Daniel Albone and the Great North Road

Daniel Albone’s family ran the Ongley Arms pub alongside the Great North Road in Biggleswade, just south of the bridge over the River Ivel.  He became an entrepreneurial designer who produced innovative bicycles, motorbikes, cars and tractors from his engineering works next to the pub.

He formed the Biggleswade and District Bicycle Club in 1880 and became a founding member of the North Road Cycling Club in 1886.

Biggleswade - Shortmead Street

Location of the Ongley Arms and Black Swan on Route of the Great North Road

About Daniel Albone

Born in 1860, Daniel Albone was fascinated by the newly invented bicycle. He had built his own first bike by the time he was 13 and established the Ivel Cycle Works behind the family pub in what is now Shortmead Street by the time he was 20.


The Ivel Racing Safety Bicycle - 1886

The Ivel Racing Safety Bicycle (Bartleet’s Bicycle Book)

Dan’s first bike was a penny-farthing (or “ordinary bike”) but he went on to produce many models, including tricycles and tandems, with an emphasis on speed. They were advertised as record breakers: the 301 miles in 24 hours record was set by two Ivel Works employees in 1887.

Ivel Cycles - Records

As a racing cyclist himself, Daniel Albone won over 180 races including: the two-mile open at Oundle (1885); the one-mile open handicap at Crystal Palace (1885); the two-mile open at Oundle (1887); and the International Tricycle scratch race, Scheveningen, Netherlands (1888).

The Ongley Arms became popular with cyclists – somewhere they new they could get help with advice and repairs. The pub was extended with Dan as the licencee, and the neighbouring Black Swan became the Ivel Hotel.

Daniel Albone - Ivel Motor Tricycle

Dan Albone was one of the first to add internal combustion engines to bicycles and tricycles in Britain.


In the late 1890s, Daniel Albone bought his first car, a 1½ hp Arnold-Benz. He completed a 100-mile round trip to Stamford in January 1898, arousing considerable local interest. He became the local Benz agent then soon after started to produce his own experimental vehicles. The second car was sold to a Mr Vyner for £500.

Featuring cycle like wheels, sub frame, and handlebar, this is possibly one of only two produced. The picture shows Dan Albone and his wife, Elizabeth.


Daniel Albone - Tractor - 1902

Tractors (known at this time as “Agricultural Motors”) tended to be heavy vehicles powered by steam or diesel engines, ill-suited to many agricultural tasks. Daniel Albone produced a petrol powered, 3-wheeled, light weight tractor which won silver medals at the Royal Agricultural Show in 1903 and 1904. It was the most commercially successful of his inventions. Ivel Agricultural Motors was formed to exploit his new patented design and about 500 Ivel tractors were produced. They were exported to Europe, Australia and South America, and were also made under licence in the United States.

There was a glowing review in The Sketch in September 1902:

“It will reap and sow, plough and mow, and perform all manner of hauling, and then work its own way, or haul a load to the barn, where it will thrash and grind corn, cut turnips and chaff, turn the churn, and make itself generally useful at a very small cost… It has electric ignition, one speed forward and reverse, and any intelligent man can drive it after a few lessons.”

Daniel Albone - First Aid Ivel Motor - 1904

This 1904 illustration from the Dundee Evening Post shows a version of the “First Aid Ivel Motor”, fitted with Cammell Laird plating, which underwent trials with the War Office

Albone Ivel Tractor - Australia

Ivel 269, one of seven still working, in Australia in the early 2000s.

A Sad Ending

Daniel Albone died from a stroke in 1906 when he was only 46. The business limped on but was eventually wound up in 1922.

Cycling historian, Horace Bartleet, captures the character of the man he describes by his nickname, “Smiling Dan”:

The “Ivel,” though manufactured in comparatively small numbers, secured a substantial reputation among racing cyclists; this was largely due to the personal popularity of its maker, who won the championship of the district on five occasions, and several times held the county championship.

[Interestingly, the Collings family then went on to run a “Motor, Tractor & Agricultural” business in Shortmead Street for over 30 years.]

More Information about Daniel Albone

Britain by Car – Website

A Thorough Good Fellow: the story of Dan Albone, inventor and cyclist, Kathy Hindle and Lee Irvine, Bedfordshire County Council, 1990

Bartleet’s Bicycle Book

Biggleswade History Society