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JA Prestwich Industries Ltd

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Title: JA Prestwich Industries Ltd  
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Subject: Jack Brabham, Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, Falcon Cycles, Formula Three, Arden (automobile), Ariel (vehicle), Tiny (car), Tony Marsh (racing driver), 1950 Formula One season, Brough Superior
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JA Prestwich Industries Ltd

JA Prestwich Industries
Industry Engineering
Successor(s) Villiers Engineering
Founded 1895
Defunct 1964
Headquarters Northumberland Park, London
Key people John Alfred Prestwich
Products Aircraft/vehicle engines

JA Prestwich Industries, was an English engineering company named after founder John Alfred Prestwich, which produced cinematographic equipment, internal combustion engines (for which the company was generally abbreviated to "J.A.P."), and other examples of precision engineering.


J. A. Prestwich, an engineer, founded the company in 1895, when he was in his early twenties, initially behind his father's house at 1 Lansdowne Road, Tottenham, London. By 1911 he had moved to new premises in Northumberland Park Road, N.17 The front elevation of this, with its distinctive facade and company logo, was demolished in 2012 to make way for a J.Sainsbury shop, part of the Tottenham Hotspur Redevelopment Scheme. Prestwich came to be known as much for his creation of cinematography projectors as his engines. He worked with S.Z. de Ferranti and later the cinema pioneer William Friese-Greene.

The engines were used in many famous motorcycle marques and other devices, such as early aeroplanes,[1] chainsaws, cultivators such as those produced by Howard Rotovators,[2] and light rail maintenance trucks.[3] The motorcycle engines were associated with racing success and were still used in speedway bikes well into the 1960s. 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]

After 1945 production was taken over by Villiers Ltd.[5] and the company was completely absorbed by the Villiers Engineering Company in 1957[6] just as Villiers itself was to be taken over by Manganese Bronze Bearings.

The company's engineering works in Northumberland Park closed in 1963.[4]


Aircraft engines

Early aircraft were light and basic, and need a reliable and lightweight engine to power them. JAP motorcycle engines were often used in this application. A JAP engine was used 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.[7] But in the late 1920s/early 1930s JA Prestwich produced various heavier engines under licence, including those for the UK market for Aeronca.[8]


Cinematographic equipment including cameras, printers, mutoscopes, cutting and perforating machines, and projectors (e.g. the Bioscope projectors for the Warwick Trading Company and Charles Urban) were produced by the company in the early part of the 20th century.[9]

Motorcar engines

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.[10]

This use of the JAP extended into motor racing after the Second World War; most were used in specialist UK lightweight formulas, or more extensively in Formula 3 racing after developments by John Cooper.[11]

In its later life, JA Prestwich also produced components for other vehicle manufacturers, including the cylinder head for the Lotus Cortina[12] and the early versions of the Ford-based Lotus Elan engine.


From 1904 to 1908 complete motorcycles were produced[13] from the development of the first overhead valve motorcycle engine to be produced in the UK.[14]

After that the factory concentrated on supplying its engines to other manufacturers, including Brough Superior,[15] Triumph Motorcycles,[16] A. J. Stevens & Co. Ltd, and HRD Motorcycles, the forerunner of Vincent Motorcycles.[17] Machines that incorporated its engines included the AJS Model D, fabricated for the Russians in the First World War.[18]

JAP exported significant numbers of engines to foreign motorcycle manufacturers including Dresch[19] and Terrot in France, and Ardie,[20] Hecker[21] and Tornax[22] in Germany.

Latterly, JAP engines (under Villiers control) were used in motorcycle racing, and most commonly speedway or dirt track[23]

Railway trollies

Early models of the permanent way maintenance ganger's Wickham trolley used a vee-twin JAP engine. This drove through a large flat flywheel and a friction drive.[24]

Stationary engines

J.A. Prestwich also made stationary engines under the JAP name for a variety of uses. They ranged in size from the smallest 1a type engine to the much larger type 6 engine, and were used on such things as rotovators, generating sets, milking sets, water pumps, hay elevators and other agricultural machines. They were usually 4-stroke and were usually reliable, and examples can still be seen at vintage rallies around the country.

J.A.P. also had a factory in Chelmsford Road, Southgate, London, employing some 40–50 people, where these engines were being made in 1955.

See also


External links

  • A brief history of JA Prestwich/JAP
  • Who's who in Victorian cinema
  • JAP Speedway engines – a history
  • Company history
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