Star letter: Halcyon days
By: Web Editor
’Ian asks about location of Pearce Motorcycles in Ottershaw, Surrey.
Born and up to 20 years ago still living in that area, in the mid 1950s I was a motorcycle mad teenager, still on L plates, and I spent many a hour snooping around motorcycle dealers, just looking!
Once a sleepy hamlet, a decade or so later Ottershaw was all but obliterated by redevelopment of its highway network as feeders to the then soon to be opened M25 motorway.
Just a mile or so from Ottershaw on Addlestone Road at its intersection with Hare Hill was a long established ‘garage’ – in the 1950/60s, a collection of tin sheds. Forget the business name, as well as repairing cars this establishment was always worth a look because from one shed they sold motorcycles. I came across Frank Pearce here on more than one occasion, this was not his Ottershaw ‘bike shop’ although it’s possible he had an interest in or some business arrangement with this establishment. I recall viewing tired motorcycles from the 1930s, slowly sinking in to the oily mud outside the shed, often on offer at £7-10s each.
In the 1950s and 60s like many of us, Frank Pearce attended gatherings run by Surrey Sussex section of the VMCC. When we formed the more local to us (and Frank) Brooklands section of the VMCC, he became regular at our meetings, held in those days at the long established venue for both car and motorcycle enthusiast and not far from Ottershaw, The Hand and Spear Hotel, next to Weybridge railway station. Run for many years by two sisters as a traditional inn, the Hand and Spear was known, with great affection, as ‘the Bent Dagger’.
At this time in the 1950s, elderly racers had little financial value, it was not unusual to find vintage and ‘amateur clubman’ prepared motorcycles languishing and forgotten in sheds. I was fortunate enough to find one such bike – a 1922 overhead valve ‘George Dance’ Sunbeam. Recommissioned, rather than restored, my late father and I ran it in VMCC and Brooklands events for the next 15 years or so before selling – it’s still around today. We also similarly found a stripped-for-racing radial head Rudge Ulster, which we recovered and sold it to Frank Pearce, who probably sold it on. If I recall correctly, Frank was still buying and selling motorcycles ‘on the street’ well into the 1960s.
For more detailed insight about Pearce Motorcycles, it’ll be worth contacting the motorcycle preservation volunteers group at Brooklands Museum, Weybridge. It has contact information for other enthusiasts from my generation who remember the Pearce business.
I hope these ramblings are of interest and give an insight into motorcycle activity in the 1950/60s area around Brooklands, Weybridge, Surrey, a time when a Panther, 16H or similar thrumming along hauling an overloaded Watsonian double adult sidecar was a common sight and £5 would buy a ‘ride it away, mate’ flat tank motorcycle.
Thanks to all at The Classic MotorCycle for the best monthly read available today.
Malcolm Nash, West Sussex