Fragments On Forgotten Makes No. 42

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The Payne & Bates

The makers of the experimental Payne & Bates cars were gas-engine manufacturers of Coventry, a company which evolved from the Godiva Engineering Company of Castle Street. Around the year 1890 Walter Samuel Payne had established this Godiva works, his engineering expertise having been acquired, alongside his brothers, at George Stephenson’s Thrapson factory in Northamptonshire, where steam engines were made; the boy’s father, of that town, Mark Payne, was foreman.

The Godiva gas-engines were made in sizes of from ½ h.p. to 12 h.p. and were popular with Coventry tradesmen and townfolk, over 400 being manufactured, replacing many stationary steam engines, between 1890 and 1896. They have been claimed the first i.c. engines to be made in Coventry. In 1893 a new Godiva development was Payne’s Oil Engine, that was apparently patented and was superior to the smaller gas engines.

Needing capital to expand what was essentially a family business. Mr. Payne went into partnership with a Mr. George Bates, who invested a large sum of money on behalf of himself and his son Henry. This enabled a new facto, to be built at Foleshill Road, in 1897, with a private house, “Malmo Villa”, opposite it – the Seam is now the Great Heath Post Office and the factory building also still stands. The name of his house was no doubt Mr. Payne’s tribute to his gas-engine agents in Malmo. Sweden, Messrs. Andersson & Sjoberg; he had British agencies in London and Aberdeen.

More money was invested by Mr. Bates in 1898 and such expansion enabled motor vehicles to be contemplated. The first of these was, like so many others of the period, based on a single-cylinder Benz that Mr. Payne had acquired in 1897. These first P & B cars were direct copies of the Benz and it is thought that a small number may have been sold, but that more were made as the Godiva. The body for the first experimental P & B was the work of Hawkins & Peake of Bishop Street. Coventry, and a later six-seater wagonette body was made for them by Arthur Mulliner of Northampton, after which it is said that they made their own bodies.

Following the first single-cylinder two-seaters, Payne & Bates made a two-cylinder four-seater dog-cart. The Company registration of 1898 (nominal capital £7,000) included the making of “motors”. It seems that around 1900 a P & B dog-cant was supplied to a local fairground-roundabout operator and another sold to J. Grose of Northampton. Records suggest that the delivery of the latter P & B car was made in company with the Company’s aforesaid tiller-steered, solid-tyred wagonette, in which a total of nine people could be accommodated, so that two of the boys of the Payne family were allowed to go along. Apparently there was no throttle control between driving-seat and engine on the run from Northampton to Coventry, so Henry Bates had to sit on the floorboards to control speed while George Bates steered, the journey being completed with the candle lamps alight…

There followed a front-engined Payne & Bates in 1900, whereas the previous ones, like a Benz, had the engine in the boot. This model had two vertical cylinders, double chain drive, and a four-seater tonneau body. It is thought that a few were sold privately by the makers but that they disposed of most of their output to R. M. Wright St Co. of Lincoln, who marketed them as Stonebows, the name being derived from one of the gateways to mediaeval Lincoln. Wright had been a racing cyclist and the Company he founded survives, as a BL distributor.

Another outlet for P & B in the horseless-carriage field was provided by Oscar Seyd of the International Motor Car Co. in London. It appears that after assembling some International-Benz, the firm, now a limited company, asked P & B, and Allard of Coventry (no connection with the later, well-known sports-car manufacturer) to design new cars for them. The P & B effort was the Royal, selling for £367/10/-, but it does not seem to have had much success. Another association was with a Mr. Pat Hamilton of Coventry, for whom P & B built two cars, called Shamrocks, but to the designs submitted to them. The first, a two-seater, was a failure, but the wagonette was able to get to London when Hamilton’s financial backers, two doctors, refused to meet his bill unless taken there in this particular Shamrock. Although Payne & Bates had their own foundry, smithy, machine-shop, drawing office, test-shop and paint bay, even a showroom, and made their own bodies, the end came in March 1902, following a series of misfortunes. First, in 1901 the Company’s finances were at a low ebb. Secondly, a law suit arose between P & B and their Aberdeen agent (the details remain mysterious, another possible piece of research for my proposed book about cars in court!) But the finish can he ascribed to an accident in which George Bates, who held 4,001 of the Company’s 6,007 shares, fell from a Godiva driven by Henry Bates, on a corner during a run in the winter of 1901/2. He sustained injuries to which he eventually succumbed. The Payne family decided to wind up the P & B Company in March 1902, but Walter Payne, having sold his factory to the makers of Radenite batteries, reopened his small workshop in Castle Street, Coventry and recommenced the manufacture of engines, supplying those for the pioneering agricultural tractor, made in Biggleswade, until 1906. Apparently Mr. Payne continued to make engines until his death in 1934.

The only P & B Godiva car thought to survive is that in the Coventry Museum. It was discovered between the wars by a Mr. Freeman, who died in the German air-raid on Coventry. A derelict 1901 two-cylinder 7 h.p. model, he restored it and ran it in one of Coventry’s “Lady Godiva” processions. It took part successfully in last year’s Brighton Run, and has at some time been re-registered BWK 1. It is a chain-drive model, with 3-speed and reverse transmission, automatic inlet-valves, full-elliptic suspension and the 4-seater body. All the founders of the Payne & Bates Company are deceased but the wife of Herbert Bates is alive at 80 and I am indebted to the eldest grand-child, A. W. Payne, for much of the information in these “Fragments” – he lives in Dorset and is still a keen motorist at 65, owning a 1970’s MGB GT and a 1949 ES2 Norton, both, he says, enjoyed to the full. – W.B.