Thomas Pullinger

Last updated

Thomas Charles Willis Pullinger CBE OBE OBK JP (1867 – July 1945) was an English automobile engineer. He began his career working with bicycles before the first cars were built. After working for Sunbeam and Humber, he helped expand the Scottish works of Arrol-Johnston, where he developed structured apprenticeship programmes and an engineering college for women.

OBK is a Spanish synthpop music group from Barcelona (Spain) composed of Jordi Sánchez and Miguel Arjona. The group was famous for introducing the electronic music in Spain in the 1990s.

Sunbeam Motor Car Company automotive and engineering manufacturer

Sunbeam Motor Car Company Limited was a British motor car manufacturer with its works at Moorfields in Blakenhall, a suburb of Wolverhampton in the county of Staffordshire, now West Midlands. Its Sunbeam name had been registered by John Marston in 1888 for his bicycle manufacturing business. Sunbeam motor car manufacture began in 1901. The motor business was sold to a newly incorporated Sunbeam Motor Car Company Limited in 1905 to separate it from Marston's pedal bicycle business; Sunbeam motorcycles were not made until 1912.

Humber Limited automotive company

Humber Limited was a British manufacturer of bicycles, motorcycles and motor vehicles incorporated and listed on the stock exchange in 1887. It took the name Humber & Co Limited because of the high reputation of the products of one of the constituent businesses that had belonged to Thomas Humber. A financial reconstruction in 1899 transferred its business to Humber Limited.


Early career

Eldest son of Fleet Paymaster Thomas Penford Pullinger, RN and his wife born Marianne Willis, he was born in Dartford, Kent, and while living in Bexley attended Dartford Grammar School, and was then apprenticed to long-established Dartford engineers, J & E Hall. [1]

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

Dartford town in Kent, England

Dartford is the principal town in the Borough of Dartford, Kent, England. It is located 18 miles south-east of Central London, and is situated adjacent to the London Borough of Bexley to its west. To its north, across the Thames estuary, is Thurrock in Essex, which can be reached via the Dartford Crossing.

Kent County of England

Kent is a county in South East England and one of the home counties. It borders Greater London to the north west, Surrey to the west and East Sussex to the south west. The county also shares borders with Essex along the estuary of the River Thames, and with the French department of Pas-de-Calais through the Channel Tunnel. The county town is Maidstone.

Following a stretch as a draughtsman at Woolwich Arsenal, he repaired then manufactured, most likely by assembling bought-in components, bicycles at New Cross and then in 1891 (while living in Bolt Street, Deptford) was sent by Humber to France for Humber's joint venture with the Gladiator Cycle Company. But Humber encountered difficulties and Pullinger stayed in France with Alexandre Darracq as Darracq's designer and personal assistant. He moved on as works manager to other French firms designing for Duncan and Superbie near Paris at Croissy perhaps the first small car. A 2-seater, it had a 2-cylinder horizontal engine, 2-speeds with friction clutches and a tubular frame. Duncan and Superbie built motorcycles under licence from Hildebrand & Wolfmüller. At Teste & Moret of Lyon in 1896 he used a 2¼ horsepower de Dion engine to build a car he named La Mouche or The Fly. To solve the cooling problems of high-speed air-cooled engines he designed the first water-cooled cylinder head and many were bought by de Dion Bouton. Pullinger was particularly interested in the kind of cars built on the opposite side of Lyon by a Marius Berliet at Audibert & Lavirotte [2]

Royal Arsenal former arsenal in Woolwich in south-east London, England

The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich carried out armaments manufacture, ammunition proofing, and explosives research for the British armed forces at a site on the south bank of the River Thames in Woolwich in south-east London, England, United Kingdom. It was originally known as the Woolwich Warren, having begun on land previously used as a domestic warren in the grounds of a Tudor house, Tower Place. Much of the initial history of the site is linked with that of the Board of Ordnance, which purchased the Warren in the late 17th century in order to expand an earlier base at Gun Wharf in Woolwich Dockyard. Over the next two centuries, as operations grew and innovations were pursued, the site expanded massively; at the time of the First World War the Arsenal covered 1,285 acres (520 ha) and employed close to 80,000 people. Thereafter its operations were scaled down; it finally closed as a factory in 1967 and the Ministry of Defence moved out in 1994. Today the area, so long a secret enclave, is open to the public and is being redeveloped for housing and community use.

New Cross district of South London, England

New Cross is an area of south east London, England, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) south-east of Charing Cross in the London Borough of Lewisham and the SE14 postcode district. New Cross is near St Johns, Telegraph Hill, Nunhead, Peckham, Brockley, Deptford and Greenwich, and home to Goldsmiths, University of London, Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College and Addey and Stanhope School.

Deptford district of south-east London, England

Deptford is a district of south-east London, England, within the London Borough of Lewisham.

1903 Sunbeam 12 (Berliet) Sunbeam 1903 Front at Regent Street Motor Show 2011.jpg
1903 Sunbeam 12 (Berliet)

Keen to design and build his own car, he moved back to England seeing more opportunity there than in France, and arrived at the Sunbeam Motor Car Company in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire on a motor-quadricycle he had built himself. He prepared a report for the Sunbeam directors and delivered it on 11 November 1902. He recommended that Sunbeam should buy in a car from an established firm then, as sales built up, buying them without certain components which would instead be made by Sunbeam until all that was bought in would be an engine. At the close of his report he recommended the cars be bought from Berliet in Lyon. [1]

Wolverhampton City and Metropolitan borough in England

Wolverhampton is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, England. At the 2011 census, it had a population of 249,470. The demonym for people from the city is 'Wulfrunian'.

He left Sunbeam before the formation of the separate car company in 1904, taking up an appointment of general manager at Humber's Beeston, Nottinghamshire works. Humber's Beeston Works closed and operations transferred to their more modern Coventry factory.

Beeston, Nottinghamshire town in Nottinghamshire, England

Beeston is a town in Nottinghamshire, England, 3.4 miles (5.5 km) southwest of Nottingham city centre.


Part of the new works at Heathhall, Dumfries, 1913 and a portrait of Thomas Pullinger Arrol-Johnston part new works building Dumfries.jpg
Part of the new works at Heathhall, Dumfries, 1913 and a portrait of Thomas Pullinger
1914 Arrol-Johnston 11.9 Arrol Johnston (3938118069).jpg
1914 Arrol-Johnston 11.9
1924 Galloway 10-20 designed by Pullinger 1924 Galloway 10.20 at Biggar Vintage Rally, August, 2008.jpg
1924 Galloway 10–20 designed by Pullinger

In 1910 he was taken on by William Beardmore, 1st Baron Invernairn, businessman and shipbuilder, as manager of the Paisley works of his Arrol-Johnston Car Company Limited. He travelled to the USA to research mass production methods and car factory design, resulting in the erection of a new steel reinforced concrete and glass factory for Arrol-Johnston at Heathhall, Dumfries. This is believed to be the first building of its kind in Britain. It was designed by Albert Kahn, architect of the Ford factory at Highland Park, Michigan. He oversaw a second new factory at Kirkcudbright in 1916 which was conceived as an engineering college for young ladies (see Dorothée Pullinger) with a structured apprenticeship system building aero engine components for the Heathhall Dumfries Works. Following the end of the war the factory switched to the manufacture of Galloway cars, Arrol-Johnston cars but in a medium price range.

William Beardmore, 1st Baron Invernairn British baron

William Beardmore, 1st Baron Invernairn DL, known as Sir William Beardmore, Bt, between 1914 and 1921, was an Anglo-Scottish industrialist, founding the eponymous William Beardmore and Company.

Paisley, Renfrewshire town in the historic county of Renfrewshire in Scotland

Paisley is a town situated in the west central Lowlands of Scotland. Located on the northern edge of the Gleniffer Braes, the town borders the city of Glasgow to the east, and straddles the banks of the White Cart Water, a tributary of the River Clyde.

Arrol-Johnston automobile manufacturer

Arrol-Johnston was an early Scottish manufacturer of automobiles, which operated from 1896 to 1931 and produced the first automobile manufactured in Britain. The company also developed the world's first "off-road" vehicle for the Egyptian government, and another designed to travel on ice and snow for Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition to the South Pole.

During the First World War Thomas Pullinger carried out design proposals made by Frank Halford to create the Beardmore Halford Pullinger aero engine used in many wartime aircraft and later developed into the Siddeley Puma.

He seems to have remained with Beardmore's businesses until his retirement. Beardmore died in 1937. On retirement he lived at The Brae in the parish of St Brelade, Jersey and described his recreations as farming and yachting. [3] He died in July 1945 at a hospital in London's Kensington while still reported to be living on the island of Jersey. [4]

In 1893 Pullinger married Aurélie Berenice Sitwell (1871–1956) and they had four sons and six daughters, [3] the eldest being Dorothée Pullinger, a pioneering automobile engineer and businesswoman.

Related Research Articles

Talbot 1903-1992 automotive brand of various corporations

Talbot or Clément-Talbot Limited was a London automobile manufacturer founded in 1903. Clément-Talbot's products were named just Talbot from shortly after introduction, but the business remained Clément-Talbot Limited until 1938 when it was renamed Sunbeam-Talbot Limited. The founders, Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 20th Earl of Shrewsbury and Adolphe Clément-Bayard, reduced their financial interests in their Clément-Talbot business during the First World War.

Major Frank Bernard Halford CBE FRAeS was an English aircraft engine designer. He is best known for the series of de Havilland Gipsy engines, widely used by light aircraft in the 1920s and 30s.

Henry Segrave racecar driver

Sir Henry O'Neal de Hane Segrave was an early British pioneer in land speed and water speed records. Segrave, who set three land and one water record, was the first person to hold both titles simultaneously and the first person to travel at over 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) in a land vehicle. He died in an accident in 1930 shortly after setting a new world water speed record on Windermere in the Lake District, England. The Segrave Trophy was established to commemorate his life.

John Marston (businessman) British businessman politician

John Marston (1836–1918) was a successful Victorian bicycle, motorcycle and car manufacturer and founder of the Sunbeam company of Wolverhampton. His company was also one of the country's largest manufacturers of japanware and he was responsible for building 'Seagull' outboard engines for marine use and also for starting the Villiers engineering company. He was Mayor of Wolverhampton for two consecutive years and died in 1918 aged 82.

George Johnston (1855–1945) was a Scottish engineer. He was the son of the Reverend James Johnston, of Springburn's United Presbyterian Church. George spent the early part of his career in locomotive engineering before designing and constructing Scotland's first automobile, the Mo-Car, which led to the formation of the Arrol-Johnston Car Company Ltd.

Galloway (car) Scottish car maker

Galloway was a Scottish car maker founded in 1920 as a subsidiary company to Arrol-Johnston. It was based at first at Tongland, Kirkcudbrightshire, and from 1923 at Heathall, Dumfries. It closed in 1928.


Sunbeam-Talbot Limited was a British motor manufacturing business. It built upmarket sports-saloon versions of Rootes Group cars from 1935 to 1954. As Clément-Talbot Limited it had made Talbot cars since 1902.

Gladiator Cycle Company automobile manufacturer

The Gladiator Cycle Company, Clément-Gladiator, was a French manufacturer of bicycles, motorcycles and cars based in Le Pré-Saint-Gervais, Seine.

Sunbeam-Talbot 90

The Sunbeam-Talbot 90 is a sports saloon produced and built by Sunbeam-Talbot from 1948 to 1954 and continued as the Sunbeam Mk III from 1954 to 1957.

Sunbeam 3-litre

The Sunbeam 3-litre is a heavy 26 long cwt sports car introduced by Sunbeam in October 1925 at the London Motor Show, and was offered from 1926 until 1930. It was seen at the time and subsequently as the retort of Louis Hervé Coatalen, Sunbeam's energetic chief engineer, to the Bentley 3 Litre which by then was beginning to make its mark, having won at Le Mans earlier that year.

Dorothée Pullinger British automobile engineer and businesswoman, and a pioneering woman engineer

Dorothée Aurélie Marianne Pullinger, MBE was a pioneering automobile engineer and businesswoman.

A Darracq and Company Limited owned a French manufacturer of motor vehicles and aero engines in Suresnes, near Paris. The French enterprise, known at first as A. Darracq et Cie, was founded in 1896 by Alexandre Darracq after he sold his Gladiator Bicycle business. In 1902, it took effect in 1903, he sold his new business to a privately held English company named A Darracq and Company Limited, taking a substantial shareholding and a directorship himself.

Beardmore-Halford-Pullinger (BHP) were aircraft engines used in production between 1916 and 1918. The engines were used on many notable First World War aircraft, such as the Airco DH.4, DH.9, DH.10, de Havilland DH.15 and Avro 529 aircraft.


Clément-Talbot Limited was a British motor vehicle manufacturer with its works in Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, London, founded in 1902. Rootes renamed it Sunbeam-Talbot Limited in 1938.

Darracq Motor Engineering Company Limited was a London importer, retailer and wholesaler of French-made Darracq and Talbot automobiles, a coachbuilder making regular production runs of bodies for S T D group products and a property holding company on behalf of its parent S T D Motors Limited.

Automobiles Darracq France

Automobiles Darracq France was a manufacturer of motor vehicles and aero engines in Suresnes, near Paris. The enterprise, known at first as A Darracq et Cie, was founded in 1896 by successful businessman Alexandre Darracq.

Sunbeam-Talbot 80 car model

The Sunbeam-Talbot 80 is a 4-door 4-light sports saloon which was produced by English manufacturer Sunbeam-Talbot from 1948 to 1950.


  1. 1 2 Ian Nickols and Kent Karslake, Motoring Entente, Cassell, London 1956
  2. page 17, Ian Nickols and Kent Karslake, Motoring Entente, Cassell, London 1956
  3. 1 2 Who's Who, 1938
  4. Deaths, The Times, 24 July 1945