Bill Philbrook

 

It is my intention to write a tribute to Bill Philbrook who was, in my opinion, a frame builder of unmatched ability. Perhaps more importantly he was a really interesting and nice man. Unfortunately I am struggling to obtain hard facts about his career. I know he worked for Claud Butler and Gillotts and when I first met him in 1978 he had a business in Arden Street, Gillingham, Kent. He was a club cyclist and I believe he had raced in his youth.

I have three of Bill’s frames and the photos of the seat lug are from a 1978 road frame. The lug started as a Prugnat long point before Bill reduced it to next to nothing. I don’t expect that the lug adds anything to the structural integrity of the frame, that came from the perfect mitreing and brazing.

I came across these photos on a Lambretta owners’ forum. Many thanks to whoever posted them.  What a trip down memory lane. Does anybody know who the young guy is? Could it be Jeff Lyon I wonder.

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46 Comments »

  1. Alison Golding (Philbrook) said

    hello

    Thank you for your comments about my late father Bill Philbrook I came across your web site while browesing the web. dads frames have been sighted in other parts of the globe as well.

  2. Jeff Lyon said

    Just came across this tribute to Bill. I worked at the Arden st. shop from 1975-76 part time then full time from 1976 till I returned to the states in 1981. Bill had a huge influance on my life, in fact doubt I would stayed in the UK as long had I not met him. If I can answer any questions you may have I still remember a fair bit of it. Cheers Jeff

  3. David Giles said

    Hello, Came across your notes about Bill Philbrook by chance. I knew Bill more or less from when he arrived at the shop in Arden street (around 1960 I believe) and can confirm his abilities as a frame builder – I spent many hours in his shop just watching him at work when I was quite young. He was a very gentle soul, a craftsman in every sense of the word and very open to offer his frame building ‘secrets’. It’s always been an ambition of mine to own one of his frames, but of course I could never afford one when I was living in the Medway Towns. I was a member of Wigmore Cycling Club at that time, so was pleased to note that there is now a race named in his honour!

    • Jonathan Sage said

      Hello David,

      My father and Uncle used to be members of Wigmore cycling club.
      My fathers name was Peter Sage (Sadly passed away in nov 2004)
      My uncles name is Richard Sage (He is still with us)
      I have loads of my dads photos of wigmore club runs and time trial events.
      Would be nice to know if you remember my dad or uncle.

      My dad used to rave on about Philbrooks frames, and I have one of his frames.
      Super lightweight with all campagnolo, great frame.
      Many thanks
      Jonathan

      • Jonathan Sage said

        My frames number is 285786

        Jonathan

        Hi Jonathan, That number would seem to be a Philbrook number but it doesn’t fit with my frame numbers:

        Number Date on invoice
        211787 8th Aug 1978
        2297912 23rd Jan 1980
        2768212 31st March 1983
        317856 11th Dec 1985

        Looking back what is weird is how long after the frames were built they were ready for collection. the last one has a six month gap. I wonder if your frame was built for another dealer and Bill used a different numbering system for outside jobs?

      • Jonathan Sage said

        I’ll take some photos of it.
        It does have the same lug work as your bike, and I the but joins have some nice work on them too.

        More investigation is needed.

        But you could be right 🙂

        Thanks

        Jonathan

      • Jonathan Sage said

        After doing a bit of digging and asking my uncle some questions about the frame, it turns out that if Bill Philbrook didnt agree with your clearances, he wouldnt put his name to it, but still build the frame anyway.
        My frame is a light weight ‘Fixed’ track frame, the clearances are very close and the forks have a very steep rake angle.

        This is why I’m guessing that the serial number is different.

        What ever, its still a cracking frame 🙂

        Jonathan

      • David Giles said

        Jonathan, Yes, I knew your father – I was very sorry to read that he is no longer with us. I also knew your uncle Richard and your Grandparents – I’m sure Peter and Richard had a much younger brother, Terence, if my memory serves me correctly.
        I remember your father ordering a high – spec Holdsworth frame with beautiful lugwork and also distinctly remember seeing the order docket in Bill’s workshop. I seem to recall that he found it hard to believe that it was actually built by Bill in Arden Street! All this is such a long time ago, but it’s nice to know that Bill’s talents are still appreciated. David.

      • Jonathan Sage said

        Hi David,

        I haven’t looked at this website for a while (Forgot about it if I’m honest.)
        My Dad and Unc R’s younger brother was Barry and there cousin was Terance (Terry.)
        It was nice that you knew dad and Richard, I’m guessing that you used to be a member of Wigmore CC or either that used to work at Dousts in Rochester High Street (Now a car park.)
        The bike you talk about in your above post I have a picture of Dad riding it on the Bath Road 100 TT (I can provide a copy, but I have no where to post here.)
        I have got a few of dads pictures from the wigmore club runs in the very early 60’s.
        I note from a later post that your into aero-modelling 🙂
        That make me smile, I did aero-modelling with my dad and still do aero-modelling to this day.

        Anyway nice reading your post.
        Would be interested to hear any amusing stories about dad and richards cycling if you know any.

        Cheers
        Jonathan

  4. Ian Barratt said

    Hello.Good to see there’s a bit more up on the web about Bill.I too, like David spent a lot of time – (far too much time)speaking to Bill.it’s a wonder he ever got anything made(only 284 Philbrooks ever made!?) – he was always willing to talk to people – and shortly before he died he posed for a few pencil portraits that I drew of him. Sadly now I’m going to sell my Philbrook( for a number of reasons) – and i want it to go to a good home – so David if you’re still looking , let me know.

    Finally – a question – for someone who made such things of beauty – why did Bill insist on driving a sun-faded beige Austin Maxi held together with car body filler?
    It wasn’t just bodyfiller that held his Maxi together, I saw him fix half a bike rim around a rusting wheel arch! Quite a neat trick. I guess he drove the Maxi because he didn’t make too much money, certainly his frame prices were very modest considering the workmanship and time involved.greenjersey

    • David Giles said

      Hello Ian,
      Sorry for the belated reply but I don’t often look at this site. I’m afraid I’m a ‘lapsed’ cyclist these days and much more involved in model engineering.

      As I’m now retired and on a limited budget, I fear that one of Bill’s frames is still beyond my limited resources. I do hope that you found a good home for your machine! David.

    • Nick Purnell said

      Hi Ian…

      Is your Philbrook still for sale?

      Nick

  5. Gary Seward said

    Really nice to see some comments about Bill Philbrook! I’ve been searching for ages. I have a tandem that I beleive is a Philbrook, I think it is around 1960-1962 in its original condition. I would welcome any information or comments. ie did he build many tandems? etc.
    Hi Gary, good to hear from a Philbrook fan. Yes Bill was in to tandems in a big way. A friend bought a second hand Philbrook tandem and Bill had used all sorts of tricks to compensate for the lack of suitable parts at that time. In particular the “down tube” consisted of two standard sized tubes and the way Bill mitred them together to meet the head tube was just amazing. also the front wheel was built with a forty hole double fixed hub. Simple but effective. Does your frame have a number?

    • Gary Seward said

      Thanks for replying, the frame number is 1497411 at the front underneath and I have also found at the back GR2 MADE? this could be slightly wrong as it is quite faint. I’m guessing that this means she was made in 1974? The way that the frame has been built is amazing and I have had a number of other cyclists commenting on it.It is red and is called Rosie, I’ve had it for about 20 years and still ride around the UK Sussex countryside most weekends(weather permittting). I have some photos if you would like to see them.

      Gary

      Well Gary that frame number seems to fit with Bill’s system. That would be his 149th frame made in November 1974. My first frame was numbered 211787 and I collected it on 8th August 1978. The cost was £112.41 including a fitted headset which was remarkably good value. I have a photo on the blog of the seat lug on that frame that Bill had filed to almost nothing. With perfect mitreing the lugs were almost superficial.

  6. Gary Harbord said

    I too came across this tribute by chance. I used to visit the shop at 4-6 Arden Street, Gillingham a lot about 20 years ago. At that time there was someone working there by the name of Rod Kennison. I had a frame built for me which I believe is a Dave Marsh frame but with the “Philbrook” and “PAG” decals. I do not know much about the frame building of Bill Philbrook but would be very interested to find out more. I still have the bike which is now gracing the roads of South Australia. Gary Harbord, Adelaide, SA

  7. martin mcgregor said

    I knew Bill, i was a young racing cyclist who saved for years to buy one of his frames.
    I visiting his shop one day and had my bike stolen, Bill made me another and
    years later the origional was found.
    Bill would look out his window and if he saw somebody in need…like a lady
    with a broken pram he would drop everything to help,he was a great,great man who i was proud to know….i also remember Jeff Lyons working there,
    he took me out on the back of his tandem and scared me silly.
    Bill made the frames then he would shock blast them….wearing his army berit then paint, he did the whole job from start to finsh…a master at his craft.

  8. Gina Philbrook said

    Hi there,

    Bill Philbrook was my father’s uncle, and it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I was aware of his reputation as a bicycle frame builder, so websites like this one have been very helpful for the purpose of gleaning a bit of family history! I don’t think I ever had the opportunity to meet Bill, so it’s nice to read other people’s accounts of meeting him, and very heartening to learn how highly regarded he was.

    Regards,

    Gina Philbrook

  9. Simon Murray said

    Hi everyone.

    I have been searching the net for info on Bill and came across this website.

    I am in the process of restoring my dad’s Meridian bike made by Bill in the early 60’s when he was at youngs. My dad sold it in the late 60’s to his cousin who took it to Australia and used it for a post round before leaving it at the end of his garden to rot. 30 years later we managed to get the bike back, the frame is still in good condition but the paint work and art work has been ruined. We have found someone who can respray the frame to its original colour but unfortunately my dad can’t remember what the artwork/transfers were like on the bike. I have hunted high and low on the web and can find examples of both Grandini and Youngs which were the other models on sale in the shop at the time but no sign of Meridian anywhere. Can anyone help by guiding me to an example of the artwork or by describing a font that is a good example of what the original lettering looked like. We want to get the resoration as near to the original as possible.

    many thanks

    Simon

  10. James Soanes said

    I have two Philbrook frames and was thrilled to find this little site asd a tribute to Bill Philbrook, at just 43 years young…i’m afraid i cant lay claim to knowing Bill, but I have tracked down (which took some detective work) his son Bob.

    One of my frames is a Hellenic design and just over 25 1/4″ but with a short top tube…it also has the larger diameter top tube…and like my other Philbrook (which I literally just acquired) it is fillet brazed.

    The second frame is a 24 1/2..and i am awaiting the history on both frames..one day i hope I get lucky enough to find a Philbrook of around 23-23 1/2″ I suspect Ian’s frame went a year ago?

    I hope to hear from some of you on here..and the link to see the picture of my hellenic is to go on to flickr and under my user name jamesaudiovideo you will see it.

    Best regards

    James Soanes (Norwich UK)

  11. James Soanes said

    Hi Simon,
    Well…with regards to a Philbrook..I am in communication with Bob (Robert) Philbrook, Bill’s son, having tracked him down, and in fact i have been emailing today,on the subject of ‘all things philbrook’, oddly enough..when i made my post yesterday…your comm,ent wasn’t showing? That is because I (greenjersey) have been away for a few days and all comments require approval before they appear.

    Can’t help with ‘Meridian’ though, Bob is thinking of building a website and also maybe having more Decals done, he is or I should say ‘has’ dug out the info on my hellenic frame and is currently doing the same for my very recent Philbrook…but is thinking of putting the info on headed paper for me.
    We do know that his frame numbering was not logical…and is a little bit all ovr the place.
    I must admit I only posted yesterday( my first) and didn’t expect to see any new comments for a while…
    greenjersey writes I don’t agree that Bill’s frame numbering system was illogical. He first numbered the frame, then the year and lastly the month. So for example my last frame is numbered 317856 meaning frame no. 317 made (or possibly ordered) in June 1985. What could be simpler? I seem to recall that he told me that the same system was used by a previous employer, maybe Claud or Gillott. What I don’t know is how outside jobs fitted in to this system, if at all.

  12. James Soanes said

    Sorry,

    Currently in talks with Bob..Bills son…and it was Bob who told me ‘Dad’s numbering wasn’t logical…the mind of a Genius is often not logical” whilst not totally verbatim…that’s what Bob told me?

    I am awaiting the History on both of my Philbrooks…he is just awaiting to put the details down on headed paper…so I actually don’t know..only passing on what I have been told…and will know very soon.

    The number of my Hellenic Philbrook is 82695…my recently acquired TT Philbrook is a very similar number 85697…so looking like just 3 frames apart…they both look a bit too modern to be late 60’s frames…but he was quite pioneering to say the least eh?

    I will prompt Bob tomorrow….anyway..so nice to be amongst other Philbrook owners.

    James

  13. Ted Collins said

    Hello All,

    I remember Bill with great affection. He built two excellent frames for me in the 60’s and 70’s. He built my first one in 1964 when I was a first year apprentice at Chatham Dockyard. It was 531with nervex professional lugs and a beautiful paint job, metallic silver with my club colours in panels on the seat tube (Medway Road Club). It cost me £ 19/17/6d (thats 19 pounds, seventeen shillings and six pence to anyone who either can’t remember or wasn’t borne before decimilisation !) which is of course nothing today, but at the time I was earning three quid a week and so it did seem a lot of money. Bill let me pay for it at 10 bob a week, that’s 50p !, and so I used to drop into his Arden Street shop every Friday (pay day) to pay my dues and spend at least an hour or so chatting about this and that. He would be in his old army overalls, with a pair of cracked welding goggles perched on the top of his head, filing a lug, or brazing up a frame, and look up as I came in and say ‘Hello Lad, do you want a cup of tea?’ He’d then fill up a battered old kettle, put it on a brick and heat it up with his brazing torch. Out would come a couple of old aluminium teapot, chipped enamal mugs, condensed milk and tea was served. Over tea he’d chat on about all manner of things, giving me good advice on cycling-and women ! Sometimes I was treated to a doorstep sandwich, usually corned beef. His shop was filthy ! bike bits lying all over the floor, old wheels that the owner never bothered to collect, old tubs hanging on the wall, car parts etc etc. Once I came in to see a baby was playing on the floor, his daughter I think, amongst all the old junk !
    A thing that always amazed me was how, from such a scruffy place such beautiful works of art could be created. Not only was Bill a master frame builder but he was an expert finisher, he produced some lovely paint jobs which be baked in drying ovens he made up from old steel lockers, at the back of the workshop.
    I moved away from the Medway Towns after finishing my apprenticeship, got a job in London and fell foul to those things that tend to interest young men more than riding a bike. But, like all cyclists it stays in the blood and in the late 70’s -or was it the 80’s (not too sure, I’ll need to check the frame number) I felt the urge to get back on the bike, and paid Bill a visit. Things had changed over 15 or so years, but not in his shop, he greeted me as if I’d just dropped in to pay my ten bob on a friday night, with a cheery “Hello Lad !”
    He made me up my second frame then (well, it took about 6 months to get it !) 531SL tubing, log pointed lugs which he filed down, and my initials cut out in bronze and brazed onto the fork crown. I loved it and raced on it for a few years with a London Club, until I broke the seat tube during a race in Rochester one Saturday morning. I whizzed around to his shop in my car and found him welding up an old pram. He put the pram aside and immediately repaired the seat tube by dropping a smaller diameter steel tube into it and then brazing it up. He slapped a bit of paint on the repair and I was able to get back to the race for the afternoon event ! No charge – I’d only had it for about 5 or 6 years !
    I have many happy memories about those years, the Medway Road Club, the Dockyard (all gone now of course) and Bill. He was a great bloke, a cyclist who loved cycling, a great sense of humour and a good heart. He passed away about the same time as my Dad and so I was unable to say goodby to him, but I still remenber those days sometimes, especially when I look at my two ‘PAG’s
    Thanks for that Ted. Yes I recall the stunt with the brazing torch to boil the kettle. To be honest I think Bill was a bit of a show man on the quiet. My first frame snapped at the seat tube just up from the bottom bracket. I am a big rider and it was a 25 inch frame so I didn’t hold it against Bill.

  14. Jonathan Sage said

    Hi there.
    I still have my dads Philbrook, and am now in the position to sell it.
    Give me a shout at jonsage300574@gmail.com and I will give you details.
    Its a complete bike, fixed wheel (Thats what dad used like).
    Super frame, but sadly I’m too much of a MTBiker and dont ride fix.
    Many thanks
    Jonathan

    P.S Any one know if Alec Bird is still alive ?
    I have an Alec Bird frame that Alec built for dad in the late 1980’s.
    Please let me know, cos I remember going on Alec’s boat that was moored down in Medway bridge marina and making a fuss of his cat tiller.
    Thanks 🙂

  15. Jonathan Sage said

    Photo’s of the Philbrook
    IMAG0205

  16. glenn philbrook said

    thats my grandad

  17. David West said

    Hi I was still at school at Gillingham Tech when Bill arrived in Arden street and I must have been only 13 or 14 at the time, that would be about 1957/8
    I had and still have a Claud Butler at the time and used to do a paper round and met Bill very shortly after he started work there and I spent hours and hours working for Bill and my wages were new respray, new set of wheels etc.
    I worked for him as and when I could until I joined the RAF in 1962, but whenever I was home I always went and saw him, I a can’t remember the date now, but it was shortly before he died and I believe he had moved with the family from Arden street to the estate startng at Featherby Rd going towards Rainham

    Another interesting thing was that Bill when he first met me and looked at my bike, he said “I built that frame, so I’d better look after it ” Claud Butler also came to see him when I was there one day
    He taught me to weld, braze I spent hours filing lugs and fork ends, I can remember the children but not to well I also belonged to Wigmore CC
    Bill was an amazing man and I owe him a lot for the skills that he taught me which still stand me in good stead today

    Dave West
    Now living in Jersey

    Hi Dave, thanks for your comment. Interesting to learn when Bill moved to Arden Street. Do you recall how Bill was able to identify the CB as his work? Did he mark the frame in any way?) It would be great to see a photo of the frame. My first lightweight frame was a lugless Claud and I have often wondered if Bill built it.

  18. david giles said

    I have a possible answer to how Bill knew he had built the ‘Claud’ mentioned by Dave West – I believe he had been Claud’s “workshop manager” before he came to the Medway Towns, also he had a very special way of setting the front fork rake which gave a unique and unmistakeable curve.

  19. Dave said

    Hello there.
    I’m wondering if any one would know if Mr Philbrook once had a shop in Teddington? A customer of mine often tells me stories of his past and he’s recently brought up the subject of a frame builder in my current home town. Only, he remembers it as being Philbrock, but he’s gone through his archive of old cycling magazines and can only find Philbrook. If any one know’s (and even better if you have pictures of said shop), that’d be awesome.
    Thank you.
    Hi Dave, I have never heard of a West London connection for Bill. When I first tried to contact him I made the mistake of looking for a “Phil Brook” I wonder if your man could be Phil Brock?

    • Anonymous said

      Do you know of a Phil Brock please?

    • Nigel Land said

      I think there must have been much confusion between G R Philbrock and Bill Philbrook over the years, The former was a lightweight builder at 87 High Street Teddington and I think he was building prewar. Very nice lugwork judging from the pics I have seen. If anyone has information on GRP I would like to hear from them as I edit The Boneshaker for the Veteran-Cycle Club and this is yet another London builder we do not have any details of.
      Nigel Land

      • Dave said

        Hi Nigel.
        So strange you comment on the same day I finally found proof of C.R Philbrock. I’ve been told there used to be club meets at the Park Hotel just off of the high street. I can’t confirm if these go as far back as Philbrocks time.
        Apparently his shop was a small one of a weird shape (I want to say diagonal?).
        Having looked through the census of the time, there is a Charles Philbrock, yet he’s listed as working in a flour mill, no mention of a shop.
        Sorry for the take over guys and girls!

    • Nigel Land said

      Thanks for the comment, Dave – a Google for C R Philbrock threw up a photo of page 56 of Cycling Feb 15 1939. It details C R Philbrock’s new massed-start racing model with Hellenic seat stays. What year was he listed as a miller? Frame building may have been a second job – not rare in those tough days – depression and all that. Judging by the frame that sold yesterday on eBay he was an excellent builder – I was unfortunately outbid!

      • Dave said

        Thank god for that frame, I never knew of his initials so previous searches had been long and fruitless. Another of his frames sold in Bournemouth last year (minus makers name). The gent had the original receipt, but refused to divulge any details past the town in which it was made. Alas that frame went for more than I could afford, also. Could you send me your email address please? I’d love to pass on any more details I find. thebicycleplaygroundATgmail.com . I’m now live in Teddington and I’m constantly searching for information.
        Ok this has gone on long enough! Seriously it is helpful that Bill Philbrook/Philbrock question has been cleared up.

  20. Anonymous said

    Hi. My name is Peter Schofield and I’ve owned my Philbrook tandem for about 20 years. It’s probably 24inch front 22inch rear (big in other words). The most impressive factors are the invisible blended lugs and the 60 toothed TA chain ring. It’s ‘metallic brown’ which actually looks better than my description. The 27 inch wheel rims are concaved (36 front 40 rear spokes). I’ve had plenty of ‘guest’ stokers and ofcourse loads of fun on it. My wife who is an occasional cyclist thinks its a torture device since she gets saddle sore despite several experiments with saddles. Never mind but it’s been interesting reading about Bill the frame builder.
    Hi Peter, It sounds as if your tandem was built for racing (time trials) with that dust bin lid chainring. BTW the construction method was known as lugless back in the day but latterly “fillet brazed” has been used. A woman I know who is an occasional stoker told me that a cheapish suspension seat post changed her life for the better.

  21. Peter Schofield said

    Sorry I didn’t leave my Email

  22. AA1 said

    Reply to Gary Seward September 10, 2009 @ 7:01 pm

    The tandem you own sounds like one that Bill Made for Doug & Susie Brett. As a regular at his shop in those days I remember it being made, assembled & Doug collecting it. In those days I’d bump into them occasionally in the the lanes. I think it was signed “Rosa Double”, or some such.

  23. Steve said

    I am so pleased I have just stumbled across this site. I feel as though I have purchased a piece of history today – I was searching the web to find out about the PAG Zoita that I have just bought. It is in fairly good condition but needs a bit of a clean and tidy. Once this forecast storm has cleared I will go out into the garage and get the frame number to see if I can date it.
    Steve

    Good to hear from you Steve. What does “Zoita” mean?

  24. steve said

    I don’t have a clue! I have spent hours googling it – I think it is a girls name. The badge on the front is an alluminium plate saying Zoita by PAG then the gillingham address. Zoita (with a line over the A) painted on the down tube. To make matters even more vague I can’t find a frame number anywhere! Whatever it Is I’m going to enjoy bringing it back to its former glory. If anyone can help identify it I’d really appreciate it.
    Steve
    It sounds as if it is an “outside” job for another company but in that case I wouldn’t expect the PAG transfer. All my frames had the number on the bottom bracket shell.

  25. Steve said

    I have spent the day stripping the PAG down and under a think layer of grease I found the frame number 59722. From the brazed cable guides it looks like it was originally a 3 speed that has been converted to 10 speed with Huret front and rear mech. Unfortunately the paint is so shot that a strip and spray are necessary. The Zoita (I still have no idea what it means!) is professionally sign written rather than transfers will be lost in the process. I will take a stencil though so that I can either have it painted back or get some decals made up. So if the numbering system is the same as above I guess it dates from 1972.
    Steve
    Not sure about that number. It looks like Feb. 1972 but surely it can’t be only Bill’s 59th frame? Dave West, an earlier poster says Bill opened at Gillingham in about 1958 and 59 frames in fourteen years would be slow going even by Bill’s standards. Maybe there is a one before the five?

  26. (quote) “Good to hear from you Steve. What does “Zoita” mean?” (unquote) ….Zoita is a popular girl’s name found mainly in Eastern Europe and in particular Romania.
    Griff
    Keep searching Steve, I can’t see Bill using a Romanian girl’s name on one of his frames!

    • stevechevis said

      Bill probably didn’t but the bike has been ‘updated’ in its 40 year history. Bryan Clarke has helped be locate the frame number in Bills Frame book and it all marries up. I’m guessing that whoever added the braze on cable guides in the late 70’s added the name Zoita along with the aluminium head badge.

      I have seen the entry in Bill’s Frame Book. The bike was built in 1973 – from the frame number on the forks. The number on the bottom bracket appears to have been the original owners phone number and pure coincidence that it fitted Bills numbering system.

      The bike is now back together and rides beautifully – I just need to make my legs a couple of inches shorter and it will be perfect! Anyone know of a large Bill Philbrook frame up for sale?

  27. Geoff Luen San Fairy Ann CC said

    Hi I’m intending to write an article for my club magazine as a few of us still around knew and loved Bill’s masterpieces many years ago. I also came across Jeff Lyons whilst he worked with Bill. I started out with my first racing bike which was a Claud Butler road bike which I got Bill to convert to a track frame with a short wheelbase & straightened forks. later I purchased a stock road frame that Bill had sprayed in a similar shade of pink that Barry Hoban rode. This was then resprayed yellow around 1977/78. After that Bill built me a great road frame in Reynolds 531 SL to my specification with lots of interesting features: brazed on front mech before they were common, integrated brazed on brake bolts, special rear drop out which allowed the rear mech to swing clear and brazed on brass washers incorporated in the front & rear drop outs to avoid corrosion or any paint falling off and he also included a flat plate chainstay bridge which served as a flint catcher as the clearance was so tight. The frame was finished in red with white panels and profile lettering. After an accident when my road bike wasn’t strapped onto my car roof rack properly, Bill carried out various mods: moved front brake to behind fork crown, replaced the top tube an incorporated hidden rear brake cable, both gear cables and moved the gear levers to the top of the down tube, fitted a standard braze on front mech boss. I then got the frame copper plated and Bill fitted black lettering for me then lacquered it. Unfortunately pin holes caused green spots to develop so I then got the frame satin chrome plated. The frame lasted quite a few years but the reworking and perhaps acid residue took it’s toll and the down tube cracked at the brazed on front mech. I wanted to convert another frame into a track bike later and Bill was busy but let me have some track ends and seat stays to have a go myself – it was also his way of letting me see what agro. we gave him with our demands for something customised and special.

    Very fond memories of a master frame builder
    Hi Geoff, thanks for your interesting post. Yes you certainly seem to have given Bill the run around but I feel that is the way he liked it. Why else would he make his own fork ends or plate chainstay bridges? I don’t think it was customer demand, I think he just liked to show what he could do and set himself apart, and above, run of the mill framebuilders.

  28. stevechevis said

    Hi Geoff, I recently found this piece by Bryan about Bill and his bikes. He also helped me discover some of the history of my bike. It’s worth a read… http://www.classiclightweights.co.uk/builders/philbrook-clarke-builders.html

  29. Simon said

    Hello to all,
    I have a rather different story about Bill Philbrook. I used to frequent Gillingham Blacklion Skatepark (just around the corner) for years. We used to go and buy, speak and knock around his shop- he was very kind. I remember a friend of mine (sorry dont recall name) had a S.E. racing ‘quadangle’ BMX a very avant garde frame for its time and now very highly sought after…checkout ebay prices! He actually x-rayed the frame to reveal all the weakness and stress points after the original contruction. (USA made) He then proceeded to take it apart, tube by tube and re-braze by hand the whole thing back together again – the frame was then stress relieved – although i didnt know what process he used for this. The frame was beautiful!!!!! I remember it was commissioned for this guy by a old man who used to take hundreds of photos of the skatepark riders called ‘Bob’ an old professional photographer from gravesend – i’d love to track both this frame and Bob’s photos although i imagine he’s long deceased. Thanks to Bill philbrook for passsing on his old skool knowledge without any hint of snobbery towards the then emerging BMX scene in England thanks to Geoff Wiles.

    Thanks!!!!

  30. Hi there,we have a Bill Philbrook Tandem that we have had for nearly 40 years having used it as the second owners to tour around europe. I’m going to list it on as well known auction site as it needs to go to a good home where it will be appreciated (and renovated a bit, still rideable – we rode it last year but the various parts need a good service/overhaul I think to bring it up to more modern standards (of braking etc!)). Unless someone has a special Philbrook museum or something my intention isnt to solicit offers at all from this post, so please don’t, I simply thought I should let you all know to look out for it and I’ll put up some pictures next on facebook as I thought you might be interested. We bought it from Beta Bikes in London in about 1980 I think. Cheers Fraser

  31. Pauld802 said

    Hi all, I’ve been researching Balham Cycling Club – the home club of Claud Butler – and among some of the club memorabilia is the name of BCC member Ted Philbrook. Anyone know of any family connection?
    best Paul

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