Earlsdon Clock  
Earlsdon Online Coventry's longest running community website

The Rex Factory (Earlsdon Works)

rex acme

Soon after the newly merged Allard Cycle Company and Birmingham Motor Manufacturing and Supply Company, had moved from the old nail factory to new premises on Osborne Road, William Pilkington went back to his prime business interest in Birmingham. In due course Fred Allard joined him there, keeping some shares in the Earlsdon Company, but otherwise severing any connection. The new Company had changed its name to what was eventually to become a household name in the motorcycling world, 'The Rex'.

Pilkington left his two sons in charge in Earlsdon, where George at least took a great interest in the local community, serving on the founding committee of the Coffee Tavern (later the Working Men's Club) and the building of St Barbaras Church. The firm by now stopped producing bicycles, concentrating instead on their more successful motorcycles and prototype motor cars. The motorcycles, at first with only 1.5 or 2 hp engines added to a bicycle frame, gradually became more powerful and sturdy until they were even by today's standards recognisable motor bikes.

The cars too, beginning as weird and wonderful three wheelers, also in a very short period became large, comfortable models, able to compete in design with any other Coventry produced cars. Unfortunately, despite the addition of another plot to the Osborne Road site, the plant was never large enough for mass production, so the car side of the business was dropped in favour of motor cycles, in which it excelled. In any case, it was increasingly difficult to compete against the big firms of Daimler, Humber, Rover, Siddeley etc.

Rex Car

With the beginning of the 1914 war, however, things went wrong. The firm didn't receive the hoped for War Office order to supply the army with motorbikes and due to sales restrictions other outlets were blocked. In 1914 the firm had to go into liquidation and the receivers moved in. But you can't keep a good firm down and the following year it was reborn as the Rex-Acme Motor Company Ltd. Now with the production of Rex Acme motor cycles it went through another period of success. After the war the bikes were regularly raced in the TT races on the Isle of Man and with such riders as Walter Handley backed by a highly skilled work force, they were regularly successful. They also took part in long distance and endurance tests, again with great success. Even this did not sell enough bikes to keep the Earlsdon firm going and in 1923 it went into liquidation, although Rex-Acme bikes continued to be made at the Birmingham works. That was the end of the Earlsdon Rex, and the premises were sold to the Standard Motor Company.

It was not thought that any Standard cars were produced there, possibly only some components, and in 1928, no longer needing it, the Standard resold it to Coventry Bicycles Ltd, the Managing Director of which was also Managing Director of the Triumph Motor Company, Siegfried Bettman. He used the site as an annexe to his Priory Street works until that was bombed in the 1940 Blitz , after which the premises, fortunately practically undamaged, were used to store machinery rescued from other bombed factories.

In 1948 Bettman sold the site and buildings to Edward Hurley of Alpha Engineering, who made there anything from a huge 18.5 tonne rig, for testing Morris Minis and 1100s, produced in Italy by the Innocenti Company, to minute parts for precision machines.

Alpha survived for nearly 40 years, but finally succumbed in 1987 and went into liquidation. The old factory was demolished and the site cleared by the new owners, Coventry Churches Housing, for the development of homes for the elderly.

Now all that is left to remind us of the Rex and its successors are a few photographs and one or two Rex motorbikes that are now prized survivors, and which remind us with pride that they were 'made in Earlsdon'.

As a footnote it is also worth mentioning here that the Rex was not the only motor manufacturing company in Earlsdon at the time. At the other end of Moor Stret was the Clarendon Company. Like Allard they were originally a cycle company but they produced motor cars at their small works at 77 Moor Street from 1902 to 1904. They were succeeded by the Williamson Motor Co from 1913 until 1916. The Clarendon Motor Works was demolished in the 1990s to make way for a new doctors surgery.

Clarendon Motor Works
The old Clarendon Motor Works, Moor Street, just prior to demolition

Click here to return to the 'Millennium Heritage Trail'

© EOL 2011 | In association with Fireside Media

Visitors  visitors