The Globe

The Globe some years ago I was walking round a field, near Kew Bridge, if memory serves, where a fair was in full swing. I was admiring the FWD trucks and maybe a steam showman's engine or two, when I discovered an old axle lying in the grass. The name on a hub cap revealed that it had belonged to a Globe cyclecar.

Returning home, I did some research and found that the Globe must have been a rather jolly little affair, for it had a large single-cylinder engine, water-cooled in fact, in quite a sizeable car, the wheelbase of which measured 7ft 3in (the later Austin 7 was happy with 6ft 3in).

Its 'single-lunger' engine must have cracked along very well, if its dimensions of 105 x 120mm (1039cc) are anything to go by. Moreover, the chassis had half-elliptic springing front and back and there would have been a handsome radiator for the thermo-syphon cooling system and substantial running-boards able to hold a toolbox and the acetylene generator on the passenger's side, along with the button upholstery of the period when such a Globe would have emerged from Turk and Bell's Carlton Engineering Works in High Road, Tottenham, North London.

Alas, no one in the fairground knew what had become of the rest of the car. It was then sometime in the late 1930s and this cyclecar, that you could have bought new in 1915 for £170 with lamps, horn, tools and a tyre-pump, had gone the way of cyclecars everywhere. Nevertheless, since that encounter with a rare axle forlorn in the grass, I have retained fond imaginings about what it must have been like to drive one's Globe.

Further research has revealed that although its makers, who, incidentally, were sanitary engineers, had endowed it with a single-pot power-plant of over a litre, they had been content to use single-belt transmission to a countershaft incorporating an epicyclic gear, with chain-drive to the back axle. The engine was an Aster and a coupebodied Globe cost £190. Can you imagine the racket within . . ?

However, it is not this rather delightful cyclecar with which I want to deal, and so, ignoring yet another car of this name made in Ohio, here goes. . .

The Globe with which we are now concerned was the product of Alfred Hitchon's Gear and Automobile Company Limited, of Accrington, Lancashire, which went public in April 1904. This was after John Weller, who was later to achieve fame as the designer of the AC Six overhead-camshaft engine, had left Hitchon and production of the Hitchon Weller cars which had been made in the same factory at Moscow Hill, Accrington, with their pioneer easy-change gearboxes had ceased; an interesting story, to which we will perhaps return another time.

At this stage Hitchon decided to re-name his cars Globes, probably because that was the name of the factory of Howard and Bullough, of which Mr Hitchon was vice-chairman, a company founded in 1853 to make cotton-spinning and weaving machinery. It was here that Hitchon, with the approval of his fellow directors, had taken over part of Moscow Hill, an old cotton mill, and there built the Hitchon-Weller cars, from 1903, until they were renamed a year later.

Alfred Hitchon remained very much the man in charge of the Globe project. His fellow directors were his sons, JR and E Hitchon, and his daughter, ME Hitchon. Of these, only the first-named showed an active interest in car manufacture, becoming company secretary and sales manager. The capital raised was £10,000.

The first year of production was devoted to manufacturing single-cylinder cars, but for 1905 they added a 12 hp four-cylinder chassis, using the Hitchon patent freewheel four-speed gearbox. The 'one-lunger' Globes also had this foolproof gearbox, in three-speed form. For their first half-dozen four-cylinder cars, the company bought-in 80 x 90mm engines from the Foreman Motor Company Limited of Coventry. which Foreman had used in its own cars. After this there was a change to the well-liked White & Poppe T-head engine, of the same bore and stroke.

Apparently Mr Hitchon had to pay £103 7s for each of these W&P engines, which gave some 18bhp, and he was able to offer the 12/14hp Globe as a chassis for £285 and with a touring body for £330. Reports say that these cars were made very conscientiously, every nut locked by springwasher or split-pin. One user praised the springing, the easy gearchange, the neat appearance and the roomy, wellupholstered body, but found the White & Poppe engine, with its separate cylinders, to be somewhat noisy.

Things were presumably going well, because the next development was the introduction of a four-cylinder 22/25hp Globe, powered by a 108 x 114mm Alpha engine. This engine was used in the better-known 20/24 hp Horbick car, and also by Calthorpe, at this time, and was supplied by Johnson, Hurley and Martin of Coventry. For this bigger Globe a Longuemare carburettor was used and the final drive was by bevel gears instead of the worm-and-wheel back-axles used on the lower-powered models.

It seems that these Globe cars were quite well received but that output was limited by the company's production facilities.

However, thinking that the cotton spinning industry might be in for a decline, Mr Hitchon purchased a large plot of land, where he had built a new factory, known as Charter Works. But the opposite happened. The cotton trade enjoyed a boom and Howard and Bullough was inundated with orders for its machines. Sir George Bullough needed factory expansion and pressed Alfred Hitchon to sell him the new Charter Works. As vice-chairman of this other company, Hitchon had little option. An arrangement was entered into whereby, in taking over the assets of the Hitchon Gear and Automobile Company, Howard and Bullough would find employment for all the latter's 50 or so workforce and that for the next three years they would undertake to supply spare parts for Globe cars.

So the Globe venture lasted only until 1908. In those four years of activity the company made 27 single-cylinder cars, of nine horsepower, with the Weller-designed engine, about half-a-dozen 12/14hp Forman-powered cars, some 40 12/14s with the White & Poppe power, and perhaps six or more 22/25hp cars with the Alpha engines. Alfred Hitchon went back to making cotton-spinning apparatus and succeeded Sir George Bullough as chairman of Howard and Bullough Limited.

And that ends these notes, inspired by a visit to a fairground.

W B