Jenks wanted a Vice for his workshop. They were in short supply in 1943, but we went off to a farm in Surrey, where an aged gentleman took us to a large barn. There was just the vice Jenks wanted, at a modest price. But not just one. There was a shelf filled with them, and boxes of magnetos, a pile of crankshafts, lengths of exhaust piping and a stack of pattern-boxes.
Astonished, we were told the owner had been a partner in The Hertford Engineering Co, of Barking, which in 1923 had been about to start production of ohc Astral cars (right). But his son had been gassed in the war and a move to the country was thought beneficial. So the factory was abandoned and the contents moved to the farm. But not before David Drummond, of the banking family, had raced the 1.7-litre Astral ‘Goshawk’ at Brooklands (88.94 mph).
In the sheds there was an Astral chassis from the Olympia Show stand. Motor Sport used to record such finds, in the hope abandoned cars might be saved. Today this has become a feature of at least two other journals. Indeed, I think I may have a story for my colleagues, if they feel inclined to investigate. After all, the ‘factory in a field’ had survived the worst of the war; someone must remember it.
If you are interested, go up Egham Hill from Staines, turn left at the first road beyond Royal Holloway, that vast, magnificent building open ed by Queen Victoria in 1886 as a ladies’ college (now open to the public — 01789 443004), left again, across what was then a village green, and the farm was on the left of a country lane, almost opposite Royal Holloway below. Good luck!