Humber Company


the popular Humber 'Super Snipe', first introduced in 1939

The Humber Company were cycle and motor manufacturers in Coventry.

The Humber name in transport terms begins with Thomas Humber of Sheffield who was said to have built his first velocipede in 1868/69 along the lines of French designs. He soon began a cycle company in Nottingham, and later Humber factories were established at Beeston, Wolverhampton and Coventry.

The Coventry arm of the company began around 1885, where they commenced the manufacture of ‘Ordinary’, and later, diamond-framed ‘Safety’ cycles.

In the 1890s, Thomas Humber left the business and up stepped Harry J. Lawson who took a commercial interest – one of many business opportunities he involved himself in. By 1896, the Humber workforce began developing motorised transport based on the designs of Pennington, De Dion Bouton and Bollee systems.

In 1898 they made the ‘Olympia’ tandem machine and by 1902 began making motor-bicycles for general sale, many of which had been tried and tested by works rider Bert Yates.

Car production began by building voiturettes, notably the 5hp ‘Humberette’ powered by a 613cc De Dion type engine from the designs of Louis Coatalen. At this time car manufacture was carried out at both the Beeston and Coventry factories, the end products marketed as ‘Beeston Humber’ and ‘Coventry Humber’ models, with the Beeston end producing the more up-market and more expensive vehicles.

A brand new factory was built in 1908 at Stoke, Coventry, next to the Hillman Motor Company, and this was where all future car and motorcycle manufacture under the Humber name was to be continued. This saw the closure of the Beeston works, but many of the Nottinghamshire workforce soon relocated to Coventry.

Up to the War they developed new cars including the L - Headed 11hp model and a 2nd smaller ‘Humberette’ fitted with a 998cc air-cooled engine. During the War the company engaged in aeroplane production, continued to build motorcycles and cycles yet ceased the production of cars in 1916 until 1918.

Post-War models include the ‘Ten’ and ‘Fourteen’ models, and Humber then entered the commercial vehicle market in 1925 when they acquired the Commer Company. Motorcycle production continued until 1930 when the Humber decided to concentrate on cars.

The Humber business was taken over by the Rootes brothers in 1932 when cycle manufacture ceased, and soon after, six-cylinder cars were built known as the ‘Snipe’, followed by the ‘Pullman’ aimed at the large family market. The ‘Super Snipe’ was introduced in 1939, many of which served allied forces during the War. The ‘Hawk’ model came about following the conclusion of War along side the Super Snipe, and in 1946, all car production moved to Ryton. Later well known models included the ‘Sceptre’, one of the last cars to carry the Humber name until 1970.