Swansea Cycles opened at 9 William St, Fremantle in 1927. The business grew rapidly and they were quickly established in the cycle industry.
Within just ten years of starting Swansea Cycles, the Baldwins had opened a factory in Newman Court, Fremantle, had agents throughout WA and in Darwin and established branches in Perth, Kalgoorlie and later in Bunbury.
1934 saw a name change; the company became Swansea Cycle & Motor Company to capitalise on the rising popularity of motor cycles and the Baldwins ran a garage alongside the William Street store. Manager of William St, Harold Durant, remembers exhibiting BSA motorbikes at the royal show but it isn’t clear if they were ever sold by Swansea.
Components were bought from importers and distributors such as Mortlocks, Coventry Motors and West Cycles. Tubesets were sourced from British Tube Mills Australia, an Adelaide manufacturer who made a variety of tubing including Reynolds 531 under licence.
Most Swanseas sported metallic paint finishes. Frame painter Arthur Raston recalls spraying a silver undercoat with iridescent or transparent enamel paint over the top. Pin stripes and decorative scrolling were hand-painted and the frames varnished. Frame numbers were stamped on by factory manager Dave Stevenson, with the SSH prefix denoting “Swansea Second Hand”.
While bicycles remained the mainstay of the business, the Baldwins began to diversify; trotting spiders and high quality toys were also manufactured in the Swansea factory. Horses on wheels, tricycles, dolls’ prams, scooters, roller skates, radios and miniature motors were all sold at their shops. By 1945 they also expanded their range to include small electrical appliances, kerosene stoves, electric gas lighters and soldering irons.
Assisted by their accountant, Ken Pettit, the Baldwins acquired the Frigidaire agency in the 1950’s and expanded their product range to include refrigerators, stoves and home appliances.
Howard and Les built their own hall at the Royal Agricultural Society showgrounds to exhibit their range every year and photos from this period show how Frigidaire came to dominate the business, with much of the floorspace given over to fridges. The hall still stands today and now exhibits horse riding accessories.
In 1965 the Newman Court factory was sold to Bruce Small’s General Accessories (makers of Malvern Star) and the Baldwins purchased offices and several shops in the new Westgate Mall in Fremantle. The factory was ultimately demolished to make way for the Myers building.
Following Harold Durant’s departure and the move to Westgate Mall Doug Shear took over the running of the shop, but it wasn’t long before the company closed it’s doors.
Swansea Cycles dominated the Western Australian cycle scene from the 1930’s until the 1960’s and were one of Australia’s largest and best known bicycle manufacturers.