The History of 1 Bouverie road

It seems like motorcycles run through the very foundations of the old stables in Stoke Newington. The legacy goes back almost a hundred years and interweaves with the motorocycle cafes, clubs and garages in the area. Soon after I had taken the space it was Dick Smith of the Barons Speedshop who pointed out that it had previously been home to the Duguid brothers who made fibre glass tanks and fairings for cafe racers back in the sixties. It was great to find out that I wasn’t the first motorcycle business at 1 Bouverie road. I found the original documentation complied by a local historian that outlined all the tenants and activities that happened here back to 1867.

It would have been a stables in the Victorian Era and horse shoes over the doors as well as the black smith’s furnace in one of the garages still remain. In the Mid 18th it was used by a fruit and vegetable seller and I can imagine the cobbled yard would have been full of carts displaying produce. In the 1920’s an automobile garage took the space which is when they installed the petrol tank and pump in the yard. A pipe still runs up the wall which would have been ventilation for a vat of petrol sunken beneath the cobbles. It was said that during the second world war shrapnel from the shelling would refract off the stones and around the yard, and so the petrol tank was drained for safety.

During the second world war a Mr Tueson lived upstairs in the space that is now home to our hairdressers cut and run. He had been divorced, which was highly unusual for the time and only the thing of film stars. He rode himself and had a BSA Goldstar with dropped bars and a Vincent Rapid outfit with Side car. He would rent out the lower garages for motorcycle parking from the 1930’s onwards. A few backs a Frank Dickinson came by the shop, he had kept his motorcycle here before, a James Captain back in 1957. He recalled that there were a Vincent Rapid, Triumph Terrier, 2 Goldstars and his own bike kept in the space. Every Saturday morning the yard would be busy with lads cleaning and repairing their motorcycles, something I am pleased still goes on today. The other photos showed Frank with his mates up at Alexander Palace, lines of Nortons and Triumphs lined up against the old horse boxes. They were known collectively as the Alexander Palace Tun up Boys. Frank returned a few weeks later with his original Lewis Leather Jacket that you can see him wearing in the pictures. Bought from their first store on Great Portland Street in 1957. The jacket, a Bronx Lighting carries the Bud Garz design label with the American flag. At this time, following the release of the film “The Wild One” every teenager wanted the American style asymmetrical jacket as worn by Brando.

The Duguid brothers who resided in what now is Bolt moved in in the mid sixities. At that time the entire street was full of small industrial businesses, many in the motoring trade. A small factory existed at the end of the street but was bombed in the war. Some new pre-fab houses sprung up in the years after and Barbara Windsor spent her teen years on the street. The Duguid brothers specialised in making Fibreglass body work for cafe racers. I have managed to locate one of their tanks which is for a Norvin and it carries a small brass plaque with our address on it. They were close friends with Archie Hagon, of Hagon shocks which would have been located close by at the time. In fact the east of London was a hive for motorcyclist businesses along with the 59 club less then a mile away, Rivetts of Leyton known for their leather goods were just up the road. Around the corner from Bolt was Tony’s Cafe, a favourite hang out for the local Rockers. I’ve been told stories of huge fights between the Mods and Rockers on church street which resulted in the cafe windows being smashed. Tony the cafe owner would apparently resort to a slingshot from the upstairs windows to keep the peace. The Duguid Brothers remained in the space until the mid seventies when I’m told that they ended up in the slammer for whatever reason.

I initially came into contact with the old stables years before when I took it on when it was a antiques shop. Full of curiosities back then, I had dug about and found a set of lambretta side panels with air-brushed artwork to the sides. With Unicorns and Rainbows they weren’t exactly to my tastes but they were period correct. It got me talking to the owner, who was also the artist. Carol had been a resident in the yard for 16 years and on the side was an airbrush artist with a portfolio of jackets, helmets and tanks she had painted over the years. It was through our shared interest in motorcycles and Carol’s good word that I managed to secure the space when she moved on. Carol now has returned to her airbrushing and is creating a growing collection of custom painted helmets for Bolt in her traditional 70’s style.

Without going all mystical it does feel a little uncanny how the relationship between the building and motorcycles continues today. I got really lucky but there really couldn’t be any better home for Bolt. It really resonated when I over hear Frank say to his mate that it was 63 years since he sat and chatted motorcycles in the yard, and that it was great that he can do the same thing today. And with that he zipped up his leather and set off on his Kawasaki W650 twin looking pretty bloody cool.

Andrew AlmondComment