Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 129,283 pages of information and 204,290 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Sunbeam: Cycles

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1890 February. Exhibit at the 1890 Stanley Cycle Show. Listed as J. Marston.
April 1899. Royal Sunbeam cycle.
February 1913.
October 1918.
1919. Royal Sunbeam Lady's Cycle. Exhibit at the Scottish Cycle Museum.
September 1920.
May 1923.
August 1923.
July 1928.
c1928. Sunbeam Sports.
January 1931.
January 1931.
January 1931.
January 1931.
January 1931.
February 1931.
February 1931.
February 1931.
February 1931.
April 1931.
April 1931.
April 1931.
May 1931.
May 1931.
July 1931.
July 1931.
July 1931.
July 1931.
December 1931.
December 1931.
December 1931.
1936.
April 1936
April 1936.
April 1936. Sold by John Marston Ltd.
July 1936.
April 1947.
1950
November 1955.

Note: This is a sub-section of John Marston Ltd.

1885 John Marston Ltd's japanware business started to decline. John Marston was a keen cyclist, was interested in trying to improve the machines of the day, and considered introducing cycles as a new product.

1887 William Newill, the works foreman, built a special cycle for John at the Paul Street works. John was pleased with the bicycle and the story is told that John's wife, Ellen, saw the sun reflected in the high gloss finish, and so the bicycle was called 'The Sunbeam'. John initially intended to make only tricycles but, at the time, the modern safety bicycles were all the rage and so most Sunbeam cycles were of this type. In the middle of the year, John asked one of his men to estimate the cost of going into the bicycle business. By December the first Sunbeam bicycle had been produced.

1888 The Sunbeam name was registered. The Paul Street works became known as Sunbeamland.

William Newill became a partner in the business.

1889 Sunbeam cycles were exhibited at the Stanley Show. There were 13 bicycles and tricycles on display, one of which showed J. Harrison Carter's Oil Tight Chain Lubricator and Gear Cover Chaincase. This was an important discovery for Marston and this became an important feature of Sunbeam bicycles, and later Sunbeam motorcycles.

1889 a showroom and depot was opened at 38 Holborn Viaduct in London, followed by three more depots in 1895.

1890 Exhibited at the 1890 Stanley Cycle Show - see advert.

1895 The business was incorporated as John Marston Ltd. Sales rose rapidly and there was an urgent need for expansion, particularly in the supply of components such as pedals.

1898 The Villiers Street factory of Edward Bullivant, a tinner and japanner, was purchased and a new company set up there Villiers Cycle Components Co to make pedals and cycle components for Sunbeam using patterns obtained from the USA, using machines developed using US specifications.

1920 John Marston Ltd the manufacturers of the world famous Sunbeam cycle and motorcycle was purchased by Kynoch which was part of Nobel Industries [1].

1926 Nobel Industries became part of the new ICI

1935 ICI decided to dispose of the cycle and motorcycle side of the Marston's business. Profits were very low and a lot of investment would be needed to update the old methods of production that were still in use.

1937 Matchless Motorcycles (Colliers) Ltd purchased the Sunbeam motorcycle and pedal cycle business of John Marston Ltd from ICI; the directors proposed to change the name to Associated Motor Cycles Ltd. [2]. Manufacturing was relocated to Associated's works at Plumstead in North London.

c.1946 BSA acquired Sunbeam Cycle Co[3]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 7 July 1920
  2. The Times, Tuesday, Sep 07, 1937
  3. The Times, Feb 05, 1947
  • John Marston, his family and his career, by Bev Parker [1]