Soanes Cycles is one of the oldest bicycle shops in Britain, the shop was built in 1854 by Mr R Abrahams who was a local draper and tailor. Mr Abrahams closed his shop in 1902 and sold the premises to Charles and Gerald Richards from Manor Farm, Branscombe. The brothers went on to open Richard Bro’s Liberty Cycles and Sidney J Soanes came to work as a cycle mechanic in 1910 in response to an advert.
Cycles were produced at the Colyton based shop with bicycle frames brazed up from bought-in fittings, the frames were then taken to a shed lined with galvanised sheets and stove enamelled. Cycle manufacture in Colyton stopped in the early 1920’s as a result of the competition from factory made cycles, during the 1930’s mass production meant cheap cycles became widely available.
A new cycle company, Norman Cycles, started in Ashford, Kent producing mass cycles. As there were remaining stocks of the original Swan Cycles (aka Soanes Cycles) transfers available, they were sent to the Norman Cycles company who applied them to their cycles. The Swan Cycles bikes sold for £3-15 shillings for a standard Ladies or Gents cycle, plus £1 for Sturmey Archer 3-speed. Other makes sold at the time were Raleigh, BSA, Elswick and Sunbeam.