After John Godfrey Parry Thomas had left Leyland Motors, for whom he had designed an aero-engine and the very advanced but virtually stillborn Leyland Eight luxury car, he went to live at Brooklands Track, where he was to become the most successful driver-cum-designer of the 1920s. There a rumour circulated that the rather dour bachelor Welshman, who was not particularly communicative and avoided Pressmen, was living a hermit-like life alone in his bungalow ‘The Hermitage’.
I believed this until I met Thomas’ house-keeper, Mrs Easterbrook, by then Mrs Duke-Williams. She told me that The Hermitage’, a long bungalow by the aerodrome, was by no means the residence only of the famous driver. She and her husband lived there, as did Ken Thomson, a maid with her child and, when not at school, Mrs Duke-Williams’ two children, Anne and Rundle.
That represented accommodation for nine, plus a governess, perhaps not all at one time, but implying at least five bedrooms, proving that ‘The Hermitage’ was hardly as its name suggested. Incidentally, Thomas’s liking for children was well-known; he bought a donkey for Anne, and there is a photograph of her in a toy pedal-Packard beside “Tommy” in his great Leyland Thomas racing car.
It will now be evident that Mr and Mrs D-W were by no means menials, but enthusiasts who chose to live with Parry Thomas because they liked his life-style. Duke-Williams had a very early 3-litre Bentley, which he drove in trials, and raced an Amilcar (could it have been Mrs Duller’s, or even Parry Thomas’ own car?). While his wife looked after Parry Thomas, her husband acted as his secretary and would take on workshop chores. He was at Pendine when Thomas was killed and among the floral-tributes to a great driver was a card reading ‘Anne and Mr & Mrs Duke-Williams’. That was the finish of their stay at ‘The Hermitage’. It and other historic Brooklands’ buildings were bulldozed by Bass Charrington in 1987 to give them office space. I believe that Mr D-W continued his association with fast cars by joining B S Marshall & Co. If anyone can tell me what became of the children, I would be very grateful.