It is often said that John Marston Ltd was taken over by ICI in 1928. In fact, the company was already part of Nobel Industries Ltd, which was amalgamated into the new structure, Marston becoming subject to much improved ICI pension and terms of service conditions, which were much appreciated by the workforce. Marston’s continuity was highlighted in the ICI Magazine for 1928, where six employees with over forty-five years of service and thirty-two years at the company were featured.
ICI were a modern company and introduced the Bedaux work-study system in search of efficiency. It soon became apparent that handcrafted tinplate work was a very high cost and from the system’s inception, bought-in mudguards and chaincases, both from Midland Gearcase to Sunbeam design, began to be incorporated.
The depressed selling conditions of 1929 onwards forced the company to produce cycles and motorcycles at a lower cost to sell more cheaply and the expensive extras fitted to the Golden, as well as the two-speed gear, disappeared. ‘One of Marston’s problems is that they make too good a product,’ concluded the 1934 factory memo, announcing that bicycle sales had risen by over 100%.
– Extract from ‘John Marston Ltd, Post-1928’ Page 317, Sunbeam Cycles: The Story from the Catalogues
In 1932, Sunbeam introduced fundamental changes to their models to fit in with the changing bicycle marketplace of the 1930s. Demand was now primarily for cheaper functional bicycles rather than expensive models, and a sportier look was in vogue. Although the model would remain in catalogues, and still sell to those who favoured them, these were really the last few years that the hand-built traditional upright black bicycle style would be made in large quantities.
The ‘Low-Built’ Royal Sunbeam was now standard, with 26″ wheels.
The Sturmey-Archer Three Speed gear was fitted to the Royal. The Sunbeam two-speed and Sharp’s divided axle were no longer offered.
New mudguards were fitted, described as special Sunbeam deep ‘D’ section with substantial stays. This style of mudguard was used between 1932 and 1936.
1932 All Black Royal Sunbeam for Gentlemen
Frame No 166656
This All Black Sunbeam is blessed with original transfers in good condition.
Original gilt transfers are so delicate – even polishing can destroy them – that only a minority of vintage bicycles retain them 80 years later. A Sunbeam, however, was more likely to have been cherished throughout its lifetime and, as in this case, passed down for future generations to appreciate.
This machine is in very good condition. Apart from the pedals and the new tyres and tubes recently fitted, everything appears to be original to the bike. The catalogue shows a Brooks saddle, but this was a customer’s choice. The Middlemore saddle fitted is age appropriate, the same three coil style, and is in first class condition. Like all early Sunbeams, this Royal Sunbeam for Gentlemen is very enjoyable to ride.