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Varley & Wolfenden Sewing Machines

The Cyclops Machine Company
Keighley, Yorkshire.

Index page

 

Most of us know the name Singer but few are aware of his amazing life story, his rags to riches journey from a little runaway to one of the richest men of his age. The story of Isaac Merritt Singer will blow your mind, his wives and lovers his castles and palaces all built on the back of one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century. For the first time the most complete story of a forgotten giant is brought to you by Alex Askaroff

The Celebrated
Varley Sewing Machines,

Washing Machines & Wringers

 


The Varley & Wolfenden tubular wringer

Varley & Co manufactured and imported sewing machines from 1876 right up until the Great War, completely ceasing production around 1918. Originally, the company was Varley & Wolfenden and were base in Keighley, Yorkshire

Cyclops Works 1898

Many thanks to LR for sending this pic in. It shows the size of the impressive factory of Varley & Co by 1898.

Made from the best materials
and cannot be surpassed for excellence of finish and durability

Their limited production and hand made sewing machines makes Varley sewing machines extremely rare today. As well as sewing machines they made washing, wringing, mangling and farmers chaffing machines in their Cyclops Works.

The British company was based in Keighley, Yorkshire.


The Varley sewing machine trademark

Their emblem was the Cyclops, a mythical Greek giant with one all-seeing eye that Odysseus encountered on his epic journey. The one eye could relate to the single eye of the needle.

Richard Varley was born in 1845 and by the time he reached the age of 30 he was a skilled engineer looking for something new. Sewing and washing machines were expanding into every home in the country and it was the perfect market for him to get into, but he needed financing.


The Varley & Wolfenden wood-top spiral wringer

The initial finance came from wealthy farmer, John Procter Wolfenden who had made his money in farming, meat and wool. The two men built a purpose-made factory in Greengate, Keighley, complete with foundry and forge. Here they built their first sewing machines.

Varley & Co
Washers, Wringers, Mangles & Sewing Machines,
115 Fleet Street
London East Centre.

The British Varley-wolfenden Cyclops is extremely rare today especially in nice condition as below which was advertised as High Arm Family Machine circa 1890.


The rare British High-Arm Family Machine from Varley, circa 1890. Because they were supplying various retailers and agents the kept many of their machines bare with no makers name or brass badge.

Varley & Wolfenden
Sole manufacturers
Of the celebrated
Cyclops Lock Stitch Sewing Machine

Their best selling Varley & Co sewing machine was the Cyclops model, based on the Singer model 12-13 New Family of 1865; popularly know as the Fiddlebase due to its fiddle shaped cast bed. Singer model 12. It was slightly smaller than the Singer 12 but had excellent teeth so fed the work through very well. An improved larger High Arm Cyclops was soon developed.


Varley Cyclops sewing machine

They also made ornately carved cabinets and cast treadle assemblies. Several of the machines have turned up with the Royal coat of arms on the main bed of the sewing machine. This was often obtained by sending a product to a member of the Royal Family. Sometimes they were taken and used and often (as with Weir and Jones machines) letters were written back supporting their efforts and from then on the royal connection could be used to help sales abroad.

Murton & Varley & Co

By 1883 several partners had turned up in the Cyclops company. You can see here a Murton & Varley sewing machine badge which was on a very similar machine. Note the new trade mark. We may assume that there was some sort of financial connection. Varley and Wolfenden may have brought in other investors continued with other partners.

Having the Murton name before Varley possibly meant he invested quite heavily in the business? It is a lot of guesswork but one day all the pieces of the jigsaw will make sense. There is also a badge with Moore, Murton & Varley. Was Varley having partner troubles? A common problem when investors don't get the return that they were expecting. They had expanded to America, gaining agents in Kentucky, but it was too little too late.


The Varley & Wolfenden Spiral Wringer

In 1896 the partnership between Varley and Wolfenden finally collapsed and the men went their separate ways. The company continued as Varley & Co. One of their main problems was that there washers and mangles were being supplied to the trade only, limiting there market. They tried to copy the popular Jones and Bradbury Cat Back sewing machine models but sales were failing.

There is a huge similarity between the Varley Longford Family Sewing Machine and the Jones Family Sewing Machine, they could be twins! It is possible that they started buying parts or even complete sewing machines from Jones Sewing Machines in Manchester, or even Bradbury as their boxes and double cotton pegs look identical on several models. Either way buying in machines cuts the company profits dramatically. Maybe they started to concentrate on their easier to make washers and mangles and bought in complete machines to supply the growing list of agents?


The Varley & Wolfenden people's washer & ringer. Machines have changed a little since 1890! This baby looks like a mean mornings workout...

American Agents
For the Celebrated
Cyclops sewing machine
Fowler & Company
Eagle Brass Works
Louisville, Kentucky

In 1911 Varley & Co became a limited company and struggled on for a few more years until their final collapse in the summer of 1917. This could coincide with the loss of a skilled workforce as so many young men went of to fight. Had the company survived to post WW1 they may have found a much more eager market as German products were shunned and people sought out British made goods.

Varley Cyclops sewing machines are rare and do not surface often. To my knowledge (don't bank on that) Varley & Wolfenden only made three distinct models (in various dresses) and only in limited numbers. This makes them considerably rarer than the British Jones, Bradbury and Singer models of the same period.

At the moment they are underrated by collectors but that will soon change as we all seek out those elusive remaining models. As Varley & Wolfenden boasted "Our machines are made from the best materials and cannot be surpassed for excellence of finish and durability."

If you come across any other models for Varley please do let me know and I'll add it to this page: alexsussex@aol.com

 

 

Most of us know the name Singer but few are aware of his amazing life story, his rags to riches journey from a little runaway to one of the richest men of his age. The story of Isaac Merritt Singer will blow your mind, his wives and lovers his castles and palaces all built on the back of one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century. For the first time the most complete story of a forgotten giant is brought to you by Alex Askaroff

News Flash!

Both books, Sussex Born and Bred, and Corner of the Kingdom
 are now available instantly on Kindle and iPad.

      

 

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