Cars in Books, October 1965

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A reader has lent us “The Leaf and The Tree,” which is the story of Boulton and Paul Ltd. from 1797-1947. In it we read of Dawson Paul, then in his sixties, refusing to have his letters typed on the first typewriter which appeared in the offices of Boulton and Paul in 1909 and of how he pretended to he contemptuous of the new motor-carriages, although ” among the first, if not the very first man in Norwich, to possess one.” Young Dawson Paul and Geoffrey Llisk built a hydroplane to the design of a Frenchman and put one of the Company’s marine engines in her, using half of a 4-cylinder 4 in. x 6 in. Boulton and Paul engine. The boat, named Dollydo after an Australian girl friend of Paul’s, swept all before it in the 1909 International Race Meeting, over the course Lowestoft harbour to Oulton Lock and back. She did 21 knots, and cost about £100. This led to the Company building a couple of 21-ft. International class boats, Fuki-Yama and Vieuna. The former did very well in races at Monte Carlo in 1910: the latter was sold to a sporting industrialist.

The war found B. and P. building huts and hangars and later joining with Howes and Sons of Norwich to build aeroplanes. At first they built FE. 2bs in the Rose Lane works, flying them out of the old Cavalry Drill Ground at Mousehold from the end of 1915 onwards. When production outgrew the Rose Lane works a move was made to a 14-acre site on the opposite bank of the River Wensum (any later association with 30/98 Vauxhall body-work?), called Riverside Works. The move was made over Easter 1916, the new buildings having gone up in three months. The firm made 550 FEs, then built 1,550 Sopwith Camels, a contract for 500 Sopwith Snipes not being quite completed when the war ended. In all, B. and P. built 2,530 military aeroplanes, 70 Naval flying boat hulls and 7,835 propellers.

In 1920 everything was moved to Riverside, the Rose Lane factory being sold to the Co-operative Wholesale Society and here aircraft manufacture was commenced with B. and P.’s own designs, starting with J. D. North’s twin-engined Bourges biplane bomber and the P.9, priced at £800 as a 104 m.p.h. dual-control two-seater. At the Saion de l’Aeronautique at Paris in November 1919 the all-steel P.10 was shown and from it stemmed the long line of Boulton Paul aeroplanes—Bolton, Bodmin, Bugle, Sidestrand, Bulldog, Overstrand, etc., of nostalgic memory. They also made the structural members of the R.101’s hull, 27 miles of tubing and 11 miles of bracing cables, secured by 65,000 nuts and bolts, which had to be made so accurately at Norwich that they would bolt together at Cardington, the tolerance on the 45-foot-long girders being plus or minus 0.03 in. Such a waste when it ended tragically in flames at Beauvais…! – W. B.