British Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

British Motorcycle Personalities

Notable Competitors, Industrialists and Designers


Les Bailey (Stephen Leslie Bailey) ran a motorcycle shop in Tamworth, Australia. He moved to England in 1909 and designed the 1911 Twin Humber Twin, and was then offered a position with Douglas. During the First War he was effectively the Douglas works manager. Post-war he designed and produced the R.A Douglas speedway machine. Bailey returned to Australia in 1924.

F.E. Baker had a long involvement in motorcycle manufacture, firstly in America and then with William Beardmore and Co. He was the founder of Precision Motorcycles.
Frank Baker

J.J. K. Bartlett designed the 499 c.c. Gnome and Rhone. He rode both ABC and Gnome et Rhone in competition, and competed in the Tour de France riding 2,300 miles without the loss of a single mark.

Walter Bentley was a racing motorcyclist before WWI who was one of the first to fit aluminium pistons to motorcycle engines. During the Great War he became heavily involved in aviation.
W.O. Bentley

Frank Bowden and his son Harold were the driving forces behind Raleigh and Sturmey-Archer. The name lives on with the Bowden Cable.


Granville Bradshaw


In 1908 William Brough began the legend that was later to become Brough Superior built by his son George Brough.

Brough 1898-1925

Brough Superior 1919-1940

Brown, George

George Brown (1912-1979) was born in Nottingham, England. Known primarily as a motorcycle racer, he has been called " the father of British sprinting". Brown raced a variety of bikes but is most closely associated with the Vincent brand. For a time he worked at Vincent, where he headed up their Experimental department and raced the factory-backed single and V-twin bikes. Brown left Vincent to establish his own motorcycle shop and as a sideline built high-performance sprint bikes that he rode to several national and international records.

Source: en.wikipedia

The first petrol-driven vehicle.
Edward Butler

Archie Butterworth was well known in the auto racing field where he produced F2 and hill-climb cars. He was also responsible for the Norton flat-four fitted to the Kieft Butterworth, and for the "Swing-Valve" engine mentioned in a satirical article by George Cohen.



Arthur Carroll was Chief draftsman at Norton, who with Joe Craig developed the OHC engine which dominated and won practically all the Isle of Man races and European Grand Prix events between 1931 and 1939.

Cheney, Eric

Cheney Motorcycles

See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Cheney

F. W. Chase

Collier, Harry

  • J. F. Crundall

  • D

    Davies, Howard R.

    Howard Davies built the H.R.D. which evolved to become one of the most famous motorcycles of all time, the Vincent HRD.

    Day, Joseph

    In 1889 designed a two-stroke engine.

    Joseph Day


    Garside, David

    David Garside was an engineer with BSA who developed the Wankel engine for the rotary-powered machine which became known as the Norton Classic.


    O.C. Godfrey

    First place in the 1911 Isle of Man TT senior. WWI fighter pilot.

    Goodman, Eugene

    Eugene Goodman, the man behind Velocette


    Harris, Les

    Les Harris built the Triumph Bonneville after the Meriden works closed. He built the 750cc Bonneville and a limited number of TR7V Tiger from 1987 until 1988.

    Harris also built the Rotax-engined Matchless G80 from 1987 to 1993.


    A villain, apparently, who was jailed. He was involved with Granville Bradshaw and was the cause of his bankruptcy in 1936.

    "Sadly, he [Bradshaw] invested everything that he owned into City of Wakefield stock which had, unknown to him, been forged by Clarence (Charles) Hatry, who was declared bankrupt and jailed just prior to the Wall Street crash in October 1929. Braddles lost home, work and reputation in trying to recover his loss leading to temporary bankruptcy in 1936."

    Hawker, Harry

    Closely associated with Sopwith Aviation, his firm is now best known for the production of the Hawker Hurricane of WWII. He was involved with Bradshaw's ABC and his own two-stroke motorcycles, and was a famed aviator of whom King George V said, "The nation has lost one of its most distinguished airmen, who by his skill and daring has contributed so much to the success of British aviation."

    Harry Hawker was born in Moorabin, Victoria in 1889 and travelled to England in 1910 to pursue a career in aviation after witnessing one of the first powered flights in Australia the previous year. He was 22 years old, and in September 1912 obtained pilot's licence No. 297 after three solo flights. In October he won the Michelin Cup for a flight of 8 hours and 23 minutes.

    Over the following decade, until his death at age 32 in an aviation accident, he achieved many more laurels both in the air and on the racetrack.

    Harry Hawker

    Hele, Doug

    Douglas Lionel Hele was a pioneering British motorcycle engineer with Triumph and later BSA, Douglas and Norton. He was one of the men responsible for the development of the Featherbed frame, and was behind the enormously successful 1961 Manx Norton.

    He is mentioned a number of times in these pages: Doug Hele

    Further information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doug_Hele

    Henderson, Leonard B.

    Sheffield-Henderson motorcycles were designed by Leonard B. Henderson, an aeronautical engineer.


    Hopwood, Bert

    Worked with Ariel, Norton, BSA and Triumph. Designed the Norton Dominator, BSA A10 and the BSA Rocket 3/Triumph Trident.

    Bert Hopwood


    Irving, Phil

    Phil Irving is best known for his Vincent V-twin engines, and is credited with the original concept for Velocette's "Noddy Bike", the LE. This article discusses that: L.E. Velocette Prototype.

    He also designed the prototype Model 'O' Velocette, a 600cc shaft-drive twin derived from the supercharged 500cc "Roarer".

    Quite simply the best information on preparing old motorcycles is to be found in Phil Irving's "Tuning for Speed", which was taken from his slide rule articles. ~ George Cohen


    Basil Henry Davies, English motorcycle journalist whose nom de plume was Ixion.


    Brian Jones


    Mary Kennard

    Gus Kuhn


    Le Vack
    Bert Le Vack

    Archibald Montgomery Low, British rocket scientist.

    Archie Low



    A.N. Maplestone designed the motorcycle fork which became widely known as the Webb Fork, used for decades by many of the best British motorcycles.



    Sammy Miller, Trials Champion, Ariel and Bultaco Designer

    G.P. Mills


    Walter Moore designed Norton's first OHC engine in 1927, the CS1, and after moving to NSU in 1929 designed, among others, the NSU 501 and the RK DOHC parallel twin.

    Walter Moore

    Jack Moore designed Norton's original 500cc parallel twin engine in 1945. This approach was scrapped in favour of the Hopwood version which resulted in the Dominator.

    Jack Moore


    William Richard Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield GBE CH (10 October 1877 - 22 August 1963) was the founder of the Morris Motor Company and a philanthropist.

    William Morris


    Page, Val

    JAP, Ariel, Triumph, and BSA.

    Val Page

    Wall Phillips 1908-1998, Speedway icon.

    Wall Phillips

    Pike, Roland
    Roland Pike, BSA and Norton designer.

    BSA A7 Racing

    Erling Poppe. Sunbeam, Packman and Poppe, Gordon microcars.


    John Alfred Prestwich designed his first motorcycle engine in 1901. Prior to this he had designed cinema projectors, for which he became very well known.

    J.A.P. History

    Cyril Pullin
    Ascot Pullin, Douglas

    Cyril Pullin



    Harry Ricardo


    Charles Sangster


    Jack Sangster was the owner of the Triumph and Ariel firms.

    Jack Sangster

    Shilling, Beatrice

    Brooklands star and aviation engineer famed for her work on Rolls-Royce V-12 Merlin engines used in Hawker Hurricane and Spitfire fighter planes during WWII.

    "Tilly" Shilling

    Simms, Frederick

    Frederick Simms, (1863-1944), regarded as the father of the British automobile industry, was a businessman, inventor, and pioneer of the motor industry. Simms coined the words "petrol" and "motor car", and among other inventions he devised the first prototype lighting system for the car. In 1893 he founded the company which developed into the Daimler Motor Company (UK). In 1897 he founded the Automobile Club of Great Britain which became the RAC, and he was instrumental in founding the Royal Aero Club.

    Simms Manufacturing Co.

    Source Autopasion18.com (There may be some problems with the translation)


    Ken Sprayson, known as "The Frame Man" of Reynolds Tube Co Ltd, developed the Norton Featherbed of McCandless design. He also built the forks for Ernie Earles TT machine.


  • Theodore H Tessier

  • Turner, Edward

    Worked with Triumph and Ariel. Designed the Triumph Speed Twin and the Ariel Square Four.

    Edward Turner

    Turner, Stuart
    Stellar motorcycles, steam engines.

    Stuart Turner



    George Wallis - Hub-Centre Steering 1925

    George Wallis


    The terms "flow testing" and "swirl" are common parlance in the automotive field. They both originated with Harry Weslake.

    Mick Whitlock

    Whitlock Frames 1960s


    Peter Williams - Developed and raced the Norton Commando Production Racer.


    John Wooler built his first motorcycle in 1909, and after WWI he built horizontally-opposed inline twins which featured rear suspension and most unusual fuel tanks. He was involved in the motorcycle industry for almost 40 years.


    Bert Yates

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