Stepney is the spare tyre of a car. Read the story behind the ‘stepney’ wheel and how Indians came to adopt the British term.
New Delhi: ‘Stepney’ is slang term used for the spare tyre of a car. This peculiar term is not commonly used to describe a spare wheel in modern-day England.
Until the early 1900s, The motor cars were manufactured without spare wheels. Though puncture was an event dreaded by all car drivers. At that time wheels were bulky metal or wood constructed unlike today.
Thomas Morris Davies managed to find a solution to their concerns by inventing a spare wheel. His mind blowing idea was the constrution of a spoke-less metal wheel rim fitted with an inflated tyre.
The driver simply had to clamp it to the rim of the wheel that was flat. Davies and his brother teamed up for a business. They called their invention, the Stepney Spare Wheel after the location of their workshop in Stepney Street, Llanelli, Wales.
The brothers soon became very wealthy and set up their ‘stepney’ outlets across Britain. They further introduced their wheel all over Europe and to the colonies of the British Empire. The Stepney wheel became such a resounding success that they were seen on nearly every car on the road. Since then, the term ‘stepney’ became synonymous with a spare wheel in many countries like India.
The days of the patented spare wheel slowly came closer as the car manufacturers began providing spare wheels with all new cars. The actual business died out after the 1st World War. However, the brand name lived on long after the last original ‘stepney’ wheel was constructed.
Stepney today is an everyday name for a spare wheel in India. For the British, Stepney means the London suburb. However, stepney has evolved further in India to refer to an incompetent employee who drags his team back and even as a slang term for one’s mistress!
A street which was named after a prosperous English family who moved to Wales from London and got their surnames from an east London suburb called Stepney.