Posted by Penelope Lovesy at 10/08/2020 00:00:40
Who remembers the British Seagull?! From the museum collections this week: an advertising poster for this much-loved, and hugely successful, outboard motor. The British Seagull was made in Poole for over 60 years.
The first Seagulls were in production by 1931, made to a design by John Marston Ltd and the Sunbeam Motor Company. The ‘Marston Seagull’ incorporated innovative ideas such as reverse gears and water-cooled exhausts.
John Way-Hope and Bill Pinniger, who had met while working in the marine division of Sunbeam, continued to develop the engine. After acquiring the manufacturing rights and patents, they set up business and in 1938 moved from Bristol to premises on Poole Quay. The Marston Seagull brand was changed to the British Seagull and the range cut to one engine. Reverse gears were dispensed with, as Way-Hope considered them 'a rather sissy refinement, rendered superfluous by efficient boat handling'.
The Seagull’s no-nonsense design attracted the interest of the Navy, whose request for a ‘rough and ready’ version for use on light assault craft helped establish the company. From wartime success came the next range of engines, as British Seagull rapidly gained a reputation worldwide for being able to cope with both extremes of climate and rough handling.
By the mid-1950s British Seagull had moved to new premises at Fleets Bridge where they reached their all-time peak during the 1960s. At this time everything except the gears and the carburettors were made on site. In 1982 it moved again to premises at Newtown Business Park.
Production of British Seagull outboard engines ceased in 1996, although spare parts supply continued. Three years later, Chillington Marine Ltd, the owners at that time, decided to pull out of the marine leisure market and handed over responsibility for the British Seagull name to Sheridan Marine in Oxfordshire.