James Starley born in Alburne (GB) in 1830, was originally sewing machine manufacturer. He started with the production of bicycles in Coventry in 1868. His Coventry Chair was known, practically a bathroom chair with pedals. His nephew, John Kemp Starley invented in 1886 the Starley Safety Bicycle. It was the move away from the penny-farthing, because he installed a chain drive with transmission for the rear axle. This bike was a milestone and copied around the world. It continued to develop to the motorcycle in 1902. It had a good reputation and won many races.
Starkey worked on the first electric car in 1888. 1904 it has been tested with 8 mph in Deauville (F), because in the UK were allowed only 4 mph. In 1896, the company has been renamed to Rover Cycle Company and thus became the largest bicycle company in Coventry. After the death of Starley in 1901, Jack Starley Jr., Harry Swithh and Frank Ward took over the company.
Edmund Lewis changed from Daimler to Rover in 1903. Under his leadership, the development of automobiles was successfully advanced, so that a 20 HP won the Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man. The profits of the company continuously increased since 1911. During the first World War I Rover got not like other firms orders for the war economy. Instead one has set e.g. ambulance bodies on the Sunbeam 12/16 chassis.
After the war, the company has resumed the automotiveengineering. In the early 20s, however, Rover lost its identity, also lost wealthy clients and it produced fewer cars than at the beginning. Due to the global economic crisis were produced no more bikes and motorcycles from 1923.
At Rover was altered course by Sir Alfred Mays Swithh from 1930. The cars no longer looked like large railway compartments and must be driven by a chauffeur, but like small Rolls Royce. By 1939, Rover built 11,000 cars per year. Then the car production was shut down. From 1940 one build aircraft engines in the Coventry factory. In the same year, however, the plant was destroyed by German bombers.