Eastern counties reminiscences

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[In the “Cars in Books” feature last month I quoted from “Essex Schooldays,” by Simon Dewes, which contained references to the Rev. Topham who had a liking for very large, powerful Edwardian cars, although these were not mentioned by makes. Remembering the clear memory of Mr. J. Harvey of Luton for the early days of motoring in Essex and Sussex, I wrote to ask if he had read this book. Not only had he read it, but he knew quite a lot about the characters therein and their cars. I give below the relevant part of Mr. Harvey’s very interesting letter. – Ed.]

The Rev. St. John Topham used to visit Dedham before he was Rector of Boxford (1915-19); he used to be present at the tennis tournaments, which lasted four days. His conversation was always about motor cars (at tennis). He first appeared with a 40/50 Ariel open tourer about 1909, later on, an Armstrong Whitworth; also a 40-h.p. Berliet. (I am inquiring in Colchester about his tour in Russia which I believe was made in a Mann Egerton-bodied 45-h.p. Napier.) He was among the friends of Mr. H. W. Egerton of Ipswich and Mr. Boggis-Rolfe of Wormingford Grange.

His love of big cars earned him the names of “Top-gear Topham,” “Topham-up-Hill,” “Topham-down-Dale.” The Berliet, because of its square section and minute air passages in the radiator core, earned him the title of “The Rev. Hustling Whistling Topham”: in this way; the pulling power of a big aluminium fan caused a big pressure through the radiator.

These names by which he was known were by no means insulting, but rather to pay a tribute to a motoring personality who, if he had been a national figure instead of a local one (Eastern Counties), would have been on a level with Mr. Charles Jarrot.

About his fits of depression. At the tennis tournament at Dedham it was said: “Our dear Mr. Topham has gone abroad again to find rest and solace, trying out the latest Continental models, Mercer-dees and Austro-Dailmer – mark you.”

In “Essex Schooldays” the name of Dr. Everitt is mentioned; he owned an R.M.C. Seabrook with underslung frame. The ‘bus belonging to Mr. Emeney was a Baico Ford. Mention of Mr. Beeston reminds me, he started with a Star commercial chassis and a heavy wooden body was built for it, so heavy that performance was hindered. Mr. Frank Buckles of Stratford-St.-Mary, carrier, used a Guy Motors’ vehicle.

I can remember Sir William Hyde Parker’s Ford landaulet. He used to attend Sudbury and Ipswich markets. I also well remember Miss Boghurst Fisher of Stratford-St.-Mary; a great lover of horses. Dr. Franey also used a small 2-seater and dickey but I cannot now recall the make.

Back to Rev. Topham; someone in King & Harper’s garage at Cambridge once jokingly said: “One day it will be Topham over the Alps’.” – J. Harvey