Charles Stewart 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
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 alcohol.
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 shown below.
Above, Claude Johnson.
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 distributed.
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:
Henry Royce 1863 to 1933.
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.
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,
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.
Opposite Royce’s 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.
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 torsional damper.
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 later.
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.
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.
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 shown above.
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:
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.
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.
James 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.
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
Recent Specification Changes on Rolls-Royce Cars
Introduced in 1981 to replace the Silver Shadow. The car featured
fully automatic airconditioning from the outset.
In 1987 fuel injection
and anti-lock brakes were fitted to the cars.
1990 models had styling changes,
a revised dashboard, alloy wheels and active damping fitted. The cars became known
as Silver Spirit IIs.
In 1994 engine revisions were made and the car featured
a four speed automatic and 20% more power. Twin airbags were the norm and the
cars were called Silver Spirit IIIs.
In 1996 larger wheels and electric
steering adjustment was added.
A long wheelbase version
of the Silver Spirit. In 1996 a 300hp turbo charged engine was fitted.
Introduced in February 1998, just before the Bentley Arnage. 5.3
litre V12 engine and five speed gearbox were standard.
The car was updated
in late 1999 with additional legroom and GPS.
Production Numbers and Dates
Dates Model Number Produced
1904 - 1906 10hp 16
1905 -1906 20hp 40
1905 - 1906 30hp 31
1905 - 1906 V8 Legal Limit
1907 - 1925 40/50hp Silver Ghost 6,173
1921 - 1926 40/50hp Springfield
1922 - 1929 20hp 2,940
1925 - 1929 New Phantom (Phantom
1926 - 1931 New Phantom Springfield 1.225
1929 - 1936 20/25hp
1929 - 1935 Phantom II 1,672
1936 - 1938 25/30 1,201
- 1939 Phantom III 710
1938 - 1939 Wraith 491
Model Number Produced
1947 - 1959 Silver Wraith 1,783
1949 - 1955 Silver
1950 - 1956 Phantom IV 18
1955 - 1959 Silver Cloud 2,359
1959 - 1962 Silver Cloud II 2,716
1962 - 1966 Silver Cloud III 2,376
1959 - 1968 Phantom V 832
1965 - 1976 Silver Shadow 19,493
1965 - 1976
2 door/drophead 1,111
1968 - Phantom VI
1977 - 1981 Silver Shadow II
Some examples of Rolls-Royce Cars
The 10hp car, SU 13, and
40/50hp, AX 201, The Silver Ghost, at Windsor Castle in April 2002.
The 40/50hp known as The Silver Ghost.
20hp with body by
1929 Phantom II limousine.
1938 Wraith with body by Gurney
1965 Silver Cloud III Flying Spur by Mulliner.
V limousine by James Young.
Royal Phantom VI 1977.
fixed head coupe.
Silver Spirit III.
2002 Silver Seraph Mulliner