Recorded for BBC Radio Gloucestershire Saturday Breakfast Show
|Charles Rolls' statue in the centre |
Right up until 1896 every motor car, and there weren’t many about of course, that travelled on the roads had to have a man to walk in front of it, holding a red flag to warn people that the car was approaching. When the Red flag act was repealed, the emancipation of the motor car was celebrated with the London to Brighton Rally. The speed limit for cars was then increased from 4 to 14 miles an hour. And it was during that year that Charles Rolls was driving down Birdlip Hill when the brakes of his open topped Peugeot failed and the car sped down towards Brockworth, no doubt breaking the then speed limit.
Charles Rolls stopped at the New Inn in Northgate Street, Gloucester and the story goes that he was starting his car, I presume that he was using a crank handle, when the car started and ran him over! Fortunately only his pride was hurt!
Charles was later introduced to Henry Royce. Henry had a well established electrical and mechanical company and so they joined forces and worked together, Royce building and Rolls selling. In 1906 they had formed the Rolls Royce Company and were selling their classic car – The Silver Ghost.
Not content with speed on land Charles Rolls also learnt to fly, this was in the very early days when the Wright Brothers were developing their biplane. Charles bought a plane and made more than 200 flights and even set a record becoming the first man to cross the English Channel both ways in a single journey – a distance of 42 miles without stopping. Sadly it all ended in tragedy. Charles was killed aged 32, exactly 100 years ago on 12th July in an air crash at Hengistbury Airfield, Bournmouth when the tail of the plane broke off during an air display.
At the start of World War 1 Henry Royce was designing aero engines for planes built by the Gloster Aircraft Company. Rolls Royce developed the aero gas turbine engine that had been invented by Frank Whittle. Rolls Royce is now a global business and leads the world in building the most advanced jumbo jet engines, and its Filton works employs local people.
During July many places, including The Wye Valley, will be celebrating the life and significant achievements of the company founder Charles Rolls. There is an exhibition about him in the Nelson Museum in Monmouth until October.
For more about the celebrations in the Wye Valley there is a website http://www.monmouthevents.co.uk/
For Guided Coach Tours of The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley email: email@example.com