Graiseley Hill Works


A.J.S. motorcycles were successful right from the beginning. Orders poured in, and the company soon became a well known and successful motorcycle manufacturer, whose reputation was greatly enhanced by its yearly participation in the Isle of Man T.T. races and other sporting events. In order to keep up with demand, production had to be increased. There was no more room in the cramped Retreat Street premises, and so a new public company was formed with a nominal share capital of £50,000, to raise the capital needed for a new factory. The company was called A. J. Stevens & Company (1914) Limited, and the directors were H. Stevens, G. Stevens, J. Stevens (Junior), A. J. Stevens, E. E. Lamb and E. L. Morcom. The registered offices were at Retreat Street. The new company soon started to look around for larger premises so that production could be stepped-up.

The New Factory

Near to Retreat Street, on the corner of Graiseley Hill and the Penn Road was Graiseley House, which had a large piece of land attached. It was owned by Richard Evans Willoughby Berrington, a civil engineer from Berrington, Son, & Martin, Civil Engineers, Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton. He decided to emigrate to Australia and so put the house and grounds up for sale. 

This large piece of land was just what the company needed, as it was ideally situated, and close to the existing factory. A.J.S. soon purchased the house and grounds, and work began on a new 260ft x 80ft factory building.

The building was completed in 1915, and production soon moved to Graiseley Hill. The Retreat Street premises were initially used as the company office and repair department.

The directors planned to greatly extend the new factory, but further work was put on hold because of the war. On 5th November, 1917 the office was transferred into Graiseley House and the repair department moved to the new works.

The Retreat Street buildings were then handed-over to Joe Stevens (senior), who ran the Stevens Screw Company.

After the war, work on enlarging the new factory soon began. Early in 1919 work started on constructing three new buildings, each of which was about the same size as the first building. By the end of 1919 the works covered 109,600sq. ft.

The buildings were laid out to give a smooth flow of material from the goods receiving department at the north side of the site, to the despatch department at the southern end. The original building became the main machine shop, with the machines operated from overhead line shafting. Building work continued, and by the autumn of 1922 the factory covered almost 167,000sq. ft., growing to almost 230,000sq. ft. by 1924.

The factory from Graiseley Hill. Courtesy of Ray Jones.

The following brief description of a visit to the factory is from "The Book of the A.J.S." by W. C. Haycraft, published in 1927:

A visit to the works of A. J. Stevens & Company Limited at Wolverhampton, leaves a very vivid and lasting impression on the memory, and a very pleasing one. Mass production is in evidence everywhere, and the ingenuity displayed to secure the same is something to marvel at.

Firstly, one enters the machine shops, alive with the incessant hum of overhead shafting and lathes. The thousand and one parts that go to make up a motorcycle are here being shaped to precision by hundreds of skilled mechanics.

In a well-lighted and spacious shop adjoining, the engine components are being assembled and trued up, and rows of engines are beginning to take shape. Right in front of all these are scores of finished engines waiting patiently to emit their terrifying screams on the dynamometer. In another shop the bicycle parts are under erection, engine plates being fitted ready to receive the motors as soon as they leave the test bench.

In sudden contrast to all these places, a visit is now paid to the sandblasting room, where certain metal work receives a special finish. At the entrance is pinned a warning notice, "DO NOT LEAVE THIS DOOR OPEN". Slightly opening the door and peering in, an amazing sight, almost uncanny, confronts the eyes. The interior is almost void of light, caused by dense whirling steam and sand blocking out all natural illumination. Amidst this ghastly atmosphere a weird phantom-like figure, clothed in what looks like a diving suit, is bending over and attending to something that one cannot define in the intense gloom. Indeed, this room reminds one of nothing so much as a place in the next world, whither some of us are expected to go. Some of the modern applications of science are extraordinary, and grimly fascinating to watch.

The last of these shops contains hundreds of finished motorcycles, which in rotation are tried out and tuned on the road by crack riders at Wolverhampton before being finally handed over to the Sales Department, whence they are distributed throughout the world.

An artist's impression of the factory from an A.J.S. catalogue

Sadly sales fell in the late 1920s due to the recession, and the company went into voluntary liquidation on 2nd October 1931.

The buildings were put up for sale at auction on Tuesday 5th April, 1932, but failed to reach the reserved price. The machinery and contents were sold at a series of auctions on the site between 5th and 12th April, 1932. The factory buildings were eventually sold in two lots.

The Southern part of the site was sold to the Star Aluminium Company Limited, late in 1933. The northern end was sold to Wolverhampton Die Castings on 17th February 1934. The buildings were sold very cheaply. The total amount raised from the sale came to £14,328.7s.6d.

The sales catalogues from April 1932 include a detailed description of the buildings, departments, and contents. What follows is based on the description of the buildings, and the buildings' contents lists in the catalogues.

Graiseley Hill Works Layout

Main Buildings

1. Graiseley House, the main office, and the original building on the site. 5. A brick-built two storey building, 66ft. by 62ft.
Ground Floor:
Entrance Hall with a time recorder
Enquiry Office and Post Room
Managing Director’s Office
Sales Manager’s Office
Typists’ Office
Chief Clerk’s Office
Secretary’s Office
General Typing Office

First Floor:
Record Office
General Office
Cashier’s Office
Correspondence Office


Ground Floor:
Goods Receiving Department with a large door opening into Graiseley Hill, and a small partitioned office.

First Floor:
Twelve partitioned administrative offices including:
Buying Office
Drawing Office
Jig and Tool Drawing Office
Small Drawing Office
Wages Office
Costs Office
Buying Office
Director’s Office
Two toilets


Advertising Office
Tally Office
Export Sales Office
Telephone Exchange
Two toilets

A 78ft. by 22ft. building consisting of asbestos sheets
on a timber frame, with a boarded floor and boarded
and felt roof, containing:
Stationary Stores
Auditor’s Office
Invoice Office


Corrugated Iron building, 425ft. by 66ft. with a basement. It contained:
Frame and Fork Machine Shop
Frame and Fork Building Shops
Acetylene Welding Shop
Press Shop
Steel Cutting Shop
Tool Store

Fitting Shop
Steel Stores
Sandblasting Department

2. Garage:
A two storey building with two large garages
(one with an inspection pit) on the ground floor,
with a small room and stores above.
7. Main Machine Shop, brick-built, 312ft. by 122ft., with a 30ft. by 15ft. basement store, and a corrugated iron-built Heat Treatment Shop. The machine shop included a tool room, tool stores, gear-cutting section, capstan lathe section, grinding section, milling and

Machine Shop and Stores 113ft. by 67ft. 6inches:

Repair Department
Repair Department Machine Shop
Service Department Stores
Service Department Rough Stores
Service Despatch Department
Service Packing Shop
Four toilets and a wash room

  drilling section, an automatic section, and a belt shop.

There were also nine partitioned works offices, a partitioned canteen, and the rough stores.

The Timekeeper’s Office (one of the nine partitioned offices) contained a time recorder.

4. Repair and Service Departments, and Caretaker’s Accommodation.
A two storey brick building, 113ft. by 27ft.

Ground Floor:
Waiting room

8. A brick-built building, 262ft. by 81ft. with a partitioned office, and a partitioned ambulance room. The office included a time recorder. The building contained the Car Erecting Shop, the Experimental Department, and a boiler house.
  Enquiry Office with time recorder
General Office

Partitioned Offices:

9. Motor Cycle Erecting Shop 312ft. by 122ft. It also contained a time recorder, the Engine Test House, a storeroom, and the Saw Mill and Packing Case Shop

Service Department Office
Engineer’s Office
Superintendent’s Office
Repairs Office
Manager’s Office

First Floor:
A large Stock Room with three small adjoining rooms
Two toilets and wash rooms

10. Despatch Department, 300ft. by 71ft., with a time recorder, three partitioned offices, a toilet, and the following:
Road Test Department
Export Packing Department
Home Packing Department
Commercial Vehicle Office
Despatch Offices
Component Stores

Caretaker’s accommodation consisted of a sitting room, a kitchen, two pantries, a scullery, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a toilet.


11. A range of corrugated iron buildings, 361ft. by 90ft. that contained:
Enamelling Shop
Polishing Shop
Small Polishing Shop
Plating Shop, and Chromium Plating Shop
Inspection Shop
Erecting Shop and Sub Assembly Shop
Mudguard Building Shop

Smaller Buildings

12. A garage built of corrugated iron, 48ft. 6 inches by
35 ft. 6 inches with an inspection pit and four pairs
of sliding doors.
23. Electricity sub-station and switch room.
13. A corrugated iron car shed, 52ft. by 31ft.
24. Twelve brick-built toilets with adjoining cycle shed.
14. A timber-built Electricians’ Shop and Carpenters’ Shop. 25. Timber store.
15. A corrugated iron lean-to store. 26. Timber store shed, 50ft. 6 inches by 21ft.
16. A corrugated iron incinerator shed. 27. Brick-built boiler house with oil-fired boiler, and a 4,500 gallon oil tank in an adjoining brick-built building.
17. Twelve concrete-built toilets with adjoining cycle shed. 28. Six brick-built toilets.
18. Three concrete toilets.
29. Oil separator shed, and swarf bins.
19. A shed, 56ft. by 17ft.
30. Fourteen brick-built toilets with adjoining cycle shed.
20. A small office. 31. A timber and asbestos office building with four rooms and a toilet.
21. An office with adjoining shed.
32. Cycle sheds.
22. A concrete-built petrol store with a 1,000 gallon underground tank. 33. A timber and asbestos building, 63ft. by 16ft. that contained the Staff Canteen, Kitchen, and panelled Board Room, with adjoining toilet.

The following section is a pictorial tour of the factory in ten parts. It contains a large number of photographs and so may be slow to download.

I would like to thank the late Geoff Stevens for allowing us to use the old photographs, which are from his collection.

The end of a hard day. Some of the A.J.S. workforce.

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A.J.S. factories
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Section 1