Charles Rolls and Henry Royce walked into a bar 116 years ago today…

Charles Rolls and Henry Royce

Rolls-Royce has weathered two World Wars, the Spanish Flu and now coronavirus…it celebrated the 116th anniversary since Charles Rolls and Henry Royce met up at the pub.

On May 4th 1904, The Hon Charles Rolls and Henry Royce met up at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. After a couple of bevvies (maybe), Rolls was heard to exclaim, “I have just met the greatest engineer in the world”. And if you say it the way Jeremy Clarkson would it sounds even better.

One, Rolls, was an aristocrat with a penchant for fast cars and selling them to his wealthy mates.  Royce was an engineer with a desire to produce only the best. It was he who exclaimed, “Take the best that exists and make it better”. To get the partnership off the ground, Rolls asked his business partner, Claude Johnson to become the managing director of Rolls and Royce.

While most of us are finding the whole working from home thing a bit of a novelty…at least if the number of people sharing pictures of their home office setups is anything to go by (tip: no-one cares). For blokes like Henry Royce, working from home was the norm… indeed, it was while he was wandering along a beach near to his home (Elmstead) at West Wittering, he sketched the outline of a the R-series aero engine into the sand with his walking stick.

We all know what that engine became, right? No? The R-series ended up as the Merlin which ended up in the snout of the Supermarine Spitfire.

But Royce’s home studio was also the birthplace of another, less well known, but just as important, engine. In 1919, his Eagle VIII provided the power for the first-ever transatlantic flight, from St John’s, Newfoundland to County Galway in Ireland, by British adventurers Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown.

Happy 116th Rolls-Royce and, May the Fourth be with you. LOL.

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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.