The Protector Lamp Company’s car

A few months ago I was lucky enough to be given scans of some images that belonged to the Protector Lamp and Lighting Company of Eccles. Formed in 1873, the firm was known mainly for producing safety lamps used by miners. As well as several other products, they also tried producing a few motor vehicles from 1899-1906.

Bijou cars at the annual Manchester motor show
Two Bijou cars at the annual Manchester motor show

The image above shows two “Bijou” cars, probably at a Manchester Motor Show between 1902 and 1905. At 95 guineas the “bijou” car was an attempt at a light car that was more affordable than some of its rivals. The company also tried to target the commercial vehicle market with a van body built on the same chassis for 100 guineas. A picture of one can be seen below belonging to Manchester firm Messrs. Dawson, Halliweh and Co., makers of “Excelda” handkerchiefs.

Bijou delivery van advertising Excelda Handkerchiefs
Bijou delivery van advertising Excelda Handkerchiefs

In March 1902 The Autocar reported that: “The Town Council of Eccles has proved its wisdom and up-to-dateness by ordering a motor fire engine.”

Below are some images of this engine, built on the “bijou” chassis, this is thought to be one of the earliest examples of a motorised fire engine. Notice in the image the horse drawn fire-cart behind the engine, it would be interesting to know which was actually faster to the scene in an emergency.

Fire engine made by the Protector Lamp Company for the Eccles Fire Brigade in 1902
Fire engine made by the Protector Lamp Company for the Eccles Fire Brigade in 1902
Eccles firemen at action stations on their new engine
Eccles firemen at action stations on their new engine

Although it appears strange to go from lamps to cars, it was relatively common at the start of the 20th century for engineering firms to start motor manufacture. Local companies that did something similar include Horsfall and Bickham, textile machinery makers, who produced cars for several years;  Turner, Atherton and Co., known for their fur processing machinery in Denton also manufactured a steam waggon; and most famously Royce and Co., known for its cranes, went on to be very successful car manufacturers.

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