This is the story of one man and his car.
Geoff Copson, a correspondent from Shropshire, got in touch to say that he owned a 1928 Riley which had a St Christopher badge on the dashboard saying that it had been supplied by the Langport Motor Company. He wondered if we could find out any more about the company’s history.
The Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton has a collection of directories, and a search of the available years revealed that the Langport Motor Company was listed in Kelly’s directories between 1927 and 1939. They operated in Bow Street, and from 1935 to 1939 the owner is listed as Philip Kitching.
Since this seemed a rather meagre research result, we looked at the local newspaper, the Langport & Somerton Herald, for 1928, to see if we could find an advertisement from the time that the car was sold. And we did. The Riley owner then agreed to share the story of his lovingly tended 1928 Riley.
Click on the image to enlarge it and see the caption
Genealogy isn't just for people
Late one night a few weeks ago I had a phone call from a fellow car club member. ‘Did you know your car is featured in the Essex Gazette in an article Men and their first cars?’ Unusual as I’ve had the car for the last 55 years.
I bought the 1928 Riley four seater tourer in 1960 when I was 17 for £15. I learnt to drive in it, passed my test in it and the venerable machine has been part of my life ever since. So as I’ve done most of our family trees back to about 1750 I thought I’d do some genealogy of WK 4894.
I received the newspaper article and indeed Alan Hazlewood owned the Riley tourer from 1954 until 1958. I bought it from David Johnson so it was a good start. Alan bought the car from an advert in Motor Sport in 1954, another good clue. I bought the complete 1954 set of the Motor Sport magazines via ebay and found it in September edition. Alas just an address and no name; Bay House, Norton Fitzwarren, Taunton. I’m still trying to find out who lived there in 1954. I can’t find any online electoral registers for the area in 1954.
This brings me to the connection with Langport. On the dashboard of the car there has always been a St Christopher plaque supplied by the Langport Motor Company. As the phone number is a simple number 38 I presume it was sold from there before the war and eventually ending up further north in Norton Fitzwarren.
When motor car taxation was done with log books via the county office I asked who the original owner was. I wasn’t allowed to hold the document but scribbled the name on a piece of paper. A Miss Griffiths from Coventry and first registered on 6th April 1928. The Riley wasn’t cheap at £235 when the average weekly wage would be about 3 to 4 pounds, over a year’s wages. It was a time of great financial slump and car sales particularly to a single woman, quite unusual.
So I spent a bit of time with the Coventry electoral registers looking for all the unmarried Miss Griffiths in Coventry. Unfortunately in 1928 ladies had to be 30 to be on the register. I then went back to the 1911 census to refine it further. An age between 21 and 32 in 1928 I thought suitable and came up with fifteen. All but one came from simple working class families. Father Tram Driver, labourer, bricklayer, sawyer or so but one, Annie Marjory Griffiths’s father, was a Manager for a printers and publishers. It’s a bit of a long shot to be definite but being a car it has fewer repercussions if I’m wrong. However she was 21 in April 1928 and a fine present it would have made. She later married Arthur Buckley and perhaps they moved to Somerset.
Via Alan Hazlewood I have some still photos of the car in 1956, some of his wedding and honeymoon and four minutes of DVD transposed from 9.5mm film of the car.
It’s now mechanically restored after a long hibernation after breaking the crank and a few other bits. I now go up for the Sunday papers in style and remember some of the things we did together. Ownership becomes a relationship after so long. We once towed a saloon weighing one and a half tons on rope for 110 miles, the engine is small only 1100cc. I went on journeys and holidays of 200 miles or more without a thought and it never broke down, although minor adjustments were frequent. Roadside cafés were few and far between in the 60’s and 70’s so I tied a baking tin around the convenient exhaust manifold and we cooked as we drove. Jacket potatoes were 30 miles, Cornish pasties or baked beans about 10 miles!! Lots of fun.
The other difference between human and car genealogy is of course any car that is now over fifty years old will never have a death certificate and will live on forever.
So if anyone has an old photo of WK4894 in Langport I would love to hear from you.