Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,352 pages of information and 245,904 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

J. A. Prestwich Industries

From Graces Guide
1902. JAP motorcycle 293cc. Exhibit at the National Motorcycle Museum.
1902. JAP motorcycle 293cc. Exhibit at the National Motorcycle Museum.
March 1903.
April 1903.
July 1903.
November 1903.
November 1903.
November 1903.
November 1903.
1910. 35hp 8-cylinder.
February 1910.
January 1910.
September 1911
September 1911
December 1912
December 1912.
November 1913
March 1914.
January 1920.
August 1923


June 1924
May 1925.
December 1929.
June 1930.
June 1930.
1939. 1.5 hp.
March 1946
November 1953.
1961. JAP speedway bike, 500cc.
J.99 aeroengine based on the Aeronca E.113 model. Exhibit at the Shuttleworth Collection.

J. A. P. of Tottenham, Middlesex produced cinematographic equipment, internal combustion engines (JAP), and other precision engineering.


1895 John Alfred Prestwich, an engineer, founded the company J. A. Prestwich and Co when he was twenty one. The company was formed to produce scientific instruments and experimental apparatus and for machines for making and showing cinematograph films.

He worked with Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti and later the cinema pioneer William Friese-Greene

1902 Designed and built his first engine but it was not produced until 1903.

1903 First complete motorcycle shown at the Stanley Show. It had a BSA frame, sprung forks and a vertically mounted 3.5hp ohv engine. A single push-rod opened both valves, and the cam had track to pull and push as required. There was also a lightweight model fitted with a 2.25hp inclined engine.

1905 Motorcycles continued with a 2.5hp and a 3.5hp, as well as a three-wheeler.

1905 News item. Takes first three positions in the Isle of Man elimination trials. 1st: Ariel (Campbell). 2nd Matchless (Collier). 3rd JAP (Franklin). All bikes used the twin-cylinder engine. Also A. E. Lowe wins hill-climbing at Hazlemere and several long-distance trials with same engine. 'Mr. John A. Prestwich, the designer and maker of these successful engines (which now represent Great Britain in the international struggle for the Gordon Bennet Cup). is a son of Mr. Prestwich of Warrington House, and his growing business promises to be one of the staple industries of Tottenham. In addition to motor engines and cars, he is the maker and inventor of the cinematographic cameras and projector in use for show purposes. His machines having taken and exhibited the famous pictures of the 'Fall of Port Arthur' as shown in London.[1]

1906 Made the first overhead-valve V-twin in 1906. Produced a 3.5hp single, a 6hp V-twin and a forecar having an 8hp three-cylinder in-line engine.

Built a 660cc three-cylinder engine for Dennell.

1907 January. Engines: 4 h.p. Single. 85 x 85. 50 lbs; 6 h.p. V-twin. 70 x 95. 65 lbs; 9 h.p. V-twin. 85 x 95. 90 lbs; 8 h.p racer. 90 degree V-twin. 85 x 85.[2]

1908 The company stopped motorcycle manufacture in order to concentrate on engines. The engines were used in many famous motorcycle marques and other equipment, such as early aircraft, chainsaws, cultivators such as those produced by Rotovators and light rail maintenance trucks. The motorcycle engines were associated with racing success and were still used in speedway bikes well into the 1960s.

Early aircraft were light and basic, and needed a reliable and lightweight engine to power them and JAP motorcycle engines were ideal. J. A. Prestwich at first would purely deliver the same engine to the aircraft manufacturer, allowing them to make local modifications - mainly larger venturi tubes for the carburettor, to allow for greater air intake at altitude.

1911 The business moved to Northumberland Park, Tottenham

WWI Manufactured artillery shells and aeroplane parts

1916 October. Details of new four-cylinder engine 69 x 100 = 1,495cc.[3][4]

1918 May 30th. J. A. Prestwich and Co incorporated as a private company to acquire the business founded by J. A. Prestwich.

JAP patented a desmodromic valve design in 1923.

Val Page worked for JAP before going to Ariel.

Very successful after World War I supplying engines for many manufacturers, but, as more companies developed their own engines, JAP relied heavily on industrial engine sales in the 1930s.

In the late 1920s / early 1930s they produced various heavier engines under licence including those for the UK market for Light Aircraft Ltd's Aeronca light aircraft.

In light of JAP's development of high powered but light engines for speedway, some low volume pre-war car manufacturers, including the Morgan Motor Co and Reliant, used JAP engines to power their vehicles. This use of the JAP extended into motor racing after the Second World War, with most were used in specialist UK lightweight formulas, or more extensively in Formula 3 racing after developments by John Cooper.

After 1945 production was taken over by the Villiers Engineering Co

1951 April 23rd. J. A. Prestwich Industries incorporated to acquire J. A. Prestwich and Co Ltd and Pencils Ltd. Directors are John Alfred Prestwich, Chairman and MD; John Edgar Vincent Jobson; Edward Stuart Prestwich; Douglas Percival Prestwich; Gerald Winfrid Stanfield Bagshawe and Percy Gyllenship Langford. William Dodsworth Hine is Works Manager. [5]

1957 Merged with Villiers Engineering [6]

1961 Manufacture JAP stationary and motor cycle engines and Masters pencils. [7]

1962 Engine manufacture moves from Tottenham to Wolverhampton leaving the Tottenham site to concentrate on sub-contract engineering. [8]

1963 September. Announcement of the closure of the Tottenham works. 430 men will be made redundant. [9]

1964 The company was completely absorbed by Villiers just as Villiers itself was to be taken over by Manganese Bronze Holdings. [10]

In its later life, J. A. Prestwich also produced components for other vehicle manufacturers, including the cylinder head for the Lotus Cortina version of Ford's popular car.

Cinematographic Equipment

Early 20th century: Cinematographic equipment produced by the company included cameras, printers, mutoscopes, cutting and perforating machines, and projectors (eg the Bioscope for the Warwick Trading Co and Charles Urban).

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Tottenham and Edmonton Weekly Herald - Friday 02 June 1905
  2. The Motor Cycle 1907/01/09
  3. Light Car and Cyclecar 1916/10/23
  4. Light Car and Cyclecar 1916/11/06
  5. The Times, Wednesday, Jun 20, 1951
  6. The Times, Saturday, Jun 08, 1957
  7. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  8. The Times, Monday, Dec 10, 1962
  9. The Times, Friday, Sep 13, 1963
  10. The Times, Tuesday, Apr 28, 1964
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • The British Motorcycle Directory - Over 1,100 Marques from 1888 - by Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth. Pub: The Crowood Press
  • [2] CyberMotorCycles web site
  • JAP at 'Bikelinks' Website [3]