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Homepage. This page: A book on the earliest days of motoring from Amberley Publishing.

Motoring Around Kent - The First Fifty Years.

Amberley Publishing

Tim Harding & Bryan Goodman.
ISBN 978-1-84868-575-8
Published 2009 (Softback, 160 pages).
Book cover

UK RRP 12.99

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Published in 2009, this new book on motoring was written by two avid motoring enthusiasts, both of whom own interesting motor-cars in their own right, and over the years have built up a fine collection of motoring images, many of which feature in this book.
Focusing on the lanes and byways of Kent, the book describes how the motor car not only changed the lives of the early motorist and their families, but also how it affected the landscape of Kent, with the rapid growth in businesses both producing motor-vehicles, and also maintaining and supplying them to satisfy the growing demand for this new form of transport. Kent hosted the first exhibition of motor cars in the country in 1895, and while it is the Midlands that is most associated with motor-car manufacture as the 20s and 30s rolled on, the rolling hills of Kent did produce some lesser-known cars, and, perhaps more notably, commercial vehicles during this period. To support these growing industries, many coachbuilders operated from towns across the region, and these too are covered in later chapters.
The first section deals with the earliest, veteran and Edwardian, motor-cars. Black and white photographs are clearly reproduced throughout, with contemporary motoring advertisements included from time to time, adding context to the vehicles shown. Early motor-cars were the preserve of the reasonably well-to-do, and owners such as Raymond de Barri Crawshay, with his 3.5hp Benz, are photographed outside grand country residences, that hitherto would have echoed to the clip-clop of horsedrawn carriages just a few short years before. A variety of motor-cars are featured, including marques such as Clement-Talbot, M.M.C. (Motor Manufacturing Company), Darracq, and Swift to name just a few. In 1903 the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells decided that he should join the motoring set, and the book describes how he chose to purchase a Maxim, despite initial doubts about the maker, new-to-the-market as it was. He was pleased with the car's performance, but the firm only produced cars from 1903 to 1905 so was right to be suspicious about the firm's (and car's) possible longevity.
By the end of the period, both home-grown and continental cars were becoming familiar on the Kent roads. Some examples are represented in Chapter 1, as witnessed by a French Mors (13.9hp) of 1915, and a FIAT 15/20 of 1916, both presumably imported at the height of WW1.
The book then moves on to look at the vintage and post-vintage scene, upto and including the 1930s. Motor-cars were by now a common sight in many areas of the country, and the rapid increase in road traffic wasn't popular with all members of society. Many complained of terrible dust problems as 'road hogs' sped by their properties, on the un-made roads that were still commonplace at the time. Again, a fascinating series of period photographs are used to illustrate these pre-WW2 motoring years, many featuring the families that were now getting used to day-trips out in their swish new motor-cars. Sporting machines are sprinkled amongst the more sedate cars shown in this section, illustrating the range of vehicles that were on offer to suit all tastes, and budgets. Dashing chaps out to impress the ladies may have opted for the Frazer-Nash BMW 328 featured on page 87, or maybe the three-wheeler Morgan a few pages earlier. Those having their first encounter with a car, or who were on a tight budget, may however have opted for something a little tamer, for instance the Kent-registered Austin 7 Chummy, or maybe the 1939 Standard Flying Nine that wraps up Chapter 2.
The following chapter looks at the two-wheeled opportunities that were presented to pre-war motorists, with many pages containing photos of fine motorcycles, often with their proud owner(s) stood alongside. Many makes I'd never heard of before are included in this section, for examples the Mobilus forecar of 1904, and the Midget Bocar. The latter incorporated a pressed steel frame and a 3.5hp engine, and is shown with a young lady perched on the saddle. As with all the images chosen for this book, the photographs in this section are well reproduced and, as they are snapshot rather than professional, capture the era, the mood and the fashions of the time well.
As in other areas of the country, the increased popularity of motor-driven vehicles in Kent had a profound impact on business owners and trades-people in the area. As the opportunities brought along by the introduction of motor-vans and commercial vehicles made themselves known, many firms expanded their operations across the region, thanks to the speed and versatility of these new vehicles. This chapter shows a selection of the vans and lorries employed on business across the local towns and villages, many of which are beautifully signwritten. Some of the vehicles were captured when new, and positively glisten, whereas others, including some military types, looks decidedly worn and have obviously led a hard life on the road. Steam-powered vehicles also feature, including two from Kent manufacturers Jesse Ellis, and Aveling & Porter. Buses and char-a-bancs also have their own chapter, many with coachwork local to the area.
It wasn't just the vehicles that changed the landscape of Britain in the early years of the 20th Century, because to keep up with the demand for car maintenance, roadside garages sprung up at a rapid rate. Some were new enterprises, others an evolution from an earlier trade - bicycle repair shops and blacksmiths were some of the first to see opportunities for working on these new motor-powered cars and lorries. Anyone with an interest in old garages, whether in Kent or elsewhere, will enjoy chapter 6 as it contains vintage images of these roadside repair shops, and early petrol filling stations. It's hard to imagine now that most villages and towns had at least one motor repairer cum garage serving the local motorist, whereas today they are much less frequently spotted.
The final chapters look at some of the output from Kentish-based coachbuilders, perhaps the best known being James Young & Co. of Bromley, responsible for some fine creations on the more prestigious makes of chassis, and Martin Walter, who in later years concentrated on motor-home conversions. General street scenes then follow, along with views of vehicles entered into local carnivals and processions.
With a RRP of GBP 12.99, this book should appeal to any old-car enthusiast who lives in the area, and also anyone who enjoys poring over vintage images, trying to imagine what the scenes would look like today. Published after this title, a similar work (Cornish Road Transport Through Time) by the same publisher may also be of interest to transport enthusiasts.
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