Cyril Smith

Cyril Smith (1908-1975)  was born in London, and lived in Holland Park with his four brothers and two sisters. His mother, Madame Regina Crutcher, owned a second hand dress shop in Portobello Road. Before the war he would wander round the market, finding bargains, old bicycles and  guns. He was a talented cartoonist and was offered a job on a London paper, but did not want a 9 to 5 job.

Just before the War he married Jackie Payne and they moved to Brent Knoll where he could create his own lifestyle. They rented a dilapidated brick cottage with roses round the door. Rose Cottage.
He was well known for his love of the Ordinary Cycle, also known as the Penny Farthing bicycle, which he collected and rode. He set up The Ordinary Cycle Club at the New Inn in Brent Street. Many youngsters in the 1940s 50s and 60s were active in this Club, and would be seen cycling along Brent Street and the A38.

Cyril gives a lesson.

He also set up a small museum where people could see his collection of 15 roadworthy ‘penny-farthings’ and vintage motorcycles.

Cyril made plaster models of famous people and sold them to the local tourist shops. His wife, Jackie, was the breadwinner as she was an upholsterer, making curtains and covers for the rich folks. Cyril was the ultimate recycler, growing his own food , kept chickens, and shot pigeons to eat and made his own wine.

He also built a steam powered Corgi Motor bike.
He used his talents to paint murals directly on to inside and outside walls of Rose Cottage, showing scenes and people from the village.

Mr and Mrs Fallows, owned the Fish and Chip shop in Oxford Street, and Cyril was often on the premises. One day Mr Fallows said that it was very difficult to make crinkle cut chips. Cyril took a potato home with him. A week later he arrived in the shop with the potato, around which was a rubber band. He removed the band to show a pile of crinkle cut chips. He had designed and constructed a crinkle cut chip cutting machine. A representative of a Catering Machine firm was in the shop later and heard about this amazing invention. He went out at Brent to find Cyril to try to persuade him to sell the machine to the firm. But Cyril would have none of it; he wasn’t interested.

Sadly, Mr Fallows was the person who found Cyril dead in Rose Cottage, in 1975

Cyril at centre, Dan’s father Malcolm Laver on left. Photo courtesy of Dan Harvey (see comments).

Thanks to Pat Nicholls for research and Alan Wheway for artwork pictures.

16 thoughts on “Cyril Smith”

  1. Hello.

    I have a freind who knew Cyril Smith, he told me that a TV film crew came to film Cyril to make a TV programe, he said it was possibly the HTV, do you know of this film that was made, I would like to come across it so as I can show it to my freind who is now 70 years old.

    Thank you from

    1. Hello Nigel,

      I don’t remember seeing this but I will check my records and ask a colleague who family knew Cyril.
      Thanks for your posting,

  2. Extract from my diary, Summer 1971: On our way to the farmhouse, we saw a strange, low building with paintings on the side and a yellow penny-farthing bike outside. A sign which dangled from the roof said ‘The Ordinary Club’. A thin, moustached man with a straw hat stood chatting to a woman. When M and I got out to take a closer look, he told us he runs a club for collectors of penny farthings, and offered to show us his house.

    Inside was the most intriguing sight I’ve ever seen. The place was filled chock a block with antiques of every variety, including several more of the old bicycles, which he said are in better condition than any in England. He refused to divulge his name, and spoke most cynically of the newspapermen who occasionally descend on him.

    The kitchen was equally stacked with antiques…. He was obviously eccentric, but brilliantly talented – the satirical paintings and cartoons with which he’d daubed all his walls, inside and out, were perfect. He had a large collection of firearms, and also, of what he told us were rare moths…

    Outside again, he showed us the back of the cottage which he’d covered with a colourful scene of men on penny farthings in the countryside. It was hard to tell the foliage in the painting from the real thing, which grew beside it. He wanted us to stay in Somerset for our entire holiday, describing with intensity the diversities of our surroundings, and its bloody history of battles with the Danes.

    We took some photos, one or 2 seated on the bike, of course, and prevailed on him to stand in the picture. Eventually, we got away from the dilapidated old place which, though incredibly interesting, was also rather creepy. I love these unexpected findings, though, and wouldn’t have minded staying to get to know him better. (Since then, we have been in the Highbridge area a few times, but I have never managed to find that little cottage again).

    1. Hi Frances, Thank you very much for a most interesting first hand account, it captures a real flavour of the man and his dwelling and is a welcome addition to the page.

  3. I lived just down the road from Cyril Smith when I was a child and well remember him and many of his visitors riding his penny farthings along Brent Street. What a revelation it was to see the murals on his walls, I had no idea! He was known as an clever, eccentric gentleman.

      1. A bit more detail from my mother Katina Harvey, née Broome.

        She thinks the ladies are my father’s first wife (Peggy?) and Mrs. Smith.

  4. Cyril smith was 63 when he died so he must have been born 1912…..his grave is in st Michael’s church, alongside his brother Arthur and other relatives.

    1. My information came largely from the public records (GRO – General Records Office) which has a death of a
      Cyril George SMITH who died in the June quarter of 1975 and registered at Sedgemeoor registration district, which covers Burnha and Brent Knoll.
      It also gives his date of birth as “15AU1908”.
      This is the information that I have relied upon, not having any means of corroborating the information. This would put him as being 67 at the time of his death.
      There are two births recorded for a Cyril George SMITH, both of them in W.Ham (London). One is in the September quarter and is most likely to be your uncle.
      The second Cyril was registered in the following quarter, December 1908, which is less likely to be him
      I have not been to the graveyard in Brent Knoll but will do so in the not too distant future.
      It was my father-in-law who found Cyril dead in bed – both were eccentric but I think Cyril was far more flamboyant
      Alan Wheway

  5. Cyril was my beloved uncle he taught me so many wonderful things and how to ride a one wheel bike and s penny was not keen on eating pigeon

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