Wolverhampton was once one of the principal centre’s for Britain’s first motor vehicle production.
The surviving Sunbeam Factory in Paul Street, Wolverhampton is a rare gem. Known locally as Sunbeamland due to its once major status and employment in Wolverhampton, the Sunbeam Factory is one of a small number of symbolic surviving buildings that have direct associations with the nations early flirtations with speed, motor travel and personal freedom.
The Sunbeam identity was founded by John Marston, who was born in Ludlow, Shropshire, UK in 1836 of a minor landowning family. In 1851, aged 15, he was sent to Wolverhampton to be apprenticed to Edward Perry as a japanware manufacturer. At the age of 23 he left and set up his own japanning business, John Marston Ltd, making any and every sort of domestic article. He did so well that when Perry died in 1871 Marston incorporated his company into his own.
An advert from 1903
The Sunbeam Land Speed Record Car is now displayed at Beaulieu National Motor Museum. See the following youtube.com clip to see the historic car started up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htbFYiRf_5Y
The racing, however, was expensive, Sunbeam remained unpaid for World War I work, and unfortunately the company went bankrupt in 1934.
STD Motors was subsequently purchased by the Rootes Group in around1936. The Rootes Group decided to keep the Sunbeam marque manufacturing cards, double decker buses and trolleybuses until 1976 when new owners Chrysler rebranded the vehicles.
Despite its prominence in Wolverhampton City the Sunbeam Factory has laid empty for many years being officially abandoned in 1997. However, the building has been recognised for it’s importance in Wolverhampton’s manufacturing history and is adorned by a Wolverhampton Civic Society plaque.
This historic and currently disused landmark, sits on a 1.5 acre (0.6 hectare plot). It comprises 120,000 of industrial space across five large perimeter blocks of varying architectural styles, arranged around an inner courtyard.
Directly fronting the Wolverhampton Ring Road, this major site forms an integral part of the city’s industrial history and the manufacturing heritage that led the Midlands to be known as the ‘workshop of the world’.
Working with Wolverhampton City Council, QED Developments Ltd has secured planning for residential use, restoring the site to provide a range of residential letting options that is entirely in keeping with the building’s character and history, and preserves features including facades and windows wherever possible, as can be seen from the artists impression on our homepage.
If you have any comments on the history of the Sunbeam site, photos that you would like to share with us or would like to contact us please call 01902 213010