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Freeman's Cycles History

 

 

Frank Mathais Kirby



The family first became involved in the cycle trade over 100 years ago when Francis Mathais Kirby (Frank Kirby Senior) opened the first bicycle shop in St Benedict’s Street in Norwich in 1896.

Frank Kirby Cycles flourished selling traditional style bicycles including early Raleigh & BSA bicycles. Sturmey Archer hub gears and Brooks saddles were some of the bestsellers still in existence today.

 

 

Frank Kirby (Junior)

Francis Matthew Kirby (Frank Kirby Junior) then took over from his father and ran the shop successfully over the next few decades becoming the number one cycle shop in the city. 

Frank earned awards from major suppliers for shop window displays and was highly regarded within the cycle industry.  In 1948 Frank moved with his family to live in the two floors above the St Benedict’s Street shop.

 



Dog In Window St Benedicts Shop

By this time Frank’s daughter Mary and son David were already in their teens and had cycling blood running through them, there would be no escaping the inevitable pull from the cycle trade.

Even the family pet dog Bruce couldn’t resist rearranging the prize winning window displays

David resisted the forces that be and trained to become a carpenter, but the pull was too great and he eventually took over the St Benedict’s shop from his father Frank in 1955.

 

Raleigh Logo

 

Mary worked for 6 years at the Raleigh Cycle Company based in Norwich, which evolved into Raleigh Industries and became the household cycling brand that it is today. At this time Mary then started courting her future husband Ray Freeman.

 

 

Frank and Ray

 

In 1958 Ray joined forces with Frank and opened a second shop in Heigham Street in Norwich.  The partnership was successful, but as Frank was winding down Ray was winding up. 

Ray took over the shop in 1962 and the shop became known as Ray Freeman Cycles.

Ray grew the business and became one of the cities best cycle retailers.  The shop was small, but this never held him back.

 

 

 

Ray with Bicycle

 

Ray would start a Saturday morning on the run up to Christmas with a crowded display of Puch and Emmelle cycles, by the end of the day the racks would be empty!

Ray needed more man power at this stage….step up Richard, the next generation!

Ray’s son Richard had left school and started work at a local cycle wholesale firm, it wasn’t long before he realised that he belonged behind the counter at Freemans Cycles and joined the family business in 1977.

 

 

Richard In Wheel

 

Richard and his wife Joy took over from Ray in 1991 and Richard is still the main man today, although now he has decided that selling handlebars makes more sense than wearing a moustache in the shape of them as pictured right.

The trade has seen considerable changes over the years, with several large retailers establishing themselves as household names. 

Richard has never strayed from the core values that Frank Kirby senior put in place all those years ago.  He still sells Brooks saddles, Carradice bags, Sturmey Archer hubs and lots and lots of parts!

 

 

 

 

Freemans Then and Now

A decent haircut, designer glasses and no handlebar moustache….but not a lot else changes at Freemans Cycles!

 

 

Freemans Cycles First Website

FreemansCycles.co.uk was launched by Richard and his son Matt in 2006 and allowed the family to offer the same traditional level of service and expertise to the world!

Richard and Matt decided in 2010 that FreemansCycles.co.uk Mark I pictured left, was getting a little dated and didn’t offer customers the easiest of online shopping experiences.  After talking in detail to their customers about what they wanted, they had a solution….

 

Step up the next generation…. FreemansCycles.co.uk Mark II!

 

 

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