Frank Bowden – Raleigh Cycles – early fortune made in Hong Kong

Frank Bowden, Sir image Grace's Guides extract iimage

James Chan: Frank Bowden was born in Exeter, England on 30th January 1848.

In the early 1870s he came to Hong Kong. By 1872, when only 24, he had made a fortune in the local stock market.

It would be of interest to have further details about Bowden’s time here. In particular how he made his fortune at that time as I understand that though there are reports of securities trading in Hong Kong dating back to the mid-19th century, the first formal market, the Association of Stockbrokers in Hong Kong, was not established until 1891.  The Association was re-named the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1914. (1)

By 1878 Bowden’s health had began to break down and he decided to satisfy his interest in travel. He moved to San Francisco, supplementing his wealth by marrying an American heiress, Amelia Frances, in 1879.

By the end of the 1880s Bowden returned to England and as an early “venture capitalist” began to look around for a business enterprise in which to invest his substantial wealth.

In 1885 he visited Harrogate and sought medical advice regarding his ill health and was advised to take up cycling.

Around 1888 recognising the potential that cycling had to offer, Bowden visited the makers of his tricycle, Woodhead, Angois and Ellis of Nottingham, and persuaded the company to accept him as financial backer.

Frank Bowden - Grace's Guides image street entrance leading into what became Raleigh bicycles

The doorway off Raleigh Street, Nottingham, UK that led to the yard in which Woodhead and Angois started their business. Courtesy of George L Roberts, and Grace’s Guides

In January 1889 the Raleigh Cycle Company was incorporated. (2)

“The firm that he [Bowden] eventually acquired was the little-known Nottingham concern of Woodhead, Angois and Ellis, based in Raleigh Street. Organised as a private partnership, this firm combined the talents of a skilled mechanic, RM Woodhead, a technical designer, Paul Angois, and a small time financier, William Ellis, who ran the commercial side of the business.” (3)

By 1896 Raleigh was the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world.

Raleigh Cycles Advert April 1899 Grace's Guides

Raleigh Advert – April 1899 Courtesy: Grace’s Guides


  1. Hong Kong Stock Market Timeline
  2. Grace’s Guide – Frank Bowden
  3. Personal Capitalism and Corporate Governance: British Manufacturing in the First Half of the Twentieth Century, Myrddin John Lewis, Roger Lloyd-Jones, Josephine Maltby and Mark David Matthews, Routledge, 2011

This article was first posted on 14th September 2016.


  1. Grace’s Guides – Grace’s Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 119,216 pages of information and 173,136 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. The Economics of the Tricycle Industry in Hong Kong
  2. The Economics of the Tricycle Industry in Hong Kong – Part Two
  3. The South China Iron Works – post WW2 producer of covered motor tricycles, trucks and motorbikes
  4. World War Two – BAAG reports – Batch 3 – HSBC lions, Tricycle taxis, Industrial companies and much more…


One comment

  • Steve Hinman

    Very concise article about the famed Raleigh Brand Bicycle. Was it Queen Anne who bestowed him a “Barronet?” In what year did occur? Personally, as a bicycle mechanic & English 3-spd. bicycle restorer; I have keen interest in WWI folding “paratroopers” bikes as -well-as single spd. “Spartan” models for the domestic home front. These bicycles are often referred to as “Blackout Bikes!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *