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British Industrial History

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Gustavus Green

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Gustavus Green (1865-1965)

Early Years[1]

Gustavus Green was born in Hounslow, Middlesex on 11th March 1865. He started work at the age of 13. His early career as a hairdresser and wig maker in Hastings.

In 1897 he moved to Bexhill on Sea with his wife, Beatrice Johanna, and their four children.

He established a cycle making and repair business in Weston Road and undertook engineering work for local businesses. He received no formal engineering training.


In 1905 Gustavus Green designed his first lightweight, water-cooled aircraft engine. He established the Green Engine Co., and engines of his design were much used by pioneers of British aviation including Alliott Verdon-Roe and Samuel Cody. His later engines were too heavy for the aircraft of the time, but were used to power torpedo boats during World War I.

In 1909, Green was awarded a £1,000 prize by the British government for his work on aero engines, and he was awarded another prize of £5,000 in 1914.

After World War II, Green became involved in the development of the 'flexible deck' concept for aircraft carriers. His ideas for such a deck culminated in the successful landing of a de Havilland Sea Vampire, flown by Eric "Winkle" Brown, on an experimental rubber deck installed on HMS Warrior.

Green motorcycles were produced in 1909 and 1921 by Gustavus Green of Berners Street, London.

c.1905 The Green Engine Co was founded by Gustavus Green in London to produce engines of his design. Actual manufacturing was carried out at the Aster Engineering Co. The firm produced a range of water-cooled, in-line engines up to about 1915.

1909 Gustavus Green had been building water-cooled engines since 1905, but in 1909 he offered complete machines fitted with his special cylinder with ohv and a copper radiator on either side. A divided tank formed the top member of the frame, with the front section carrying excess water. Belt driven, it was fitted with Druid forks.

There was then a gap of many years when Gustavus and his son, Charles, were involved with the Regal-Green make, who fitted their water-cooled engine up to the war, keeping the ov and 499cc capacity.

WWI Gustavus went on to become involved with engine design for aircraft and motor gunboats during World War I, before retiring to concentrate on advanced ideas in horology and photography.

1921 The Green motorcycle appeared once more in the form of a 3.5hp water-cooled machine in its pre-war form. This was probably for stock clearance purposes.

1965 Obituary [3]

Mr Gustavus Green, the pioneer of the aero engine, died recently at the age of 99.

Mr Green, who was a Companion of the Royal Aeronautical Society, had his first notable success when he produced the engine which powered Lord Brabazon's prize-winning plane of 1909. This was the first all-British plane to make a circular flight of one mile, a feat previously accomplished only with foreign engines. In the following year an eight cylinder, water-cooled V engine designed by Mr Green was used to power the airship Dirigible IIa, and another first was added to his list.

In the remaining years before the 1914-18 war, aeroplanes powered by Green engines won seven Michelin Competitions and the engines were awarded Gold and Silver Medals by the Aerial League, the £?0,000 Naval and Military Aero Engine prize and many others. The first successful British seaplane and the first amphibian used Green engines.

During the war Mr Green was asked to concentrate on producing power units for fast naval craft; it is sufficient to say that before the war ended he had constructed a 1000 hp marine engine. His engines were manufactured by Peter Brotherhood of Peterborough from 1917 until 1920.

He retired soon after the end of the 1914-18 war and devoted his outstanding engineering skill to making clocks and watches.

Perhaps the best permanent memorials and tribute to his genius are his engines; four of which, 35, 60, 100 and 150 hp models, are in the Science Museum.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Gustavus Green - British Designer & Constructor of Aero Engines
  2. [2] Wikipedia
  3. 1965 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  • The British Motorcycle Directory - Over 1,100 Marques from 1888 - by Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth. Pub: The Crowood Press 2004 ISBN 1 86126 674 X