J. A. Prestwich Industries

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J. A. Prestwich Industries, was a British engineering equipment 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.

J. A. Prestwich Industries Limited
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.

Circa 1902 J. A. Prestwich and Company began manufacturing motorcycle engines which were used in many motorcycle marques. The motorcycle engines were associated with racing and record success and were used in speedway bikes into the 1960s. Prestwich also made engines for aeroplanes.[2][3] 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.[4] During WWII Prestwich produced around 240,000 industrial petrol engines in support of the war effort, together with millions of aircraft parts, fuses, etc.[5]

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.[5][6]

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.[7][failed verification]





From 1903 to 1908 complete motorcycles were produced[8] from the development of the first overhead valve motorcycle engine to be produced in the UK.[9]

After that the factory concentrated on supplying its engines to other manufacturers, including Brough Superior,[10] Triumph Motorcycles,[11] A. J. Stevens & Co. Ltd, Enfield Cycle Co, Hazlewoods Limited, Zenith Motorcycles, Grindlay Peerless and HRD Motorcycles, the forerunner of Vincent Motorcycles.[12] Machines that incorporated its engines included the AJS Model D, fabricated for the Russians in the First World War.[13]

JAP exported significant numbers of engines to foreign motorcycle manufacturers including Dresch[14] and Terrot in France, and Ardie,[15] Hecker[16] and Tornax[17] 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 1970s 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 1970s as competing engines from Jawa-CZ and Weslake were developed giving better performance.[18]

Aircraft engines


Early aircraft were light and basic, and needed a reliable lightweight engine for power. 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. J. A. 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.[19] In the late 1920s and early 1930s J. A. Prestwich produced various heavier engines under licence, including those for the UK market for Aeronca.[20]

Motorcar engines

1934 Morgan Super Sport with JAP engine

JAP engines were extensively used in cyclecars in the 1910 to 1914 period when they were popular with small manufacturers. In 1914 JAP announced a new engine made specifically for the cyclecar: 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.[21]

In light of JAP's development of high-powered 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.[22]

This use of the JAP extended into motor racing after WWII. Most were used in specialist UK lightweight formulas, or more extensively in Formula 3 and Formula 2 racing and in hillclimbing after developments by John Cooper.[23] Cooper cars powered by JAP engines won the British Hill Climb Championship for eleven consecutive years.

In its later life, J. A. Prestwich produced components for other vehicle manufacturers, including the cylinder head for the Lotus Cortina[24][25] 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.[26]

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.[27] In the 1950s other Wickham trolleys used the 600 cc JAP engine and drove through a clutch, tail shaft and bevel drive.[28]

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 Featherweight 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



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  2. ^ "JAP-Harding Monoplane (1910)". Science Museum History of Flight. Science Museum. Archived from the original on 31 December 2006.
  3. ^ "J.A.P. Harding monoplane (Bleriot)". Science Museum Group Collection. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  4. ^ Jones, Donald A. (2 November 2010). "Great Britain". Donald's Antique Rototiller. Archived from the original on 6 June 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ a b Lewis, Jim (1999). "18 J. A. Prestwich - Tottenham's Prolific Inventor". London's Lea Valley : Britain's best kept secret. Chichester, West Sussex [England]: Phillimore. ISBN 1-86077-100-9. OCLC 50014284.
  6. ^ Wright, Terry (2015). Power without glory: racing the big-twin Cooper. Pymble, N.S.W.: Loose Fillings Sydney. ISBN 978-0-9943661-0-8. OCLC 911223005.
  7. ^ "Library and Archives at the National Collections Centre". Science Museum. Archived from the original on 4 October 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  8. ^ Clew, Jeff (1985). JAP: The Vintage Years. Haynes. ISBN 0-85429-458-9.
  9. ^ "JAP motor cycle engine, 1904". Ingenious. Science Museum Group. Archived from the original on 7 April 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  10. ^ Leno, Jay (21 December 2001). "Half The Wheels, Twice The Fun". Popular Mechanics. Archived from the original on 20 September 2005.
  11. ^ Chadwick, Ian. "Triumph Motorcycles Timeline: The Early Years, 1883-1918". Chadwick's Web. Archived from the original on 2 April 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  12. ^ "My Vincent HRD Website – History". Archived from the original on 21 July 2005. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  13. ^ Parker, Bev. "A. J. Stevens & Company (1914) Limited - The early years". Wolverhampton Museum of Industry. Archived from the original on 11 November 2019. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  14. ^ "Dresch". Les motos (in French). Archived from the original on 21 January 2019. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  15. ^ Fritz, Joachim. "Motorräder aus Nürnberg: ARDIE". Die Meisterdinger von Nürnberg (in German). Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  16. ^ Fritz, Joachim. "Motorräder aus Nürnberg: HECKER". Die Meisterdinger von Nürnberg (in German). Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  17. ^ Kastel, Dieter. "Tornax-Motorfahrzeugfabrik". Tornax-Motorfahrzeugfabrik. Archived from the original on 3 September 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  18. ^ Hood, Sam (1930). "England Test dirt-track motorcyclist, Jack Wotton, on his JAP (J. A. Prestwich) engined bike". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  19. ^ "Aircraft Engines - Make, Model and Manufacturers Summary". Australian Ultralight Aircraft. Archived from the original on 15 December 2005.
  20. ^ Erickson, Jack (14 May 2004). "Aeronco, Prestwich, J.A.P. (UK)". Horizontally Opposed Piston Aero Engines. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007.
  21. ^ "J.A.P. Engines for 1915", The Motor Cycle magazine, 22 Oct 1914, p461
  22. ^ Kiessling, Gerhard. "Morgan, the World's Leading 3-Wheeler: Engine Page". Morgan 3-Wheeler. Archived from the original on 1 January 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  23. ^ Muelas, Felix (August 1999). "Brabham's Cooper debuting among the all-conquering Mercs". 8W. FORIX. Archived from the original on 13 January 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  24. ^ "Ford Courtina-Louts - Amazing Performance From a Demure Package" (PDF). Car Life: 36–39. July 1966.
  25. ^ "FORD CORTINA-LOTUS - Amazing Performance From a Demure Package". Car Life: 36–39. July 1966. Archived from the original on 10 March 2019.
  26. ^ Herbert, Stephen. "John Alfred Prestwich". Who's Who of Victorian Cinema. Archived from the original on 18 February 2012. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  27. ^ "Wickham Motor Trolley". South Devon Railway. 5 April 2013. Archived from the original on 12 September 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  28. ^ 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.