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Vale Onslow Motor Cycles - Stratford Rd - Documentary Pictures

Derelict-UK

master brummie
Some important notes that I must say:


This is a working shop, it is still trading and open to the public, the owners gave me permission to document the workshops and trade area as well as everything else. The owners would not like other people coming in asking if they can take pictures, so please don't hassle them.



4 Weeks ago a new guy started at my work, I found out he was the son-in-law of one of the owners of Vale-Onslow Motor Cycles in Birmingham.

History:

Leonard Leslie Hubert Vale-Onslow Snr. rode his first motor cycle at the age of 8 back in 1908.

Around 1926 Len Vale-Onslow Snr. invented the Super Onslow Special (SOS) motor cycle, the first ever motor cycle with a welded production motorcycle frame, the method most companies still use to make bikes today.

Len had a very active life and enjoyed riding bikes up until the age of 102. He was made an MBE in 1995 for his life long services to the motor cycling world.

Unfortunately in 2004 Len died at the fine age of 103. Part of the business is still a shrine to himself and the family still run the shop and repair workshop to this day.

I would just like to thank everyone who allowed me to take the time to document this place, It is one of Birmingham's (If not, England's) more important sites of motor heritage that is still active.

For more reading on the Vale-Onslow company & Len Vale-Onslow Snr. please view the following links:

https://www.vale-onslow.co.uk/

About Len (by Len Himself)...

https://www.vale-onslow.co.uk/LVO_3.htm

The Independant's write up on Len's Life...

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/len-valeonslow-549907.html

Len Vale-Onslow's Funeral, please click the photo galleries for images...

https://www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/features/2004/05/vale_onslow/vale_onslow.shtml


As I have taken many images (over 40), they can be found on my website: www.photoaddiction.co.uk




























 
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B

BernardR

Guest
Many thanks for these fascinating photos and the links. I recall Len riding a 'trial' that teh WM Police set up near Barston when in his 80's. It was a very simple trial aimed at children and Len I think opened it.
 

Graham

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
As a Sparkbrook kid this piece of my past and Brum history has left me speechless, to see that it still exists is mind boggling! My last purchase here was in the 70's. Fantastic, thanks for sharing.

Graham.
 

paul stacey

master brummie
hi all
way back when, if you needed anything for any make, vale onslow was the place of pilgrimage I had not realised he would have been still around this decade great loss to the B,ham bike scene may he rest in that great workshop in the sky and that the family still continue the great man's trade is astounding, great photo's by the way had not even thought of the name for 40yrs, great memories.
paul
 

Bernard67Arnold

master brummie
It certainly brought back memories seeing the old Vale Onlow frontage on Stratford Road, I must have passed it thousands of times going in and out of town to Yardley Wood on the
24 or 13a bus, very few businesses have lasted that long, my first ever memories as a child age two and a half are seeing the railway bridge at Camp Hill, I was on
top of a open top GWR lorry with what bit of furniture we had moving house from Balsall Heath to the green fields of Yardley Wood in 1933,
Glad everyone enjoyed the "meet/up, my son was at work otherwise I might have made it, my doc is worried about my driving very far with these heart problems,
Bernard
 

geofred

master brummie
Memory has it that Len and his family lived and worked at 100 Soho Road in the 1940's. Len's brother had the shop in Stratford Road, when he moved on - reason not recalled, Len and his family took it over. Len's workshop always looked like this, it was instantly recognised. Mac ran the workshop in Linwood Road and the telephone line from shop to workshop was an overhead wire above Soho Road. Those were the days
 

tali

master brummie
I'm amazed the external photos never captured the ordinary red VW Golf always parked outside - as it has VO as the final letters in the number plate.
 

Alabama

New Member
Many thanks for these wonderful photos of Vale-Onslows they brought back a host of memories from a time when the world was young (and so was I). I can’t believe that it has not changed!

I worked at Onslows in the late ‘60’s / early ‘70’s alongside people who sprang once again to life in my mind’s eye having seen these shots. Richard Fitzsimmons; he was the expert on all things Japanese and raced a 200cc Suzuki. I remember Mrs. Vale-Onslow – referred to by us as “Mrs.” There was lady who used to clean but who sometimes helped out in the shop, Mrs. “C”; she was cracked up on Dean Martin. Obviously “young” Len and Peter. One of my fondest memories was going down to the Motorcycle Show in London with peter and Richard; Peter used to get Press Tickets on an annual basis and would take members of staff in turn. Also Peggy – whose surname I can’t remember; John – again can’t remember his surname (he worked in the second-hand spares section, lived next to the B.S.A. factory and rode a T100. I believe that John left at some point and was replaced by a chap by the name of Barry.

The shop was a hive of activity and always busy; not only ordinary customers but also works riders from B.S.A. and Triumph who would often call in for a replacement part when out testing machines. On a Sunday the shop was open until lunchtime; it would be packed from the time it opened until the doors were closed.

They were happy days – days of my youth. I lost contact with all of these people many, many years ago. If any of them should read this it would be nice to say hello.

Lee Timmins
 

mw0njm.

Brummie Dude
What a fantastic shop.i would get all my bits for my specials i was building from there,on a saturday.
 

Speedy23

master brummie
If you look at the Gallery - (it's still there in the OP - click through to Photoaddiction - it's in the 2010 section) - 3rd picture in of the old shop interior - it really made my day! I remember queuing up there on many occasions in the 1970s and 80s to buy spares and just hang around.

I particulary remember looking at (and buying - still got some of them) the motorcycle badges and pins in that big glass topped display counter. They loooked a treat (or so I thought at the time) on my fringed black leather Lewis jacket. And the "eye" stickers for the rear of the old open-face helmet!

I can still smell that unique odour of oil, petrol and rubber. It took me right back there!

Some really nice bikes - I especially liked the scooter with the Earles forks.
 

mw0njm.

Brummie Dude
otherhalf.i bought a complete D10 engine off them.it was quite cheap.i put it in a tiger cub frame.
 

Graham Phillips

New Member
Only just joined this forum and catching up on old threads.
I got second place in the trial that BernardR mentions.
It was organised by the police as a sort of public relations event aimed at illegal off roaders.
A few of us hung around at the end, jumping over a big tump on our bikes, encouraged by a photographer, not that we needed any encouragement.
I got my picture in the paper, might have been the Solihull News, I can't remember, airborn, with my long hair flowing out from under my helmet.
 

Phil

Retired Layabout
I have repaired this post the best way I could, which in fact was deleting the footprint of photos posted by the OP, I have left the link to his site in situ so that the photos can be viewed there.
 

LOZELLIAN

master brummie
Memory has it that Len and his family lived and worked at 100 Soho Road in the 1940's. Len's brother had the shop in Stratford Road, when he moved on - reason not recalled, Len and his family took it over. Len's workshop always looked like this, it was instantly recognised. Mac ran the workshop in Linwood Road and the telephone line from shop to workshop was an overhead wire above Soho Road. Those were the days
Hi Geofred,

Mac was my dad (he passed away in 1996 & Len went to his funeral), he worked for Len for many years between his two premises and I recall what Len said to me on that day what a great Mechanic my dad was (he could turn his hand to anything); what a lovely tribute.

I remember all the classic bikes my Dad worked on over the years they were fantastic, what I wouldn't do for a Vincent Black Shadow or Ariel Square four now; to think I've been on board those bikes what a joy.

Lozellian.
 

LOZELLIAN

master brummie
Many thanks for these wonderful photos of Vale-Onslows they brought back a host of memories from a time when the world was young (and so was I). I can’t believe that it has not changed!

I worked at Onslows in the late ‘60’s / early ‘70’s alongside people who sprang once again to life in my mind’s eye having seen these shots. Richard Fitzsimmons; he was the expert on all things Japanese and raced a 200cc Suzuki. I remember Mrs. Vale-Onslow – referred to by us as “Mrs.” There was lady who used to clean but who sometimes helped out in the shop, Mrs. “C”; she was cracked up on Dean Martin. Obviously “young” Len and Peter. One of my fondest memories was going down to the Motorcycle Show in London with peter and Richard; Peter used to get Press Tickets on an annual basis and would take members of staff in turn. Also Peggy – whose surname I can’t remember; John – again can’t remember his surname (he worked in the second-hand spares section, lived next to the B.S.A. factory and rode a T100. I believe that John left at some point and was replaced by a chap by the name of Barry.

The shop was a hive of activity and always busy; not only ordinary customers but also works riders from B.S.A. and Triumph who would often call in for a replacement part when out testing machines. On a Sunday the shop was open until lunchtime; it would be packed from the time it opened until the doors were closed.

They were happy days – days of my youth. I lost contact with all of these people many, many years ago. If any of them should read this it would be nice to say hello.

Lee Timmins
Many thanks for these wonderful photos of Vale-Onslows they brought back a host of memories from a time when the world was young (and so was I). I can’t believe that it has not changed!

I worked at Onslows in the late ‘60’s / early ‘70’s alongside people who sprang once again to life in my mind’s eye having seen these shots. Richard Fitzsimmons; he was the expert on all things Japanese and raced a 200cc Suzuki. I remember Mrs. Vale-Onslow – referred to by us as “Mrs.” There was lady who used to clean but who sometimes helped out in the shop, Mrs. “C”; she was cracked up on Dean Martin. Obviously “young” Len and Peter. One of my fondest memories was going down to the Motorcycle Show in London with peter and Richard; Peter used to get Press Tickets on an annual basis and would take members of staff in turn. Also Peggy – whose surname I can’t remember; John – again can’t remember his surname (he worked in the second-hand spares section, lived next to the B.S.A. factory and rode a T100. I believe that John left at some point and was replaced by a chap by the name of Barry.

The shop was a hive of activity and always busy; not only ordinary customers but also works riders from B.S.A. and Triumph who would often call in for a replacement part when out testing machines. On a Sunday the shop was open until lunchtime; it would be packed from the time it opened until the doors were closed.

They were happy days – days of my youth. I lost contact with all of these people many, many years ago. If any of them should read this it would be nice to say hello.

Lee Timmins
Hello Lee,

My Dad worked for Len for many years (between 1948 & 1960), his name was Mac and he used to run the workshop in Linwood road but often spent time at the Stratford Road shop.

I would go there frequently with my Dad & enjoyed it immensely being around all those classic bikes but, I can't remember his mates names that well as I was only young; Terry Millington rings a bell maybe you could enlighten me to some of the others?

Lozellian.
 

ROWLEY JACK

Brummie babby
Hello Lee,

My Dad worked for Len for many years (between 1948 & 1960), his name was Mac and he used to run the workshop in Linwood road but often spent time at the Stratford Road shop.

I would go there frequently with my Dad & enjoyed it immensely being around all those classic bikes but, I can't remember his mates names that well as I was only young; Terry Millington rings a bell maybe you could enlighten me to some of the others?

Lozellian.
Just saw this after all this time!!! I knew Mac when I worked at "Onslows". When I rebuilt my bike, in 1969, I forgot to ease one of the bushes for the crankshaft. Had spent so much time and effort that I couldn't face the prospect of splitting the engine again. Mac came out to where I lived and identified the problem, took the bike away and sorted it for me.

Just for the record, I was previously a member of the forum and lost all my account details. Rejoined recently under a new alias - "RowleyJack". But originally "Alabama" So, it was me that created post to which you replied. Does that make sense?

Again, I worked in the shop there in the late 60's and early 70's. As to names - phew - it was a hell of a long time ago. But here goes. There was of course old Mr. Vale Onslow (old Len); Mrs. Vale Onslow (who we called "Mrs"); young Len Vale Onslow (who I believe had a stroke a couple of years ago; Peter Vale Onslow (who ran the bike sales side of things); Jean Vale Onslow (daughter of Mr and Mrs, sister of Len and Peter, who was the van driver, picking up bits and pieces as needed); Mrs "C" who was the cleaner and general tidy upper; Peggy (who worked in spares), John (who looked after the second hand stuff spread over 3 floors and the celler); a lad whose name I can't remember but can picture him vividly, because he was involved in a bad smash - when he came back to work his face was held together by a series of aluminium plates and rods. My mate there was Richard Fitzsimmons. Richard was the Japanese specialist. He was given a 200cc works racer by Suzuki, and I used to go away to racing events as his pit mechanic (until I screwed up on something just before a race, and was too embaressed to accompany him thereafter!). And that is about the best I can do. Terry - if I have got the right chap - left shortly after I began working there, but have a fading recollection of what he looked like.

I have many happy memories of working at "Onslows", and still think about the people there. One vivid memory especially. Peter (Vale Onslow) was given three complimentary Press Day tickets every year, for the bike shows at Earls Court and Olympia. He used to take a couple of employees with him on a rota basis, paying all expenses. I think was seventeen at the time, so it was something of a culture shock to go to the metropolis, and to see all of the top models of the time posing with the manufacturers latest machines.

But your Dad I can picture him now. He was a great chap and I think we got along very well. Reluctant to ask this but is he still alive?
 
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