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British Motorcycles

Villiers Engineering Co

Villiers Engineering Ltd was a manufacturer of motorcycles and cycle parts, and an engineering company based in Villiers Street, Wolverhampton.

of Marston Road, Wolverhampton. Telephone: 21666/7/8. Telegraphic Address: "Villiers, Wolverhampton". (1937)

  • 1890's John Marston's Sunbeam had become extremely successful, by relying on high quality of production and finish. But Marston was dissatisfied with the pedals on his machines, which he bought in.
  • In 1890, he dispatched his son Charles to the USA on a selling trip but included in his instructions that Charles must discuss pedal engineering with Pratt and Whitney in Hartford, Connecticut and come back with a high class pedal and the machinery for making it. Charles said that the Villiers Engineering Co. was "the ultimate fruit" of his trip to the USA, being impressed by the production system and the labour saving devices. He pointed out that "it was not possible to develop these at Sunbeamland, which had long been working on another plan, but it was possible to start them in a new factory".
  • 1898 As a result of the tour John Marston bought a small Japanning works based in Villiers Street, Wolverhampton that had belonged to Edward Bullivant, a producer of japanned ware on quite a large scale. Under the direction of Charles, the company made cycle parts for the Sunbeam product. As the factory was producing more parts than Sunbeam required, it sold components to other manufacturers.
  • 1902 was a momentous year for Villiers. Firstly, John Marston sold the company to his son Charles for £6,000 on a loan against future profits. Secondly, it developed and patented the cycle free-wheel, which every cycle manufacturer required. The production of free wheels reached its peak just after World War II, as the company produced 80,000 per week or 4 million per year.
  • 1902 Frank Farrer, who was then the manager of the Palmer Tyre Company's Coventry depot was appointed as sole agent for the sale of the surplus pedals. Farrer had many connections with the cycle trade, was a good engineer and a great salesman and was to become the driving force in Villiers. So quickly successful was this move that Frank Farrer joined Villiers full time in 1902 and the factory was employing 36 men.
  • 1911 Engine production commenced, but sales were slow until 1913 when the first two-stoke was produced.
  • 1919 Charles Marston left the active day to day management of the company. He remained as Chairman but appointed Frank Farrer, as Managing Director,
  • 1928 Public company.
  • 1937 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. "Villiers" Stationary Engines from ½ hp to 4hp, for industrial purposes.A full range of Steel Stamping and Non-Ferrous Castings. "Villiers" Cycle Products, including Freewheels, Speed Gears, and "Villiers" Motor Cycle Engines. (Stand Nos. D.825 and D.724) 
  • 1937 Manufacturers of two-stroke engines and accessories. "Villiers" Two-stroke Engines and Accessories.
  • 1956 Villiers produced its two millionth engine and presented it to the Science Museum in London.
  • 1961 Manufacturers of internal combustion engines, including the "Villiers" two-stroke and four-stroke light internal combustion engine. Also manufacture cycle components, freewheels, magnetos, and carburettors.
  • 1962 The company were claiming that: "jointly, the two companies produce a vast range of two-stroke and four-stroke petrol engines and four-stroke diesel engines from 1/3rd to 16 b.h.p. These are the engines which power many of Britain's two-stroke motorcycles, scooters and three-wheelers and the great majority of the motor mowers, cultivators, concrete mixers, generating sets, elevators, pumping sets. etc."
  • 1965 The company was taken over by Manganese Bronze.
  • 1966 Together with AMC, the company became part of Norton Villiers. At this point, Villiers stopped supplying engines to outside companies. Production of the Villiers engine closed in the UK, but continued in Madras, India.
  • In 1999 Villiers Plc acquired the healthcare company Ultramind and renamed the company Ultrasis.
Sources: Grace's Guide

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