Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where in Edinburgh? Part II

I was able to find another picture of the Royal Enfield Edinburgh factory. This one shows the cradles for the Flying Fleas, but also shows Calton Hill in the background. There are not many places in which one could get such a perspective of the Hill. In particular note the little dome in the middle. It appears that the best location for such a shot would be Greenside Row. In particular at the end of that street is a modern industrial building, suggesting that it could have been a factory in the past as well. There is also a vacant lot nearby, now a car park. One can "walk up to the building" using Google Maps street level view, but the perspective of the photograph is more likely from an upper level section of the building. From street level one does not get to see the dome, at least with the vegetation that is present today. Reader Mauro W. in the Royal Enfield Yahoo bulletin board, who knows Edinburgh, claims that this interpretation is quite plausible, since one cannot get views of Calton Hill like that from other locations. Will we ever know for sure?


  1. Interesting item. Probably someone in Edinburgh does know the answer. Hopefully that person will come across this and respond. Amazing how many parachute crates are shown in the photo. If anything like this number were ever used there still should be Flying Fleas dangling from trees in the forests somewhere!

  2. Thanks David! I'm investigating the numbers, which could range around 20,000. But apparently very few were dropped from the air. In the end mostly were transported in gliders or in landing crafts.

  3. According to the book by Gavin Birch on motorcles at war 8000 flying fleas were produced.

  4. Hello Jorge and David,
    I was contacted by the Gorgeous Biker Chick sayin gyou were interested in the exact location where the factory was in Edinburgh. I am very interested in Royal Enfield and at one time was the Club Archivist. I did an artice that I placed in the Gun magazine issue 137 below is the article for you , I actually stood on the little piece of wall that is hidden in the side of the hill under the bushes right next to the walk gangway over from the St James Centre I researched this in 1997.


    For those members who do not own a copy of "Gun 58", and were wondering how there could possibly be any connection between Edinburgh and Royal Enfield, here is some information taken from a booklet presented by the factory management to the workforce after the war.

    "It was not possible to extend the Works at Redditch because of the shortage of skilled labour in the district and satellite factories were therefore established in other parts of the country where labour was available or where suitable buildings already existed". There were 5 factories set up during the war and these were:-

    No.l Factory.........The head Enfield Works at Redditch.

    No.2 Factory..........Westwood in Wiltshire, situated ninety feet below ground.

    No.4 Factory..........Feckenham, a few miles from Redditch.

    No. 5 Factory..........Adjacent to the main Enfield Works".

    Have I missed one? Oh yes, so I have!

    No.3 Edinburgh.

    "This Factory was equipped for the production of Motor Cycle Frames and Tubular Crates for the Airborne Motor Cycles to be dropped by parachute".

    The machine referred to is, of course, the 125 c.c. R.E. otherwise known as the "Flying Flea", (photo of bike in crate)

    From the photograph, I had a rough idea where the factory was located, but I knew that the original building was no longer there. I contacted the National Library Edinburgh on George IV Bridge and duly went along to see what information I could find in "The Edinburgh Room". Where to begin? (photo of the old factory)

    The friendly assistant recommended that perhaps the Edinburgh directories might be a starting point, but after searching for quite a while, I drew a blank. Royal Enfield, or any derivation of the name, was not listed.

    Back to the assistant who said that my theory, (that of a secret location due to the war years might be a reason for no listing in the directories), was quite possible. However, no matter

    how secret any manufacturing was, the building itself was liable for a rating charge, so he suggested I try the Valuation Rates Registers. Simple?........Not really!

    These were set out in "polling wards" and a street name was necessary for this. The next step was to look at ordnance survey maps for the area where I thought the factory stood.

    This revealed that during the war a motor engineering works was situated in Nottingham Place, so it was back to the Valuation Rates Registers.

    In 1942, numbers 5 and 6 Nottingham Place were listed as Offices and Factory belonging to Alexanders of Edinburgh Ltd., a firm who were stockists of Enfields. It then transpires that Alexanders leased the building to the Enfield Motor Cycle Co. Ltd. at a cost of £375 2s 6d

    per annum, a princely sum in those days. Enfield leased the premises until 1946 and eventually Alexanders sold off the buildings.

    Although the original buildings have been demolished in the face of "progress", there are some remnants of the factory walls which are reputed to be part of "the Edinburgh


    Doug Young,

  5. Awesome Doug! I'll prepare a new article with the new information.


  6. Hi Jorge, if you want the pictures of the article although they only show the Flea in the cradle and the smae picture you have.

  7. Doug,

    I "flew over" to 5,6 Nottingham Place with google maps and found there is a modern building there. 5,6 correspond roughly to a loading dock. Interestingly there is a sector of the floor that appears old-fashioned, made of brick. Is this the "wall" you are referring to? See the picture here.



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