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Club Meetings at Mere were still cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. A series of Zoom Meetings were arranged throughout the month.
22nd April 2021 – Club Meeting – Speaker, Mr David Skillen, who gave a talk entitled ‘The Bentley Boys’.
David started his talk with a photograph of Walter Owen Bentley, who became known to his friends as ‘W.O.’ He had a keen interest in anything mechanical as a child, and started his working life as an apprentice railway engineer with the Great Northern Railway in Doncaster. He commuted weekly by train between London and Doncaster. He then bought a motorbike, and did the same journey on his bike, which had a top speed of 36 mph! This led to a keen interest in the automotive industry, and just before WW1, he finished his apprenticeship and started working with DFP, a French company which made two-seater sports cars. He intended to sell them in the UK. During the war he joined the Royal Navy and became involved in the design of aircraft engines. In 1919 W.O. Bentley set up his own car factory in North London. The first Bentley car had a 3-litre engine and had to be quick, reliable and solid. He moved the factory to Cricklewood. All of the cars were hand built. The completed car consisted of the engine, transmission, chassis and wheels. All of the bodywork was added by coachbuilders. The cars cost £1,050, which was about four times the average annual salary at that time, clearly aimed at the wealthy.
Bentley realised that car racing was a very good way to gain publicity. However, when one of his dealers suggested entering the 1923 24-hour Le Mans race W.O. thought it was madness. He was eventually persuaded to go along with the idea, watched the race, and realised that if the car withstood the rigours of racing for 24 hours, it must be very reliable. The following year, Bentley entered the race to win and Bentley’s Frank Clement became the first works driver to win at Le Mans. The publicity gave the Bentley brand the boost it badly needed.
The Bentley racing team grew. In 1925 and 1926 they learned their trade, but did not win. The cars were fitted with extra protection on the headlights and radiator. The cost of this took its toll, and in 1927 Woolf Barnato bought the business, and is believed to have added £13m of his own money to support the company. By 1927, W.O. decided that the 3-litre engine was running out of energy, and Bentley produced a 4.5 litre version. They entered one 4.5 litre and two 3 litre cars, but during the race, the 4.5 litre car had to swerve to avoid a crash and hit a tree. The following 3 litre car crashed into it. Somehow, the third car found its way through the crashed vehicles, but with a broken headlight and damaged steering. Miraculously the drivers were only slightly injured. Only the drivers were allowed to carry out repairs in the pits, and driver Sammy Davis was able to carry out temporary repairs and keep the 3 litre Bentley going. He returned to the race and by lunch time he was just four laps behind the leader. This made the leader try to drive faster, and his engine blew up, leaving the Bentley in first place.
The racing team, now nicknamed ‘The Bentley Boys’ had a celebration dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London. With the aid of a great deal of man power, they managed to ‘drive’ a Bentley into the dining room on the first floor!
The team used film of the pit stops to improve their track side performance and continued to be very successful to the point where it almost became boring. In 1929 the famous 6.5 litre Bentley was built, and the team took the first four places.
In 1930, Mercedes gave Bentley real competition with their supercharged SSK. Bentley designed and built a supercharged 4.5 litre car called the ‘Blower’, but it proved unreliable due to excessive strain on the engine. Furthermore, the acceleration meant that the car would need a tyre change every two laps at Le Mans. Mercedes only entered one car, so W.O. told his team to let the ‘Blower’ challenge the Mercedes for as long as possible, and then the other three Bentleys would aim to finish the race. He knew that the Blower would fail before the end of the race, but by pushing the Mercedes, there was a good chance that it would fail too. His tactic worked. Neither of the supercharged cars finished the race, and Bentley won comfortably.
The 1930s saw Bentley run into financial trouble again, but this time the company folded, and the brand was ultimately purchased by Rolls Royce.
David finished his talk with a brief history of what happened to each of the Bentley Boys who had made up such an iconic racing team. However, in 2000 VW took over Bentley and in 2003 started racing again – could this mean ‘Bentley Boys 2?’
David concluded his talk by stating that 2019 was the 100th anniversary of the start of Bentley Motor Cars, and in Le Mans, they celebrated the occasion by naming a street ‘Rue Des Bentley Boys’.
12th April 2021 – Bowls – Commencement of the Season
[Club Chairman Jim Flett (forward) and Bowls Secretary Roger Collins (rear) send off the first woods of the season.]
Although the temperature was only showing 7 degrees the constant sunshine made it a pleasant afternoon for the Knutsford Rex Bowlers to commence their season. Although competitive bowling will not start until early May due to Coronavirus protocols the Monday afternoon practice sessions had been eagerly anticipated. New members to the Knutsford Rex Probus Club, irrespective of ability, will be welcomed to the practice sessions held each Monday throughout the season.
8th April 2021 – Club Meeting, Speaker, Mr Dave Thomas, who gave a talk entitled ‘The Egertons of Tatton’.
Dave started his talk by stating that he was a volunteer with the National Trust, who worked with the horses at the farm at Tatton Park, and who also gave talks to the visitors. This kindled his interest in the Egerton family.
Tatton Park has been owned by the Egertons for 360 years. The estate had previously been owned in the 12th century by the de Tatton family, followed by Massey, Stanley, Brereton and then Egerton. The ‘Old Hall’ was built by the Stanley family in 1490 and improved by the Brereton family in 1580. In 1598, Thomas Egerton inherited the estate from his brother-in-law, Richard Brereton. However, the Egertons did not live at the estate until just over a hundred years after they took ownership.
Dave briefly described the Egerton family tree and their many achievements under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I to King James I. However, John Egerton was the first to live at Tatton and take personal responsibility for the running of the estate. He instigated the building of the new hall in 1716 and then died in 1724, leaving a widow and five children. She turned to her brother, Samuel Hill for help and advice, and with his aid, ran the estate. Her eldest son, also John Egerton took over in 1731 and struggled financially until he married the wealthy Christian Ward of Capesthorne in 1735. Sadly, he died in 1738 and the estate passed to his brother, Samuel Egerton. Samuel looked after the estate for the next 42 years, building a substantial property investment portfolio in the process. He received a substantial inheritance from Samuel Hill which included an impressive library and art collection. During this period, Tatton became largely self-sufficient. The Rococo dining room was added in 1760, and the Egerton’s chapel at Rostherne Church was completed in 1763. Samuel Egerton became the MP for Cheshire and joined the newly created Manchester Agricultural Society. When he died in 1780, the estate passed to his sister, Hester. She was a widow who had been married to William Tatton of Wythenshawe, so she inherited both the Wythenshawe and Tatton estates. Unfortunately, she died a few months after Samuel, and the estates passed to her son. However, Samuel had stipulated in his Will that anyone who owned Tatton should have the name ‘Egerton’, so William Tatton changed his name to William Egerton, and ran the estate until his death in 1806. He organised the rebuilding of the mansion in the neo-classical style, resulting in the house which survives today. The whole of the Egerton’s estate was estimated to have been 25,000 acres at that time. Today it consists of 2,000 acres of deer park, with approximately half of the park open to the public. The Tatton estate then passed to Wilbraham Egerton and the Wythenshawe estate went to his brother, Thomas William Tatton. Wilbraham completed the house, and decorated and furnished it in a lavish style. He purchased over 200 items of furniture from Gillows of Lancashire and a number of paintings by famous artists. He was the Sheriff of Cheshire from 1808 to 1809 and MP from 1812 to 1831. He died in 1856.
William Tatton Egerton inherited the estate, and was the first Baron Egerton who became the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire. A keen botanist, he introduced the exotic fernery and the Italian garden.
In 1883, Earl William Egerton inherited the estate from his father. He was keen on horses and became President of the Shire Horse Society and President of the Royal Agricultural Society. He wrote a number of books on a variety of subjects and founded Egerton Boys School in 1893. Two of his shire horses won many prizes and became famous. They were both sold for record sums. He enjoyed entertaining and in 1887 he entertained the Prince and Princess of Wales. When he died in 1909, the estate passed to his brother, Alan de Tatton. He was a qualified engineer, very keen on railways and President of the Refrigeration Institute. He was responsible for an extensive refurbishment of the mansion, the rose garden and the Japanese garden. He died in 1920 and his son Maurice, the last of the Egertons, inherited Tatton Park. Baron Maurice Egerton was very much an adventurer. He had his own landing strip within the park, he drove the first motor car in Cheshire and developed a love for Kenya. He was trained by Manchester Museum to collect zoological samples and brought back many well-preserved specimens. Although he travelled all over the world, he lived mostly in the rift valley in Kenya.
In 1939 he sold some of his UK assets to set up the Egerton Boys School in Kenya. The school is now twinned with its counterpart in Knutsford. He also had a house built in Kenya which replicated the mansion in Tatton Park. It was completed in 1954. Maurice never married, and died in 1958, when the property in Tatton Park was left to the National Trust. The last of the Baron Egertons was a very popular man, who did a great deal for both Tatton Park and Knutsford.
Dave concluded his talk with a number of anecdotes about parachute training at Tatton Park during the Second World War.
Dave then took questions from an appreciative audience.
1st April – Walk – Knutsford/Mobberley Area
[Report by David Howard]
We were at last able to open-up the Club walking season for 2021 just 3 days after the Government enacted the second part of Step 1 of their ‘Roadmap Out of Lockdown’. We were able to – hit the ground running- so to speak, thanks to the careful pre-planning of Scott as Walks’ Secretary and Andy the walk leader who had recce’d a local walk starting in the Legh Road area. There was also a short walk nearby, led by Jim. Given this was sadly Mike Johnson’s valedictory walk with Club and for those that may not know, he moves south to be near one of his sons on the 14th, we had one of the best turnouts for some years.
The long walk group had to split in to two to comply with Government requirements. Commencing from a secret location in Legh Road, Group 1 led by Andy took the northerly route via Leycester Road and Scott’s group the southerly route along Gough’s Lane. The two groups took generally the same route through Booth’s Park (where Scott’s group had a coffee stop at the ‘Van on the Perk’, thank you Scott) whilst Andy & Co. motored on. Through the park we, in our separate groups followed Pavement Lane to the outskirts of Mobberley, then turning back along the B5085 – Knutsford Road. Returning towards Knutsford along Longridge and North Downs it was around there Andy’s group took a small detour to visit an 17th/18th century graveyard in St. John’s Wood. After which cutting back into Booth’s Hall from Delmar Road and then along Gough’s Lane where, with perfect timing, we saw in the far distance the short walkers.
On the short walk there were 4 members plus one guest (Evelyn and very nice to see her out walking with us again). It was a circular walk of just under 2 miles from Legh Road via Toft Wood and Windmill Wood.
At a given location (which will remain secret under the 30-year rule) all three groups formed a very loose and very distanced assembly where a stash of cold beers had been secreted by the Chairman to toast Mike and send him off with some kind words. Not least for being a long serving, creative and energetic Walks’ Secretary and for always being one of the loyalist and most supportive club members who has greatly helped over the years to make the Knutsford Rex what it is. Mike was presented with a case of Tatton beer to remind him of us and hopefully many happy times. He responded that he was sorry to have to go but these things must happen and asked us to maintain the ethos of such a busy and welcoming and friendly club he was pleased to have been a member of. He then very kindly handed out Easter eggs.
So, thanks to Scott and Andy for organising and leading the long walks and for Jim for leading the short walk and of course the beer he laid on.
Finally all the best wishes to Mike & Hilary in their new home, stay in touch, you have no excuse, now you have at last bought a smart phone.