From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present
Sunbeamland
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West Midlands
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Pre 1851
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Sunbeamland is located in Wolverhampton in West Midlands. It is the birth place for the Sunbeam brand of bicycle, motorbike and car which was founded by John Marston. The British Seagull marine outboard was also developed here.

John Marston was apprenticed at the Jeddo Works, aged 15 in 1851 to Edward Perry who was a japanware manufacture in Wolverhampton. He completed the apprenticeship at 23 and soon left the Jeddo Works to set up his own company competing with Edward Perry in the japaning industry. When Edward Perry died in 1871, John Marston bought the company and buildings, incorporating it into his own business. He diversified and began by making bicycles soon after. His wife persuaded him to sell them under the brand name 'sunbeam'. Sometime after this, the Jeddo Works were renamed and Sunbeamland was created.

Sunbeam became a name associated with high quality, his bicycles were in high demand. He even tried to fit an engine into his bicycles but abandoned it after a man was killed during the experiments. Not one to be content, he diversified again.

In 1889 John became Mayor of Wolverhampton and was re-elected in 1890. In these two years he arranged for sanitation to be improved and instigated water and sewerage works that are in use to this day.

Between 1899 and 1901 he began experimenting with prototype cars. The first production car, called the Sunbeam was introduced 1901 after collaborating with Maxwell Maberly-Smith. The car was unusual in that the seats were fitted either side of a drive belt and powered by a single cylinder 3 hp engine. It was a limited success with 420 sold. Production ended in 1904. A new design was put into production, designed by Thomas Pullinger. This was based on a Peugeot which was bought by the company to study. This car, which they sold approximately 10 a week cause a new company to be formed. In 1905 the Sunbeam Motorcar Company Ltd was born and ran separately form the Sunbeam Bicycle Company.

A slump in the car trade in 1912 caused John Marston to manufacture motorcycles. Again, the Sunbeam motorcycle was a high quality unit, built with a single cylinder, and known as the 'Gentleman's Machine'. Sunbeam motorcycles performed well in the early days of the famous TT - Tourist Trophy races in the Isle of Man.

The First World War brought many changes, the company set to a war footing, building aircraft engines. Several designs were produced including the V12 Sunbeam Cossack. They also continued to build motorcycles and began building trucks and ambulances. The company also participated in the Society of British Aircraft Constructors pool, who shared aircraft designs with any companies that could build them. In total Sunbeam had produced 647 aircraft of various types by the time the lines shut down in early 1919. John Marston retired from business on May 6, 1916 but died at the end of the war in 1918 aged 82. The Marston empire was sold to a consortium soon after his death only to be absorbed into Nobel Industries Ltd. Nobel Industries amalgamated with Brunner Mond Ltd and became ICI, Imperial Chemical Industries. The Sunbeam motorcycle trademark was sold to Associated Motorcycles Ltd, AMC, in 1937 and made Sunbeam Motorcycles and bicycles until 1939. They sold the trademark on to BSA on 1943 but they were built in Redditch, Worcestershire. They were discontinued in 1964.

The Sunbeam Motorcar Company had a different fate, in August, 1920, they merged with a French company called Automobiles Darracq S. A.. In 1919 Darracq had bought the company called Clement-Talbot and renamed it to Talbot-Darracq so they could import Talbot's into England. Adding Sunbeam created Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq, or STD Motor company. In 1930 a land speed record attempt was made with the 1930 Silver Bullet, but failed to achieve any records. It is now almost forgotten. Sunbeam did not really survive the depression and in 1935 went into receivership and was sold to Lord Rootes and became part of the Rootes group. The last Sunbeam produced was the Rootes Arrow series Alpine/Rapier fastback 1967–76, after which Chrysler, who had purchased Rootes, disbanded the marquee. The Hillman (by now Chrysler) Hunter on which they were based soldiered on until 1978. A Hillman Avenger derived hatchback, the Chrysler Sunbeam, maintained the name as a model rather than a marquee from 1978 to the early 1980s, with the very last models sold as the Talbot Sunbeam. The remains of Chrysler Europe were purchased by Peugeot and Renault in 1978, and the name has not been used since.

A chrome plating company called C. E. Marshalls used Sunbeamland. They plated for Ford and Jaguar but with the recession they closed down the Sunbeamland Works. The building now sits empty and subject to metal and asset theft. Sunbeamland's future is unknown.