There is sometimes more inside or round the back of country garages than the eye normally sees. It was an observant reader who told me that if I was driving through Much Marcle and stopped at the garage by the rural cross-roads I would find photographs in the office of an old lorry, an aeroplane, and a racing-car. This was enough for me and at the earliest opportunity the BMW was headed in that direction. The photographs were as described and the lady in charge told me that they related to vehicles used by the Weston family, who were, and are, well-known for their cider and perry.
The lorry was a Guy purchased soon after the end of the 1914/18 war and driven by the lady’s husband. It took loads of hops to Hereford market and got its picture in the commemorative book issued some years ago by Jaguar Cars. It was originally on solid tyres but was later given pneumatics; there are pictures of it decked-out in flowers and bunting, for the 1925 Gloucester and Rosson-Wye Carnivals. The business of farming and cider making was started by Mr. Henry Weston, who motored in 1910 in a Model-T Ford Tourer. He was one of three brothers. It was Herbert Weston who owned the Hillman, which he drove in the public-road speed-trials and hill-climbs of those days, making f.t.d., for instance, in the Wye Valley MC & LCC’s 1923 Speed Trials at Ross-on-Wye.
The photograph on the office wall shows the car to have had a pointed radiator with stoneguard, a long tail on which the name “Hillman” was painted, a full-length undershield, and a long exhaust pipe along the n,/s. It would, I think, probably have been the car with which George Bedford, the celebrated Hillman driver, competed in the 1 1/2-litre section of the loM TT. It retired from that race, after leaving the road and wiping-off its sump. But Bedford used it at Brooklands and in a number of sprint events. He gave up racing early in 1923, when 1 imagine the car came on the market and was purchased by Mr. Weston. The lady whom I interrogated, told me that her husband Harry Probert worked on the Hillman and on the other racing cars. She surprised me by saying how well she remembered the prewar Shelsley Walsh hill-climbs, for which her late husband helped tune the very fast Bugatti run by Jevons, etc. She said the Hillman was driven to Upton Bishop for testing and when I found myself passing through there in the BMW I saw how appropriate this hill with its S-bend was for this purpose.
The garage was built in 1926, and Mr. Probert managed it from 1928. Herbert Weston had Alvis cars after the Hillman, at first a two-seater and then an FWD Alvis. Indeed, as a result, the Proberts, I am told, called their son Alvis. . . .
The picture of the aeroplane shows a very smart biplane, an Avro 504 I think, with three gentlemen and their dog standing in front of it. It was kept at the Cotswold Flying Club but flown over to the field behind the garage, where the annual steam traction engine rally is now held. This was after the garage was built. The fuselage carries the inscription “Western Aviation Ltd.” and the machine was apparently used for giving joy-rides, flown by a Mr. Jordan. Although it is often thought that the “5/flight” business was a short-lived facet of the early-1920s, in fact joy-riding thrived into the 1930s, so in then-remote Herefordshire the Avro was no doubt in considerable demand. Its registration letters are obscured, but seem to he G-E??Y. The Mr. Weston, whose interest this was, later acquired a BA Swallow. He intended to build a hanger: for it by the garage, but the war intervened. Mrs. Probert remembers that when some new machinery was being installed at the cider factory, the engineer responsible also landed his aeroplane in the field, behind the garage.
As for the transport side of the business, another Guy lorry was purchased, and later they became sub-agents for Commer, so cars and trucks of Rootes manufacture were then used. Today the Company has expanded having a London office, and is run by d nephew of the Founders. Two Leyland trucks now run over the former Guy territory. A most interesting link with the past. which suggests that if any of you vintage chaps like cider or perry, the brand to drink is Weston’s. . .
There was a sequel to this, a few days afterwards. A friend had suggested a ride in the September sunshine in a 1927 RollsRoyce Twenty saloon which he was exercising for its London owner. After we had looked at another similar car in Kington we went on a splendidly rural ride which took us through another quiet village. I have written previously of a private aerodrome, operated before the war by Mr. Trafford. At the village garage I was shown a snapshot of his second aeroplane, being refuelled in an adjacent meadow. This was done by the garage, from two-gallon tins, the petrol being filtered through chamois-leather. It seems that this was a regular happening, perhaps before Mr. Trafford had his own pump. He would circle round to alert J. C. Welding, the garage-owner, then dive low over a house, to land in the field. This must have been in the late-1920s, and although the aeroplane’s make eludes me,I think G-ABAM was almost certainly a DH 60M Gipsy Moth. This garage opened in 1924, selling Triumph and AJS motorcycles. Before that it had been a cycle-shop from the very early days, as a Raleigh presentation plaque proclaims. On the outside wall there is a big Raleigh advertising-plate, which informs those who spot it that Hereford is 10 1/2 miles distant. Happy days!—W.B.
Which GN Was This?
Ron sant is converting the 200-Mile Race GN which he and Basil Davenport raced in VSCC events, and which he bought from Davenport last year, back into its original 1,100 c.c. Brooklands trim. In recent times it has had a l 1/2-litre vee-twin engine. He has confirmed that this is the car, engine and chassis no. 3083, which Ron Godfrey drove in the 1922 JCC 200-Mile Race, finishing third in the 1,100 c.c. class. The car was known as GN-2 and carried the Reg. No. IT 354. In 1926 it was re-registered as a Frazer Nash, which was a business move that caused some consternation at the time, because it, and others so named, were pure GN and was sold to Kenneth Asprey. He lived at Cobham, so was probably inspired by the proximity of Brooklands. At the end of 1927 Asprey sold the car to Donald Bird, who was at Christchurch, Oxford—perhaps they both were—and who is believed to have been one of the Bird’s Custard family. If so, he must have had fast motoring in his blood, for the competition performances of C. A. Bird, in Napier and later Sunbeam cars, are well-known.
It seems that Bird disposed of the car to H. B. Showell in April 1929 and that this gentleman enlarged the engine to 1,500 c.c. and is thought to have super charged it at one stage. Eventually he crashed the car at Sheisley Walsh. After the war it was acquired by Davenport, who rebuilt it and used it as a second string to his famous “Spiders”. Sant has discovered that for the “200” this ON had a red bonnet and white wheels and from the Log Book it appears that it was Probably in original form in Asprey’s time. However, as so often happens with racing cars, a mystery now intrudes.
In April 1928 K. M. Asprey was issued with a BMW Certificate for an officially-observed ascent of the Brooklands Test Hill in 8.83 sec. (27.19 m.p.h.), and the car he used is described as a two-cylinder Frazer Nash (“The History of Brooklands”, page 748). Now he had disposed of the 200-Mile car to Bird the previous December. So what was this Frazer Nash he was anxious to pit against the Test Hill? There might be speculation as to whether the new owner was unsatisfied with the car’s performance, so that at the first opportunity. when the ‘Track re-opened in 1928, Asprey took steps to obtain a Certificate of its hill-climbing prowess. However, this is discounted because the engine and chassis numbers of the car he used are given as B10476, The “Chain Gang” Frazer Nash was becoming established by 1928 but with four-cylinder Plus-Power or Anzani engines. So what was this twin-cylinder one which secured a Certificate for is rather unusual feat, as late as 1928? If it had been a special, with a JAP or similar engine, the engine and chassis numbers would not have tallied, unless the owner invented them. Incidentally, the Frazer Nash was not as fast as the GN “Kim II’ which climbed the Test Hill in 8.46 sec. in 1923, but perhaps Asprey’s,car was road-equipped.
Three Akela 200-Mile Race GNs have survived, Sants, Stafford-Pases. and Craddock’s, and such cars were raced by Ringwood, Dempster, etc., after the JCC race had ceased to be an outer-circuit thrash. But they all bore numbers similar to Sant’s. So what was the car Asprey had in 1928?—W.B.