JA Prestwich Industries

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.

JA Prestwich Industries Limited
public limited company 
IndustryEngineering and pencil manufacturing
PredecessorJ.A.Prestwich and Company Limited and Pencils Limited
SuccessorVilliers Engineering
HeadquartersTariff Road, Northumberland Park, London
Key people
John Alfred Prestwich
ProductsIndustrial and motorcycle engines, pencils


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]



From 1904 to 1908 complete motorcycles were produced[7] from the development of the first overhead valve motorcycle engine to be produced in the UK.[8]

After that the factory concentrated on supplying its engines to other manufacturers, including Brough Superior,[9] Triumph Motorcycles,[10] A. J. Stevens & Co. Ltd, Enfield Cycle Co, Hazlewoods Limited, Zenith Motorcycles, and HRD Motorcycles, the forerunner of Vincent Motorcycles.[11] Machines that incorporated its engines included the AJS Model D, fabricated for the Russians in the First World War.[12]

JAP exported significant numbers of engines to foreign motorcycle manufacturers including Dresch[13] and Terrot in France, and Ardie,[14] Hecker[15] and Tornax[16] in Germany.

Latterly, JAP engines (under Villiers control) were used in motorcycle racing, and most commonly speedway or dirt track. Various enthusiasts continued development of the engine into the 70's primarily for grass track, speedway and long track use. Variants included the use of 4 valve heads, twin spark plugs and early electronic ignition systems. Some were modified to run as alcohol fuelled engines primarily for speedway use. All the engines were 4 stroke. Use of the engine declined in the 70's as competing engines from Jawa-CZ and GM were developed giving better performance. [17]

Aircraft engines

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 originally fitted 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.[18] But in the late 1920s/early 1930s JA Prestwich produced various heavier engines under licence, including those for the UK market for Aeronca.[19]

Motorcar engines

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 magneto drive. The engine was illustrated fitted to a Morgan three-wheeler.[20]

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.[21]

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.[22]

In its later life, JA Prestwich also produced components for other vehicle manufacturers, including the cylinder head for the Lotus Cortina[23] and the early versions of the Ford-based Lotus Elan engine.

Film production and projection

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.[24]

Railway trolleys

Early models of the railway maintenance ganger's Wickham trolley, from 1948, used a vee-twin JAP engine. This drove through a large flat flywheel and a friction drive.[25] In the 1950s other Wickham trolleys used the 600 cc JAP engine and drove through a clutch, tail shaft and bevel drive.[26]

Utility engines

J.A. Prestwich also made small utility engines under the JAP name for a variety of uses, both stationary and in motorised equipment. 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.

While most of the engines bore the JAP name, some, such as the model 3 OHV engine made for Arthur Lyon & Co for their ALCO generator sets, had timing covers with the name ALCO Featherlight cast in.

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



  1. "Tottenham's Industrial Heritage". tottenham-summerhillroad.com. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  2. sciencmuseum.org.uk Archived 2006-09-08 at the Wayback Machine
  3. British
  4. 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. "Library and Archives at Wroughton - Science Museum". Science Museum. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  7. "The Complete Motorcycle Compendium - J". Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  8. Ingenious
  9. Half The Wheels, Twice The Fun – Popular Mechanics Archived 2005-09-20 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ichadwick@sympatico.ca, Ian Chadwick,. "Triumph Motorcycles Timeline: The Early Years, 1883-1918". www.ianchadwick.com. Retrieved 29 April 2018.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  11. "My Vincent HRD Website – History". Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  12. "A. J. Stevens & Company (1914) Limited". Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  13. "Les motos DRESCH". t2frx3.online.fr. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  14. Fritz, Joachim. "Motorräder aus Nürnberg: ARDIE". www.meisterdinger.de. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  15. Fritz, Joachim. "Motorräder aus Nürnberg: HECKER". www.meisterdinger.de. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  16. "tornax-fahrzeuge.de - This website is for sale! - tornax-fahrzeuge Resources and Information". www.tornax-fahrzeuge.de. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  17. England Test dirt-track motorcyclist, Jack Wotton, on his JAP (JA Prestwich) engined bike Archived 12 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  18. Aircraft Engines – Make, Model and Manufacturers Summary Archived 2005-12-15 at the Wayback Machine
  19. "Aeronco". Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  20. "J.A.P. Engines for 1915", The Motor Cycle magazine, 22 Oct 1914, p461
  21. G.Kiessling. "Morgan, the World's Leading 3-Wheeler: Engine Page". morgan3w.de. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  22. "8W - When? - 1955 British GP". www.forix.com. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  23. "'Ford Cortina-Lotus'". www.pixelmatic.com.au. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  24. "Who's Who of Victorian Cinema". www.victorian-cinema.net. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  25. "Wickham Motor Trolley". South Devon Railway. 5 April 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.
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