Sunbeam Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

John Marston was the founder of John Marston Ltd, Villiers Engineering Co and the Sunbeam Motor Car Co company of Wolverhampton.

1836 Born in Ludlow May 6th 1836, of a minor landowning family.

  • In 1851 at age 15, he was sent to Wolverhampton to be apprenticed to Richard Perry, Son & Co. at the Jeddo Works of Wolverhampton as a japanner. The word Jeddo is an anglicisation Tokyo, and japanner means metal lacquerer.
  • In 1859, when his apprenticeship ended he purchased Daniel Smith Lester's japanning business at Bilston which had amalgamated with Fred Walton and Co and Thurston and Co. John was just 23 years old when he set up John Marston Ltd, a firm which became one of the country's largest producers of japanware.
  • In 1887 the first Sunbeam bicycle had been turned out at the works.
  • He gave William Newill a partnership, and the company began to change direction from making pots and pans to engineering.
  • 1888 The Paul Street works first became known as Sunbeamland in 1888 and Thomas Cureton joined the company as an apprentice.
  • Marston disapproved of motorcycles, which he thought were dangerous. This did not stop him making thousands of them. But he never rode one, and nor did he ever drive a car. Nearly all his life he was a dedicated cyclist, most often using a tricycle. He was a successful businessman, and apparently a harsh employer. Workers who made a mistake at his factory were bluntly told "Get your jacket" and with that Marston threw workers out.

    In 1889 and 1890 he is elected mayor of Wolverhampton.

    In 1894 there is a John Marston, Carriage builder of 24, Bradford Street, Birmingham.

    In 1903 January. He set up the Sunbeam Motor Car Co

    1909 Given the Freedom of the City of Wolverhampton. Has been a town councellor for 24 years, an Alderman for 18 and the mayor twice.

    He died of grief on March 8th 1918, following the death of his third son Roland.

    He attended St. Jude's church with metronomic regularity. He lived most of his adult life in The Oaks, Merridale Road, Wolverhampton.

Sources: Graces Guide, Wikipedia,

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