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A Normandy Inventor

Andy Warhol said that everybody would be famous for fifteen minutes but here is a practical example.

During the 1950s Mr.Algernon Fletcher and his family lived in a house called "The Haven" in Glaziers Lane, Normandy. He worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough but he had a rather colourful history previously with the Royal Aircraft Establishment involving test piloting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada around the 1920s. He had a son named Cedric David and by all accounts the family kept very much to themselves and not many people knew them even then and their memory has now almost completely faded from the village, but Mr.Fletcher had one brief moment of fame with a certain section of the community.

There flourished in the 1950s two old-established weekly motor cycling magazines with world-wide distributions. They were "Motor Cycling" and "The Motor Cycle" known respectively as "The Green'Un" and "The Blue 'Un" from the colours on their front covers. Each had their fiercely loyal following of fans. At the time I was the proud owner of an AJS Model 20 "Springtwin" motor cycle and was a reader of Motor Cycling.

The 1st July 1954 issue carried an article by reporter John Thorpe describing an unusual engine that had been made by Mr. Fletcher. All parts except for the proprietary Wico-Pacy flywheel magneto and the spark plug had been manufactured by Mr. Fletcher in his garden workshop. Mr. Fletcher's grandson, Michael, who lives in Finland, reports that, almost unblelievably, a couple of parts of his grandfather's prototype engine ended up in Finland where they had found their way into his Meccano box

Although functioning on the established two-stroke cycle the 49cc engine defied convention in that instead of having a normal piston it was equipped with what is known as a junk head. This was a cylinder head having a downward fixed cylindrical extension carrying two piston rings and grooved for oil traps. A steel piston with an extended sleeve having shaped ports similar to a normal two-stroke slid up and down on the outside of the junk head projection and within the alloy cylinder barrel. The connecting rod and crank were attached to the piston end. It was in effect an "inside-out" engine. The advantages claimed were improved cooling, low weight, freedom from seizure and improvement in low speed pulling power. The first was certainly borne out by the fact that Mr. Fletcher's lathe was powered by another engine of the same type which had no forced cooling.

Mr. Fletcher had fitted the test engine to an ordinary pedal cycle where it drove a roller in contact with the rear wheel tyre in the style common at that time for mopeds. The article described a test run which included the long tiring climb from Crawly to Pease Pottage on the Brighton-London Road which was accomplished without pedal assistance at a steady 20mph.

Mr. Fletcher was often seen about the village on his powered bicycle which loudly advertised its approach. He evidently did not succeed in his aim to interest a potential manufacturer for his creation but he must have been ahead of his time as no more was heard of it. He was also into radio engineering and built himself a valve radio receiver with homemade tuning capacitors, coils, knobs and all. Michael still has some of his grandfather's handmade parts in his own workshop.

Altogether a remarkable character, but he had, like G K Chesterton's donkey his hour of fame.

  "Fools, For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet."

Jack Kinder Normandy Historians
Thanks to Michael Fletcher (Algernon Fletcher's Grandson) and Late Normandy residents Dorothy Applebee and Bob Hammond for their help with this article.

The Moped Archive
Article from "Motor Cycling", July 1st 1954

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