The authors regard this website as an ongoing record where as much as is known by them about the Associated Motor Cycles Ltd factory and its employees at Plumstead Road, Woolwich can be stored for mutual interest and benefit.
We have, over the relatively short period of it's existance on-line, been pleasantly surprised by the amount of feedback received from people who, having come across the site, were enthused enough to let us know about themselves, their brothers, fathers, grandfathers, etc., who had also spent some of their working life at AMC, over the long years of its existence.
This extra, valuable information has enabled us to fill in many gaps in the history of the firm, as well as to correct any errors that may have been crept in due to our lack of personal knowledge of a particular department (and failing memories!!).
In order, therefore, to encourage the continuing flow of information, we have decided to list the following copies of correspondence which we hope that you will find interesting.
Mark Graham - 24 September 2022
Mark contacted us to say that he was 'stunned to see photos of my grandfather Wilf Graham on your website'.
(Wilf had worked in the Race Shop and the Tool Room, and the photos referred to are on the latter department webpage)
Mark also recalled how an uncle, on his mother's side, had told him that his great grandpop Thomas Dix, grandad Bernard Dix
and great uncle Colin Dix all worked at the AMC factory at one point after the war.
He then passed on to us the following tale of the nefarious conduct of his forebears:
Grandpa Bernard told a story about how he and Colin were fixing up an old motorbike and stealing bits to do it from the factory.
But they needed a new carburettor and that was in the bit of the plant where grandpop worked but they were too afraid to ask him.
Of course, he knew what they were up to.
One day they walked into the kitchen and the carburettor was just sitting on the table.
No-one said a word but they all knew where it came from
Thanks for the extra names that we can add to our employee database.
Tony Biebuyck - 16 September 2020
Dear Bill and Peter, I’m a Norton man, writing an account of the F 750 bikes that Peter [Williams] designed, expanded into quite a lot of racing and tuning history. All I knew of AMC was the Infamous Heather and his contribution to disaster and of course, Peter’s father and the race shop.
I’m in awe of your website. In near fifty years of Commando and 650SS ownership, I’m not aware of anything as comprehensive on Norton.
I’ve read and own a lot of published history, belong to the NOC and often look at Access Norton, but have never come across anything with the quality of presentation and content of your site.
(Nice to get such praise for the Norton element of the website.)
Alan Rouse - 16 July 2020
I found your web site while checking Pinterest for Woolwich and Charlton,
it was the photo of Matchless from I believe Maxey Road that was the link.
My father worked at, as I knew it, Matchless for a number of years as a spot welder in the late fifties/early sixties. I was often taken by my mother to a large open door a short distance up Maxey Road on the right to see him.
His name was Eddie Rouse but he was almost universally known as "Ted Rouse" but I don't know much more about what he did.
However, my mother's brother, who lived with us, was a very keen motorcyclist
and trials rider in his youth and had a number of similar friends, one of
whom was Bill Pritchard.
I know Bill worked at Matchless at the same time as my dad, and for some time after. By the time I was old enough to make sense of the stories he told it was the mid-sixties.
They talked about many workers at the factory and I'm afraid I remember none except that, after the bikes were produced, the completed motorcycles were moved across the road for completion, checking or despatch in a ready-to-run state by, they thought, the only man there who couldn't ride a bike.
They recalled how the locals would aim to speed him up to get him to run with the bikes.
I know Bill had become a tester and remember well him turning up one day on
the brand new Norton Commando S.
Explaining to my uncle how the rear suspension worked, he briefly explained the gear pattern, jumped off and off sped my uncle.
I remember the helmet law had recently been introduced and he and his then second wife had moved to Andover.
Shortly after, Norton did a display of Commandos at the Horn Fair at Charlton House. I was there, only living around the corner, however, Bill failed to recognise me and was deep in banter with the others.
Thank you for the site. I will share with my sons.
PS I only ever knew it as Matchless but my father used to talk about AMC, I just never realised they were one and the same.
(A few more gaps filled in on our Employee Database, thanks Alan.)
As this website's attention is focused solely on the workforce of the AMC factory, rather than on the bikes manufactured there, any correspondence received requesting technical information (usually engine/frame number identification) is usually forwarded on to the owners club of the marque concerned.
However, from time to time, we get a query that fires up our ace 'all things AMC' expert Bill Cakebread to don his deerstalker hat and grab his trusty magnifying glass to solve a purplexed client's problem.
One such query was sent in by Kevin Gorman (13 July 2020) on behalf of members of his Matchless Facebook Group:
Hello down there at Matchless fan group. A number of us have the letter P stamped on our engine crankcases [between the pushrod tubes] but nobody knows what it stands for. Could anyone enlighten us all with help from the factory staff?
(And here's the surprising answer that Bill discovered)
Dear Kevin, Thank you for making us do more research into this very little known subject.
It appears that during that period, Terrys Springs delivered a batch of valve springs made from the wrong material which was then quickly discovered.
This left the factory with no stock to continue production so a small batch of bikes was sent out knowingly with the faulty springs and the crankcases were stamped with a letter 'P' (for Plumstead!) and their numbers recorded so that they could be traced and exchanged on the customer's or dealer's premises.
A special tool was made to be inserted through the plug hole to hold the valves closed so that the springs could be quickly exchanged without removing the cylinder head.
We never stop learning! Thanks for asking the question. Best regards Bill
Philip Hannam - 08 August 2019
Hello AMC Historians. While reading your very interesting online article about working at AMC I think that I have noticed a slight inaccuracy regarding the Norton connection. This is the section that I believe is not quite correct:
After obtaining a Government subsidy, a facility was set up in a factory at North Way, Andover, to continue assembling
the Norton Commando model, with the Test Department housed in an aircraft hanger on nearby Thruxton airfield.
I was working at Thruxton airfield in 1970 and 1971. Besides being the assistant chef in the small airfield cafe, I also performed a
number of other duties such as aircraft parking, re-fuelling and the taxiing of planes between the field and maintenance hangar.
In those days there was only one large hangar on the airfield and it was crammed with planes both new and old.
There was no room inside for anything else apart from aircraft servicing and storage.
The Norton Performance Workshop was housed in a number of very old Nissen huts about 100yds from the aircraft hangar. Those used by
Norton were positioned closer to the airfield perimeter track. They were a mix of small engineering workshops and offices.
Well known Norton engineer/racer, Peter Williams had his office in the Nissen hut directly overlooking the race track. I used to wave to him most mornings, when I arrived via the back entrance to the airfield.
In the beginning I rode to work on a Norton Dominator but this was later exchanged for a Commando 750. When the Performance Workshop was closed sometime in the mid-1970s much of the old stock and machinery headed to a nearby set of Nissen huts which were rented by Norman White. He had started up a small business repairing and servicing police Commandos and private machines. The rest of his story being history.
Two points which I am fairly certain are correct while I worked at the airfield.........the Norton Test Department did not use the Thruxton aircraft hangar or the perimeter track for bike testing. For safety reasons, nobody was allowed to drive around the perimeter track during normal working days. The only time that cars and bikes were permitted to do so was during official race meetings.
Trust that the above is of some use.
Yours sincerely Philip Hannam
(History page amended to correct location of Test Department)
Cliff Packer - 13 March 2019
Hi. My name is Cliff Packer. I am in my late eighties and now live in Australia. I am in touch with an old friend who now lives in New Zealand,
Terry Ewens, and he put me onto your site.
I worked at AMC back in 1955 -56, in the drawing office (my drawing board was behind Frank Perris), and I remember Eric Crouch; slightly eccentric, John Lennon glasses, RAF moustache, carried a tightly rolled umbrella which he used the tip of to press the lift buttons.
Bill Green was section leader and did all the checking. Horace Watson was Chief Draughsman and had the key to the executive toilet.
I did not see any mention of Ike Hatch who was Chief Engineer and had his office downstairs.
In late '56 Charlie Smith and I went to Canada to work. I raced initially a G45 and then later a G50 and, during those years, the boys in the race shop looked after me very well (a broken rod in the G45 in the Manx grand prix (they completely rebuilt the motor free of charge) and a hole burnt through the piston in the Cookstown 100 was another free rebuild.
In the drawing office, I initially worked on modifications for the following years models and then on the design of the G2 250cc engine.
There was also a design for a small industrial engine that would work either vertically or horizontally for industrial pumps and generators, etc. I don’t think anything became of this.
Peter Alexander took my place when I left and actually paid me a visit here some 15 years ago.
Keep up the good work.
Regards Cliff Packer.
Howard Cox - 07 March 2019 (originally posted on the Vintage Bike forum, after helping to establish the exact location of the old AMC factory for a fellow historian)
Was feeling pretty pleased with my research into the factory location, but I’ve just found a superb site detailing everything about the company, location and history called “workingatamc.london”.
Congratulations to the site authors, wonderful story.
(Thanks for the praise, glad we were able to provide the information you were looking for)
Terry Ewens - 21 February 2019
Gentlemen. My name is Terry Ewens, I was employed at the AMC Factory from October 1951 until May 1961.
I worked in the 2nd floor Assembly Dept. and specifically on post assembly and testing duties.
My departmental managers were originally Archie Illsley and, after his retirement, Hugh Viney.
I have sometimes looked to see if anything to do with AMC employees would turn up on the web, but with no success, until I recently became aware of your excellent website.
It is so comprehensive and detailed, I never expected to find something this good.
Well done, it would not have been easy.
I think I have identified myself in the list of employees, but as "Terry Ewings”. There is also a “John Ewings 7R Racer”. I’m not aware of “John” but wonder if you got me from two sources.
I did mainly test production machines, but I also did destructive and specified testing for Jock Robertson in the Experimental Dept. Also testing as required for Mr Williams of the Racing Dept.
I did have 7R of my own, which was used on several mainland circuits.
In the list of Road Testers, “Terry Ewings” appears again. Jim Walby has the comment "7R & G50 Tester”. If correctly recalled, by the 7R & G50 generation Jim was no longer testing but had re-located to the Service Dept. with Jack Colver and Tom Allen (brother of Joe Allen). When this occurred younger riders like Bill Langley, Allen Jones and myself were called for testing.
As I understand it, I tested all 7R & G50 of that generation as I was the only tester with any race bike experience. The previous generation of 7R & G45 were tested by Bert Jenner from the Repair Section at the back of the Packing Dept. Bert was not keen on the later machines, he found them too uncomfortable.
I hope my comments are of assistance and look forward to a continuing contact.
If there is anything I can help with, let me know.
Thanks again for the website.
Christopher Burwash - 03 February 2019
Hello. I was (and still am, at 73) crazy about bikes. I went to work there in what must be 1962.
I was paid £3.10 shillings a week, straight from school, it just about covered my fares from Forest Hill and food.
I went to work in the repair shop, which was next to where the racing bikes were prepared, on the opposite side of the road from the main factory.
It was quite light and airy, unlike the Dickensian conditions in the factory.
On my first day I walked around the factory and queried to an “ old timer” how much notice I needed to give, which was 7 days, so I did.
Even though I worked across the road,I couldn’t bear being anywhere near such dreadful working conditions. I guess I was a bit sensitive. I left and worked at Pride and Clarke’s in Brixton.
I’ve since owned several AMC bikes, my very first a 1952 350 single with a rigid frame, no suspension, and took that to Club meets at Brands Hatch. Mad as well as sensitive!
I then had a 650 Matchless CSR and numerous other bikes, Triumph, Norton, then with the Japanese invasion, Honda, Suzuki and currently ride a Honda 600 Hornet.
Great memories and great fun,
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Simon Longhurst - 15 November 2018
Hello. I am a Police officer who currently works the Glyndon ward where the AMC factory used to stand.
Being a classic bike enthusiast with an interest in history, I recently looked for the commemorative plaque which was on the wall of Maxey Road j/w Plumstead Road. The plaque is unfortunately missing.
I have made the appropriate council officer aware who has assured me it will be looked into, and a new plaque created and fixed. I thought out of courtesy I would keep you informed.
I much enjoyed learning about the factory through your website during my lunch break!
John Hartnell - 14 October 2018
Hi Bill and Peter, I have recently found your AMC web site which I read with great interest as you mention my father Gerry Hartnell a couple of times in the text.
During the war my father did motorcycle testing before despatch, and on one occasion the gearbox seized and flung him from the bike breaking his collar bone. He also mention discussions with MOD staff about a new design of motorcycle and being appalled that they had no idea what was feasible.
My parents best man at their wedding was George Rowley, and I remember visiting George and his wife Flo at their house in Wolverhampton several times. My Dad also talked about going to the Isle of Man TT’s with George and how difficult and dangerous the racing was.
With my parents I regularly visited Charlie and Jean Tassell at their house in Gnatts Valley Kent. I especially remember being in awe of Charlie’s fully equipped workshop and being told not to touch anything!
Thought you might be interested in some of my recollections.
Paul Watts - 12 September 2018
Hi guys. An update on my dad. I'm afraid I don't have much info on exact dates or job role but my dad ( William Henry Jerome Watts) worked at Plumstead circa 1950-1960.
He left when my mum was pregnant with me due to the financial state of the company.
My sister and I do have a few images that we believe are of his time there. Not sure if I have sent them to you in the past.
(pictures identified as of Billy Watts working on Tool Room milling machine and added to relevant webpage)
Patrick Horton - 12 September 2018
Hello. I’m enjoying your website and the following might be a useful addition.
The National Screen Archive of Wales has a video of the 1954 ISDT that was held in Wales.
It features Hugh Viney and within it are shots of the Competition Shop at Plumstead and Viney and Manns working on an ISDT machine.
My interest in this video comes from my owning Hugh Viney’s 1955 ISDT machine.
This was the one on which he was involved in a collision in Earls Court on the way to a selection trial in Wales.
The collision broke his leg and ended his competition career. The bike, mostly undamaged, went back to Plumstead and was sold on by Jock West to a mate of his.
I have owned it since 1980, ridden it extensively, and it is now under long term restoration to bring it back to its ISDT originality.
This involves modifying or making a number of special parts.
(the Competition Shop [and Design Office] extract has been linked to the website's Race Shop page)
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David Latchem - 07 June 2018
I sold Matchless motorcycles for many years in Bath and was trying to remember the name of the salesman who called for AMC at that time.
I could not find salesman on your employee list. Can you help?
(I'm afraid that, being both Design Office based, we couldn't come up with any names)
oldmikew - 24 May 2018 (originally posted on AccessNorton forum).
I think the astonishing thing about the website is that it exists at all.
None of the other British factories seem to have engendered such a strong desire to set recollections out at the level of the workforce.
I had no idea that there were factory reunions nearly 50 years after closure. And yes, they were proud of what they did and made.
Julie Rathbone - 07 March 2018
Dear Sir, Thought you may be interested in the enclosed. This was my maternal Grandfather, Albert Bull retiring in 1968.
Sadly he died 3 years later. He’d been at Norton since 1917.
Julie Rathbone (Mrs)
(Julie's press cutting of Albert Bull's retirement presentation can be seen on the Assembly page)
Tim Bassett - 31 January 2018
Hi Bill, I hope you don’t mind me emailing you. I have just found your website regarding the AMC factory and seen there
is a picture of my great uncle Stan Bassett in the tool room.
I understand from my father that there were two of the Bassett brothers that worked at Matchless/AJS.
Is there any more info you have or any more pictures of Stan or Bert Bassett?
The remaining brother was a cycle maker A Bassett. My grandfather went on to run the shop A Bassett and Sons at 65b High Street Plumstead - I also think they had a cycle factory in the High Street before Bert and Stan went to work for the Colliers.
(Bill was able to list five members of the Bassett family who all worked at AMC and send some photos as well)
Mark Henry - 20 December 2017
I've just come across your AMC web pages and it's really interesting as my late father is named within your records (Des Henry AMC Racing department).
He passed away some years ago now but often recalled his times at AMC working with the AJS 7R3 in support of Rod Coleman & the team winning the 1954 TT.
I may have some photos, I'll need to look, but they could all be of his time at HWM (1951-1953) which you've got correctly detailed - I believe I've got the letter of contract from the AMC race department too.
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Louis de Grave - 08 June 2016
Gentlemen, Interesting website, I really enjoyed watching it.
Maybe of interest to you for the drawing office page of the website. About 15 – 20 years ago Ernie Dorsett (the person who built several Matchless motorcycles
with diesel engines) gave me some pre-printed drawing sheets of AMC not yet used, so no parts information.
In case you are interested in a sheet I could take one to England when I visit your country the next time. In case a scan is more useful to you I could try to get the sheet scanned at work and send the file to you.
Louis de Grave (The Netherlands)
(You can see a facimile of the drawing sheet on the Engineering Drawing Practice supplement of the Design page)
Dennis Boney - 09 May 2016
To the Webmaster. I have just come across the AMC website, I was surprised to see two photographs of myself as an apprentice. I Joined AMC in the summer of 1955, my apprenticeship started on 6th February 1956 for 5 yrs as a Toolmaker. I left in 1961 and went to Stones of (Charlton) for a few years. I am sorry my memory is not very good for names & faces, but I do remember racing a couple of the lads home on my Francis-Barnett, one had a Douglas and the other had 250cc BSA!.
I enclosed a photograph of myself posing with the instructor, on a new gear selector cutting machine which had just been installed.I hope this is of some interests to you.
(You can see the photo of Dennis on the Apprentices page)
Peter Morris - 01 May 2016
Hi, Love the site, thanks for all your work.
Found this on my computer. I expect you already have this picture but I noticed that there is no link it on Bil Lovett's name in the list of Race Shop staff.
(Peter has continued to be a regular contributor of material to the site over the years)
Carl Kotevich - 09 April 2016
Thanks so much for this fantastic website!!
Very nicely done.
Carl in Canada
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Jos Vanderwoude - 06 April 2016
Hi lads, I really enjoyed your website.. Also enjoyed the book Bill wrote about his time at AMC.. I have read it 3 times..
I saw this list of all the people that has worked at AMC..
There are still photos of a few off them to find on the Internet..
(Jos supplied copies of Motor Cycle magazine front covers that featured long-serving AMC employees, that can be seen on the Cover Pages page, and has continued to hunt down a huge amount of other material lurking on the internet that we have also incorporated on the site)
Bob Clarricoates - 01 April 2016
Hi fella's, I've just come across you site. What a wonderful site and super read it is, and well written too.
I ride my 2-AJ's nearly every day ('53 - m16ms and '60 m31), neither concourse, just well used reliable rides.
That always seem to find some old !!!!!! ( I'm 68 ) fella tell me " eey lad I had one o them when I were younger."
Just on an aside, I think my 1960 M31 is probably the newest historic vehicle not to need an MOT. It left the factory on December 29th 1959 so creeps into the manufactured before 1st January 1960 --- Just.
Back to your site; It would make an excellent book ----- but don't order the Rolls on anticipated mass sales royalties.
Thanks for making my day.
James Botting - 01 April 2016
Hello, I wonder if you could help me. I am Tony Botting's grandson, and was wondering if you might have any old picture or just any information about his time at AMC.
I know it may be a it of a long shot but would really appreciate it if you did.
(Bill was able to send James a photo of his grandfather)
Ralf (Webmaster of the German AMC site and forum) - 04 April 2016
Hi Peter, Bill, many thanks for your wonderful site.
It highlights the rare aspect of people and facilities building our nice motorcycles.
I will put a link to www.Jampot-Germany.de and www.lkw-kelkheim.de to promote your site.
All the best,