Catalogue description George Larkin Collection

This record is held by National Motor Museum

Details of Larkin
Reference: Larkin
Title: George Larkin Collection

Material mainly from Larkin's time working at Bowden Wire Ltd. Also some personal material which indicates an interest in photography.

Date: 1884-1966
Held by: National Motor Museum, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Physical description: 1 box
Access conditions:

Open to bonefide researchers. By appointment only.

  • Larkin, George Frederick, b 1879
  • Engineering
Administrative / biographical background:

George Frederick Larkin was born on Sunday, 19 October 1879 at Brentwood, Essex, and attended Brentwood School from 1883 until 1893. He attended courses at Northampton Institute and West Ham Institute in 1903, 1904 and 1905, and received certificates in Mathematics and Machine Design. He did an apprenticeship at W.J. & C.T. Burgess from September 1894 until September 1899, training in fitting and turning. He started work as a Journeyman at Gurynnes, Holborn on 14 September 1899, and worked there until 14 March 1901. George was then employed by Bassett Motor Syndicate as a leading hand until November 1901, by George Waites until April 1902 and again by Gurynnes until September 1902. George Larkin is known for his invention of the flexible cable brake for cycles, which was patented in 1902. The original patent for a similar invention known as the 'Bowden mechanism' was granted to Ernest Monnington Bowden in 1896. The following year E.M. Bowden's Patents Syndicate Ltd. was formed to market the device but initially the project was a failure because all the company could offer was a flimsy mechanism capable of transmitting comparatively enormous power. The Bowden Mechanism was not developed in connection with a cycle brake as there is no record of the cable having been associated with the cycle industry until 1902, when George Larkin's invention was patented. During Larkin's employment with Bassett Motor Syndicate his duties included the assembly of motor cars and motor cycles, and a major difficulty was the assembly of the braking systems which at that time comprised steel rods, not easily adaptable to the contour of the chassis. He designed a flexible cable brake and approached S.J. Withers, Patent Agent, to have the design patented. Withers noticed the similarity of Larkin's idea to the Bowden Mechanism and introduced him to the Bowden Syndicate, who agreed to manufacture and market the invention with the proviso that it should be patented jointly in the names of the inventor and themselves. Within a few months, Larkin, then aged 23, was engaged as Motor Department Manager with E.M. Bowden's Patents Syndicate, and he was appointed General Works Manager on 1 May 1904. In 1912 Larkin applied for admission into the Institution OF Mechanical Engineers and was admitted as an Associate Member on 4 February 1913. During his employment with E.M.Bowden's Patents Syndicate, between 1902 and 1917 there were frequent clashes between Larkin and James Nisbet, the Managing Director of the Company, and eventually, in 1917, after an argument over the installation of an internal telephone system in the London Works, which Nisbet opposed, Larkin resigned There was a lot of ill-feeling and animosity after this and after a lengthy law suit Larkin was obliged to relinquish all claims to his many inventions because of the agreement he had signed in 1902. After leaving Bowden's Larkin worked as a fitter at the Townsmead Engineering Works at Fulham and then for Frank Marles, for a Nottinghamshire bearing manufacturing firm, designing machines for the manufacture of balls for bearings. In 1918 the Bowden Company were not doing well and were looking for new ideas to manufacture, and Larkin was told that his return would be welcomed, but this never came about.

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