It all began in 1876 when Edward Lisle and Edwin John Sharratt founded Sharratt and Lisle, in order to manufacture cycles. Their factory in Pountney Street, Wolverhampton was known as the Star Cycle Works. The partnership lasted for just 3 years, after which Edwin Sharratt left to start his own separate business.

In 1883 Edward Lisle founded the Star Cycle Company, but continued to sell his machines under the Sharratt & Lisle name until 1896, when he founded the Star Cycle Company Limited, with a starting capital of £120,000. He produced large numbers of cycles and cycle components at his factory in Stewart Street, Wolverhampton. Star produced its first motorised cycle in 1899 in the form of the Star Motor Tricycle, which was based on a popular De Dion machine.

The first Star motorcycle appeared in 1902. The machine, called the 'Griffon' was initially imported from France where it was a popular machine. The machine sold for £42.

An advert from 1903.

In 1903 Star began to produce the 'Griffon' in Wolverhampton, and soon launched a 3 hp. model with trembler-coil ignition, two 4 volt accumulators, and a selling price of £42. The machine was also available with a Bowden free engine clutch, for an extra £6.

The machines had some success in trials and competitions. The best performance in the Dublin Reliability Trial, held on 12th September, 1903, was by Mr. P. W. Stevens, Star's Irish agent, riding a Star 'Griffon'.

In 1904 Star exhibited three models at the Stanley Cycle Show in the Agricultural Hall, Westminster, London. The first, the Star Tricar was fitted with a 4 hp. water-cooled Star engine, a Longuemare Model 'H' carburettor, an E.I.C. trembler coil, two Castle 4 volt accumulators, and a 2 gallon petrol tank. It had a Brampton chain drive, a Bowden band brake at the front, a pedal-operated rear brake, 2½ in. Dunlop tyres, a 2-speed and free engine gearbox in the rear hub, and a selling price of 65 guineas.

The second model was a motorcycle with the following specification: A 4 hp. water-cooled Star engine, a Longuemare Model 'H' carburettor, an E.I.C. trembler coil, two Castle 4 volt accumulators, a 2 gallon petrol tank, a Lycett's belt drive, a Crabbe front rim brake, a rear Bowden brake, a Bowden exhaust valve lift, and 2 in. Dunlop tyres. The machine sold for 46 guineas.

The third model was another motorcycle, which was powered by a 2¾ hp. air-cooled Zedel engine. The Star Tricar was in direct competition with another locally-made vehicle that was displayed at the show, the Wolf Tricar.

The Star Tricar.
Star's exhibits at the Stanley Show are described in the following article from 'The Motor Cycle' magazine, published on 28th November, 1904.

The Star Cycle Company Limited, Wolverhampton (Stand 133), are another firm who have become alive to the fact that there is a great demand for a well-designed tricar. Their machine is fitted with a 4hp. water-cooled engine, the water circulation being on the thermo-syphon system. The transmission is by chain direct from the engine to the back wheel.

An epicyclic gear is contained in the back hub, and is operated by two levers, a foot lever which applies a brake to the hub and throws the low gear into operation, and the large lever on the top tube, which works the high gear. Wheel steering is fitted, and on the wheel there is a Bowden lever working the front and wheel brakes, which, by the way, are of large diameter, and look remarkably efficient. On the other side there is a pedal working a back rim brake. The coil and accumulators are carried in a large box fixed on the footboard, and the wiring is well protected against wet.

Two bicycles are also shown on this stand. One a 2¾ hp. fitted with an air-cooled Zedel engine, weighing only 112 lbs., the other being a 4 hp. water-cooled machine.

The water circulation is on the thermo siphon system, and the pipes are made of flexible tubing. The radiators are contained in the tank, and that portion of the tank which contains the water is separated from the other portion, and is intersected by fourteen small tubes, through which the air is allowed to circulate for cooling purposes.

One noteworthy feature on this machine is the long levers which are used, these allowing very nice adjustment.

  The arrangement of water tank, radiators, and pipes on the
  4 hp. Star motor bicycle.
The Star 4 hp. water-cooled motor bicycle.
The 1904 catalogue lists two models, identical, except for the engine. The first was fitted with a vertically mounted 2½ hp. ZL engine, and the second with a vertically mounted 3 hp. ZL engine. The specification is as follows:


Longuemare with an automatic air inlet


battery and coil


26 in. or 28 in. diameter


23 inch frame, built from best weldless steel tube. Every joint reinforced


Triple plate crown, steel stamping, with extra front forks


V - chrome, leather


Pedal gear, 56 in.


½ in. pitch, Brampton's

Handle bars:

Raised, 1 in. diameter.


Front rim brake, specially designed; rear band brake actuated by a Bowden cable


Dunlop, 28 in. or 26 in. x 2 in.

Saddle and Bag:

Good large size

The 3 hp. machine from the 1904 catalogue. Courtesy of Brian Rollings.

The 3 hp. machine sold for £46, and the 2½ hp. machine sold for £42.

The machines were available with a Bowden free engine clutch, for an extra £6.

Star also launched 2¾ hp. and 3½ hp. models selling for 35 guineas, and 41 guineas respectively.

It is not known how many Star motorcycles were produced, but it seems likely that sales were not good, because production ceased in 1905. At the time a deep depression had started in the bicycle trade with strong competition from German and American imports.

A diagram from the 1904 catalogue. Courtesy of Brian Rollings.


The 2¾ hp. Star.

The Star Trailer. Courtesy of Brian Rollings.

The 1904 catalogue included two trailers that were suitable for use with bicycles or motorcycles.

The Star Trailer had a wicker body and was fitted with a comfortable cushion.

It had 26 inch plated wheels which were fitted with Warwick or Clipper tyres. It sold for £9.

The Star Tradesman's Carrier had a seasoned wood body that was fitted with a lockable hinged zinc top.

It had 26 inch enamelled wheels and cushion tyres.

The basic trailer sold for £9 and was available with fitted shelves for a small extra charge.

The Star Tradesman's Carrier. Courtesy of Brian Rollings.

Star products could be paid-for in cash, or in instalments. The Star Trailer above cost £9 when paid in cash, whereas it cost £11 when paid in instalments.

A new beginning

By 1912 motorcycles were becoming a popular form of transport. As a result many new manufacturers were beginning to appear, to cater for public demand. This is probably why Star decided to return to motorcycle production during that year. The following is an article about Star's new 4¼ hp. machine which was displayed at the Motorcycle Show. It appeared in 'Motor Cycling' magazine on 5th November, 1912.

The New Star Motor-Bicycle

An exceptionally interesting self-contained power unit of practical and ingenious design. Leather-to-metal clutch on the engine shaft. Three speed gearbox. Chain drive.

The Star Cyc1e Co., although having hitherto held aloof from the motorcycle industry, will assuredly cause as much interest as any of the newcomers with the 4¼ hp. single-cylinder machine which they will stage for inspection at the forthcoming show, the essentials, viz., engine gearbox, clutch and carburettor, being of distinctly original design, and, moreover, fine pieces of work: apart from such points of distinctiveness, the whole of the power unit, comprising, in addition, the magneto and foot-starter, is capable of detachment from the machine en bloc, giving the model a note of originality and value as regards this point exceeded by none of its competitors.

Taking the engine, lubrication is forced to the main bearings by centrifugal action, the oil entry being via magneto chain case and timing case into a circular flanged ring, cast on the off side flywheel, and receiving oil from a guide web, cast integral with the crankcase, on its inner wall, a hole being drilled through the timing case at this point; centrifugal action delivers oil thence through the drilled crank pin to the big end and through the drilled connecting rod, which is a steel forging, to the small end, being finally driven through the hollow gudgeon pin to the cylinder walls, every part being thus well supplied from the sight drip feed oiler on the tank.

The cylinder head and valve chambers form a separate casting, bolted down to the cylinder by four holding bolts, and is a clean piece of work, the cooling fins being wide and thin, and the valve ports large. The valves are 1⅞ in. diameter, necessitating but about ½ in. lift, and the forward holding-down bolts can be swung forward for drawing the cylinder clear of the piston without removing the engine from the frame.

   Timing side of the Star engine, showing
   the foot starter and valve shield.

Valves are enclosed in an oil-tight aluminium cover, and the piston is provided with a stiffening flange round its base, while ball bearings are fitted to the clutch side of the main shaft, in addition to the plain bronze bush which is provided on both sides.

The timing gear is exceedingly neat and strong, only one reduction wheel being employed, the three cams, exhaust, inlet and decompression, being cut from the solid, and on one spindle, which is mounted on Hoffman bearings.

The decompressor is among the neatest we have inspected, calling for a minimum of space, an extension arm of the exhaust lifter carrying a small slipper lever rocker, which, under slight operation of valve lifter, is rotated into position between the exhaust rocker arm and decompressor cam, slightly lifting the valve at the end of the compression stroke.

Further operation of the exhaust lifter automatically takes the work off its shoulders, so to speak.

Very heavy flywheels of 10 in. diameter are fitted, and the main bearings are most substantial.

One of the beauties of the design permits the removal of the timing box and outer half of the magneto chain case without disturbing the mechanism in any degree, while the crankcase casting is formed to provide two platforms at the rear.

Firstly, that to carry the magneto, and lower still, rearward, a second, which fits under the centre bracket, to which it is fastened by the four gearbox bolts passing through both members from the gearbox unit below, slotted holes allowing for ample adjustment.

The crankcase lugs are arranged that the withdrawal of but three bolts allows the removal of the power plant complete.

   The Star power plant which can be removed from the
   frame, complete with gearbox, magneto and clutch.

 The Star handlebar showing special dropped grips
 with flats for taking control gear, and having four
 concealed cables.
The clutch, again, strikes an original note, being of the cone type, leather to metal, and mounted on an outer extension of the engine shaft. It is cased-in, and oil-tight, and operated by a pedal at the extremity of the shaft, which is locked to a cam-faced ring that rotates thereon against a similarly-faced sleeve-end carrying the inner member of the clutch.

Depression of the pedal thus thrusts the leather-covered cone out of engagement with the rotating outer member, which is fixed to the engine shaft. On the sleeve carrying the inner clutch member, a chain sprocket carries the drive to the gearbox, the countershaft of which is similarly fitted, and final drive is also by this means.

The gears are of the sliding type, with direct on top, operated through a sturdy lever, horizontally rotated, operating in a notched quadrant attached to the top tube. In fact, car practice is closely followed throughout the transmission, and a very sound job it is, an oil-bath chain case enclosing the drive from engine to countershaft, while a spring drive is incorporated in the chain wheel to absorb shock.

The carburettor is a new design multi-jet, and will probably be fitted as a two-lever for standard, although single-lever operation can be successfully employed. Three spray holes cover the jets, and over their faces slides the grooved throttle barrel, with a lateral motion, uncovering the holes in progression, the movement simultaneously opening up the hot air intake at the base.

An additional air lever operates a rotating sleeve segment between the throttle barrel and housing, thus giving further access to the hot air chamber, which is a further neat point in design. An aluminium collar casting, in two halves, embraces the upper radiating pins, and feeds, the carburettor with warm air; this should assist somewhat in cooling the engine.

Reverting to the gearbox for a moment, both shafts are mounted on ball bearings, and the gear wheels are of generous dimensions, while a large inspection door forms the rear side. A good foot-starter-pinion and segment is also fitted on the gear shaft in a convenient position. Bore and stroke are 89 mm. by 100 mm. and a desaxe setting has been adopted for the cylinder.

Valanced mudguards, with a hinged rear member for easy tyre repair, will be fitted, and needle valve petrol cocks for both carburettor and cylinder priming find a place on the tank.

The 1914 catalogue features two models, a 4¼ hp. machine and a 6 hp. V-twin machine. The 4¼ hp. machine sold for 65 guineas, the 6 hp. machine sold for 75 guineas. 

The Star 4¼ hp. machine.

Another view of the Star 4¼ hp. machine.

The specification of the Star 4¼ hp. machine.

The Star 6 hp. machine.

Another view of the Star 6 hp. machine.

The specification of the Star 6 hp. machine.

The 4¼ hp. engine showing the clutch, and the slipping clutch, with the chain case removed.
The 4¼ hp. engine with timing gear and valve cover removed, showing timing gear, valves, kick starter and speed change lever.

Gearbox parts.


     The 4¼ hp. engine showing the clutch
     parts and slipping device.

The internal expanding band brake mechanism that is fitted to the rear wheel.

The 4¼ hp. engine showing the tappet casing, leg guard, timing gear, and magneto casing.

The 4¼ hp. engine from the back, showing the clutch, gearbox, carburettor, and magneto.

The 4¼ hp. engine could be removed from the frame complete with gearbox, magneto and clutch. It had a very heavy 10 inch flywheel which had substantial bearings.

The Star coach-built sidecar. Price with tyre 16 guineas.

The sidecar chassis.

The Star sidecar had a specially strengthened frame with a double tube running the whole length. Suspension was provided by two spring plungers, attached to a cross member at the back, and small laminated springs at the front. The chassis was enamelled in black, with plated fittings. The body was coach built, and provided with a sprung seat. It was richly upholstered. A hood and windscreen were available as extras.

The Star sidecar Model 1.

The Star sidecar Model 2.

Production was short-lived. After the outbreak of war in 1914 Star became a controlled establishment, with output devoted to the war effort. As a result motorcycle production came to an end. It is not known how many Star motorcycles were produced. It is thought to be only a small number.

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