Cars in books, September 1978

In “The Duchess of Jermyn Street” by Daphne Fielding (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1964) which is about the life of Rosa Lewis who rat) the legendary Cavendish Hotel, there is a reference to Rosa’s Daimler which should please members of the Daimler & Lanchester OC. Although the famous Hotel once had its horse-‘bus, in later times Miss Rosa had “an ancient Daimler even more old-fashioned and regal-looking than Queen Mary’s”. It was garaged at the back of the Cavendish and once its chauffeur had been found, would be brought round to the front of the Hotel and parked in narrow Jermyn Street, to await its owner, who was hastened into it before it disrupted the traffic. This “vintage Daimler” used to take Rosa to Cowes for Regatta-week, its picnic-basket filled with Krug 1921, and it would take her to “the Homesteads” at Jevington near Eastbourne, and return “with hampers of plump country chickens and ducks stacked on the roof’. Incidentally, although referred to as a vintage car, this Daimler must have been an Edwardian model, as it was used to collect soldiers from Victoria Station in the 1914-18 war.

Many famous motoring personalities must have been known at the Cavendish Hotel — the book mentions only the Plunkett-Greens (but not Richard, the Frazer Nash owner) and David Tennant, who was, I assume, the Leyland Eight owner. When Rosa was ill, in 1947, the author and her husband arranged for her to stay at Sturford Mead in Wiltshire, to which she was taken in their chauffeur-driven Bentley. The Armstrong Siddeley OC are catered for, too, because one picture in this book shows what must be a late-model Armstrong Siddeley Thirty, at a fashionable wedding in the 1930s.

There is a whole chapter devoted to a European journey which Clare Sheridan took with her brother Oswald in a motorcycle and sidecar in 1924, in “Cousin Clare” by Anita Leslie (Hutchinson, 1976). The outfit was a 1922 model called “Satanella” but its make unfortunately is not revealed. Oswald rode it and Clare was in the sidecar; the condition of its tyres worried Winston Churchill, who recalled the hectic rides Oswald Sheridan had given his mother in the thing “Clemmie had to revive her afterwards”. A phothgraph shows a typical vintage outfit with gate-change well forward on the o/s of the petrol tank, a front wheel brake and a Klaxon horn. The Reg. No. was X1 999. I wonder if anyone can recognise it? The machine took the adventurous couple “across Holland, slices of Germany and the new country called Czechoslovakia”. They even crossed the Polish frontier into Russia, “down the grass-grown roads.” In the end the brother rode back to England alone, after the SS Prage had taken them to Constantinople, where Clare dallied too long for her brother’s liking; This is an interesting example of how reliable motorvehicles were, all those years ago. In the same idiom, I have just been reading the (unpublished) diaries of a RFC Officer who later became a well-known racing motorist) and one entry shows that he thought little Of doing 475 miles in a week-end in his secondhand Adler light car during the early days of theFirst World War whets, incidentally, petrol seems to have been unrestricted. – W.B.