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Sunbeam Motorcycles

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 in 1836, of a minor landowning family.
  • In 1851 at age 15, he was sent to Wolverhampton to be apprenticed to Edward Perry at the Jeddo Works of Wolverhampton as a japanner (metal lacquerer).
  • In 1859, at the age of 23, he bought Edward Perry and Co and possible Richard Perry, Sons & Co - two existing tinplate manufacturers and set up on his own as John Marston Ltd, making any and every sort of domestic article. Another source says: 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. [1]
  • 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 an apparent 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. [2]
  • In 1894 there is a John Marston, Carriage builder of 24, Bradford Street, Birmingham. [3]
  • 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. [5]
  • He died around 1918 as his death is mentioned in the John Marston AGM. [6]
  • He attended St. Jude's church with metronomic regularity. He lived most of his adult life in The Oaks, Merridale Road, Wolverhampton.


Sources: Grace's Guide


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