UK 8475 is a Sunbeam motorcycle with a fascinating history.
UK8475 is a factory registered Sunbeam - registered by John Marston Ltd, the makers of Sunbeam motorcycles, as one of a small batch of machines in March 1930 (Wolverhampton City Council Archives).
Given it looks like an earlier 1928 model, it could well have been built from out-of-date spares as part of the factory's well-documented clear-out as the Great Depression took hold and at a time when Sunbeam had moved on to producing modern-looking saddle-tank machines (from 1929). These machines, made up from old parts are known to have been sold to employees.
A contemporary photo appears to support this. The photo, belonging to Brian Cowen (whose father and grand-father worked at Marstons) shows the Marston Tool Room lads on an outing on their machines in the early 1930s. It shows UK8472 which belonged to one of the Marston Tool Room lads. This bike was registered in the same batch as UK8475 and is a similar flat-tank machine.
In the 1950s UK8475 was owned by Jack Webley of Bilston, later passing into the hands of his friend Walter Edge. Walter was an engineer with John Thompson Motor Pressings Ltd of Wolverhampton who had, during his career, worked on Sir Malcolm Campbell's and John Cobb's land speed record cars.
There is a great photo in the Wolverhampton Archives of the Sunbeam Land Speed Record car's chassis being built at John Thompson's factory. The web-site address is www.blackcountryhistory.org and you will need to enter a search for record number "P/4115" amongst the site's images. I wonder if Walter is one of the men present in the photo?
Walter was also notable in the early years of the post-war vintage motorcycle movement in the UK. With Jim Boulton he set up an unofficial Wolverhampton section of the VMCC (Vintage Motor Cycle Club) in January 1950. An official Midlands Regional Section of the VMCC emerged in 1951, with Walter as Treasurer. It acted as organiser for the famous Banbury Run during the 1950s.
On 15 September 1959 Walter became first Chairman of the Wolverhampton and North Birmingham Section of the VMCC at its inaugural meeting at the Hen and Chickens pub on the Birmingham New Road, Oldbury. The Section still meets to this day and has a web-site: www.vmcc-nbs.co.uk.
Walter appears to have acquired and restored the Sunbeam in the late 1950s. He used it to travel to and from work until his retirement in 1969, and in Vintage Club trials with some success. It was laid up in 1968-69.
From 1989 to 2000 it was displayed in Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Museum as part of a small collection of exhibits on the first floor relating to Wolverhampton vehicle industries.
Thereafter it was loaned by Mrs Edge to the IMI Marston collection in Wolverhampton until it appeared at auction in 2007 and subsequently found its way into new ownership.
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