This book examines the rise and fall of a Gloucester motorcycle manufacturer, looking mainly at 1914-1940.
Founded by Frank Willoughby (Bill) Cotton and incorporating his patented triangulated frame design, The Cotton Motor Company competed successfully with large companies in London, Bristol and Birmingham. This was between the wars in racing and world-record setting at such venues as the Isle of Man (notably in 1923 and 1926) and Brooklands in Surrey (particularly in1935), as well as on overseas circuits. Bill’s machines sold throughout the world, particularly in Australia and South Africa.
Author Neville writes of a time that the MOT certification for motorcycles was not introduced until 1960. He also cites lesser-known anecdotes, including the fact that crash helmets were not compulsory on our roads until 1973.
Bill Cotton’s firm, with its engineering skills and stable of gifted riders, punched well above its weight. It faced competition Fred Morgan, Stanley Woods and Paddy Johnston, but had outstanding competition success, which cemented its reputation.
The firm was always a small-scale operation, which suffered as regulation increased and the financial climate of the 1930s deteriorated. The Cotton Motor Company was unfortunately declared legally ‘dormant’ in 1940. The company was finally brought to its knees by war restrictions.
As well as detailing the story of Bill Cotton, Neville’s book covers the short life of the other Gloucester motorcycle manufacturer JES, which was founded by John Edwin Smith at an even earlier date. Cotton Motor Company of Gloucester also recognises the engineering heritage of the city, which is now celebrated in both local and national museums.