Rolls 27 August 1877 to 12 October 1910 - 33 years.
Charles Rolls was born
at 35 Hill Street, Berkeley Square, London into a wealthy landed family
with much property. In London these properties derived rents of £46,000
per annum and in addition there were large estates in Monmouthshire,
South Wales. His father, John Allan Rolls, was a Justice of the
Peace and High Sheriff of the County and later became Baron Llangattoch
of the Hendre in August l892. The Hendre is Welsh for Winter
Dwelling or main house.
At the time Rolls was
born F. H. Royce was resident in the Old Kent Road, London and may well
have been a tenant of the Rolls' Estates and as he was a Post Office
messenger until September 1877 when he was apprenticed to the Great
Northern Railway, quite possibly delivered congratulatory telegrams to
Mrs. Rolls on the birth of Charles. The Rolls family soon acquired
a permanent London address - South Lodge, Rutland Gate, South
Kensington. Rolls attended Mortimer Vicarage Preparatory School in
Berkshire and then Eton until March 1894. He installed a dynamo at
The Hendre and wired part of the house. He crammed to gain
entrance to Cambridge University at Trinity College where he was a keen
cyclist and gained a half Blue in 1896 and made Captain 1897.
In October 1896 he went
to Paris and purchased with his father’s assistance a 3 3/4 hp Peugeot
Phaeton - the first ever car based at Cambridge. He became known
as "Dirty Rolls" and "Petrolls" because of his
‘hands on’ approach. Rolls graduated in January 1898 with
Class II Ordinary Bachelor of Arts degree by Special Examination in
Mechanism and Applied Science, and gained a Master of Arts in 1902.
He was accepted as student member of the Institution of Civil Engineers
in February 1898. Rolls spent time in the workshops of London and
North Western Railway at Crewe. He had a reputation for being very
careful with money, economical with food and a very modest intake of
CSR made his first
balloon flight on 8 September 1898. This is shown above.
In 1900 Rolls won the
1,000 miles reliability trial promoted by Lord Northcliffe and organised
by his partner, Claude Johnson, also a founder member and Secretary of
the Automobile Club. A picture of a similar Panhard motor car is
Above, Claude Johnson.
In 1903 Rolls
established a world land speed record of 93 mph in Dublin driving a 30
hp Mors. This was a French car models of which he imported and
In 1904, via a mutual
friend and another founder member of the Automobile Club, a Mr. Henry
Edmunds introduced Rolls to Royce about 4 May at the Midland Hotel,
Manchester. Edmunds, pictured below, is known as the Godfather of
Rolls-Royce and Claude Johnson The Hyphen in Rolls-Royce.
Rolls-Royce came into
being at Christmas 1904 and from then on the 10 hp cars were so named as
they were previously called Royce cars.
Rolls went to the New
York Motor Show to exhibit Rolls-Royce cars in 1906 and also attended an
exhibition organised by the Aero Club of America and was introduced to
the Wright Brothers. This meeting gradually directed Rolls'
interest from balloons to powered flight.
In April 1910 Rolls
purchased the French Wright with a Wright Bariquand engine. It was
not Rolls-Royce powered because Royce, having collapsed at work in 1902,
was yet to design a Rolls-Royce aero engine. This was a tail-less
wheel-less model aircraft really of 1909 specification. Rolls was
relieved Rolls-Royce Limited of some duties in January 1910 to pursue
Rolls completed the
first double crossing of the Channel - England/France/England on 2 June
1910 in total flying time 95 1/2 minutes and is pictured below.
A French built
moving tail plane was fitted 10 July 1910 to his Wright plane. On
12 July in a 20 - 25 mph wind he crashed when tail plane broke at the
Bournemouth International Aviation Meeting in celebration of the
town’s centenary. Rolls was the first Briton to die in an
aviation accident. At this time Rolls' exploits had built up such
a following in Great Britain that Lord Montague of Beaulieu interrupted
his speech in the House of Lords to announce the death. Rolls was
buried at St. Cadoc’s Church 16 July 1910. Rolls' grave is shown
in the following picture:
Fredrick Henry Royce 1863 to
In contrast to Rolls Royce,
pictured below, described himself simply as mechanic. came Sir
Henry was knighted in 1930 for his part in success in the Schneider
Trophy races with his R engine giving 2,300 HP at 3200rpm.
James Royce, Royce’s
father came from a family of millers and he married Mary King at Woodham
Ferrers, Essex, on 30 March 1852. She was a farmer's daughter and
the family lived at nearby Edwin's Hall. The family later moved to
Alwalton in Huntingdonshire where James Royce ran a steam and water
powered mill but was he was not noted for his reliability or application
and died in 1872 in a poorhouse. Royce’s early life was hard and
left lasting unpleasant memories ever since his birth the family was in
money troubles and before he was four years of age he was earning money
bird scaring near Alwalton. At 10 years old he was selling
newspapers at Clapham Junction in London. He spent a year at
school and when he was 14 was delivering telegrams in Mayfair, London.
In September 1877 an aunt living on the outskirts of Peterborough paid
£20 per year for him to be apprenticed at the local Great Northern
Railway works. At this time he lodged with a Mr. Yarrow from whom
he learned machining and fitting and became dexterous with all hand
tools. In his limited spare time he went to evening classes in
English and Mathematics and sold more newspapers.
After 3 years at
Peterborough the aunt was unable to provide further support but Royce
quickly found work with Greenwood and Batley in Leeds as a tool maker.
He earned 55 pence for a 54 hour week. Evening studies rendered
him knowledgeable with electricity and he obtained work with The
Electric Light and Power Co. in London. Evening classes again
helped his electrical knowledge and his work impressed Hiram Maxim whose
electric light bulb patents the company acquired. Just before
Royce's 21st birthday he was sent as first electrician to do theatre and
street lighting in Liverpool for which he had full technical
responsibility. The work was accepted by the Corporation in March
1884. There was more trouble for Royce when in May the company failed
but Royce had saved £20 and his friend, A. E. Claremont pictured below,
also with electrical training, had £50 and together they formed F. H.
Royce & Co. electrical engineers and traded from rented premises in
Cooke Street, Manchester.
The company produced
small electrical items such as electric bell sets powered by Leclanche
cells, bulb holders with bayonet fitting, switches, fuses, filaments,
probably complete bulbs, and electrical registering instruments.
Profits enabled complete installations, dynamos, motors with sparkless
commutators winches and cranes to be made and they earned a reputation
for quality and reliability. Royce was the technical partner and
Claremont dealt with the sales and business side. In 1893 the
partners married the Punt sisters. In 1894 F.H. Royce and Co.
became a limited company and by 1899 the share capital was increased to
£30,000 to allow extra works to be built at Trafford Park, Cooke
Street being too small, gantry cranes were built at Trafford Park
and one is still in use at the Derby works.
factory was that of W. T. Glover, a cable making firm, of which Henry
Edmunds, referred to above, was a director. Royce and Minnie
Grace, his wife, lived at Brae Cottage shown below, Knutsford a house
designed by the same architect, Waterhouse, as designed Manchester Town
Hall and many other public buildings.
As can be seen above
the term cottage was typical of Royce the mechanic’s understatement.
The property was electrically lit including the gardens because his work
interfered with his hobby!
It should be remembered
that in 1902 Royce collapsed through overwork and irregular meals.
The extra work of dealing with the erection of the Trafford Park works
and commercial competition from cheap imports had caused Royce to work
too hard and long.
Royce was persuaded to
buy a car, after spending some months in South Africa with his
wife’s relatives to recover. A French 10 HP two cylinder
Decauville was duly acquired. Royce was dissatisfied with its
quality and reliability and in 1903 obtained, somewhat reluctant, Board
permission to build in Cooke Street three cars of his own design.
Royce Ltd. now added Royce petrol motor cars to its list of products on
the firm’s headed notepaper. The new products were to compensate
for business lost as a result of German and American competition in the
electrical field. By September 1903 the twin cylinder 10 HP engine
ran for six hours. It was installed in a chassis somewhat similar
to the Decauville except that the engine and gearbox units were isolated
from chassis distortion, the engine had positively opened inlet valves,
a single lever quadrant change for the 3 speed gearbox, steel on bronze
bearings replaced steel on steel and a more efficient radiator was
fitted. On 1 April 1904 Royce drove the first model home for its
test without any troubles, largely reflecting his electrical skills.
Henry Edmunds borrowed the car to demonstrate his company’s Parsons
chains in the “Side Slip Trials” driving it on the first day some
145 miles at average 16.5 mph.
Rolls was to meet Royce
in May 1904. Rolls was, with his manager Claude Johnson, then selling
Minerva and Panhard cars, but wanted a good British car with at least 3
cylinders. Royce and Rolls were mutually impressed and Rolls
agreed to sell all the cars that Royce could make. By December
1904 Royce was to produce for the Paris Salon 2,3 and 4 cylinder cars
and a 6 cylinder engine. It took until February 1905 for a
complete 6 cylinder car to be at the Olympia Show.
For publicity purposes
Claude Johnson entered Rolls and Northey in two 20 HP cars for the 1905
Isle of Man T.T. Roll’s gearbox failed on first lap but Percy
Northey came second in the race. In 1906 CSR won the Isle of Man
T.T. at an average of 39 mph touching 70 mph on some stretches.
Also at that 1904 meeting the shape of the radiator top tank was
changed. The hot water from the top of the cylinders was fed to
the middle of the top tank and had to be spread across the top of the
radiator block to travel down it. As there would be a decreasing
amount of water to be accommodated as it moved towards the sides of the
radiator, it was logical progressively to reduce the cross section of
the tank. This maintained a constant water velocity and reduced
the amount of material used in the radiator's construction. Thus
technical correctness and fitness for purpose were the real reasons for
the world famous Grecian Radiator.
For similar logic and
mechanical perfection the 2 cylinder engine crankshaft had a centre
bearing. The 4 and 6 cylinder engines had groups of the original
twin cylinder block. The 4 cylinder crank form was the well
established two 180 degrees twins back to back balancing out primary
forces and couples. The 6 cylinder being probably three twins in a
row was very rough running and early attempts with a light flywheel at
the front showed Royce the principle of the Lanchester crankshaft
Royce did not
immediately make use of this discovery but solved the problem by using
two 3 cylinder cranks in mirror image form about the middle of the
engine. This principle was adopted for the 40/50 HP engine
producing 48 BHP from 7,036 cc at 1,200 rpm. This the
configuration of the engine in the Silver Ghost AX201 of 1907, pictured
The crankshaft was a
fully machined heat treated nickel-steel forging, drilled for full
pressure lubrication (about 10 lbs/psi) running in 7 bearings.
Grossly oversimplified, Royce’s obsession with smooth quiet operation
using first class materials to obtain long life, was exemplified in this
model that far surpassed its contemporaries. A dual ignition
system was employed a coil for starting and slow running, the magneto
being the main ignition, separate switches permitted this to be done.
Remember Royce was an electrical expert in his day. The gearbox
gave 4 forward speeds with ‘overdrive’ 4th (47 mph per 1,000 rpm).
The steering lock was very good and the car’s weight was taken on
fully enclosed oil retaining thrust ball races.
Rolls-Royce did not
produce coach work for their chassis at this time. In 1904 the 10
HP with a tonneau body cost £395. The entrance to the passenger
compartment was at rear like a dog cart. The Silver Ghost chassis
cost £895 in 1907.
In 1906 Rolls-Royce
Limited had been formed absorbing C.S.Rolls & Company that traded in
Conduit Street, London, selling cars and carriage and upholstery work.
An appeal for £200,000 capital was made successful at the last minute
by £10,000 from A. H. Briggs, pictured below, who joined the new
Rolls-Royce Limited Board.
Claude Johnson set up
the 15,000 mile trial in 1907 - “We will run our 40/50 Silver Ghost
for 15,000 miles and the RAC shall see to it that we do no tinkering by
the way”. There was just one involuntary stop of 36 seconds to
rectify a petrol tap that had shut off. Complete restoration of
the car after the test cost £2.14. The drivers were C. S. Rolls,
Claude Johnson, Eric Platford and Macready.
Demand for the 40/50 HP
was commercially fine but Cooke Street now with 200 employees was too
small. In 1907 Rolls-Royce in the Autocar of 6 April 1907
stated : “The location of the new Rolls-Royce works has now been
definitely settled. Rolls-Royce Limited has acquired a
considerable tract of land on the Osmaston Estate, Derby. It is
expected that building operations will shortly be commenced.”
The new works at Nightingale Road were officially opened on 9 July 1908.
Lord Montagu of
Beaulieu declared the factory open and switched on the electricity.
The opening is shown below:
This event was no doubt
arranged by Claude Johnson who thereby ensured that Rolls-Royce
achievements were fully reported in The Car Illustrated and, as an MP,
Lord Montagu would continue to support motoring interests as he
had the 1903 Motor Car Bill raising the speed limit to 20 mph. The
current Lord Montagu is a great motoring enthusiast too! His
father was successfully competing with Rolls in the 12 HP Panhard and in
a Daimler in the 1900 1,000 miles trial. Later, in 1908, Lord
Montagu took delivery of a Type 70 a 40/50 with overhead inlet instead
of side valves of which only about five were built. The “Silver
Rogue”, being one of these cars, was the winner of a huge trophy in
the 1908 International Trials. In keeping with the horse based
practice of naming of vehicles in those days the Lord’s Type 70 was
called “Dragonfly”. This is shown below:
Charles Sykes was the
principle illustrator for The Car Illustrated and rode with Lord Montagu
in “Dragonfly” during the 10th anniversary run of the 1,000 miles
trial. Sykes knew Claude Johnson by whom he was commissioned to
illustrate the Company’s 1910 Catalogue. One of these
illustrations is shown below:
Claude Johnson was
pleased with Sykes' work and in 1911 commissioned him to produce a
Rolls-Royce mascot. Some of those mascots in use at this time were
not deemed to reflect suitable taste for the Best Car In The World.
The Spirit of Ecstasy,
pictured above, represented speed with silence, absence of vibration and
the mysterious harnessing of great energy. "This spirit had
selected road travel as her supreme delight and had alighted on the prow
of a Rolls-Royce car to revel in the freshness of the air and the
musical sound of her fluttering draperies” said Claude Johnson.
Originally Sykes called
his sculpture “The Spirit of Speed”. Some historians suggest
that Eleanor Thornton, Lord Montagu’s secretary, was the model.
Eleanor Thornton is
This lady had
previously been secretary, while at the Automobile Club, to Claude
Johnson. She was a career girl in current parlance and a very
attractive lady. The mascot has changed in size over the years and
in the period 1932 to 1950 an option of a kneeling type mascot was
available and often used for Wraiths, the first Rolls-Royces with
independent front suspension, and Phantom IIIs.
In 1911 Royce, who had
been on holiday at Overstrand in Norfolk, was taken ill and was operated
upon in Norwich. To recuperate he went to France in August and
Claude Johnson, who had hired nurse Ethel Aubin to tend to Royce on a
temporary basis, met him. Having been given only a few months to
live Royce recovered well but was advised to remain in a warmer climate
and follow a more relaxed routine. Claude Johnson had a villa at
Le Canadel and nearby Royce built Villa Mimosa, the bureau for the
design office and Le Rossignal to house the designers on handy.
The idea was to winter
in Le Canadel and spend the summer at “Westwood” in Crowborough.
Royce had a recurrence of cancer of the bowel and in London a colostomy
operation. He and Nurse Aubin returned to Le Canadel but Minnie,
Royce’s wife and her niece, Violet, his adopted daughter, could not
get along with Ethel Aubin and stayed at “Westwood” until 1921.
Nurse Aubin stayed with Royce until the end of his life in 1933 at
Elmstead, West Wittering, pictured below:
From 1911 Royce did not
"interfere" by visiting the works, his abrupt dismissal
of staff for less than perfection and continual detail improvement to
the vehicles design hindered production. Royce now had a team that
produced design schemes only, with detailing done at Derby under the
direction of R. W. Harvey Bailey (By), pictured below, who was also well
versed in materials’ properties.
The three speed London
Edinburgh type 40/50 HP had failed to climb an Alpine Pass in 1912 due
to the high gearing employed in the car and the 1 in 3 incline
encountered. The “Best Car In the World” could not be
permitted to fail in a test others passed. Rolls-Royce prestige
could not allow this. Therefore in 1913, the year of the 1,650
mile and 19 Pass Alpine Rally, and James Radley was again driving
the car and in 1913 this time with a four speed box, larger fuel
capacity, improved cooling and various additions to permit starting
without opening the bonnet, thereby breaking the seals. Eric
Platford was team manager and No. 2 driver was Ernest Hives who was
Rolls-Royce No. 1 experimental driver.
Radley was a private entrant but he was involved as part of the team.
Radley’s chassis No. 2260E is believed to survive. Side valve
engines, if they were to remain smooth could not be much further
developed, and transmission brakes were out, being replaced by
concentric dual brakes on the rear wheels, torque tube back axle and
better springs as well as the 4 speed box were improvements effected as
a result of Rolls-Royce last formal entry in car racing.
Towards the end of its
production the 40/50 HP series had servo operated four wheel brakes,
electric lighting and starting and by 1925 a more efficient overhead
valve engine was used in the New Phantom. The Silver Ghost,
pictured below, had run its course and set the standard for 19 years.
From 1906 to 1959 a six
cylinder engine became the norm for Rolls-Royce except for a short time
in the late thirties for the PIII and its V12 configuration. In
1959 a V8 was introduced with the Cloud II. In normal Rolls-Royce
practice this V8 engine has already been improved over 40 years.