Death Hill, Kent.

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Hi,I used to go to johnsons from 59-63, what a great place it was, never once did I hear about or see anyone racing the record. There used to be about 8-10 of us come to johnsons from the isle of dogs/poplar 2 or3 nights a week and at most weekends. Just before leaving W/Kingsdown we would drop a gog a race to and by Johnsons,the sound of those big twins and singles was fantastic. It was the place to be if you we're a motorcyclist,it was great just to meet people and chat about bikes, and play table football.I think the 2owners of the cafe were called Len and Harry...I used to run a 1958 T110, pretty fast in it's time,,,but as for road holding,,,,I'll say no more about that.,,as for Farningham Roundabout, yes it was there at that time,,,, Bye the way does anyone remember a Triton called the Alf Goodwin Special?  I used to know Alf and his girlfriend Frankie(nee Francis)even went out with her a few times,what a great girl,I think they ended up getting married and lived in West Kingsdown...  

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hi,im don and was fairly regular at johnson cafe in the early 60s--as for the record run  down to wrotham roundabout it did happen and i saw one young man try it--other writers on here dismiss it as impossible [which is probably was] but nobody says they actually completed it in the time [about 3 minutes] i was also on the road when the major accident happened going down death hill --the motor that was hit was a citreon car [french driver -no lights-driving on the wrong side of the road ] a chap i knew i found in a field on the other side of the road with a broken leg..i went and told ambulance people where he was.the burn up was from the cafe to the banks by queen marys hospital at sidcup---magic days---don [gold star]

I came to this site looking for info on the AG Special. A bloke names Steve Rogers is doing research into motorcycle dealers and |I mentioned the AG special to him and last week he came back with Alf Goodwin's name which got me here. What great looking bikes he made. I used to go to Johnson's between 1959 and 1963 on my Ariel Arrow and Vincent outfit. I can remember a run by between a Triumph 650 twin, could be a tiger 110 or Bonnie a Gold Star and a green BSA Shooting Star. The Shooting Star won but I don't know what the owner had done to it but bits were falling off it when he parked up. Great days. Anyone on here belong to the Greenwich MCC? There is a web site about Johnsons.

Hi, I understand that several readers have been wondering who owned 'Voodoo' well it was me. I started going there in 1965 until it closed in 1970.  My nickname is Alan(Albert really) and I lived on Fleet Estate at the time but now live in Gravesend. The bike was a 1961 Bonneville with all the works. The dustbin fairing gave it a bit more 'go' but made the handling at high speed a 'nightmare'.  I've been trying to contact several old mates - Ron Madox and Big John (both worked at AMC) and Douglas Brien - can anyone help ?  Anyone else who wants to chat can reach me at my email address

In reply to Rosy2 - the comedian actor was Lance Percival. But he at least escaped with his life, which another ( younger) guy did not I lived in that area at the time, and remember it well

Hi, It soon will be 50 years ago that on 18th May 1965 I crashed my 1961 Triumph Bonneville on Death hill near Brands hatch. I was then 18 years old and I had spent another evening at Johnsons cafe. A few of us would meet at the Dutch house pub near where we lived and go there most evenings. This night about 10pm heading towards London myself on a Bonneville 120r and Peter Smith on his Triumph 110, decided we would travel side by side until we reached the no speed limit signs and then race down death hill to the roundabout. I was in front with my eyes glued on the speedo as the engine was flat out doing about 110 MPH only to look up and see too late for me a motorbike and side car deciding to overtake a lorry doing about 50mph, the motorbike and sidecar was doing maybe 70 mph and I rammed my bike between the motorbike and the sidecar splitting it apart. The sidecar stayed upright with a girl inside sliding down the hill which I overtook on my arse, she was hysterical but unhurt when it stopped. I overtook the lorry on my arse too while sliding on the wrong side of the road. Fortunately there was no traffic coming the other way and I only had a hole in my crash helmet that saved me, plus I got a wound on my face. The guy I hit also slid down the wrong side of the road and his knee hit the only bus stop on death hill, breaking his knee. The bonneville was in flames and a write off. I did rebuild it again taking close to a year to do it, then it was stolen in late 1966.  

 My 1961 Triumph Bonneville that I crashed on Death hill in 1965.

Hi. Drumwrecker. My brother Trevor Manning was a member GMCC back in the 50s he used to be one of the marshals at brands hatch with me in tow aged 10.I remember the cafe run at Johnson's. Trevor has a Velocette Viper with (I think they were called) fish tail exhausts. Then he has a Tiger Cub and finally a Bonneville. I loved those days. Now my sons have motorbikes.

My dad used to frequent Johnsons in the sixties as he only used to live in west kingsdown, we were in branscombe in Devon and walked past an art gallery with an oil painting done of johnsons with all the bikes outside, My dad even recognised some of the bikes and people on it, So it now hangs in there lounge. It must have been done from a photo. i remember dad used to tell me about death hill now gorse hill, he lost a couple of friends racing there bikes up and down. He used to be friends with John Rand, Nick whiting, and Rick seynor, they used to go everywhere on there bikes.

Dear Rog, Just seen your post and tried to send a private message but it couldn't be sent so hoping you'll see this. You say:  I was doing some research for an article on the Ace Cafe and as far as I could ascertain, the whole 'Record Racing' myth was conjured up for an episode of Dixon of Dock Green ( seriously ) by some BBC scriptwriter. As I wrote in the article: 'According to an Ace Cafe regular, Barry Cheese, the concept of Record Racing became 'reality' after the idea was dreamed up by the BBC to illustrate a storyline about the death of a young biker. Indeed, the script shows that after stealing a, and I quote, "seven-fifty, alloy heads, hight-lift cams, rev counter - it's a real potent bike", the two protagonists go for a race and one says, "Just up to the roundabout and up the hill. Put a record on - see if we can get back before it ends."But that was the power of the Ace. Take one innocuous line from a TV script and the aura of the Ace surrounds it and makes it is own. It sounded so reasonable, given the reputation of the real Ace Cafe, that surely it had to be true. Alas, it wasn't.'I'd be very interested to read your article. Could you send it to me, or make it available is some way? David

I used to visit Johnson's in the mid sixty's mostly on Friday nights first on a BSA C15 then on my all time favorite bike a BSA DBD34 Gold Star. It was there I met my future wife who worked behind the counter and lived just up the road from the cafe. She told me that the "Record Run" was done down to Wrotham Roundabout and back past the cafe. The bike was already running and as soon as the record moved to be played on the jukebox then off they would go. It was also a bit sneaky that the jukebox also had EP Records of one tune on it so there was more time to get there and back. There were many other antics that the bikers got up to such as how many you could get on a solo or sidecar and ride past, standing on the seat, and other crazy stunts, there was also a competition to see who could ride over the footbridge across the A20 outside the Portebello Inn the fastest either solo or with passenger until they put barriers across it. The down side to all this was there were many accidents and fatalities on the A20 none more so than Death Hill. My favorite story of Johnson's was the Friday night that a Police Car arrived in the front car park and both officers went into the cafe to speak to Harry Johnson, when they came out they found the car full of coffee and tea mugs and a lot of innocent bikers looking on, Priceless Nice to hear from Alan2 whom did the really fast "Runbys" on Friday nights.      

  Tosh, For you    

      A Picture I took with my old Balda Bellows camera  

  This image and the Alf Goodwin image were sent to me by Stevie Chas  

Death Hill - Johnsons Cafe - A20 West Kingsdown

Back in the 60's I used to go to Johnsons on the back of my brothers Bonneville. It was on the A20 between Brands Hatch and the top of Wrotham Hill heading towards Maidstone. I now pass the building most days on my way to work and sadly see it is a corporate travel agents ;( Death hill got it's name from the number of bikers that went through the railings at the bottom of the hill that runs down from Brands to Farningham roundabout and as another person has pointed out there is a bit of an urban legend that you would put a record on the jukebox and try to get through West Kingsdown, past Brands, down the hill around the roundabout and back again before the record finished. Can't see it myself as most records in the 60's lasted between 2 & 3mins. but I am here to be proven wrong. Somebody buy the travel agents and put it back to a biker cafe please. Oakdean on the A20 by the M26 is good but hasn't got the same history.


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