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Priory Motorcycles
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Priory motorcycles were made in the 1920s, and you’ve probably never heard of them before. But one RC reader met a man whose dad used to build them...

Classic motorcycles often attract the attention of passers-by who stop for a chat and to reminisce. One day recently RC reader Tony Hayward was fettling his bike when he was approached by Keith Peckmore. Unusually, Keith didn’t say ‘I had a motorbike like that when I was young’ but instead started a conversation with something like; ‘my father built motorbikes like that when he was young…’

If some of these images appear creased, it means your monitor needs ironing...

It turned out that Keith’s father built Priory motorcycles back in the 1920s. And what, you may ask, are Priory motorcycles? It’s not one of the most famous names in British motorcycling history but the Kenilworth-based company was typical of its time. The Priory Engineering Company produced conventional motorcycles between 1920 and 1924. The business took its name from Priory Road where its premises were situated, and built lightweight machines fitted with Ace wheel discs and Arden pressed-steel front forks.

a Priory Motorcycle, yesterday...

The company’s ambition was ‘to produce a motorcycle of sound construction at a reasonable price. This has been accomplished and we claim that The Priory only needs testing to prove its real worth.’

The Priory 2 3/4 hp, 2-stroke, 2 speed motorcycle.

Their main model used an Arden ‘dual pipe’ 269cc two-stroke engine with an Albion two-speed gearbox and a combination of chain and belt drives. It was fitted with a CAV magneto and a B&B Special carb; Saxon forks and Hutchinson tyres. The lubrication was ‘automatic’ by drip feed; the front brake was of the Bowden type while the rear worked on the belt rim. The Priory was fitted with extra wide, valanced mudguards, ‘semi-TT’ Triumph-pattern handlebars, a Leatheries’ De Luxe saddle and two leather tool bags. The frame was of ‘very strong construction, giving low and most comfortable riding position’ while the petrol tank was ‘of ample capacity and attractive design’.

The engine, yesterday... The Engine

This 2¾hp two-stroke model returned 100mpg and it cost £66/10 new, or if you wanted a kickstart version (instead of run-and-bump) then that would set you back £75. The price included a book of helpful hints and tips so you could get the most from your machine (or, indeed, just figure out how to use it…)

Vintage bits on

The Priory 'Crest' Motorcycle, yesterday...

The company felt their machine certainly lived up to their expectations: ‘The Priory Motor Cycle cannot fail to commend itself to solo riders who desire to experience a feeling of perfect control with the assurance of perfect reliability and endurance’ said the brochure. It was offered with a four month guarantee from new – and back in the 1920s a four month guarantee was significantly better than the standard.

The Priory 'Crest' Motorcycle, yesterday... The Priory 'Crest' Motorcycle

In latter years Priory also built bikes fitted with Villiers and Union two-stroke motors, plus a 292cc sidevalve JAP engined model – several of which bore the name The Crest. Any of these machines might have been put together by Keith Peckmore’s father, some 85 years ago in Kenilworth.

Another Priory Motorcycle, yesterday...

So the next time someone comes up to talk to you about old bikes it might just be worth chatting for while longer than usual. Maybe someone else will have part of the history of the British motorcycle industry in the family…


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