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The weekend’s walking tour of Wolverhampton’s historic motor manufacturing quarter as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days events was a resounding success. In no small part this was thanks to an enthusiastic turn-out, hard-working volunteers and not forgetting the great weather we had.

In all, during both Saturday and Sunday, just over 50 people took part in the tour – although many more stopped to enquire about the city’s motoring history at the tour’s meeting point outside the Central Library. This was marked by the presence of an old Wolverhampton-made Sunbeam motorcycle that once resided in the city’s Art Gallery and Museum on Lichfield Street. The Sunbeam certainly attracted the crowds and created a feel-good atmosphere as kids of all ages enjoyed the opportunity of donning pudding basin helmet, goggles and gauntlets and re-living the golden age of motorcycling when Wolverhampton machines reigned supreme on the road and track!

The tour itself took in the surviving factories of AJS, Sunbeam, Clyno, Star, Briton and Villiers in Blakenhall and Graisley – a number of which are protected as nationally listed buildings, although some such as the huge Sunbeamland complex and small AJS Retreat Street works have no protection against demolition. Those who were eager to wander through this relatively uncharted aspect of the city’s heritage had a diverse range of interests. Some had travelled a good distance especially for the event, including motoring heritage fans from York, Milton Keynes, Stoke-on-Trent and Coventry.

The group also included those, like Mohan Singh and Roy Holloway who had worked in the city’s motor industries, along with car and motorcycle buffs; others simply interested in this aspect of the city’s contribution to 20th century history; and, fascinatingly, N and J Hartshone whose great uncle had actually been a Clyno motorcycle test rider in the 1920s and whose grandparents were employees at Sunbeam’s Moorfield car works between 1918-24.

To the participants’ delight the tour finished each day in the former Sunbeam Experimental Workshop – birthplace of the company’s incredible Land Speed Record cars from the 1920s. Here, a half-hour film made in the 1990s by Lumic Films of Kingswinford about the history of AJS and Sunbeam motorcycles was shown – along with much-needed tea and biscuits after the two-hour trek!

The national Heritage Open Days event has been a great way to announce the centenary of AJS Motor Cycles, formed in Wolverhampton in November 1909 – an anniversary which will continue to be celebrated over the forth-coming year with events such as the AJS and Matchless Motor Cycle Owners’ Club’s run from the Wolverhampton AJS factory site to the Plumstead Matchless factory site in London.



From the start of the tour on Saturday 12 September 2009, taken outside Wolverhampton's Central Library ...


And, from Sunday 13 September 2009, again taken outside the Central Library at the start of the day's tour ...




Return to: Sunbeamland - the motor cycle works