Non-Hampton & Richmond Borough related posts.
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Post by Les1949 »


Things you may not know, or didn’t know you knew!

Located in Hampton Court

Ah, yes! Where were we when so rudely interrupted. I think that I will just carry on from where I left off (but, can I have my summer of cricket and speedway back!).

And, I have managed to find a link with speedway bikes just down the road in Hampton Court. But to start at the beginning with British Anzani – a factory once located off Windmill Road in Hampton Hill – which I wrote about in 2011/12. The company made engines for cars and even lawn mowers and tractors, but in the early days they also made engines for Zenith, who built motor cycles. Zenith were started in 1905 and in 1914 moved to Hampton Court.

The company was heavily involved in the new sport of motor cycle racing, trials and attempts at speed records. Brooklands became a centre for racing and high speed attempts – and now has an excellent museum.

Zenith later switched to using JAP engines. JAP was a company started in North London by John A Prestwich (1874 – 1952) – now, I always thought that JAP was a mid-European company like JAWA, but no, they were a British company that were once world leaders in motorcycle engines.

In 1928 Dirt Track Racing came to England from Australia. A year later Stamford Bridge, home to Chelsea FC, was featuring a weekely speedway race meeting. After seeing racing in action, John Prestwich was persuaded to experimement with a new engine and by 1932 most speedway bikes were using his JAP engines.

Zenith continued to manufacture quality motor bikes from its Hampton Court base. In 1930, Joe Wright took the world speed record to over 150mph. The company reached its ‘zenith’ a few years later and then the number of models available started to reduce – mostly due to competition from other motor bike manufacterers. Shortly after, the firm were taken over by Writers, a large South London dealer.

Production finally ceased in 1950.

And now for a ‘human interest ‘ story. Frank Barker (1874 – 1950), born in Kingston, was an employee of Zenith Motors. In 1904 Frank was summoned for driving a motor bicycle at a speed that was dangerous to the public. In 1915 he was again summoned, this time for keeping a motor cycle without a licence. Frank claimed that he used the motor cycle entirely for his business of repairing Government motor cycles, was in the employ of Zenith and travelled all over the country on one of their motor cycles! Frank died in 1950 at the age of 76.

The Old Historian
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