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AJS Centenary, Wolverhampton
Saturday 14th November 2009

UP-DATE: response to questions raised ...

A look inside the works
Owners of the AJS Works have kindly agreed to open up the building to allow anyone interested to have a peek inside ... although no vintage machines will be waiting to be discovered in dusty corners! The building has been cleared of the last owner's equipment and is now empty.

It would be great to see bikes around the old AJS factory building. Conveniently, Penn Street that runs alongside the works is a cul-de-sac with no parking restrictions. In fact there are very few parking restrictions on most surrounding roads.

Nearest pub / food
The New Yew Tree Inn on Pool Street (behind the former Sunbeamland Works on the opposite side of the A449 Penn Road) is open for food and drink. They have also agreed to play the half-hour DVD history of AJS and Sunbeam factories made by Lumic films in the mid-1990s throughout the day.

Photo: New Yew Tree Inn, Pool Street

It's a beer-and-curry pub which caters for those working in the surrounding industrial area. The chef is happy to rustle up meat or veggie curries. However, he usually turns up mid-afternoon so either let us know at the web-site or contact the pub directly if you want to eat earlier and the chef will be happy to arrive around 11.30am - 12 noon. It would help to let them know if a party of you intend to turn up. Appropriately, the contact at the pub is Ajay! His telephone number is 07 961 565964.

The 'Little Testers' Run'
A few people travelling some distance with bikes on trailers have asked about a possible run out. The AJS and Sunbeam production bike testers used to ride out along the A449 to Penn Common (a 6 mile return trip) or a little further to the village of Wombourne (an 9 mile return trip). A map can be provided for anyone interested.

Photo: AJS testers on Penn Common (from Alex Brew, 1998, 'Penn & Blackenhall')



Saturday 14th November marks the centenary of the formation of AJS Motor Cycles in Wolverhampton in 1909 *, Sunbeam's great local rival during motorcycling's golden era immediately prior to the Great War and during the 1920s.

▲Photo: AJS Retreat Street Works in 1913 (from S J Mills, 1994 - courtesy Ray Jones)

▲ Photo: AJS Retreat Street Works, surviving in 2009 (weather-worn AJS gable sign just visible)

During a recent guided heritage tour of surviving factory buildings from Wolverhampton’s early motor manufacturing era, many of those attending asked if anything was planned to commemorate the occasion. **

In the apparent absence of anything else a few of us intend to gather at the surviving AJS Retreat Street works in Wolverhampton to mark the occasion – the original home of the fledgling company and the site where their 1914 TT winning bikes were produced. See photos above.

Bikes of any age are welcome from 10am onwards, especially British vintage and classic machines. Retreat Street is just off the A449 Penn Road heading into Wolverhampton from Stourbridge and Kidderminster. It is on the left, almost immediately before the A449 joins the city’s ring road, and near a drive-through McDonald’s restaurant. See maps below. The postcode for any 'satnav' users is WV3 0JP.

Photo: Blue plaque on the Retreat Street Works

Just a reminder that AJS in its early years had phenomenal racing success with its 350cc OHV machine that delighted the sporting clubman with feats such as the unprecedented win by a junior machine in the 1921 senior TT. The AJS name continued its racing reputation with Matchless / AMC which purchased the company in 1931, moving it to its Plumstead works in London where fine machines continued to be built bearing the AJS name until the late 1960s. On AMC’s demise, Villiers-engined trials machines retained the AJS name into the 1970s. To most people’s surprise, the marque is not consigned to history – you can still buy a motorcycle with AJS on the tank, albeit now manufactured far to the east of its original Wolverhampton home.

www.sunbeamsidevalve.com would be pleased to hear if you intend to bring an interesting bike along, especially AJS machines of any age. Contact details on the home page.


* Date of foundation taken from Stephen J Mills, ‘AJS of Wolverhampton’ (1994)

** The tour in September was arranged as part of this year’s national ‘Heritage Open Days’ events organised by English Heritage (see: www.heritageopendays.org.uk). A report of the event with photos can be viewed here.

Maps (extracts from www.multimap.com) - AJS Retreat Street Works adjacent the red circle


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