JA Prestwich Industries

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JA Prestwich Industries Limited
Industry Engineering and pencil manufacturing
Predecessor J.A.Prestwich and Company Limited and Pencils Limited
Successor Villiers Engineering
Founded 1951
Defunct 1964
Headquarters Tariff Road, Northumberland Park, London
Key people
John Alfred Prestwich
Products Industrial and motorcycle engines, pencils

JA Prestwich Industries, was an English manufacturing company named after founder John Alfred Prestwich, which was formed in 1951 by the amalgamation of J.A.Prestwich and Company Limited and Pencils Ltd.


John Prestwich, an engineer, commenced manufacture of scientific instruments in 1895, when he was 20, initially behind his father's house at 1 Lansdowne Road, Tottenham, London. By 1911 he had moved to new premises in Tariff Road,[1] within the Northumberland Park area of Tottenham, London, and which still exists as of 2015. Prestwich was initially best known for his cinematography cameras and projectors He worked with S.Z. de Ferranti and later the cinema pioneer William Friese-Greene.

In about 1902 J.A.Prestwich and Company started the manufacture of motorcycle engines which were used in many famous motorcycle marques. The motorcycle engines were associated with racing and record success and were still used in speedway bikes well into the 1960s. Prestwich also made some engines for aeroplanes.[2] In 1919 Prestwich formed Pencils Limited to exploit his invention of new machinery and the company made Master Pencils, also in Tariff Road. In the nineteen thirties engine production increasingly focused on small industrial and agricultural engines.[3] During WWII Prestwich produced around 240,000 industrial petrol engines in support of the war effort, together with millions of aircraft parts, fuses, etc.[4]

In 1951 the assets of J.A.Prestwich and Company Limited and Pencils Ltd were taken over by J.A.Prestwich Industries Limited which was registered on 23 April 1951 and floated on the London Stock Exchange shortly after. By 1957 practically all the shares in the company had been acquired by Villiers Engineering Company Limited of Wolverhampton, which also made motorcycle and industrial engines. The engineering works in Northumberland Park closed in 1963 and J.A.Prestwich Industries Limited was liquidated in 1964.[4] [5]

Papers, photographs and publicity material relating to the company are held at the Bruce Castle Museum Tottenham and the Science Museum Library & Archives at the Science Museum at Wroughton.[6]


Aircraft engines[edit]

Early aircraft were light and basic, and needed a reliable and lightweight engine to power them. JAP motorcycle engines were often used in this application. A JAP engine was used in A V Roe's 1909 triplane, regarded as the first all-British aircraft, and for a while Prestwich and Roe had a partnership. JA Prestwich at first would deliver the same engine to the aircraft manufacturer, allowing them to make local modifications – mainly larger venturi tubes for the carburettor, to allow for greater air intake at altitude.[7] But in the late 1920s/early 1930s JA Prestwich produced various heavier engines under licence, including those for the UK market for Aeronca.[8]


Cinematographic equipment including cameras, printers, mutoscopes, cutting and perforating machines, and projectors, such as the Bioscope projectors for the Warwick Trading Company and Charles Urban, were produced by the company in the early part of the 20th century.[9]

Motorcar engines[edit]

1934 Morgan Super Sport with JAP engine

JAP engines were extensively used in cyclecars in the 1910 to 1914 period when they were very popular with large numbers of small manufacturers. In 1914 JAP announced a new engine made specifically for the cyclecar, which was a V-twin of 90mm bore and 85mm stroke (1082cc). The engine had a larger flywheel than the motorcycle engine and an enclosed magento drive. The engine was illustrated fitted to a Morgan three-wheeler.[10]

In light of JAP's development of high powered but light engines for speedway, some low volume pre-war car manufacturers, including G.N., T.B., Morgan Motor Company and Reliant, used JAP engines to power their vehicles.[11]

This use of the JAP extended into motor racing after World War II; most were used in specialist UK lightweight formulas, or more extensively in Formula 3 racing after developments by John Cooper.[12]

In its later life, JA Prestwich also produced components for other vehicle manufacturers, including the cylinder head for the Lotus Cortina[13] and the early versions of the Ford-based Lotus Elan engine.


From 1904 to 1908 complete motorcycles were produced[14] from the development of the first overhead valve motorcycle engine to be produced in the UK.[15]

After that the factory concentrated on supplying its engines to other manufacturers, including Brough Superior,[16] Triumph Motorcycles,[17] A. J. Stevens & Co. Ltd, Enfield Cycle Co, Hazlewoods Limited, Zenith Motorcycles, and HRD Motorcycles, the forerunner of Vincent Motorcycles.[18] Machines that incorporated its engines included the AJS Model D, fabricated for the Russians in the First World War.[19]

JAP exported significant numbers of engines to foreign motorcycle manufacturers including Dresch[20] and Terrot in France, and Ardie,[21] Hecker[22] and Tornax[23] in Germany.

Latterly, JAP engines (under Villiers control) were used in motorcycle racing, and most commonly speedway or dirt track[24]

1948 Elstar JAP Grasstrack, National Motor Museum Monorail in Beaulieu
1950 Rotrax JAP Speedway, National Motor Museum Monorail in Beaulieu
1948 J.A.P. Speedway Racer, California Automobile Museum

Railway trolleys[edit]

Early models of the permanent way maintenance ganger's Wickham trolley used a vee-twin JAP engine. This drove through a large flat flywheel and a friction drive.[25] In the 1950s other Wickham trolley's used the 600 cc JAP engine and drove through a clutch, tail shaft and bevel drive.[26]

Stationary engines[edit]

J.A. Prestwich also made stationary engines under the JAP name for a variety of uses. They ranged in size from the smallest model 0 two-stroke engine to the much larger type 6 engine, and were used on rotovators, generating sets, milking sets, water pumps, lawnmowers, hay elevators and other agricultural machines. Most were 4-stroke, but there were some 2-stroke engines such as the model 0; they were quite reliable, and examples can still be seen at vintage rallies around Britain.

J.A.P. also had a factory in Chelmsford Road, Southgate, London, employing 40 to 50 people, where these engines were being made in 1955.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tottenham's Industrial Heritage". tottenham-summerhillroad.com. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  2. ^ sciencmuseum.org.uk
  3. ^ British
  4. ^ a b Jim Lewis 1999, J.A.Prestwich-Tottenham's Prolific Inventor, Ch 18 of London's Lea Valley, Phillimore, ISBN 1-86077-100-9
  5. ^ Wright, Terry (2015). Power Without Glory: Racing the Big-Twin Cooper. Loose Fillings Sydney. ISBN 978-0-9943661-0-8. 
  6. ^ http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/about_us/collections/science_library/new_collections/archive.aspx
  7. ^ Aircraft Engines – Make, Model and Manufacturers Summary
  8. ^ Aeronco
  9. ^ Who's Who of Victorian Cinema
  10. ^ "J.A.P. Engines for 1915", The Motor Cycle magazine, 22nd Oct 1914, p461
  11. ^ Morgan, the World's Leading 3-Wheeler: Engine Page
  12. ^ 8W – When? – 1955 British GP
  13. ^ 'Ford Cortina-Lotus'
  14. ^ The Complete Motorcycle Compendium – J
  15. ^ Ingenious
  16. ^ Half The Wheels, Twice The Fun – Popular Mechanics
  17. ^ Triumph Motorcycles Timeline: The Early Years, 1883–1918
  18. ^ My Vincent HRD Website – History
  19. ^ "A. J. Stevens & Company (1914) Limited". Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  20. ^ History of Dresch motorcycles
  21. ^ List of Ardie motorcycles
  22. ^ List of Hecker motorcycles
  23. ^ http://www.tornax-fahrzeuge.de
  24. ^ England Test dirt-track motorcyclist, Jack Wotton, on his JAP (JA Prestwich) engined bike Archived August 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ "Wickham Motor Trolley". South Devon Railway. April 5, 2013. 
  26. ^ Longworth, Jim (2010). Triking the Length A Short History of Railway Track Vehicles in New South Wales 1855-1984. Australian Railway Historical Society New South Wales Division. ISBN 978-0-9805106-9-0. 

External links[edit]