Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Evelyn Henry Ellis

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1895. On his Panhard Levassor petrol car at the Motor Car Exhibition of 1895.

The Hon. Evelyn Henry Ellis (1843-1913), apart from importing the first ever automobile in to the UK, was notable for nothing despite his privileged upbringing.

1843 August 9th. Born at the British Embassy, Portugal, the fifth son of Charles Augustus Ellis (6th Baron Howard de Walden and 2nd Baron Seaford) and his wife Lucy Joan Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck

1857-64 Royal Navy cadet and left with the rank of Midshipman

1882 Married at Nice, France, to Alberta Mary Hardinge and they had three children

In June 1895 he ordered a left-hand drive motor car to be made to his own specifications from the Paris firm of Panhard-Levassor, powered by a Daimler engine.

This petrol carriage with solid rubber tyres had a 3.5 hp Daimler motor with two cylinders of 3.5 inch diameter and 4.5 inch stroke. It ran at 700 rpm. [1]

It ran from Paris to Le Havre, was taken across the channel to Southampton and on by train to Micheldever station in Hampshire.

1895 July 6th. Ellis drove it from Hampshire to Datchet covering the 56 miles in five and a half hours.[2]

1896 Director of Daimler and the Great Horseless Carriage Co [3]

1911 At the Gloster Hotel, Weymouth: Evelyn Henry Ellis (age 67 born British Embassy, Portugal), Loafer(sic). Married 29 years with three children of whom two are still living.[4]

1913 September 5th. Died at the Grand Hotel, Plymouth.

1895 The First Journey [5]

Frederick Simms was Ellis's companion on this first horseless carriage drive on English roads. He described the journey in an article for the Saturday Review on July 11th 1895 :

We set forth at exactly 9.26 am and made good progress on the well-made old London coaching road; it was delightful travelling on that fine summer morning. We were not without anxiety as to how the horses we might meet would behave towards their new rivals, but they took it very well and out of 133 horses we passed only two little ponies did not seem to appreciate the innovation. On our way we passed a great many vehicles of of all kinds (ie horse-drawn), as well as cyclists.

It was a very pleasing sensation to go along the delightful roads towards Virginia Water at speeds varying from three to twenty miles per hour, and our iron horse behaved splendidly. There we took our luncheon and fed our engine with a little oil. Going down the steep hill leading to Windsor we passed through Datchet and arrived right in front of the entrance hall of Mr Ellis's house at Datchet at 5.40, thus completing our most enjoyable journey of 56 miles, the first ever made by a petroleum motor carriage in this country in 5 hours 32 minutes, exclusive of stoppages and at an average speed of 9.84 mph.

In every place we passed through we were not unnaturally the objects of a great deal of curiosity. Whole villages turned out to behold, open mouthed, the new marvel of locomotion. The departure of coaches was delayed to enable their passengers to have a look at our horseless vehicle, while cyclists would stop to gaze enviously at us as we surmounted with ease some long hill.

Mr Ellis's motor carriage is a neat and compact four-wheeled dog-cart with accommodation for four persons and two portmanteaus. The consumption of petroleum is little over a halfpenny per mile and there is no smoke, heat or smell, the carriage running smoothly and without any vibration.

1895 report

One of those who was excited about the new arrival was a local newspaper reporter. On July 27th the Windsor & Eton Express published an article titled Datchet; A Horseless Carriage. The writer gave a great deal of technical description, enthusing about all the ingenious arrangements he was shown. The following extract from the article is again abridged:

If anyone cares to run over to Datchet they will see the Hon. Evelyn Ellis of 'Rosenau' careering around the roads, up hill and down dale, and without danger to life and limb, in his new motor carriage which he brought over a short time ago from Paris where they are in pretty frequent use.

Can it be easily driven? We cannot say that such a vehicle would be suitable for a lady, unless rubber-tyred wheels and other improvements are made to the carriage, for a firm grip of the steering-handle and a keen eye are necessary for its safe guidance. But for gentlemen they would be invaluable, especially if they were used, as they are on the Continent, by doctors and commercial travellers. Is there fear of accident? It need not be apprehended that this new vehicle, if it becomes popular, will cause any dangerous alarm to horses. Already accustomed to the incidents and surprises of everyday street traffic they would soon become as indifferent to to horseless carriages, silent and unobtrusive, as they already are to bicycles.

What is its cost? Such a one as that owned by the Hon Evelyn Ellis would cost £200, and for long journeys its maintenance would be from ten pence to a shilling an hour. It is a splendid hill climber and climbs at a faster pace than a pedestrian can walk. A trip from 'Rosenau' to Old Windsor, up Priest Hill and descending the steep, rough and dangerous hill on the opposite side, past the workhouse and through Old Windsor back to 'Rosenau' within an hour demonstrates how perfectly under control this carriage is, while the sensation of being whirled rapidly along is decidedly pleasing.


See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Early History of Motoring by Claude Johnson
  2. Dundee Advertiser - Thursday 11 July 1895
  3. The Times, Tuesday, May 19, 1896
  4. 1911 Census
  5. Abridged; comments on the weather and many detailed timings have been omitted
  6. The Autocar 1910/01/01