Alex Moulton – a little bit of local history
At The Traditional Cycle Shop we are delighted to now have a comprehensive range of Moulton bicycles in stock. The story of Alex Moulton and his eponymous – and highly regarded– small-wheeled bicycle has been told many times; a potted version can be found at www.moultonbicycles.co.uk/heritage and we may explore this further later. Today, Dan Farrell from Moulton Bicycles talks about Alex Moulton's Stratford-upon-Avon connections.
Here on the banks of the Warwickshire Avon we have many local connections with Alex Moulton, despite him being rather more associated with the Wiltshire mill town of Bradford on Avon where his great-grandfather Stephen Moulton founded the world-famous Moulton rubber factory in 1848.
Alex Moulton was born in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 9th 1920. He was the youngest son of John Coney Moulton and Beryl Latimer Greene, Beryl being the daughter of Dr Reginald Latimer Wellington Greene and his wife Ethel (née Downes) of Rother Place.
Dr. Greene was a significant figure in Stratford. Aside from his medical duties, he was Mayor of the town from 1891 to 1894. He was also an Alderman and a J.P. His other offices included Secretary of The Shakespeare Club. The annual unfurling of national flags along Bridge Street – a tradition that we still enjoy today - was the brainchild of Dr. Greene.
John Coney Moulton served in the Wiltshire Regiment in India during the First World War. Following this, he worked in Intelligence Services in Singapore before becoming the Director of the Raffles Museum and Library. As such, despite having three young children, he was rarely in England. In 1926, whilst on one of his voyages back to visit his family, he became seriously ill and died. He was only 39 years of age. At that time, Alex was only six.
As a result of his father’s posting to Singapore and his untimely death, Alex’s childhood was split between the family home at The Hall in Bradford on Avon and his grandparents in Stratford. As well as remembering being fascinated by the steam launches on the river, he could recall seeing the disastrous fire at the theatre in March 1926. He attended a kindergarten on Evesham Road, and Grandfather Greene gave him his first bicycle, a Hercules. Later – from the age of nine – Alex became a boarder at Arden House Prep School in Henley in Arden.
It is somewhat tragic to note that, as well as losing his father at such a young age, Alex did not know any Uncles or have any Aunts. Uncle Eric Moulton was killed in action during the First World War; and Uncle Reginald Greene died in Malaysia in 1919. You can find a brass plaque in memory of Reginald Greene Jr. on the wall inside Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church. If you walk along Waterside to seek this out, perhaps you can try to imagine the picture in the late 1920s – steam boats on the river, a scene of dereliction around the canal basins and the burnt-out theatre, and a young Alex Moulton pedalling along on his Hercules accompanied by his sister Dione. Little was anyone to know that Alex was to make a greater contribution to cycle design than anyone else in his lifetime; and indeed that the Moulton bicycle itself would later be acclaimed as “the greatest work of twentieth century British design”.