I have tried to reconstruct the life of Ben Bickell, and here's what I found...
Maybe in the future I'll find out more, and if I do, Iwill of course update this site.
Ben was born as Charles Benjamin Bickell, in Pancras, London, in 1895. He did have a brother, Joe, with whom he
formed a team in preparing his bikes for racing. His brother, Joe, had a garage in London, Bickell and
Sons, 260Archway Road, High Gate, N.6. London .
The Bickell workshop in London, a couple of years ago. Photograph by Mike Waugh from the AOMCC
I found out that Joe also was active in auto-racing, or at least doing the tuning of cars, till the late 50's.
Ben Bickell appears to have been a bit of a speed-addict, and as a member of the British Motorcycle
Racing Club, the BMCRC, was a welcome guest at the club's racemeeetings on Brooklands circuit.
Ben Bickell (nr7) in pursuit of Les Archer (nr4) , Brooklands 1926
But not only there did he race, he also tried his luck in various other speedtrials, like those at Brighton,
and he competed four times in those famous Manx speedtrials, the TT, and the Manx GP.
The official website of the Isle of Man TT (www.iomtt.com) states the following :
|1930||Manx GP||Chater Lea||DNF|
1929 Chater-Lea Brooklands Special: “Copperknob”
This famous machine was built by Ben and Joe Bickell in their garage in Highgate, London for the 1929 racing season.
It was nicknamed “Copperknob” on its first appearance at Brooklands. The frame was genuine Chater-Lea, salvaged
from a wrecked A.A. outfit, and was equipped with a variety of engines, ranging from a Chater-Lea 350cc over head
camshaft single to a big V-twin JAP. Engine manufacturer JAP introduced a new 500cc ohv power unit in 1931,
and sponsored the April meeting at Brooklands to launch and promote it. In a race run between motorcycles all
exclusively powered by the new engine, Copperknob won an emphatic victory recording an average speed of 93.97mph.
More success followed in 1932, as Copperknob recorded the fastest lap in a Senior Handicap at 112.17mph.
The season was rounded off by winning the Hutchinson Hundred – despite almost continuous rain – at an average 99.61mph.
After Ben Bickell’s tragic death whilst riding an Ariel in the 1936 Ulster Grand Prix, Copperknob passed through
various hands until a complete restoration in the early 1960s. This motorcycle is now in the posession of the
National Motorcycle Museum, where it was nearly destroyed in the 2003 fire, but since lovingly restored to its
For all its undoubted performance, Copperknob must have been a most uncomfortable ride on the notorious Brooklands
concrete; suspension technology was still in its infancy. Like the majority of other track racers, Copperknob utilised a
rigid frame and girder fork at the front end, and an adjustable Ferodo ring damper on the central spring.
This is an original, sterling silver trophy awarded by the B.M.C.R.C. (British Motor Cycle Racing Club) for racing at
the famous British motor racing circuit, "Brooklands" in 1932.
This attractive, solid sterling silver trophy is decorated with handles styled in the form of wings and is engraved with the
following inscription "B.M.C.R.C. - Brooklands 1932 - Aggregate Performance (Tie) - Class C. -C.B. Bickell.".
The British Motor Cycle Racing Club was formed in 1909 and was based at the famous Brooklands racing circuit at
Weybridge, Surrey. It continued there until the outbreak of W.W.II. when the circuit was taken over by the aircraft
manufacturer, Vickers. After the war, the BMCRC was for a long time without a permanent home. It's headquarters
were at times at Haddenham, Dunholme Airfield in Lincolnshire, Silverstone, Croydon (for Crystal Palace circuit)
and Brands Hatch in Kent. In the early 1990's it finally moved to its current home at Lydden Race Circuit in East Kent
which is owned by the Formula 1 racing team, Maclaren.
There's also some evidence of Ben Bickell being a keen Brooklands car-racer
This race is the BRDC 500 held at Brooklands on 16 September, 1933.
In the first frame #4 is the "works" Austin, entered by Sir Herbert Austin K.B.E, down to be driven by Pat Driscoll
and C.B.Bickell, a famous motorcyclist looking forward to his first race! As it happened the car was an early retirement.
#5 is another works Austin of George Duller and Charles Goodacre which retired with engine problems after Duller had pushed
the car, well over a mile, to the pits to change plugs. Goodacre did not get to drive.
Also in the frame is the #12 MG Magna "L" of Alan Hess, the entrant, and Tommy Wisdom. This car retired with a split
radiator. #16 is the suitably streamlined "Magic Midget" of George Eyston, who was to be partnered by Albert Denley,
but the car lost its magic magneto and retired when well in the lead of this handicap race.
In the second frame is the #9 Midget of Stan Hailwood and Harry Attwood, the fathers of two very famous racing drivers.
Unfortunately they were the first posted retirement, Hailwood at the wheel, after just 10 laps. Also to be seen is another
Hess entered Magna #15 of Charlie Martin and Lewis Welch which survived to finish second behind Eddie Hall
who won single-handedly in his MG K3 Magnette; reputedly a tough customer Mr Hall. Winding itself up and baring its teeth
is "Red Mongrel", #16, the famous Riley 9 of Freddie Dixon. His co-driver was Chris Staniland. They too looked certain winners,
after Eyston stopped, when they also retired (piston). In the remaining frame are two of the jade-green, works "Dutch Clog",
or "Rubber Duck" if you prefer, Austins. They are screeching, somewhat briefly, round the banking. In #6 is Donald Barnes; Brian
Twist didn't get to drive as the car was an early retirement (clutch). The Austins had an embarrassingly bad day and none of the co-drivers got to race.
Ben Bickell on the Supercharger, Madeira Drive, Brighton 1934, for the occasion a sidecar has been mounted