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ASPECTS OF COUNTY LIFE


The Modest Mechanic Sir Henry Royce


by Stephen Roberts


“Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it.” Last year marked the 155th anniversary of the birth of Sir Frederick Henry Royce OBE, who co-founded the famous Rolls-Royce company.


R


oyce was born in Alwalton, Cambridgeshire, on 27 March 1863; the youngest of five. The failure of the family business and death of his father in 1872 led to Royce earning money selling newspapers. With only one year’s schooling behind him, Royce would be almost entirely self-educated.


Leading a nomadic existence, Royce had stints in Leeds, Liverpool and Peterborough as he tried to forge a future for himself. The turning point came in 1884


20 County Life


when he established a Manchester business, FH Royce & Co, with Ernest Claremont, selling domestic electric fittings, and later dynamos and cranes. Times were hard for the self-taught engineer, who lived frugally in a room above the workshop. Royce married Minnie Punt in 1893; they were not destined to have any children. Royce considered further diversification after the


2nd Boer War when trade suffered with increasing competition from Germany and the USA. It was the motor vehicle which caught Royce’s attention and, in


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