The Old Mill
Public responses to car styling and naming are considered all important these days, and the motor manufacturers spend a great deal of time deciding on the designation, if not of makes, certainly of model names. It is inconceivable today that any company might try to sell a car called the Old Mill!
But apparently these things were thought to matter little in the days before the 1914-1918 war, when vehicles sprang up with names which were hardly tempting to customers and must surely have been an embarrassment to owners – names such a Bugmobile, the Lad’s Car (or in contrast, the Lord Baltimore), the Mom, the Nameless, the No Name, the Pic-Pic, the Riddle, the SCAR, the Storm, the Um and the US…
In the case of the Old Mill there was at least some excuse, because the thing was made in the Old Mill Works (which still exists) at Lambourne near Brighton, Sussex. The Old Mill was on the site of Black Mill, a post-mill which, it is said, had been dragged by 86 oxen from Regency Square to Dyke Road Drive in 1797, and which had been demolished in 1906.
The man behind the car was Albert Lambourne, who had previously been responsible for the Lonsdale which was built by Monk & Lonsdale of Brighton using its own single-cylinder 2½hp engine and belt-drive. This was shown at an exhibition of local products in 1902 at Brighton Aquarium (where more recently Lord Montague had his Brighton Motor Museum), and it seems the prototype, painted primrose yellow and dubbed “The Mustard Pot”, was still running in 1914.
The son of an LB&SCR engine driver, Lambourne had been apprenticed to the Regent Foundry in North Road, Brighton.
Following the demise of Monk & Lonsdale he opened an engineering works at the Old Mill in 1912, and produced a light car there the following year.
It was an assembled job, the engine being 10hp Dorman, but the chassis was endowed with handsome bodies – Type A a two-seater and Type B a doctor’s coupé.
The chassis had very long quarter-elliptic springs. Whether this was to improve the ride or to reduce the length of the chassis-frame, and thereby save on steel, has to be left to conjecture. It must have affected the handling, but in those days nothing was known of roll-angles, understeer or oversteer, and light cars seldom exceeded 30 mph anyway.
In fact, the Old Mill was claimed to have a range of 4-40 mph in top gear, and when it was ready for sale in 1914 the price was set at £207 for the two-seater or £220 if a lighting-set, speedometer and electric horn were provided – though it seems that the lighting ran to just one headlamp before the radiator and side-lamps on the windscreen pillars.
Attempts to give the Old Mill some flair included a cockpit starter in lieu of a starting-handle and a mascot in the form of a windmill with rotating sails, and German silver was used for the radiator as on the post-war 8hp Talbot-Darracq. The mayor of Hove was one motorist who bought an Old Mill, but the First World War killed the project off after thirteen had been built, although at least one was still in use in the 1920s. Up to the World War Two an Old Mill body was still to be seen slung up in the factory roof; the premises are still engineering works, which changed hands recently.
After the war Albert Lambourne dabbled in the Zephyr motor-assisted pedal-cycles. He lived at Poynings well into his nineties. WB