H.R.Morris 1968, with beautifully carved lugwork

H.R. ‘Dick’ Morris’s shop in Orford Road, Walthamstow, East London, was the bicycle shop that I went to regularly when I was in my teens, back in the 1970’s. I always wanted one of his frames, but couldn’t afford it at the time. Memories of Dick Morris are very pleasant for me…. He always had time to offer advice, imparting his extensive knowledge in the high pitched sqeaky voice that I didn’t know until much later was a result of treatment for throat cancer when he was a younger man. The shop was a bit spartan, but in the cramped workshop out the back he produced some of the finest English lightweight frames ever made. His lug cutting was without equal, in my opinion, so finely done, particularly bearing in mind that he was a big man and had hands like bunches of bananas! See an excellent article about Morris here on our friends at classiclightweights.co.uk website.

This frame, number H478, was ordered on the 2nd November 1968, with 72 degree head tube, 71 degree seat tube, and Campag ends. ‘Fancy lugs’ were specified, and that’s what the owner got! As with almost all of his frames, it’s in Reynolds 531 tubing.

Most of the frames that Dick made were quite workmanlike, using spearpoint or Nervex lugs. They were, however, always beautifully filed and very cleanly finished. From time to time he produced very fancy lugwork to order, but the really special ones with his initials in the head lugs probably amount to less than ten frames. This frame is one of those special ones. It has his initials ‘HRM’ carved in the head lugs, and all the other lugs are beautifully and meticulously cut using saw and file, including to the bottom bracket.

When I bought the frame it had some extra braze-ons added later, and was fitted with a 7 speed modern groupset. It was not in original enamel. I sent it to Mercian, who removed the non-original braze-ons and re-enamelled the frame in my choice of colours. They carried out the work to a very high standard, with excellent lug lining. They did the work in exactly the time and budget quoted, and they clearly take pride in their work.

I decided to build it up with very nice parts, not necessarily exactly from the late 60’s, but that I thought Dick might have approved of. He liked French components, so the chainset is Stronglight with drillium rings. The drivetrain is completed with a Campagnolo Rally rear derailleur and Campag front changer. Hubs are Campagnolo laced to Mavic rims, fitted with Grand Bois 28c tyres. Bars are beautifully engraved GB randonneur, with mafac drillium levers, and Mafac ‘Racer’ brakes. I may change the centre-pulls to side-pulls since they get in the way of the beautifully detailed head lugs. The saddle is a modern Brooks Pro, whilst I wait for a more suitable period saddle to turn up. Bar-tape is shellacked over brown tape, to match the saddle.

You can see another spectacular Morris frame, on which I did a conservation job for the owner, here.

So, finally, I have one of Dick Morris’s very special frames and I am delighted with it!

H.R.Morris Special Model 1963 – An English Lightweight Masterwork

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I recently carried out some work on this frame which in my opinion is one of the great masterworks of English lightweight frame building. It was built for Ray Bennis by H.R.Morris of Walthamstow, East London, in October 1963. Morris owned the bicycle shop that I used to frequent when I was in my late teens, and I was very fond of him. He was a big man with hands like bunches of bananas, but his work could be incredibly detailed and delicate. The lug cutting on this bicycle, all done with a tiny fret-saw and files, is second to none. His initials ‘HRM’ are cut into all the lugs, even at the bottom bracket, where the cutting is at its smallest and most difficult. These lugs took approximately two weeks to cut. It is rumoured that there are thirteen such bicycles built by Morris, but this is highly unlikely. I have seen only four similar frames, and all are quite different.

The collector that owns the bike wanted me to clean and conserve the frame, chrome and transfers. The frame is in its original finish, with some later touch-ins. After assessment, and tests on the underside of a tube, the frame was very carefully cleaned using Vulpex liquid soap mixed with water. This dissolves the grease and other grime very gently. A hog bristle brush was used to clean out the lug cutouts. After that, some over-spray was removed using Renaissance Pre-Lim. Chrome was cleaned using 0000 steel wool. Some new off-white lines were painted to replace the lost lining (fragments of which were visible under ugly vinyl tape) marking the border between paint and chrome, which gave the frame a ‘lift’. Finally it was protected with four or five thin coats of Renaissance Wax.

It was a pleasure to handle this wonderful frame… a Rembrandt of the bicycle World.

Click on photo for large scale image

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H.R.Morris Tourer 1969

I was pleased to get this machine as H.R.Morris, in Walthamstow, London E17 was my local bike shop when I had my first serious bike at the age of 17, and he was such a nice man. He was affectionately known as ‘Tiny’ (he was about 6ft 2in tall!) He always had time to offer friendly advice and I bought all my bike stuff there. He built what I have always thought were the greatest British lightweight frames. His ultimate fancy lugged frames were masterpieces… See Classic Lightweights. He would even cut his initials in the alloy chainwheels. This is a much simpler touring bicycle with beautifully thinned spearpoint lugs and an unusual fork crown. The rack was made by Morris. The Chater-Lea chainset and Brooks saddle are pre-war items which were clearly favourites of the owner incorporated into the build. It came from the estate of the original owner. I did this bike some time ago and am unhappy with the Brooks bar tape, which I will change soon.