Brough Superior motorcycle pioneer George Brough honoured

By Neil Heath
BBC News, Nottingham


The inventor and maker of what was regarded as the world's first superbike - the Brough Superior - a motorbike made famous by Lawrence of Arabia and playwright George Bernard Shaw is finally being honoured with two plaques at houses in which he lived in Nottingham.

Nicknamed the "Rolls Royce of motorcycles" in The Motor Cycle newspaper because of George Brough's attention to detail and quality, the Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle was built between 1924 and 1940 at his factory in the city's Haydn Road.

image copyrightPA
image captionGeorge Brough chats with TE Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, at the Brough Superior factory in Hadyn Road

Each machine was certified to reach 100mph (160km/h) and one was used to set a motorcycle land-speed record, when British racer Eric Fernihough reached 163.82mph (263.64 km/h) over a mile, in 1936, before hitting a speed of 169.79mph (263km/h), a year later.

But, despite the popularity and fame of the motorbikes, George Brough's memory has been largely forgotten.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionEric Fernihough sits on a streamlined Brough Superior motorcycle preparing for a world record attempt

The Haydn Road factory, where he worked his magic, and which was used to make Spitfire engines during World War Two, no longer exists and a small housing estate stands in its place.

Hilary Sylvester, from the Nottingham Civic Society, said it was a shame there had been no recognition for Brough until now.

"He was a local boy who found worldwide fame," she said. "A son of Nottingham who stayed here all his life."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionBritish motorcyclist Marjorie Cottle on a Brough Superior motorcycle at the Motorcycle show at Olympia in London on 5 November 1934

"George Brough's bikes were the Harley Davidson's of the day and were taken up by all sorts of people like Orson Welles and George Bernard Shaw.

"It's rumoured that Bernard Shaw even introduced the Brough Superior to TE Lawrence."

World War One British army officer TE Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, owned seven of the bikes and was killed riding one in Dorset, in 1935.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe Brough Superior owned by TE Lawrence is unloaded at the hospital at Bovington Camp in Dorset, 21 May 1935, before the inquest into his death

The Sheriff of Nottingham is due to unveil a plaque on the birthplace of George Brough at 10 Mandalay Street, Basford, before being driven in a Brough Superior car to a second venue at 101 Arnold Road, where Mr Brough lived when he was first married.

Terry Hobden, from the Brough Superior Motorcycle Club, who helped arrange the tributes, said: "George was an engineer, a showman, and entrepreneur.

"He set out to make something significantly different."

image copyrightBrough Superior Motorcycle Club
image captionGeorge Brough rides a Brough Superior in the Blue Hills during the Lands End Trial, in 1928

Mr Hobden added that as part of Mr Brough's marketing strategy he would enter races like the Land End Trial, a timed run from London to Lands End and back.

He said: "Everything he did was done with a great flourish, he was larger than life."

image copyrightBrough Superior Motorcycle Club
image captionGeorge Brough continued to ride his motorbikes until he was about 60-years-old

Brough Superiors continue to capture the imaginations of enthusiasts and command high prices at auction, one of the vehicles which dated back to 1934 sold for £166,500 in April 2008.

Of the 3,000 made there are thought to be about 1,100 models left worldwide that are still on the road, according to the Brough Superior Motorcycle Club.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionA Brough Superior 1931 SS100 in the RAF Museum ahead of its sale in 2010

However, in 2008, a British man Mark Upham bought the rights to the Brough Superior name and started building new bikes.

The bikes live on and so does the name George Brough who will finally be honoured in his home city.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMark Upham bought the rights to the Brough Superior in 2008 and began building new vehicles

More on this story

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.