Royal Enfield was a brand name under which The Enfield Cycle Company Limited of Redditch, Worcestershire sold motorcycles, bicycles, lawnmowers and stationary engines which they had manufactured. Enfield Cycle Company also used the brand name Enfield without Royal.
The first Royal Enfield motorcycle was built in 1901. The Enfield Cycle Company is responsible for the design and original production of the Royal Enfield Bullet, the longest-lived motorcycle design in history.
Enfield’s remaining motorcycle business became part of Norton Villiers in 1967 and that business closed in 1978.
George Townsend set up a business in 1851 in Redditch making sewing needles. In 1882 his son, also named George, started making components for cycle manufacturers including saddles and forks. By 1886 complete bicycles were being sold under the names Townsend and Ecossais. This business suffered a financial collapse in 1891. Albert Eadie, sales manager of Birmingham’s Perry & Co Ltd, pen makers who had begun to supply components for cycles, and Robert Walker Smith, an engineer from D. Rudge & Co, were chosen by Townsend’s bankers to run the business. Then, in 1892, the firm was re-incorporated and named Eadie Manufacturing Company Limited; it was based in Snow Hill, Birmingham. Later, in 1907, after serious losses from their newly floated Enfield Autocar business, Eadie Manufacturing and its pedal-cycle component business was absorbed by Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA). Years later, the BSA chairman was to tell shareholders that the acquisition had “done wonders for the cycle department”. Eadie still retained a separate identity when Raleigh bought BSA’s cycle interests in 1957.
Eadie had won contracts to supply precision parts for fire arms to the government’s long-established Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield, Middlesex, now the London Borough of Enfield with its offshoot in Sparkbrook and had assumed the brand name Royal Enfield.In 1896 they also incorporated a new subsidiary company, The New Enfield Cycle Company Limited, to handle much of the cycle work and in 1897 Enfield making complete cycles as well parts for other assemblers took all the cycle assembly work from Eadie.
Enfield diversified into motor cycles, 1901 and motor cars, 1902. The motor department was put into a separate subsidiary, Enfield Autocar Company Limited incorporated in 1906 and established in new works at Hunt End, Redditch. However Enfield Autocar after just 19 months reported a substantial loss and, aside from Eadie himself, shareholders were unwilling to provide more capital so in early 1907 Eadie sold his control of Eadie Manufacturing to BSA. Albert Eadie and Robert Walker Smith had been appointed directors of BSA before the proposed sale had been put to shareholders. The new combined BSA and Eadie business manufactured “military and sporting rifles, (pedal) cycle and cycle components, motor-cars etc.” “BSA and Eadie cycle specialities”. But there were still minority Eadie shareholders alongside BSA in 1957.
The business of Enfield Autocar, that is to say the plant and stock, was sold to Birmingham’s Alldays & Onions Pneumatic Engineering. Enfield Cycle Company took over the Hunt End premises.
In 1955, Enfield Cycle Company partnered with Madras Motors in India in forming Enfield of India, based in Chennai, and started assembling the 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle in Madras. The first machines were assembled from components imported from England. Starting in 1957, Enfield of India acquired the machines necessary to build components in India, and by 1962 all components were made in India.
Frank Walker Smith (1888-1962), eldest son of Robert Walker Smith, joined Enfield Cycle Company in 1909. Appointed joint (with his father) managing director in 1914 he took over the full responsibility when his father died in 1933.After his death Enfield was bought by investors E & H P Smith who sold Enfield for £82,500 to Norton Villiers in 1967. While Norton Villiers acquired 33 per cent of Enfield India the assets of Enfield’s diesel engine division and pedal cycle and spares divisions were not picked up.
Royal Enfield produced bicycles at its Redditch factory until it closed in early 1967. The company’s last new bicycle was the ‘Revelation’ small wheeler, released in 1965. Production of motorcycles ceased in 1970 and the original Redditch, Worcestershire-based company was dissolved in 1971.
Enfield of India continued producing the ‘Bullet’, and began branding its motorcycles ‘Royal Enfield’ in 1999. A lawsuit over the use of ‘Royal’, brought by trademark owner David Holder, was judged in favour of Enfield of India, who now produce motorcycles under the Royal Enfield name. The models produced and marketed in India include Cafe Racers, Cruisers, Retros and Adventure Tourers.
Royal Enfield, the two-wheeler division of Eicher Motors, on Tuesday reported a 13 percent decline in total sales to 58,278 units in December. The company had sold 66,968 units in December last year, it said in a statement.