No other automobile manufacturing concern symbolises the strength of the UK industry during the 20th century more than Rolls-Royce.
The company was founded through a chance meeting in 1904 between its founding partners Henry Royce and Charles Rolls ( or the Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls- to give him his full title).By the time they met Royce had already established a successful business, based in northern city of Manchester manufacturing domestic electric fittings under title F H Royce and Company.
Royce - a gifted engineer and innovator as well as being a pretty shrewd businessman expanded the company in 1894 moving into the production of dynamos and electric cranes.
Such was the rapid success of F.H. Royce & Company that just five years later, they succeeded in putting together a public share flotation, re-registering the company as Royce Ltd.
As the turn of the century approached, the demand for Royce products continued at a steady pace requiring the opening of new and advanced production facilities in the Trafford Park industrial zone in Manchester.
With his business thriving, Henry Royce was always looking forwrd, beginning to investigate the possibilities and viabilities of producing of luxury saloon cars to offset some of the overheads of the Manchester plant.
Eager to develop his new auto manufacturing division, Henry Royce arranged for one of the first models he had produced cars to be displayed at the prestigious Royal Automobile Club in London.
To gauge initial reactions to his new car, Royce sent Henry Edmunds, also a director of Royce Ltd, to be present and answer questions and provide explanations on the vehicle and its properties to people attending the function.
Especially impressed with the “Royce 10” was Charles Rolls, so much so that he asked Edmonds to arrange a meeting with Royce.
The fateful meeting duly took place in the plant at Manchester in May 1904.
Rolls was suitably impressed with Royce, his technical abilities and the production facilities that they had in place in Manchester.
After negotiation that took around six months, Rolls sign a marketing agreement with Royce basically undertaking to purchase all the cars that the Royce factory could produce.
Rolls’ generous offer did come with a single stipulation - that the cars would be manufactured in a choice of two, three, four and six cylindered engines, with the sting in the tail that they would be marketed under the Rolls-Royce brand.Despite that agreement, Charles Rolls, in a strong position in full control over marketing, began to label the cars as Rolls with the role of Royce in the production very much downplayed. The new and exciting company made their public debut in December of 1904 at the prestigious Paris Salon, with the first Rolls-Royce production car, the 10 hp, unveiled to an appreciative audience. Two years later, Rolls and Royce formed a limited company Rolls-Royce Limited, with Rolls involved in marketing, and finance, having provided substantial financial backing while Royce was responsible for all things technical as well as the development of new models.
Tragically, in 1910, just four years after their formation the new company suffered a catastrophic setback when Charles Rolls was killed in an aeronautical accident while taking part in a flying display in the southern coastal city of Bournemouth. Rolls was just 32 years old at the time of his passing.
Rolls' premature passing earned him the dubious distinction of being the first Englishman ever to die in a plane crash ( and only the twelfth in the world.)
Once again Henry Royce was left alone at the helm of the company. To his credit he piloted it to tremendous success, building a reputation for producing quality cars. During the Twenties and Thirties, Rolls Royce continued to expand, gradually moving their marketing activities towards the more lucrative markets in the South of England- and in particular the capital city- London.
This entailed establishing marketing plants in the Midlands of the city of Derby, although their principal base was in Crewe, strategically situated adjacent to one of the largest railway junctions in the UK.In the years between the wars, Rolls Royce focused their production on the Silver Ghosts, and Silver Phantoms, with emphasis on quality while tailoring their designs to meet individual client specifications.
During the early Thirties, Rolls-Royce found themselves in such a financially secure situation that they could afford to acquire what their nearest rival -Bentley Motors. From then onwards Bentley gradually became extensions of the Rolls-Royce product range with every passing season.
In the period before the outbreak of World War II, Rolls-Royce produced all of the rolling chassis that went into the cars at the Derby plant, generally passing on the coachbuilding stage to private coachbuilders on a subcontracting basis.
After production resumed in 1945, Rolls-Royce decided to gradually phase out this practice with chassis building and final assembly taking place at a massive plant they had acquired at Crewe, which had previously been used to produce engines.
Despite their change in policy, some of the early post-war Silver Wraiths were built in the traditional "chassis-only" fashion, although all of the newer models, the Silver Dawn and later the Silver Clouds were produced entirely at Crewe.
During the immediate post-war years the marketing team at Rolls-Royce, to their credit, began to detect a change in the direction of demand for their products, in particular, the profile of their owners.
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