The Lewis Cycle and Motor Works, Broken Hill

The Lewis Cycle Depot at Broken Hill opened "in a small way" in 1897. Business in the mining town was booming, and in the following years larger premises were secured on Argent Street. In July 1898, the S.A. Cyclist reported that Lewis had new premises in Broken Hill, on Argent Street adjacent to the Denver City Hotel, and in August 1901 Lewis purchased, for 930, a two-storey shop and dwelling in Argent Street. It is not known whether the business moved in 1901, or simply purchased the building it was occupying at the time.

Lewis Cycle and Motor Works, Argent Street, Broken Hill 1905

According to a c1905 Lewis Cycles catalogue, the Argent Street buildings were enlarged "from time to time" until the Agency was "the largest in Broken Hill". Presumably the catalogue photograph, above, shows the building in its 1905 form. In a fascinating parallel with the similarly-posed photo of the Lewis premises in Adelaide the motorcycle shown is an early Imperial Rover, in this case with its standard belt final drive.

Interior photographs in the same catalogue show rather cramped but well-equipped workshops, complete with a treadle lathe and other machine tools driven from overhead shafting, in which repairs or alterations were offered "no matter what make of cycle or motor". Clearly the business was well established by 1905, and its importance can be gauged by noting that Vivian Lewis's brother Percy spent time there as business manager before returning to Adelaide to take a senior management role in Vivian Lewis Limited.

I am not sure how the Broken Hill business evolved beyond 1905, but the agency was listed in all Lewis materials until at least 1926, suggesting that it maintained its pre-eminence in the town.

When Lewis Cycle Works Limited was formed in 1924, they took over operating the Broken Hill business, and leased the building from the estate of Vivian Lewis (who had died in 1919) for 104 per annum. It can inferred that Vivian Lewis personally owned the building from the early days until his death in 1919. Although Vivian Lewis Limited acquired the Broken Hill business in 1907, it did not acquire the real estate.

The old Lewis building, 431 Argent St, Broken Hill I wonder is the Lewis building still standing in Argent Street? Yes it is - thanks to Gary Smith of Broken Hill for locating the building, whose current address is 431 Argent Street, on the southern (mine) side between Oxide and Iodide Streets. Although much-changed at street level, the detail on the upper part of the facade remains unchanged.

Please e-mail me if you can add to the Lewis story in Broken Hill.

(For those unfamiliar with Broken Hill, it is a mining town some 500 km north west of Adelaide in the adjoining state of New South Wales. A hint of its importance is that its name lives on as the "BH" in the name of the world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton. Now, as a century ago, we South Australians like to claim Broken Hill for our own: in a peculiar twist it runs on SA, rather than NSW, time.)

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