were quite late in entering the Automobile
Hall of Fame so it was interesting to find out why and haw it was that these
cars came about. The potted histories of the two founders follow; two entirely
different and unlikely people to get together. One knew how to drive and sell
automobiles, and one knew how to make them. It should be remembered that most of
the events were taking place over a 100 years ago at the dawn of motoring and
well before the First World War
Charles Stewart Rolls (1877-1910) was the third son of John Allan Rolls, the 1st Baron Llangattock, a Victorian landowner, Conservative Party politician, socialite, local benefactor and agriculturalist. He lived at The Hendre, a Victorian country manor house north of Monmouth in Wales. Charles Rolls was educated in Berkshire and later at Eaton where he got the nickname of 'Dirty Rolls' from tinkering with engines. He subsequently gained entry to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he struggled a bit to get a degree in 1898 in mechanical and applied science.
In 1896, at the age of 18, he went to Paris to buy his first car, a second-hand 3.75 hp Peugeot Phaeton, one of the most powerful available, which cost him £225, - a loan from his father helped. His first journey was from London to Cambridge. The Peugeot was the first car based in Cambridge, and one of three cars he owned in Wales. As an early motoring enthusiast, he joined the Self-Propelled Traffic Association, which campaigned against the restrictions imposed on motor vehicles by the Locomotive Act, and became a founder member of the Automobile Club of Great Britain.
All-rounds sportsman, Rolls was a keen cyclist in 1896 and won a Half Blue and became captain of the Cambridge University Bicycle Club. He made his first balloon ascent in 1898 from Crystal Palace to Epping Forest, a distance of 16 miles. His working career started in 1898 on the steam yacht Santa Maria followed by a position at the London and North Western Railway in Crewe. 1899 he sold his 8hp Panhard named "The Fire Engine" and went to Paris again to buy a new 12hp model 'to take part in the 1900 One Thousand Mile Trial'. Also in 1900 he wrote the automobile section for the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Later that year the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V) stayed at Rolls' family home The Hendre where they are introduced to the Panhard Levassor motor car. In 1903 Rolls drove a 80hp Mors car at the Duke of Portland's Clipstone Park at 82.8 mph and claimed the kilometre world record.
As Rolls' talents were in salesmanship, in January 1902, and with the help of £6,600 provided by his father, he started one of Britain's first car dealerships, C. S. Rolls & Co. based in Fulham, London, to import and sell French Peugeot, Belgian Minerva, and the British New Orleans cars. In 1903 he opened showrooms in Brook Street, Mayfair.
Rolls also continued ballooning making over 170 ascents, one of the first crashing and completely destroying the craft. Also in 1903 he was a founding member of the Aero Club and was the second person in Britain to be licensed to fly by it. His hobbies were listed as "Football, engineering, ballooning. Awarded gold medal in the 1,000 miles' trial of 1900. His prowess in cycling, athletics and motor driving has also brought him in several prizes. Holds a third engineer's (marine) certificate, and is an expert aeronaut. Horses continued being an important part of his life, as was yachting".
In 1904 Royce's partner and co-director Ernest Claremont was also a Director of WT Glover, electrical wiring manufacturer in Manchester. Another Director of WT Glover was Henry Edmonds, who was a co-director of F. H. Royce and Company. Claremont showed Edmunds his Royce car which was one of three that had just been built by the Royce company. A meeting was arranged in Manchester between Rolls and Royce for both to discuss the car. Despite his preference for three or four cylinder cars, Rolls was impressed with the two-cylinder Royce 10 and in a subsequent agreement of 23 December 1904 agreed to take all the cars Royce could make and sell them through his dealership. These would be two, three, four and 6 cylinders and would be badged as Rolls-Royce.
Meantime he continued with his own business and his sporting activities.
In 1906 he broke the Monte Carlo to London record in a 20 hp Rolls-Royce, taking
28 hours 14 minutes to drive the 771 miles from Monte Carlo to Boulogne. In the
same year took part in the 1906 Gordon Bennett Balloon Race as the British
representative; having crossed the channel from Paris, he was awarded the gold
medal for the longest time spent in the air. Again in 1906 he took a test flight
in the Wright airplane. He was said to be distracted from his auto
business by his many other interests but in 1906 Rolls took the Grey Ghost to
New York to demonstrate its speed on the Empire City track where he won against
cars for greater power. In 1907 Rolls test-drove the new 40/50 hp Silver Ghost
and again returned to the USA to race and to explore the market.
Also in 1909 he took delivery of the Short Wright Flyer No 1. A day later he crashes it when it stalls. His flying activities occupy most of his time in 1909 and 1910. so much so that in April 1910 he resigns as the Technical Director of Rolls-Royce in order to concentrate on his aviation activities, but remains an adviser to Rolls-Royce. In June he becomes the first man to make a non-stop double crossing of the English Channel by airplane, taking 95 minutes - faster than Louis Bleriot who had done it one way a year earlier. In late 1910 he was planning to start the "Rolls Airplane Company" and a Rolls Powered Glider was being built at Short Brothers.
On the 12 July 1910, just a month after his cross-Channel crossing, Rolls went to the Hengistbury Airfield, Southbourne, to give a flying display in his Wright Flyer at the Bournemouth Aviation Meeting. He was participating in a takeoff/landing competition when "some tail wires gave way, turning and descending his aeroplane in a rather abrupt way, and subsequently the machine fell with violence to the earth, and, alighting at an acute angle, buried him beneath the wreckage. Rolls sustained a fractured skull and was pronounced dead at the scene." He was the first Briton to be killed in an aeronautical accident with a powered aircraft, and the eleventh person internationally. His was also the first powered aviation fatality in the United Kingdom. He was just a few weeks short of his 33rd birthday. He was buried in the churchyard at Llangattock Vibon Avel, where most of his family were laid to rest. His much loved house and estate outside Monmouth, Hendre, is now the home of the Rolls of Monmouth Golf Club.
Frederick Henry Royce (1863-1933) came from
humble beginnings being born at the Alwalton Mill, near Peterborough. His
father, James Royce, came from a line of local nearby millers but he was new to
milling. The mill was a thriving business in 1851 under the then owner Chapman
March, a 'miller and bonecrusher' converting bones to fertiliser. At some point
in the late 1850s, records suggest that one of the mills was being powered by a
steam engine. March was renting the mill from the Dean & Chapter of
Peterborough. March however died at a young age of 45 and the Mill was
eventually put up for auction. The winning bidder in 1858 was James Royce, named
in the 1861 census as "miller and corn merchant". Living with him were
wife Mary and five children, the youngest being Fredrick Henry. A sign of
problems started in 1863 as James repeatedly advertised for
"experienced millers" and in 1864 advertising for a Governess to help
bring up the five young children. It is reported young Fredrick Henry nearly
lost his life there when at the age of two he fell into the mill pond. In
February 1867, the Royce's business failed and Alwalton Mill was declared bankrupt. It seems nobody subsequently ran it as a business and by 1885 it was no
longer on the local maps. The Royce family moved briefly to Ickleton in
Cambridgeshire and then on to London. James Royce, died in poverty at the
Greenwich Workhouse in 1872, aged just 41.
It is reported that Henry Royce was an inveterate workaholic who took very
little care of his health or ever had regular meals, or had more that two hours of sleep
at a time. Employees would follow him round the factory with food and milk
trying to persuade him to have some. He became progressively ill, possibly with
ulcerative colitis and at one point he had to take a break with family in
In 1904 Royce's partner and co-director Ernest Claremont was also a Director
of WT Glover, electrical wiring manufacturer in Manchester. Another
Director of WT Glover was Henry Edmonds, who was a co-director of F. H. Royce
and Company. Claremont showed Edmunds his car which was one of three that had
just been built by the Royce company. A meeting was arranged in Manchester
between Rolls and Royce for both to discuss the car. Despite his preference for
three or four cylinder cars, Rolls was impressed with the two-cylinder Royce 10
and in a subsequent agreement of 23 December 1904 agreed to take all the cars
Royce could make and sell them through his dealership. These would be of two,
three, four and six cylinders and would be badged as Rolls-Royce. The Royce
& Co company would continue separately making motors and cranes, while Rolls-Royce
was formed in 1906 specifically for making cars.
The nest was the 15HP, a three cylinder car of 3,000cc, overhead inlet and side exhaust. Six cars were made total, at £500 each. The 20HP car had a 4,118cc four cylinder engine with overhead inlet and side exhaust valves, three of four speed gearbox. 40 cars were made total, at £650 each. The 30HP car had as six cylinder engine of 6 000cc. 37 cars were made total, at £890 each. They also made the Rolls-Royce V8 intended as a petrol-engined car competing with battery powered cars. This had 90 degree V8 side-valve, 3,535cc. Only three were made and none survive. All these cars were made in the period of 1905 and 1906. - and were followed by the model that we are actually interested in, the Model 40/50.
So at this point of the story in 1907 we know that Rolls and Royce had met and that the Rolls-Royce Company had progressed to the introduction of the new bigger 40/50 six cylinder model. So what did this have to do with Lenin?
To be continued Next Month as Part 3 of 3
Three Part Article: Part 1 Part 2Part 3
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