Viking Company History

This Page is Work in Progress – I will be very pleased if you have any information that you can add.

There are many versions of Viking history around the internet and it is obvious that they have borrowed off each other and off common sources, so there is very little independent verification of any of the information.  This page will doubtless perpetuate some of the probable misinformation that is in circulation and I shall try to highlight what needs checking.

Phase 1 – The Beginning – 1908

Probably the most authoritative history is the one on the Wolverhampton Museum of industry website which had input from Vic Davies, son of Reg Davies who was son of Alfred Victor Davies who started the company in 1908 (subject to verification).  To quote that source: “The Viking Cycle Company was formed in 1908 by Alfred Victor Davies at 5 Wolverhampton Road, Heath Town“. The company proclaimed 1959 Viking Catalogue p05its Jubilee in 1958 with this panel in its 1958/9 catalogue.

Logic would seem to dictate that to produce a catalogue like that in 1908, there would have been some prior activity to get to that stage. Perhaps the business name was registered in that year (Viking was not incorporated as a limited company until the 1930s, but there was likely some form of business name registration current in 1908)

So the family was happy to accept a 1908 beginning, or that was the earliest catalogue they could find, or (being cynical) perhaps they thought the business needed a boost in 1958/9 and thought a Jubilee would help.

The next phase recorded in that history is: “It was an uphill struggle at first and the company eventually outgrew the Heath Town premises and in 1928 moved to larger premises in Broad Street.

Then the big one: “Viking were only there for a few years because the company soon outgrew these premises, and in 1934 moved to Midland Chambers at 34 Princess Street, where the betting shop is today.

A year later a building was acquired around the corner in Princess Alley to house the works, the Princess Street shop becoming the showroom and offices. Around this time Viking started making frames and so changed a bicycle assembler to a bicycle manufacturer.

This is very significant and indicates a step change in the business, and also indicates why searches in early cycling publications have so far failed to show up any reviews of Viking, advertisement or even small ads for the sale of used Vikings.  The search will go on in the hopes of finding some information on early models.

The history then goes on to note that Alfred Davies retired just before the Second World War (so in 1939 or perhaps 1938), to be succeeded by his son, Reg Davies.

Phase 2 – The Company – Viking Cycles Limited – 1939

This history states that Viking Cycles Limited was incorporated in 1939 (to be verified).  This may then have been one of the early actions of Reg Davies as Managing Director, perhaps foretelling his vision for the business.  The production numbers quoted are about 800 per year at this time, rising to 2,000 after the war.  I am hoping for verification of these numbers and am hoping that there is a way to access annual company reports to get information on company activities and finances.  My first inquiry to Companies House was fruitless.

Phase 3 – Post-War and Team Sponsorship

A key factor in Viking history is the formation of the British League of Racing Cyclists (BLRC)

Phase 4 – The End

 

Phase 5 – Lambert/Viscount

The pieces of Viking were bought up by Lambert (verification needed) who continued the brand until some point in the 1970s (information needed)

Lambert/Viscount either morphed into Trusty or were acquired by Trusty in the 1970s (information needed)

Phase 6 – Northern Ireland – Part 1

I have seen it suggested that Roy Clements purchased the rights to the Viking name from Trusty, circa 1977

The following company information is from Viking Catalogues:
Sales and Distribution:
Viking Cycles,
Tatton Court,
Kingsland Grange,
Warrington, Lancs.

Manufacturing:
Viking Manufacturing Co. Ltd.,
Springtown Industrial Estate,
Londonderry,
N. Ireland

There is some question over when this incarnation of Viking took off – it is likely 1977 and there is a copy of a June 1977 Price List which shows the Superlite as the top model at a price several times that of the other models.  These were built by Harry Quinn, who supposedly had a hand in designing the range of Vikings (to be verified).  The author has only ever seen two Superlites, both in the auction of the personal effects of the paedophile entertainer James Savile.  The following year, the top model was the Severn Valley, which appears to be similar to the frames raced by the team in 1978.  The Severn Valley also looks to be an artisan built frame, but do not yet know who built them.

There is a suggestion that the whole enterprise fell apart by 1985, which is when the next incarnation of Viking was incorporated:

Phase 7 – Northern Ireland – Part 2

Name & Registered Office:
VIKING CYCLES LIMITED
GARVAGH ROAD
SWATRAGH
CO LONDONDERRY.
BT46 5QE
Company No. NI018547

Status: Dissolved 21/12/2012
Date of registration: 11/06/1985

Phase 8 – Today

Today, the Viking brand name is owned by Avocet Sports Limited who sell a range of bikes under that name.  There is a Viking trademark that was registered in 1963, presumably by the original Viking company, that is now registered to Avocet Sports limited, which does seem to indicate that the name was passed from one entity to another.

Some rather beautiful track frames were produced by Viking Cycles Norway (no connection with the UK company), but they seem to have expired, which is a great pity.   The frames they produced looked absolutely superb, but their demise does indicate the difficulty of establishing a new brand of handcrafted steel frames in the present era.

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