachable mud guards. It has round
cranks, rubber ball pedals, block link chain and 26" wheels
with ball bearings. The saddle is of the best quality
hammock type and fitted with a toolbag. Weight 35lbs,
selling price £15 (Dunlop tyres), £14.10s. (Clincher tyres),
or £9.10s (Cushion tyres).
|The "Lady's Popular Star" is built with a frame, made of
large diameter weldless steel tubes and fitted with a
dust-proof crank axle bracket and a shoulder plate crown. It
has 1" curved handle bars, and patent corded dress guard.
Also included are 26" wheels, "Presto" detachable gear case,
a good quality ladies saddle and a tool bag. Weight 35lbs,
selling price £18.10s. (Dunlop tyres), £17.10s. (Clincher
tyres), or £13.10s (Cushion tyres).
The Lady's Popular Star. Courtesy of
The Lady's Star. Courtesy of David
|The "Lady's Star" is built with a frame, made of large
diameter weldless steel tubes and fitted with a Humber
dust-proof bracket and a shoulder plate crown. It has 1"
curved handle bars, and detachable steel mudguards with a
patent corded dress guard. Also included are 26" wheels,
"Presto" detachable gear case, a good quality ladies saddle
and a tool bag. Weight 33lbs, selling price £21.10s. (Dunlop
tyres), or £20.10s. (Clincher tyres).
|The "Combination Roadster tandem" with double steering
has a double diamond frame made from best weldless steel
tubes, and is fitted with an extra strengthened plate crown
and special tandem forks. It has a 30" front wheel, a 28"
rear wheel and special tandem Dunlop-Welch tyres, and is
fitted with a best hardened block link front chain. The
machine sold for £36.
The Double Steering Tandem. Courtesy
of David Evans.
The Single Steering Tandem. Courtesy
of David Evans.
|The "Gent's Single Steering Tandem" has the same
specification as the double steering tandem. The machine
sold for £34. Both tandems were available with a "Presto"
detachable gear case for an extra £3.
|The introduction in the 1896 catalogue states that the
company's mainstay at the time was the "Popular Star" and
also that due to the popularity of Star machines, fraudulent
imitations had appeared on the market.
were available, including bells, lamps, oil cans, footrests,
and tyre-fastening cement. A comprehensive range of saddles,
pedals, chains, hubs, brakes and bearings were on offer so
that a bicycle could be customised to suit each customer's
Courtesy of David Evans.
The range of lamps. Courtesy of David Evans.
A few of the many different saddles that were
available. Courtesy of David Evans.
Courtesy of David Evans.
|The 1897 Star
catalogue. Courtesy of David Evans.
||In 1897 the range of cycles appears to be much the same
as the previous year, but many of the prices were increased.
The price of the following machines was increased by £1:
The "Path Racer", the "Road Racer", the "Light Roadster",
the "Lady's Star", and the "Lady's Popular Star".
However the price of the tandem remained unchanged.
The following description is from
the 1897 edition of the "Illustrated Towns of England Business Review of
The Star Cycle Company, Limited (Managing Director,
Mr. E. Lisle), Stewart Street Telegraphic Address. 16 "Lisle,
Wolverhampton." Telephone No. 7079.
The history of the cycle trade, in Wolverhampton is one of
remarkable development, and constitutes one of the most interesting
chapters in the industrial life of the premier manufacturing town of
Staffordshire. Among the concerns most prominently identified with this
branch of industry is the Star Cycle Company, Limited, late the Star
Cycle Company (Sharratt and Lisle), Limited, and formerly Messrs.
Sharratt and Lisle. Founded many years ago, this business has
made wonderful progress, consequent upon the initiative always taken by
the proprietors in the introduction of new and improved machines of the
highest grade quality. At the present time there is no more popular
machine on the market than the "Star," for it combines in the highest
degree all the most desirable qualities of grace, speed, and durability,
coupled with first-class workmanship and finish. The works of this
Company are one of the largest in the district, giving employment to
upwards of four hundred hands. They cover a large area of ground
fronting to two sides of Stewart Street and extending back to Thomas
Street, and have been recently enlarged to cope with the increased
demands. They are very substantial in construction, comprising extensive
building shops, fitting, blacksmiths', turning, plating and enamelling
shops, large warehouses. The various manufacturing departments have been
equipped with machinery and appliances of the most modern
type, hence the Company are enabled to compete in accuracy and
economy and speed of production with any firm in the United Kingdom. It
is evident that no expense or effort has been spared to constitute the
works one of the most complete and best equipped in the trade. The chief
machines built by this Company are the "Star," path racer, " Star," road
racer, " Star," light roadster, popular " Star," single and double
steering tandems, the lady's " Star," the lady's popular "Star," and
youth's "Star." These are fitted with Dunlop, Clincher, Warwick, or
Beeston tyres; saddles of Standard make, and "Presto" gear cases. All
are unsurpassed for elegance of design, easy running, and thoroughly
reliable manufacture, whilst as regards price, there is certainly
no cheaper machines made, quality considered. We can safely predict that
the " Star" machines will easily keep in the front rank during 1897, and
will continue to grow in favour with cyclists of both sexes who know and
appreciate a first-class mount. The Star Company publish a beautifully
illustrated catalogue, giving full particulars of prices, etc., which
can be obtained on application, and intending purchasers will do well to
look over one of these before deciding to purchase else- where. The
managing director, Mr. E. Lisle, has been associated with the business
since its founding, and it is to his great ability and administrative
capabilities that its success is mainly due. That the business
will, under its present able and enterprising management, retain its
lead among rival concerns is certain.
An advert from 1898.
|The 1898 range of cycles includes several new additions.
Three of the lady's machines are now fitted with the new
transparent celluloid "Presto" gear case, the lightest gear case
in the world. The new Juvenile machines are available in boy's
and girl's versions and are suitable for children from 8 to 14
years of age. All machines are now available with a choice of
Dunlop, Warwick, Clipper or Beeston tyres. One slightly out of
the ordinary addition is the "Pedersen (Cantilever) Cycle".
The leading lines at the time were the accurately named Gent's
and Lady's "Popular" machines. Sales were good and the confident
company predicted sales of up to 10,000 machines for the next
The 1898 Star catalogue.
Courtesy of David Evans.
|The Pedersen (Cantilever)
Cycle. Courtesy of David Evans.
||Star's Pedersen (Cantilever) Cycle weighed only 18lbs. and
was priced at £34.
|The Boys' Star was built around a frame made of the best
weldless steel tube, 'D' shaped compression stays, and a
dust-proof bracket with an increased width of ball races. It is
fitted with either 22" or 24" wheels and has detachable steel
mudguards and a hardened block-link chain. The good quality
saddle is fitted with a tool bag and the machine weighs 23lbs.
The cost is £13.10s. with Dunlop tyres or £12.10s. with Clipper
The Boys' Star. Courtesy of David Evans.
The Girls' Star. Courtesy of David Evans.
|The Girls' Star was built around a frame of special curved
design, made of the best weldless steel tube with 'D' shaped
compression stays, and a dust-proof bracket. It is fitted with
either 22" or 24" wheels and has detachable steel mudguards, a
hardened block-link chain, a "Presto" gear case and corded dress
guard. The good quality saddle is fitted with a tool bag and the
machine weighs 24lbs. The cost is £14 with Dunlop tyres or £13
with Clipper tyres.
The following is from the
Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire Illustrated, 1898:
The Star Cycle Company Limited, Wolverhampton
The Exterior of the Stewart Street Works.
It would appear to the observant critic that the limits in
cycle construction had reached their final stage, with the
admirable models introduced by this Company in the season just
closed, but that this deduction is premature may be inferred
from the fact that the " Star" machines for 1899 give promise of
further innovation, if only in minor details, which will add to
their efficiency and splendid riding qualities.
The Star Cycle Company is the oldest aspirant for popular
favour, having been established as far back as 1885 by Mr.
Lisle, who, since its incorporation some time subsequently, has
occupied the position of Managing Director. The Company's Works,
the largest of the kind in Wolverhampton, cover an area of
between two and three acres of ground, in which are erected the
commodious and well-designed buildings, lofty, light, and
conveniently arranged for the operations of so extensive a
manufacturing business as that in progress at the establishment.
The premises have a lengthy frontage to the main thoroughfare,
this portion being of two-storey elevation, and occupied as
stores, timekeeper's office, packing and despatch department in
the ground level, while above this are the well-appointed
general and private offices. The whole of the manufacturing
departments are housed in suitable buildings, and are completely
equipped with the most up-to-date plant, machinery, and tools,
and labour-saving appliances, specially designed as aids to in
the various mechanical departments through which the modern
cycle passes, from the initial to the final stage of
construction. The extent of the premises and business may be
readily imagined by the fact that 29,000 cycles have been
manufactured, sold, and delivered within the last 3 years.
The Frame Building Department.
On the opposite side of the road is a separate factory for the
production of Star Motor Cars and Motor Tricycles, and which
equally, with its neighbour, is furnished with the most improved
type of machinery, much of which is automatic in action.
In this connection it should be stated that, unlike the
majority of cycle manufacturers, the Star Company make all
component parts, and are thus enabled to assure the absolute
reliability of these essentials, both in quality of material and
perfect accuracy of construction and adjustments. These details
of construction have been by no means unimportant factors in the
success achieved by the firm's make of " Star" machines, in
which are invariably embodied all the practical improvements
which the widely-extended experience of the managers has
suggested as beneficial to the wheeling public, and which has
gained for these perfect models an assured favouritism with the
patrons of the most popular form of pastime the history of the
world has known.
The Machinery Department.
The "Star Road Racer" is essentially a high-grade machine at a
reasonable price, and has many noteworthy features of excellence
incorporated. It is specially adapted to meet the requirements
of speed men, and, although it is built for the road, it is
sufficiently light for use upon the track. The "Star Light
Roadster" is constructed on the same high-class lines as the
Road Racer, but fitted with every consideration for the wear,
tear, and comfort of every-day riders, who not only cycle the
summer through but battle the winter storms. In the " Popular"
machines, a designation peculiarly appropriate to these mounts,
are presented the Company's leading lines, of which some
thousands have been supplied, and have gained a reputation
unrivalled by any other make in the market. These machines have
done more than any other to place perfect cycling within the
reach of all.
The Assembling and Finishing Department.
Last season the Company introduced a special make of juvenile
machine, suitable for boys and girls, from eight to fourteen
years of age, with 22 in., 24 in., and 26 in. wheels. These
cycles are perfect models in miniature, every part being
constructed to the same scale as the taller ones.
A variety of designs are made in Ladies' cycles, from which the
most fastidious will have little difficulty in making a choice.
Single and double steering tandems are well thought-out designs,
and .have met with the approval of a large section of those who
adopt this method of locomotion.
Undoubtedly, the " Star " cycles, as regards finish, lasting
qualities, ease of running and graceful position, have
approached the nearest to perfection ; and the
constantly-increasing demand proves they have become first
favourites amongst a large section of the cycling public.
This firm supplies a highly-artistically illustrated price
list, which gives full information respecting the various
mounts, and also some very useful information to intending
buyers and riders, forming a most acceptable contribution to the
literature of the wheel, and at the same time some valuable
particulars in the selection and the preservation of one's
favourite mount. The outer cover shows a picturesque landscape,
in the centre of which is seen a dainty damsel who easily
carries her "Star" cycle whilst crossing the stream by the aid
of stepping stones, with the words "Light, Graceful, and
Strong," which are equally applicable to all the cycles produced
by this house. We may add that the picture, reproduced in gold
frame, may be seen in almost every station in Great Britain.
The article shows the size of the operation at the time,
and the range of bicycles being produced.
Its reference to the
advertisement on "almost every railway station in Great Britain", and
the fact that so many of these paid insertions appear in trade
directories of the like, show that Edward Lisle and Star were very
heavily into advertising.
In 1899 production reached the
predicted 10,000 cycles a year, and by 1904 Star was the largest
Wolverhampton based cycle manufacturer.
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The 20th Century"