Tuesday 14 December 2021

Planes, Trains and Automobiles!

We’ve had lots of interest in photographs of old vehicles in some of our recent exhibitions and blogs, so we’re dedicating this blog to early vehicles and transport in Cheshire. Read on for images of planes, trains and automobiles – and more! 


This striking photograph is from 1911 and shows an aeroplane flying over the Widnes Transporter Bridge. It was taken during the Round Britain Air Race and the pilot was a James Valentine, who landed briefly in Widnes. He was one of only four pilots to finish the race, and later served in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. 

Cheshire Image Bank also contains a postcard of the first arrival of an aeroplane in Northwich, in 1912 (above right). The pilot, pioneering British aviator Gustav Hamel, can be seen standing next to his plane. Demonstration flights were apparently given on nearby Leftwich Green!  

We hold archive images from Hooton Park Airfield, including this one from 1944 of an early helicopter, the Sikorsky ‘Hoverfly’, designed by helicopter pioneer Igor Sikorsky. Also photographed at Hooton is the iconic Spitfire aeroplane. 


Our Local Studies collection contains many dozens of books, pamphlets and articles about trains and railways of Cheshire, as well as the images on the Cheshire Image Bank. This photograph of an unusual-looking locomotive was deposited at Cheshire Record Office with the information "Silver Jubilee, taken at Wrenbury Station, 1936" inscribed on it.  The Silver Jubilee was a streamlined train designed to travel at exceptionally high speeds - although we have since been informed that this locomotive may in fact be a Coronation Scot, introduced in 1937. 

Railway records also feature in our Archives, including the Basil Jeuda photographic collection (ref: D 7386) - an extensive railway-related collection of photographs from the 1860s to the 1980s. Many trains have been captured, such as this one at Prestbury Station in the 1880s below left, and the image of the ‘Ludwig Mond’ engine taken at Brunner Mond works in Winnington in 1912. 


We hold vehicle licensing records for Cheshire and Warrington going back to 1903, and regularly fulfil requests for copies from vehicle enthusiasts wishing to re-license restored cars. We have some images of very early cars, such as this one of motorised vehicles on the High Street at Winsford, taken in the early 1900s. 

The image below left shows the Mayor of Winsford pictured in his first official car – it also dates from the first decade of the 20th century. And from the 1910s, we have an image of Tom Booth’s Cycle and Motor Depot on Main Street, Frodsham (below right). Pictured in the car is a Mr Philbin, who was apparently the chauffeur to the local bank manager. 

This early advert for car hire is taken from the Nantwich Almanack and Directory of 1916.  And from our Archive collections, one of our favourite images is from a 1930s scrapbook of the Royal Chester Rowing Club: an early roof rack! Captioned ‘Henley 1937’, sadly we don’t know if the car was photographed at the Henley Regatta, or driven there like this from Chester.  

Another popular search and copying request at Cheshire Record Office is of the records of Fodens commercial vehicle manufacturers of Elworth, Sandbach. They started producing agricultural engines in the 1870s and became a leading manufacturer of steam engines and later of diesel trucks - we hold production records, technical drawings, photographs and more covering over 100 years (collection ref: DFO). Though made in Cheshire, the vehicles went far and wide – the one below to a famous company from Nottingham! 

Whilst they haven’t been seen on the roads for the past hundred years, we do have some images of charabancs, an early type of open-topped motor coach. The name comes from the French char à bancs ('carriage with benches') and was popular for sightseeing or ‘works outings’. These images relate to just that: the first (below left) is of a Helsby Ladies charabanc outing circa 1920 and the second is a 1919 outing from Lynch’s Garage in Northwich. 

This is an image of a Daimler charabanc, taken in Northwich during the 1910s – with the young boy stood next to it, we wonder whether this could have been an early school bus?

There are plenty of images and information about buses in both our Archives and Local Studies collections. The photograph below left is captioned ‘first bus in Widnes’ and was taken between 1900 and 1909. And on the right is a Nantwich and Crewe motor bus, photographed around 1910.  


With Cheshire having a significant canal network, we hold many items related to the canals and barges of the county – as well as rivers and boats. The image below left is of a barge stranded in a semi-dry canal after the famous canal burst at Kerridge near Macclesfield in February 1912. And below right is a picture of salt being loaded onto a canal barge for transport, taken at Middlewich in the early 1900s. 


Do you consider bicycles to be vehicles? If so, we have some lovely early examples, such as these two, including a penny farthing, photographed in Alderley Edge in the 1880s.  And on the right, these enthusiasts are members of the West Cheshire Bicycle Club, photographed in 1884. 


Moving on to motorcycles, this image is from the 1910s, and shows an early motorcycle outside the shop of Fred Wakefield, a cycle agent in Sandbach. 

Also from the 1910s is this image of plumber Frank Turner and storekeeper Fred Basnett, pictured at Castle Park in Frodsham with a motorcycle and side car – and, on the subject of side cars, this Bollington butcher has a novel way of transporting livestock! 

With all these vehicles, we will end on a note of safety. This image is undated, but comes from Simms Cross School in Widnes, and shows children taking part in a Road Safety campaign. We wish them happy driving! 

All these images and more are available to view at Cheshire Record Office in Chester. For images of early fire engines and ambulances, see our recent blog on Cheshire’s Emergency Services here.

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