"Love Conquers All" the motto of the Ashworth Family

Crests, Cars, Carriages and Class

Manchester coachbuilder Joseph Cockshoot and Co. built horse-drawn carriages for the rich residents of Lancashire and Cheshire. A book of heraldry survives in the company’s archive collection at the Museum of Science and Industry. It provides a record of the crests that were emblazoned on the sides of vehicles.

Cockshoot employed a man to paint family crests on the vehicles both when they were new, and when they had started to peel off or fade. It seems that carriages were brought in fairly frequently to be repainted. For example G. S. Ball had his crest painted in 1889, 1890, 1893 and 1895. The picture below is a sketch of the Ball family crest. Unsurprisingly it features a ball; in a mailed fist, coming out of a crown.

The Crest of the Ball family used on several carriages and motor cars
The Crest of the Ball family used on several carriages and motor cars

When Cockshoot’s clientele started buying motor cars in the 1900s the practice of painting crests continued and there are several examples of previous carriage customers, purchasing motor car bodies from the firm, Mr Ball being a good example of this. He also bought motor cars in 1905 and 1906.

Many crests also came with a motto, often in Latin, but sometimes in English. My favourite example of this is the crest of John Carlisle pictured below. It shows another mailed arm, this time holding a spear threateningly, with “HUMILIATE” underneath. One can almost imagine him overtaking a carriage, or another motorcar and billowing dust in his wake; the boy racer of his day.

"HUMILIATE" the chosen motto for Mr John Carlisle
“HUMILIATE” the chosen motto for Mr John Carlisle

There are many other crests, several included animals such as one on below of a fox, with the much nicer motto which translates to “love conquers all”. This belonged to the Ashworth’s of Alderley Edge, one of Cockshoot’s best and most frequent customers.

“Love Conquers All” the motto of the Ashworth Family

While one might imagine that crest painting on automobiles was short lived, Cockshoot continued to employ a crest-painter up until the start of the Second World War. Whilst motoring had become cheaper and more accessible to those who didn’t have family crests, i.e. the middle-classes, there was still a market amongst the upper-classes for these images of status.

 

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The Weekend Exodus

The Manchester Guardian published a weekly “Cycling Notes” column for 11 years from 1893-1904. It is a remarkable source for both cycling and motoring in Victorian Manchester; a record of experiences, events and opinion. So interesting and informative are these columns that there could be endless blog posts that jump from its pages. Indeed this particular entry, which is the focus of this blog, was picked at random while attempting to uncover the name so far anonymous journalist who wrote the  “Cycling Notes” column.

The date of the entry is 11 May 1896 and the journalist is reporting his observations after conducting research into the weekend exodus of cyclists from Manchester’s suburbs into the Cheshire countryside. The observations were for 1 hour (2.45pm-3.45pm) at Sale on the Chester Road, and simultaneously at Didsbury on Wilmslow Road. For those not familiar with these locations, I have marked the observation points of the map below.

1948 OS map of Manchester, over 50 after the observations were made, but still a demonstration of the main roads out of Manchester
1948 OS map of Manchester, over 50 after the observations were made, but still a good demonstration of the main roads out of Manchester and the suburban areas cyclists were coming from.

In the hour 1567 riders made up the exodus of cyclists observed leaving or reentering Manchester. Chester Road was the most popular route, with almost double to number of riders observed on Wilmslow Road. The recorders did well to keep up. On Chester Road cyclists were passing at a rate of 17 a minute.

There are several points of interest in this basic study that provide an insight into late Victorian cycling. The first, and most obvious, is the popularity of the pursuit. One wonders what the numbers would be like if the same observations were made today, say at an hour on Sunday morning.  Secondly it is clear that cycling was dominated by male riders, with women making up just 5% of the cycling population. Thirdly, although Manchester had nearly 50 cycling clubs in 1896, only a fifth of the riders were on club runs, with independent cycling clearly more popular. Finally, there were a large number of outward journeys at this seemingly late hour. Nowadays we are used to seeing cyclists leave in the morning on a weekend run. However, in late Victorian Britain it was normal to work on Saturday mornings.

  Chester Road Wilmslow Road Total
Total Riders 1015 552 1567
Women 44 36 80
Club members 157 186 343
Townward bound 38 59 97
Outward bound 1015 498 1513

 

The analysis was more thorough on Chester Road, as the observer noted the social grouping of riders (again you wonder how he managed to keep up!).  The following table shows that the most common grouping was a pair of men, with only a small proportion riding on their own. Notice also that there were only 3 all-female pairs, with many being accompanied by men, or riding in larger family groups. The observer further noted that:

“The ladies, as a class, were, as usual, distinguished from the rest of the crowd by a better general standard of style, both as regards pose and neatness of action.”

 

  Chester Road
Men  
Riding alone 190
Riding in pairs 292
Riding in groups of three 90
Riding in groups of four 68
Larger gatherings or clubs 296
   
Women  
Riding with male companion 10
Riding with female companion 3
Riding with clubs or mixed groups 15

 

This fascinating snapshot of Victorian cycling shows just how popular the weekend cycling exodus was, and how popular Cheshire was as a cycling destination. The Manchester male middle-classes invaded the rural environment, well before the intrusion of the motor car. The numbers flooding down Chester Road can perhaps explain why the columnist remarked that “nowhere in Cheshire are the police and magistrates more hostile to cyclists than in Altrincham [On Chester Road!].”

Cheshire Car Ownership and Local Manufacturing

 

The Motor Car Act of 1903 first introduced registrations for motor vehicles. The vehicles were registered with the local County Council and registration books were kept with details such as the model of vehicle, the address, the name of the owner and the type of use, i.e. trade, private or public (taxi). The registration documents have been lost for Manchester and Liverpool, yet Cheshire County Council’s records survive and are a valuable source for early automobile history in the region.

These records can help us explore the localised market  for motor vehicles, especially in the formative period of motor manufacture when there were several smaller makers. The map below compares two North-Western manufacturers. Robinson-Price, who produced motorcycles in Liverpool; and the Eagle Motor and Engineering Company, who produced a variety of motorised vehicles in Altrincham. The map is based on ownership patterns identified in the Cheshire registrations from December 1903-1907. Robinson and Price are in Blue and Eagle in Red.

cheshire-car-ownership-map-eagle-and-rp
Red markers indicate Eagle registrations and blue markers indicate Robinson and Price registrations.

The map shows the concentration of Eagle owners in North-East Cheshire, predictably centred around Altrincham, the home of the manufacturer; and the concentration of Robinson Price owners on the Wirral, with a lower concentration and mixture in middle and south Cheshire. This shows that these manufactures were catering to the local market. A concept at odds with the globalised motor car market of later years.

The later records for 1908-1911 show that Belsize, a Manchester based manufacturer, was the largest represented in the Cheshire registrations which suggests a certain local bias. Looking closely at the registrations, several of the owners also Belsize shareholders and prominent Mancunian businessmen; and like the Eagle registrations, there is a concentration in East Cheshire, with considerably fewer on the Wirral and in West-Cheshire. Also notable are the number of Belsize vehicles registered for public, taxiing purposes, 16 in total, used by firms in Northwich, Knutsford, Hale and West Kirby. This tallies with the firms popularity as taxis during this period, documented in the Commercial Motor.

This blog acknowledges the work of Craig Horner, who is currently transcribing the records of Cheshire registrations held at the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies in Chester. This work is due for publication in the future.

While many councils might not have surviving  registration records, Bury registration details can be found at Bury Archives. There is also published work on Wiltshire’s registrations: Hicks I., Early Motor Registrations in Wiltshire 1903-1914.

A Cheshire Motorist’s Story

In the course of researching motoring periodicals there is the inevitable motorist’s bias. Despite this, journals such as the Motor Car Journal, The Autocar and The Automotor, provide evidence of motoring prosecutions, as well as experiences motorists faced against opposition from the law or the general public.

A poem by an author initialled C. G. C. highlights police resistance in the popular motoring county of Cheshire in The Motorcar Jornal 14 December 1901

A Cheshire Motorists’ Story

We that live here in Cheshire,

Have been severely tried

By magistrates’ high pressure,

And by police belied.

 

It matters not if riding

On bicycle or car,

You would see bobby hiding

Before you had gone far.

 

Last week they had a stopper

Beside that new stop watch;

That clever sergeant copper

Had got about his match

 

The terrible te-ragedy

Was quickly turned to mirth

When Sergeant B—–, the bobby,

Was quizzed by Staplee Firth.

The motorist notes the pressure from local magistrates and police posting men on popular routes. Interesting is the combined bicycle or car, both viewed by the law as disruptive, dangerous unwelcome. The last stanza features Staplee Firth, solicitor for the Automobile Club of Great Britain, who is often noted as defending motorists from such prosecution. Similarly W. E. Rowcliffe, chairman of the Manchester Automobile Club, a solicitor and motorist defended this fellow motorist R. Williamson in Altrincham in 1901.

It seems Altrincham was a particularly hostile place for both cyclist and motorists and there is evidence of much friction with the police. The cycling notes columnist for the Manchester Guardian remarked that “nowhere in Cheshire are the police and magistrates more hostile to cyclists than in Altrincham.”  This seems to be the case  for motorists as well. Several prosecutions for “furious driving” reported in the Motor Car Journal. However, other parts of Cheshire were also noted as hostile to cycling and motoring:

“There appears to be an anti-cycling movement in the neighbourhood of Styal. This region is for magisterial purposes a part of Wilmslow, the main road through which has been all the summer the scene of numerous prosecutions, both just and unjust, on charges of furious riding”. (Manchester Guardian 22 November 1897)

The cycling journalist believed that the coming of the motorcar may give cyclists immunity from prosecution as the police gained a better perspective of pace. It is another interesting instance of the cycling movement’s relationship with early motoring and brings to mind the proverb: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

However it wasn’t just the police in the Cheshire countryside but local residents that cyclist and motorists had to be wary of. The following is an account of a trip by Leopold Canning from the Century Engineering Company of Altrincham to the Macclesfield reported in The Motor Car 20 December 1901:

“We were coming up to a farmhouse where a knot of men stood with some horses and carts by the side of the road. They were all big, hulking ruffians, and as we approached them a burly fellow stepped on to the road and picked up a big stone. This he hurled at us with all his might as we went by, but thanks to our forty miles an hour it just missed us. If it had struck either the machine or ourselves it would have done considerable damage, and had there not been so many of them we should have stopped for a little talk with them, but six were too many for us two to handle. In France I always carry a revolver with me, and there I would probably have fired at the man for his pains.”

The Cheshire country was, and still is, a popular touring destination for cyclists and motorists. However, it must be remembered that it wasn’t always the case. This incursion into rural life was a relatively new phenomenon at the end of the 19th century. It would be nice to get the perspective of the working classes and rural residents, however sources are non-existent so we must rely on the stories of the cyclist and motorists who came from Manchester and Cheshire’s middle classes.

The Liverpool Self-Propelled Traffic Association

This blog is the first in a series on the North-West’s early motoring clubs.

The Liverpool Self-Propelled Traffic Association (LSPTA) was the first motoring club in the North-West. The club began as a branch of the London-based Self-Propelled Traffic Association, instrumental in lobbying for legislation change that allowed self-propelled vehicles to be used on the roads. The Liverpool branch formed at the end of 1896, three years before any other Northern Club.

So why Liverpool?

In the last few decades of the 19th century tension was running high between Liverpool and Manchester, the two big commercial centres of Lancashire. The main cause of tensions surrounded the Manchester Ship Canal, newly opened in 1894, after over a decade of campaigning, financing and construction. The crux of the tension was the haulage economy in Lancashire which was monopolised by the railway companies and now the Manchester Ship Canal. The repeal of the “Red Flag” Act therefore offered an opportunity for businessmen in the north to take back control, or at least offer competition with the railways and the Ship Canal. This perceived opportunity sparked the formation of the LSPTA.

lspta-trials-1898
Judges and observers in the Daimler on the left, and competitor number 5 in the 1898 Heavy Traffic Trials organised by the LSPTA, picture comes from the Report published after the trial.

The first dinner of the LSPTA set the tone. The first speech was by the vice-president  Alfred L. Jones, managing director of Elder, Dempster and Co., merchant shippers, who is reported to say:

“He (the speaker) had attached himself to the society for the sole purpose of obtaining improved means of getting cargo to and from Liverpool and adjacent places.” The Automotor and Horseless-Vehicle Journal Nov 1896. p.43

A similar belief was held by many of Liverpool’s businessmen and engineers who made up the membership of the club in the early years. The LSPTA therefore had links with the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and the Liverpool Corporation, who used the Association as specialist consultants on the “Light Railways Special Committee”, which sort to deal with

“The question of improved means of transport between the Port of Liverpool and inland town, also of haulage between the docks and warehouses of the city” Judges Report of the Trials of Motor Vehicles for Heavy Traffic Liverpool 1898

Initially this wide variety of commercial and engineering interest in the commercial vehicles wasn’t shared by many in Manchester. Indeed there is evidence of a reaction against the LSPTA. Feeling in Manchester can best be gauged by the response to Elder, Dempster and Co.’s offer of a tender for vehicles that could haulage at least 1,000 tons a week from Liverpool to Manchester, which was supported by the LSPTA and reported well in both national motoring trade journals: The Automotor and Horseless-Vehicle Journal and The Autocar. The Manchester Guardian (15/2/1897) reported the move “Those prominently connected with the so called self-propelled traffic movement in Liverpool have made no attempt to conceal their real object, viz. Prevent the diversion of shipping to the Manchester Port.”  This was followed by reported laugher a day later at a dinner of the Manchester Association of Engineers when the topic was mentioned. Still, the Manchester Ship Canal Company felt threatened enough to charge motorists 2s 6d as toll to cross their bridges in response.

lspta-1898-certificate

The LSTPA were foremost in the UK for encouraging commercial vehicle development and usage, organising the world’s first trial event for heavy vehicles in 1898 and then subsequently in 1899 and 1901. These trials were not just of local interest, they were reported nationally, with international observers and entrees. The above certificate was given to the winners of the 1898 competition: the Lancashire Steam Motor Company.

Although heavily focused on promoting commercial vehicles the club also had time for motoring excursions. The Motor-car Journal occasionally reported details of the trips. One such trip, the second of the 1900 season, which included luncheon at the Leasowe Castle Hotel and a trip for tea at Hooton Park, after watching a polo match.

Although membership never grew large (about 105 members in 1901), the Association was significant locally in challenging the large railway and canal companies; and nationally, in promoting heavy traffic vehicles at the well organised trials. The significance of early regional motoring clubs is an area of research that automobile historians have neglected often due to their perceived insignificance. Nicholson (1982) for example argues that the LSPTA was of “little relevance to the mainstream motoring scene”. However it is evident that the early clubs were not just for pleasure motorists but were entangled with business interests and motoring campaigners that  had an impact on the direction of motor manufacture.

Rolls-Royce and its Manchester Legacy

Rolls-Royce is Manchester’s most famous motor manufacturer. Although situated in Derby from around 1907, the first Royce cars were built in Hulme, in the firm’s Cooke Street works, where their reputation was established. The meeting between Charles Rolls and Fredrick Royce took place in the newly built Midland Hotel in 1903. Although brief, 5 0r so years of manufacture in Manchester certainly left its mark.

Hulme has changed beyond recognition since the Rolls-Royce factory was there, with two major redevelopments in the 1970s and 1990s. Despite this, there is still evidence of the association of Rolls-Royce. Roads are named after the pair: Rolls Cresent and Royce Road, and a local primary school is also named after Rolls. There is also a commemorative sculptural plaque pictured below. It is displayed in the forecourt of the Midland Hotel and celebrates the Manchester beginnings of the firm. Finally, one of the first Rolls-Royce cars made is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry.

rolls-royce-sculpture-and-plaque

Although fairly modest these physical remembrances are coupled with a wealth of research on the firm that is unrivalled, a testament to the great enthusiasm for the firm’s history among many motoring historians. There are dedicated publications such as The Roycean, “annual journal for those with a serious interest in all aspects of the illustrious Rolls-Royce car company”; The Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust Historical Series, a collection of numerous works on the firm; the Rolls-Royce Motor Journal Series. Rolls-Royce also have a very extensive collection of associated archive material, both at the Rolls-Royce Heritage trust and the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club. There are also dedicated publications to Rolls-Royce’s time in Manchester, foremost of which is M. Evans, In the Beginning – the Manchester origins of Rolls-Royce, and a number of detailed publications by Tom Clarke, editor of The Roycean.

It is easy to get swept up in the myriad of publications on Rolls-Royce, however in terms of Rolls-Royce’s time, and its size in Manchester, the firm’s significance is relatively small, perhaps even over emphasized due to the influence of the wealth of material relating to the firm. So far I have discovered around 140 manufacturers of motor vehicles in Manchester, most of which have only a few sources, no surviving vehicles and no published research.

albert
Albert Jones, advert in The Cycle and Motor Trades Directory, 1906

A typical example include, Albert Jones (see advertisement above) situated in nearby Moss Side, “Maker of the World-renowned “Albert” motor bicycles.” A hyperbolic claim, yet this advert is the only significant source I have so far discovered for this small manufacturer.

The story of why Rolls-Royce became one of Britain’s most successful firms is well documented, I am more interested therefore, in the motivations and experiences of the myriad of hidden, numerous, and less successful contemporaries. Despite this it is important to note the continued presence of Rolls-Royce to the place where it began.

Manchester’s early commercial vehicles

Research has shown that the North-West had a relatively high number of steam wagon manufacturers compared to other areas of the country (see the pie chart below). It is likely that this is due to the high levels of goods movement in the North-West, which subsequently led to a business interest in the commercial application of the “horseless carriage”.

68 firms have been identified using various sources, 18 in the North West.
63 firms have been identified using various sources, 18 in the North-West.

 

Several motorised haulage companies were setup before World War One, using either steam or petrol power. The first to purchase a vehicle were the established haulage firm Sutton and Co. who bought a Daimler motor wagon in 1897 which according to The Autocar “set the population agog.” While not the first motorised vehicle on the streets of Manchester it was certainly the first to be put to the purpose of goods haulage. Several companies followed suit with many firms being established, or adapting to motor vehicles some with particularly grand names such as the “Vulcan Haulage Company” who were employed by the Manchester Gas Department to carry oil.

Several motor accidents and prosecutions relating to these companies are reported in local newspapers. For example in March 1907 the Manchester Guardian reported:

 “Yesterday afternoon Albert William, of Jennison-street, Manchester, an employee of the Manchester Motor Transport Company, met with a terrible death. He was travelling from the Silver Springs Dyeing Works, near Congleton, with a load of cloth weighing eight tons. The game overturned the load, and Williamson, who was walking at the side of the wagon, was pinned underneath.”

So threatened by prosecution were these early firms that the manager of the General Motor Carrying Company, John Miller, formed a local motor wagon users defence association. The Manchester Guardian, February 1907 reported:

“In view of the recent prosecutions by the police in various districts for offences against the regulations relating to the use and construction of motor wagons for commercial purposes, and also in view of further projected legislation with regard thereto, it is felt that the time has arrived when all who are interested in this class of vehicles should combine for mutual protection.”

One of the requirements that Miller was fighting against was the need to have a person controlling brakes on trailers, for which he had been prosecuted twice.

It wasn’t just haulage firms, but breweries, textile manufacturers and railway companies who were purchasing motorised vehicles. This lucrative market attracted commercial vehicle manufacturers to the area, with several setting up agencies on Deansgate, an excellent location near the Central Station warehouses. The picture below shows a Ryknield vehicle ordered by the Economic Motor Express Company. However, haulage firms were also using locally produced vehicles including Leyland, Coulthards and Hercules of Levenshulme.

A Ryknield 5 ton vehicle ordered by the Economic Motor Express Company - Source The Commercial Motor 22/6/1909
A Ryknield 5 ton vehicle ordered by the Economic Motor Express Company. Source: The Commercial Motor 22/6/1909

It has been found that Manchester, and the North-West had a particularly high level of interest in commercial vehicles. However, more research is needed into the numbers, uses and rival firms in this very competitive area of the local motor industry in order for more conclusions to be drawn. It would be useful, for example to know more about horse drawn haulage in Manchester; when did motor haulage overtake horse-drawn vehicles. Further investigation also needs to consider fire-engines, ambulances and buses and the attitude of local government.

From Steam Trains to Motor Cars

Held at the Museum of Science History Archive are the director’s minute books for Beyer, Peacock and Co. prominent steam locomotive manufacturers based in Manchester. The minute books record board meetings that usually happened once a month; they include details of company finance, personnel and business decisions. The book entries from 1903-1906 are particularly interesting because they show the firm seriously considering the manufacture of motor cars a part of the firms history that is little known.

The first indication is an entry from April 1903. The company had been approached by Harry Livesey a consulting engineer who was the son of a former Beyer, Peacock employee James Livesey.  He proposed to erect an experimental motorcar of his design with some of the parts already made. Livesey offered the expertise, while seeking the finance and means of production that a big firm like Beyer, Peacock could offer.

At the same time the company was being approached by a number of other interested parties. There was an enquiry as to whether the Company would be disposed to give a quote and manufacture motor omnibuses. In response a member of staff was sent to procure drawings and estimate the cost for the company to manufacture. Similarly a member of staff was sent to Paris to investigate the motor exhibition of that year.

These matters were then discussed by the board in the summer of 1903, including the cost of buildings and machinery for manufacturing motorcar engines and chassis. However the board voted to defer a decision. Later in the summer of 1903 a draft agreement with Mr Livesey was drawn up under the authority of the current General Manager George Pilkington Dawson.

The next relevant discussion to appear in the minute book was an approach by Frank Gardiner, of the firm Gardiners and Sons, engine manufacturers. Gardiner was looking to sell the Company the patents for Gardiner-Serpollet motorcars, a venture that requires further research. Negotiations with Gardiner-Serpollet continued into 1904. Then in January 1904 the Manchester Corporation Electricity Department enquired as to the construction of steam motor wagons.

It is possible that Mr Dawson was influential in the serious consideration of motor manufacture during this period. Dawson was certainly interested in motoring, being a member of the Manchester Automobile Club at least as early as July 1902. He was also on the board of local motor firm the Belsize Motor Company from 1903.

Further evidence of Dawson’s influence can been seen in the 1904 entries. The schemes proposed by Livesey and Gardiner-Serpollet were disregarded in April and May 1904 just after Dawson had left the firm. Although the firm would: “examine proposals for manufacturing chassis complete if the money necessary for the business be found by third parties.”

Image from The Commercial Motor 1/2/1905 – This is probably one of the six 1905 lorries produced by the firm. This one was hired by local contractor E. W. Rigby.
Image from The Commercial Motor 1/2/1905 – This is probably one of the six 1905 lorries produced by the firm. This one was hired by local contractor E. W. Rigby.

Motor manufacture at Beyer, Peacock took a different course in 1904 and drawings for steam lorries were completed by the firm. The board authorised the construction of six lorries at an estimated cost of £600 each. The vehicles were named “Gorton” lorries after the location of the Company works and they were exhibited at the motor vehicle exhibition in Liverpool in 1905 and London in 1906. The last entry in the minute books in 1906 shows authorisation for the construction of 6 more lorries. This probably marks the end of the Companies dealings in the motor industry.

Although 12 vehicles are seemingly insignificant, the high level of motor related records in the minute’s book  during the period 1903-1906 is striking. This period is also the time both locally and nationally when there were peak numbers of firms producing and experimenting in motor manufacture. It is possible that there was so much interest in a partnership due of the considerable resources of Beyer, Peacock and Co. during this period. The Edwardian period also marks a point in time when local interest in motorised goods haulage was increasing. The Commercial Motor noted the increasing demand from Lancashire mill owners for vehicles.

The Beyer, Peacock and Co. director’s minutes books are available for viewing by appointment at the Museum of Science and Industry Archives, they form part of the Beyer, Peacock and Co. company archives held at the museum.

Manchester’s Suburban Cycle Makers

It has become increasingly apparent that researching the early motor industry also involves an exploration of the cycle industry and its customers. A few blogposts ago I did a brief analysis of the Manchester and Salford cycle industry. However, this blog looks outwards at Manchester’s suburban cycle makers, exploring the links between them and the early motor industry. The suburban areas are the surrounding towns that make up what is now Greater Manchester, such as Stockport, Altrincham and Eccles.

Manchester’s suburban trade directories show some interesting trends in cycle making in the suburbs. Firstly, as can probably be expected, in more residential areas around Manchester there were fewer cycle makers. In 1899 there were roughly 160 cycle makers (some of these agencies) within a 2 mile radius of the city centre. Outside of this radius there were only 25 cycle makers.

Significantly amongst these 25, 17 were situated in towns south of Manchester, in the richer suburbs. Affluent middle-class towns such as Altrincham had as many as 4 cycle makers, while Wilmslow, Sale and Heaton Moor had two each; whereas working-class towns such as Stockport had none. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. Cycling in Victorian Britain was a rich persons past-time, bicycles being outside the price range of the working-class, who would have had to spend several months worth of wages to be able to afford one. Towns such as Altrincham, Sale and Wilmslow were also situated next to the Cheshire countryside, very popular with cyclists, both then and now.

A few of these suburban cycle makers also turned to motor manufacture. Was this  an attempt to cater for the changing hobbies of their local punters who were switching from cycling to motoring? James Bowen cycle maker of Heaton Moor was one. The other was Ralph Jackson, the maker of “Ralpho” Cycles in Altrincham, one of the earliest of Manchester’s cycle makers to experiment with motor vehicle production. Prehaps Jackson was looking to get ahead of this 3 local rivals. Jackson formed Century Engineering and Motor Company in 1899, producing the first finished vehicle, the Century Tandem by November 1899 where it appeared for the first time at the Stanley Cycle Show.

Century Tandem, 1900, this model took part in the 1,000 mile trial.
Century Tandem, 1900, this model took part in the 1,000 mile trial.

The tandem had some interesting features, and clearly showed Jackson’s 15 years experience in the cycle industry. Notice in the image the cycle tubing, the driver’s sprung saddle, the cycle wheels and the cycle gearing. Novel though, was the well-sprung and rather conformable looking front passenger seat, the petrol tank housed under the passengers head! Steering was done by a lever, which was presumably moved backwards and forwards to turn either left or right. Braking was especially crude on the Century Tandem; the rear mudguard was pushed by the driver’s heel, onto the tyre to bring the vehicle to a stop. The engine and carburettor were of French make and the chain transmission was made by world renowned, Manchester chain manufacturer Hans Renold, who were quick to produce specialised motor vehicle chains. Buying in specialist parts was common during this early period of experimental construction.

The Century Tandem had a significant lifetime. One was entered in the 1,000 mile trial of 1900, with only a few other British manufacturers. It completed the course and surely led to a number of orders. Some of the subsequent customers would write to The Autocar and tell of their experiences. One customer, Leopold Canning (later the 4th Baron of Garvagh), liked the Century so much that he ordered three of them, calling two the “Scarlet” and “Chocolate” Century. Canning describes a tour he took from the works in Altrincham, through Wilmslow and Alderley Edge and up the “Wizard” Hill, before touring up to the Cat and Fiddle outside Macclesfield, stopping for a drink and “free-wheeling” home.

Leopold Canning getting ready for a long distance run from Aberdeen to London on one of his Centurys.
Leopold Canning getting ready for a long distance run from Aberdeen to London on one of his Centurys in 1901. Notice the luggage and spare tyres strapped to the passenger seat.

It is likely that the number of orders after the 1,000 mile trial, reported as £12,000 worth, led Jackson and his partner Sydney Begbie (an ex-cycle works manager) to move production down to Willesden Junction, London, much nearer to the company’s newly opened show rooms in Holborne Viaduct, a road on which many motor traders had their offices. At some point during 1900-1901 Ralph Jackson fell out with his partner, he left the business and returning to his home town of Altrincham to set up the Eagle Motor and Engineering Company and made a similar tandem which he continued to sell, from Altrincham for several years. One wonders why the firm moved to London. Did they want to be nearer the large South Eastern customer base? Was being stationed near a major railway line a significant economic advantage? Had they outgrown Altrincham?

Sources for this blog include:

Slater’s Manchester and Salford Suburban Trade Directory 1899 and The Autocar held at the Central Library.

J. Wyatt, “The Eagle Motor and Engineering Co. Ltd.” In Old Motor and Vintage Commercial, Sept 1963 and A. D. George, “The Rise and Fall of the Manchester Motor Industry”, in d. Brumhead and T. Wyke, Moving Manchester, 2004.

Soap Advertising on a Motorcar

For us the car is ubiquitous. Cars are parked on every street and millions of journeys are made by motorists every day. It is hard therefore, to imagine the time in Victorian Britain when motorcars were new, rare and didn’t even have an established name; they were called anything, from horseless-carriage and self-propelled vehicle, to autocar or automobile. To experience one of these vehicles first hand in the 19th century was a novelty and a spectacle. Capitalising on this were advertisers, well used to taking advantage of new forms.

One of the earliest cars in Manchester, with Mother Shipton in the passenger seat.
One of the earliest motorcars in Manchester, with Mother Shipton in the passenger seat.

Probably the first motorcar in Manchester was the one photographed above. It captures a 1895 or 1896 Lutzmann-Benz imported from the continent by Charles Goodwin, a local soap manufacturer. The rather scary costumed figure in the passenger seat is dressed as Mother Shipton, a popular English folklore figure, who would hand out soap to passers-by.

Advertising in Manchester on vehicles was not new, there are several earlier images of horse-drawn trams advertising things like tobacco, cocoa, Bovril and soap. Adverts could also be placed on horse-drawn carriages allowing the advertiser to move the advert in order to increase exposure. Several other central businesses followed Goodwin and it was reported in the trade periodical The Automotor and Horseless-Vehicle that:

 “The motor-car is making headway. There have been several in the Manchester streets lately, chiefly for advertising purposes.”

With advertising by motorcar prevalent in the city centre it is not surprising that the first recorded motoring offense in Manchester was committed by a vehicle advertising a pantomime to passers-by on Bridge St. and Deansgate.

It wasn’t just residents and visitors of the city centre that were exposed to motorcars. Residents of Didbury, Salford, Hulme and Strangeways during 1897-1898 would also be used to seeing local engineers driving and experimenting on different forms of motor vehicles.

As well as advertising in the city centre, the novelty and spectacle of the motor car was exploited at the North-West’s holiday resorts. The Blackpool Motor Car Company was formed in July 1897; they bought 5 Daimler Motor Wagons with the aim of “running a service of autocars for pleasure trips in Blackpool and district.” This was probably the first example of a company running a public service using motor vehicles. Other companies were set up with a similar aim, including the Llandudno Motor Car Company and the Motor Touring Company of Southport. A ride from Blackpool to St. Anne was reported to cost 3 shillings, I wonder how much a donkey ride on the beach compared?

A ride on a motorcar whilst holidaying might have introduced the more well-to-do residents of the North-West to the pleasures of motoring, perhaps even inspired a few to consider purchasing a motor of their own. Despite this the Blackpool Motor Car Company also received bad press. On August 1897, whilst 4 gentlemen and 2 gentlewomen from Burnley were passengers, the driver was convicted of driving furiously, at 16mph, over the 12mph speed limit. Evidence for the prosecution was given by two cyclists who were chased down the street by the motorcar.

These ventures didn’t last long very long. The Blackpool Motor Car Company was liquidated as early as 1899. Perhaps 3 shillings a ride was too much for the poorer holiday makers, perhaps the novelty wore off, or the upkeep costs were too high.

What’s important at this embryonic phase for motoring is the way in which businesses in the North West were looking to exploit the various uses of the motorcar so early. These less obvious uses, of advertising and offering pleasure rides, are less explored by motoring historians than private motoring.

The image of Goodwin’s Lutzmann-Benz comes from the archive at the Museum of Science and Industry. Other sources for this blog include the Manchester Guardian, The Automotor and Horseless-Vehicle Journal and various images from the Manchester Image Collection.