Although the Calthorpe name had a good reputation in many countries, today it is little known.
At first the business produced bicycles in Birmingham. Around 1890 the proprietor, George W Hands opened a bicycle shop in Bordesley, near the centre of Birmingham. In 1910 the company became involved in motorcycles and began series production at Barn Street one year later. Before the First World War they used mainly Precision and JAP engines. Later they used Peco, Blackburne and Villiers engines.
In the first War the company did not obtain government contracts to make motorcycles but produced many thousands of Mark 5 hand grenades.
In 1924 Calthorpe began making their own engines for the 1925 models, first a push rod 350 cc and in 1927 an OHC 500 cc. The 350 was a sound design but unfortunately the 500 was expensive and not fully developed. Consequently the 500 did not sell well and probably less than 100 were made.
The highlight of the Calthorpe models was the Ivory series, produced from 1929 to 1938.
The colourful finish and the co-ordinated range of models from 250 to 500 cc including a Super Sports competition model produced good sales for some years but, by the later 1930s, the designs had become outdated and the Calthorpe company became bankrupt in 1938.
In 1939 and again in 1945 attempts were made to restart production using first Matchless and finally Villiers engines. However these attempts were not successful and the Calthorpe name finally sank into oblivion.
|handgrenade MK 5||a letter from the Barn Street|