F.G. Wade-Palmer, W-P or Wade as he was variously known, had flown Hurricanes in the war and continued his flying career after the war in civil aviation. Latterly he found himself as Chief Flying Instructor at Wiltshire School of Flying at Thruxton and whilst here, he was able to pursue his second love, the Rolls-Royce motorcar. The proximity of Downton Engineering, run by the ever enthusiastic and very knowledgeable Daniel Richmond ensured spare parts and repair facilities specializing in these cars. Wade left Thruxton for a brief spell flying a DH Rapide Biplane on joy-flights out of Ramsgate Airport, then a Percival EP-9 for oil companies in Libya before a grand finale of ferrying a Catalina Flying Boat from the USA to England.
Seeking a more peaceful life he settled in
Fordingbridge, Hampshire, to help run East Mills Motor works, in the centre of
the village. the workshop however seemed to be ever full of dismantled
DH Tiger Moths bought at the disposal sales of the hundreds of ex-RAF training
aircraft. £60.00 the average price.
In 1958 on the other side of the New Forest a petrol filling station/tea rooms/garage business came up for sale.
W-P fell in love with and married Annette Firth, the eldest daughter of Mark Firth, who having been head of Firth Steel's of Sheffield, figures prominently in the early history of Rolls-Royce Ltd. He owned RR 20 prototype 5 G II from 1925 to 1929. Thereafter the Firth family enjoyed a succession of RR's seen here at Knockbrex, Kirkudbrightshire
Rick Ford left the Royal Air Force having served in Germany and was at a loose end.
The stage was set.
The garage was purchased, it bore the name Jack o' Lantern and this was retained. The gravel forecourt with wooden canopy was bare and unwelcoming. It was decided that vintage cars would do well as decoration and hopefully generate some much needed income. The very first car was a Rolls-Bentley BLT 988, a fine sports saloon but so rickety in the joints that any sharp braking would cause the wind-screen to fall out. Those were the days!
The cars that followed were many and varied and a fair number were captured by Rick with Rolleiflex and Leica cameras brought home from Germany. Hence the title.
In 1961, rumours circulated in Hampshire of major road redesigns for the county. These included the upgrading of the main A31 road heading for the sea-side resort of Bournemouth, the very road which passed the Jack o' Lantern. The making of this, into a dual-carriageway would seriously impact the business.
The site was sold and the business, reduced in size, was transferred to suitable (?) premises in Romsey centre. The Old Jam Factory, was a warren of wooden buildings behind an historical High-street building, all very highly inflammable but more importantly vacant, with much covered, barn like storage. There was indeed a fire late one night but the miscreants forgot that Romsey Fire Station was only just around the corner and was serviced by a Firecrew of exceptional efficiency. Although the listed building was seriously damaged and had to be demolished, (mission accomplished ?), the wooden sheds and dozens of Rolls-Royce cars were saved.
At this time, 1963, Cunard Line, the shipping company, operating normally out of nearby Southamptom, decided on a brave venture, to operate the Mauretania (two funnels) on a totally new run from Naples to New York. On paper this seemed a very profitable run, carrying the many Italian immigrants. In reality Cunard forgot one thing, they failed to reward, sufficiently or suitably, the Italian travel agents. Few bookings were taken, the Mauretania was withdrawn from the run and berthed on the Hudson river in New York, late in September 1963..
You may well wonder what this has to do with the story. The Mauretania was now scheduled to carry out a series of Caribbean cruises out of New York, but alas it had no on-board Photographic Darkroom. In Southampton, Ocean pictures who held the photographic concession with Cunard needed a photographer with good engineering experience to proceed to New York on the Queen Mary. He would learn the (photographic) ropes on the Atlantic, set up the dark room on the Mauretania in New York. then remain with the vessel as one of three photographers enjoying the sunshine in the Caribbean.
England was to have one of the hardest winters ever....... Rick sailed on the Queen Mary protesting not too loudly.
Squashed in a converted pantry/ironing room, well forward on the unstabilised Mauretania, printing the passenger's embarkation photos as she rounded Cape Hatteras at the tail end of the Hurricane season brought to mind the Rolls-Royce Ltd, chartered railway train of 1923. Then the VIP's were photographed boarding for the unveiling of the Henry Royce statue at Derby, the developing and printing was done in a converted pantry on board. Prints were ready for arrival at Derby !
The above will go some way to explaining
images in the database which otherwise seem out of place.
Those in Germany of BMW's and Mercedes, those of Rolls-Bentley, LGN 60 on the quayside in Port Evergaldes, USA. and the rebuild of the Millard Newman, Silver Ghost, 60556, at Tampa, Florida. Earlier Rick Ford wanderings produced the Clement-Bayard in Spain and the Lawrence of Arabia Silver Ghosts story. See RREC Bulletin 227, March 1998.
Wade-Palmer in the meantime, faced with the Jam Factory site set to become Romsey's first supermarket, took the business deep into the country outside Romsey but sadly died, suddenly, in 1986.
Rick ceased his wanderings in 1968 and
settled down with near Romsey. He used his skills as photographer with
at their development laboratory near Winchester, using Monorail cameras, large format, sheet film, with all processing
and printing (Bromide paper) done in house. Snapshot camera was a Hasselblad.
The settling down also involved a partner, Iris and two sons were born.
The younger, Oliver Ford, now 16 years old, is the brains behind this website.
In the real time covered by the last
paragraphs, many treasured items of Rolls-Royce memorabilia and literature went
missing, Rick's negatives, however, remained with him for all these years in the
same old shoebox.
Here they repelled the best endeavours of voracious rodents and British damp.
As 'Interactive Web
Design' Oliver has conceived, designed and built this unique vehicle
those old negatives to see the light and positively give you all some enjoyment. Happy viewing !
readers with similar libraries, archives, collections or even shoe boxes are
contact Oliver Ford via this website, about similar resurrection ventures.