Touring in 1907

From Kingston-on-Thames to Hull

This account, written by Dr. and Mrs. Howlett, of an autumn tour on a Wolseley, which appears to have been an old car, even in 1907, is of such interest that we publish it exactly as written, over 60 years ago (see letter on page 712).

First Day

Stella Howlett writes:

Left Kingston 9.30. Bag, tyre, tea basket for luggage. Fairly warm—clothed in woolly jacket, cape and gaiters—later could have done with extra jacket, found it was left behind. Car started full of power, but missing across Kingston Bridge. Hampton Court to Sunbury—missing became worse though still going splendidly. Sunbury, came to a dead stop. Found pin of inlet valve had disappeared. Put new pin in, but was considerably weaker much to our chagrin. Took silencer off without much benefit. Put oil in crank-case thinking it was worn rings. Expected great results and were disappointed. Went through Staines, Egham, Old Windsor, Windsor—fine place, beautiful castle. Car going stronger by fits and starts, but always sinking back into comparative weakness. Through Maidenhead (river place with fancy girls) to Henley, going in dread of Nettlebed Hill. Climbed steep hill out of Henley—B. had to dismount. Surprised to find hills of no mean proportion succeed each other, each of which I felt sure must be Nettlebed but B. scorned the idea. Passed through beautiful wooded country after much climbing and lo we were in the village of Nettlebed, the great bugbear left behind unclimbed in some miraculous way. A kind Providence must have guided us by a circuitous route. The car still being a good deal short of power and twice having to be relieved of one passenger, we finally reached Benson. Had lunch for 3s. 4d.—a luxury we avoided after. Brought away a tomato which was the plague of our lives for about three days when it burst in the bag.

Through Shillingford and Dorchester to Oxford. Arrived about 4. Didn’t stop—passed some of the Colleges in the High Street—pressed on through Woodstock (saw monument) on through Enstone. Steep hill, both had to dismount and let car run up. Of course another car passed us. Through Shipston-on-Stour (very hungry) across beautiful bridge to Stratford. Arrived about 7.30, put up at Red Horse—full of Americans. Had Table d’Hote—awful woman who talked favourably about the Mormons. Went out and looked at Shakespeare’s house—sat a bit in Washington Irving’s parlour. Retired early—not much attention from chambermaid.

Second Day

B. cheered by advice from chauffeur to put thicker air-cooled oil in crank. Had thought of running into Birmingham, but now full of hopes that all will be well.

Breakfast 8.30—strong bacon—family of Americans having porridge. Paid bill for £1 2s. 6d. (thought this rather high). Went inside Shakespeare’s house—quaint old place. Sat in inglenook in birth room, most interesting. Signatures of Walter Scott and Carlyle on window. Browning written on beam, and names of various famous stage people. Took snapshot of garden at the back. Every tree and flower mentioned in Shakespeare’s work is grown in the garden. Caretaker told us that butcher named Court lived there within living memory.

Returned for motor and set off for Warwick. Car disappointing—several steephills, entrance into Warwick particularly—B. had to jump out. Enjoyed some Stratford plums. Paid 2s. each tor entrance to castle, but it was well worth it. Entrance gate had hooks above for gruesome purpose of suspending portions of dead enemies—also portcullis. Castle surrounded by dry moat except on river side. Lovely lawns with peacocks—one white. Beautiful corridors inside and interesting pictures—one of Mrs. Siddons as Tragedy—one innocent looking one of Henry VIII as a chubby boy. Many Vandykes and Reubens. A great deal of interesting armour. Finally out again across to conservatory to see a Roman vase 400 B.C. from Hadrian’s Villa.

From here Bernard Howlett takes over:—

Left castle about 12 o’clock—took in two gallons of petrol and started along Kenilworth road—saw mill at Guy’s Cliff, then on to Kenilworth where we had milk and buns before going to the castle. Several motors outside, and the passengers were having a picnic in the Great Hall. We had a look round and then resumed our way having determined to call at the Wolseley works at Birmingham to ask advice as to our loss of power. Passed through Bickenhill, the country becoming more suburban until at last we got among the bricks and mortar and smoke of Birmingham. Just at this time the pin of the inlet valve stem came out and I had to take valve out and put in another pin. This only delayed us about five minutes, and after enquiries we found our way to the gates of the Wolseley works, which are surprisingly large. We were directed through the gates and across a trial track—a sort of miniature Brooklands—round which several cars were careering wildly—to an office where I made enquiries. A man came out and had a look at P2722. On examining the inlet valve he said at once that it was opening too wide and he would have it adjusted. After a wait of about 20 minutes he reappeared: we put in the valve and on asking the damage, he smilingly told us that there was no charge. We accordingly started up the engine and careered out into the slums again, the car pulling like mad as if rejoicing in its regained powers. After running into some slummy roads amid a perfect artillery of boys’ caps, we escaped into the country via Castle Bromwich. We encountered some steepish hills, all of which we tackled with confidence and ease. Passed through Orlon, Shrubstoke, Arley and approached Nuneaton. We were passed by a car with an awful syren at this point. Not seeing a likely pub at Nuneaton, we decided to push on to Hinckley where I know the George Inn to be tolerable. Crossed Watling Street and got to Hinckley at 7. Ordered steak and onions which we enjoyed very much. Went out and posted card to Nottingham, and visited a noisy fair with merry-go-rounds, etc. I had 8 shots at a rifle range but only made 2 hits. Watt back to George Inn and drank ginger pop before retiring—very comfy room.

Third Day

Breakfast 8 a.m. in company with a bagman—eggs on toast. Bill amounted to 12s.—very cheap. Got 2 gallons of petrol and made early start for Leicester—about 10 miles. Loose terminal necessitated short stop—brought piece of insulated wire. Ran through Leicester and on to Loughborough where we should have turned off to Nottingham, but went a mile or two off to Hathorn and reached Nottingham over the Trent Bridge. Arrived 12.30 and were regaled with duck and green peas, both home grown. Gave various kids rides up and down the road. Fred took me to his favourite test hill which the car absolutely refused to climb much to his satisfaction and my chagrin. Garaged car close by house—had old tyre taken off and spare put on. Slept well.

Fourth Day

Started off for Hull at 9.30 amid the farewells of a host of kids. Went out by Mansfield Road—when out of sight round the corner, car stopped. Remembered I had turned off petrol tap, so soon got going. Passed through Sherwood Forest to Mansfield and Worksop—beautiful country, cornfields ripe. Reached Doncaster about 1 p.m. and bought Stella some butterscotch, then out by Thorne Road. Had lunch by road-side, and saw two “P” cars. Took snapshot of S. and the car. Ran along by side of Dutch River, saw smoke of Goole in the distance. First signpost to Hull—29 miles. River had to be crossed at Booth Ferry. Waited while boat was leisurely pulled over. Manoeuvred car onto boat and sat in her while we were rowed across. Partly drove and was partly pushed up steep and stony bank on the other side. We were now on road that I knew from having cycled on it in H.R.I. days. Were passed by big car going same way. All the road was now well known. Passed the inn where S. and I had lunch on our great Brantingham day four years ago. Drove along Hessle Road to Hull. At the end of Dorset St. engine gave up the ghost and stopped within 100 yds. of the house! Had to take out inlet valve and found broken screw. Replaced screw, got engine started and arrived at No. 18 where we were warmly greeted by J. and N. Had a colossal tea and changed out of travelling togs. J. and I took car to garage to have new screw and a wash down. Bought a magnificent cap as my headgear needed replenishing. Got J. to talk about his China experiences after supper, then retired early and slept soundly.

Fifth Day

Got up about 8 a.m. on Saturday. Air very bracing, glorious appetites. Car was not ready so I went along to the to look up old friends. Eve asked us to tea at the Golf Club but we thought we wouldn’t go. S. and I had a look around the town and down to the pier to enquire about the steam ferry. Very rainy and cold. Went back to infirmary alter dinner—saw Sister Anker, Sister Pearson. Were shown round new wards—mosaic flooring, everything up to date—balconies, etc. Went up to “Simpson” and looked at the old duty room which we both remembered well. Both did justice to a scrumptious tea and talked hard about old times. Flirtations, some serious, some otherwise, have been going on, but Dr. F. N. complained to the Committee about one of the residents and a nurse being seen together, and Miss B. had to give out that any nurse offending in this way would he dismissed, Also Dr. Eve and Nurse Woolley!

Sixth Day

Went down to Infirmary again—Eve showed me round the wards and asked my advice on one or two “obscure” cases. Then said goodbye to them all, as we were leaving on Monday morning.

Went to Prospect St. Church.

Seventh Day

After breakfast, I fetched car from garage—charged 10s. 6d., very reasonable. Packed baggage on to car, said farewell and left Dorset St. to catch boat at Corporation Pier for New Holland and Lincolnshire. With some manoéuvring we got car on to boat and sat in her all the way over. Splashed by spray, strong southerly wind against us. Got ashore safely and went on to Barrow-in-Humber and the Brigg road. I used to cycle on it from with Eve. Wind very strong in our faces. Stopped at the 20th milestone from Lincoln and had lunch (supplied by N.). Heavy shower, so turned car with hood back to wind and lunched inside. Continued to Lincoln. Rood absolutely dead straight—Ermine St. made by Romans—very monotonous scenery. Could see the cathedral at the end of the road, so to speak, from seven miles away. Had a little tea near cathedral, and got down the awful precipice into the town, where we put up at the “Spread Eagle”, a very comfortable little inn just outside the old gates. After getting settled we had a look round the cathedral and castle (glorious views). Had ordered a meal (steak and onions) for 6.30, to which we did full justice. Looked at shops, bought Lincon imp.

Eighth Day

Started straight after breakfast—bill 14s.—very cheap. Steep hill out of Lincoln, went through Sleaford where we took in petrol and plums. On through Willoughby, Market Deeping and Peterborough, where we lunched at a shop. After Yaxley we got on to the Great North Road through Connington over Alconbury Hill to Huntingdon, where we turned off to Cambridge. Poured with rain. Saw several 6 h.p. Rovers in this part of the country. Stopped just outside Girton through short circuit caused by wet on sparking plug. Got going again and put up at the Old Castle Hotel, very comfortable—a cold night and fires were welcome.

Ninth Day

Went out after breakfast and looked round Christ Church, Kings, Clare, Trinity Hall, etc. Thought I saw A. R. Phelps of Westminster, Trinity Hall and St. Thomas’s. Got off about 12. Had a good run, took in petrol and plums at Royston. Went on through Boldock, Knebworth, Welwyn to St. Albans and then Watford. We saw Dr. Woolley and his wife from Kingston doing a driving tour in their dog cart. Uneventful run through Bushey, Harrow, Ealing, across Kew Bridge to Richmond and home, arriving at Springfield Road about 6 p.m.

A most successful and thoroughly enjoyable tour.