Today in Motorcycle History

William Hillman, British Motorcycle Pioneer

Premier logo

William Hillman produced his first motorcycle in 1902 under the name Hillman. It had had a number of interesting features, including all-chain drive. The 1½ hp engine was mounted high up behind the headstock, and the crankcase became part of the downtube. The magneto was driven by crank and rod, so oscillated, and the chain drive was in two stages, via the bottom bracket. The mixture was provided by a crude spray-carburettor - a very advanced feature for the era. Only one model was built.

In the early 1870's he founded Hillman, Herbert and Cooper, a bicycle manufacturer which later became the Premier Cycle Co. Hillman partnered with James Starley (he of the the "Psycho" tricycle) in 1871 and together they formed Starley & Co which built penny-farthing bicycles under the name Ariel, oft referred to as the Starley Ariel.

The importance of this partnership in the history of motorcycling cannot be overemphasised - their business association led to the formation of Rudge-Whitworth, the invention of the safety bicycle and the invention of the rubber tyre.

Starley & Co evolved into D Rudge & Co, which became Rudge-Whitworth.

Starley’s nephew J.K Starley, who worked with him, founded Rover.

Starley merged with Westwood Manufacturing in 1896, and built their first powered tricycle (or quadracycle) in 1898, the Ariel.

The kangaroo on the Premier logo is believed to originate from one of Hillman's most famous bicycles, the "Kangaroo", the immediate predecessor to the safety bicycle.

Sources: Graces Guide,, et al