Where today marrows and sunflowers grow, soon bicycles will be born. Raleighs proposed factory site just off Blenheim Lane, in Bulwell is currently an allotment.
800 workers will relocate to the new factory which will be built close to the Blenheim Industrial Estate, just off the A6002, five miles north-west of Lenton. Repotting itself relatively close to the existing factory was an important factor in the relocation because Raleigh didnt want to lose any staff, many of whom travel to work by public transport (some by bike).
In the 1950s up to 7000 people worked at the expansive Raleigh factory that sat astride Lenton Boulevard, Triumph Road and Orston Drive.
The factory was immortalised in the novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe, a former Raleigh worker. This was later made into a film where the fictional Raleigh capstan lathe operator Arthur Seaton was played by Albert Finney.
Sillitoe started work at the factory as a 14 year old just after WWII. He earned £1 12s 6d a week for working an eight hour day. He wrote in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning that he worked in the factory smell of oil-suds, machinery and shaved steel that surrounded you with air in which pimples grew and prospered on your face.
The forerunner to Raleigh a backstreet hand-built bike maker called Woodhead, Agnois and Ellis was formed in 1886 and operated from premises in Raleigh Street. It made just three bikes a week. One of these was bought by self-made businessman, Frank Bowden, who, similar to Victor Kiam of Remington fame, liked the product so much he bought the company.
He turned the backstreet craft operation into Raleigh, the mass-market producer of bikes beloved by the world.
He moved from a backstreet location to a five-story factory in Russell Street and the workforce rose to 200, making 60 bikes a week. In the 1890s Raleigh re-located to Lenton, their current location.
Thirty years later the factory covered 16 acres and employed 2500 people. Both the factory and the workforce grew right up until the 1960s.
Like companies such as Rover and Peugeot before them, Raleigh branched out into first motorbikes and then cars. But their three-wheeler was a flop although the machinery was bought by a Raleigh manager and Reliant Robins were born.
Successes such as the Chopper in the 1970s or the mass production of mountain bikes (1m sold, 1986-90) were not able to bring the "good old days" back for Raleigh, and the company has been steadily chipping away at its Nottingham factory site for decades. Last year the decision was made to stop steel frame-building from the Nottingham site as the market trend was for aluminium frames, which Raleigh gets made in the Far East.
Arthur Seaton, aka Alan Sillitoe, has, indeed, outlasted the Lenton factory:
"[it] could go on working until it blew itself up from too much speed, but I, he thought, already a couple of dozen above his daily stint, will be here after the factory’s gone."
Here’s the press release from Nottingham City Council
Release date: 1 November 2000
CITY ON TRACK TO KEEP RALEIGH
Nottingham is set to remain the home of Raleigh when the world-famous bicycle manufacturer moves out of its current factory in the city, it was announced today (Wednesday).
The City Council has earmarked a 14-acre site next to the Blenheim Industrial Estate in Bulwell for Raleigh to relocate its headquarters, which employs up to 800 workers.
The company is due to vacate its Triumph Road premises towards the end of 2003 so the University of Nottingham’s neighbouring Jubilee Campus can be expanded to house the new National College for School Leadership.
Raleigh’s name is synonymous with Nottingham. The company had made clear its desire to remain in the city, and the proposed move will ensure its 112-year-long presence in the city continues.
Phillip Darnton, Managing Director of Raleigh, said he was delighted with the outcome. "It is excellent news for Raleigh and the City of Nottingham. Our employees will be relocated to a modern, purpose-built facility within the City boundaries and within five miles of our current operation."
Land at Blenheim has been identified as the only site in the city where Raleigh could develop and transfer operations to a purpose-built facility in time to meet the deadline for moving from Triumph Road.
The site, between Blenheim Lane and Nottingham City golf course, is owned by the City Council and currently used as allotments. In keeping with its Allotment Charter, the Council is proposing to relocate the allotments on to a neighbouring site to enable allotment holders affected by the development to retain a local plot. Discussions with representatives of allotment holders began this week.
A planning application for the new Raleigh building is due to be submitted early next year. Construction work is scheduled to start towards the end of 2001, once the proposed relocation of allotments is complete. If everything goes to plan, the facility will be fully operational by the autumn of 2003.
Nottingham City Council leader Councillor Graham Chapman said: "The City of Nottingham has a very long and proud association with Raleigh and we are on the threshold of an exciting new chapter in the history of this relationship.
"Raleigh and the Council have been working together to do everything they can to ensure Raleigh stays in the city. For it to move elsewhere would be a tragedy.
"Raleigh has remained loyal to Nottingham for well over 100 years, helping to promote the city’s name throughout the world, and the company continues to make an important contribution to the city’s economy.
"It’s only natural that we should want to help Raleigh establish a modern factory which is customised to their modern-day operations and which, crucially, means hundreds of jobs stay in Nottingham."
Councillor Chapman said he hoped allotment holders affected by the proposal would understand the Council’s desire to protect local jobs by helping Raleigh to relocate within the city.
He added: "This really is the only location that is feasible. There is no suitably-sized site in Nottingham that is available for an industrial development of this kind or likely to become available within the timescale that Raleigh are working to.
"In an ideal world, we’d rather allotments were not built upon, but there is clearly a very compelling case in favour of this particular proposal coming to fruition.
"To make up for the loss of these allotments, we intend to establish new, improved allotments on a neighbouring site, so no one who has an allotment at Blenheim will be left without one."
Improvements earmarked for the replacement allotments include the provision of top soil, security fencing, an on-site clubhouse and individual sheds. The Council appreciates that gardeners who currently walk to their allotment may have to go a little further along Blenheim Lane to reach their relocated plot, so a dedicated car parking area is also planned.
The Council will seek planning permission to develop the replacement allotments site on adjoining land.