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The little-known Austin connection to Wentworth Woodhouse

2022 celebrated the centenary of the Austin Seven, the little car that made motoring accessible and affordable.

While Lickey Grange in Bromsgrove is best known as the home of Herbert Austin, founder of the Austin Motor Company at Longbridge, perhaps less well known is Austin’s connection to Wentworth Woodhouse, one of the grandest stately homes in the country.

Situated in the village of Wentworth in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, the 300-room house dates back to the Jacobean era.

This grand house must have been quite an eye-opener for Herbert Austin, who arrived as a bright, inquisitive four-year-old when his father took on the role of farm bailiff in 1870.

His family remained living on the estate throughout Herbert’s formative years as he attended the local village school and then Rotherham Grammar School.

Although Austin had long since departed Wentworth Woodhouse, a connection to the grand estate still existed. One of Austin’s contemporaries in the motor industry included a Yorkshire-based company called Simplex, a car and motorcycle manufacturer operating from 1907 to 1920 from its base in Tinsley, Sheffield. The company received financial backing from aristocrat and coal magnate Earl Fitzwilliam, owner of Wentworth Woodhouse. Like all car manufacturers during this period, they provided an expensive product for the few who could afford it. 

Unfortunately, the post-war depression brought financial ruin for many of Austin’s contemporaries, including Simplex. However, Austin’s concept for a small, affordable family car saved his company from a similar fate.  In 1922 Austin launched the immortal Seven, a car which was produced all over the world in different guises and in vast numbers. The first BMW car, the BMW Dixi was a licensed Austin Seven. In France the Austin Seven was known as Rosengarts.

It wasn’t particularly stylish or comfortable, but it was reliable and, crucially, affordable, creating a blueprint that was copied by Austin’s contemporaries, opening up the freedom of the road to millions of new car-owning families.

The Austin Seven heralded a golden era for British car manufacturers so that by the 1950s Britain was the largest car exporter in the world.

It is no surprise therefore to learn that this wonderful little car begins the story of Great British Car Journey.

The museum has a large collection of Austins, including an Austin Seven Sports 65, Opal 12, and 14 to name but a few. All are in full working order; illustrating perfectly why Austins were known as ‘Britain’s dependable car’.

Former Bangers and Cash star Sarah Crabtree and motorsports presenter Paul Woodford recently took a number of Austins for a drive at Ambergate. You can watch the hilarious series of films documenting their drives on the Great British Car Journey YouTube channel here – https://www.youtube.com/@greatbritishcarjourney.

While seeing these cars in situ within the exhibition at Great British Car Journey is memorable, the best way to truly immerse yourself in the Austin experience is to take the ultimate nostalgic journey back into the past by getting behind the wheel of one of these fabulous machines.

Drive Dad’s Car is an opportunity to experience motoring as it was. There are a number of Austins on the Drive Dad’s Car fleet, including an Austin Seven Ruby Saloon as well as the more modern Austin classics, including Mini, 1300 GT, Allegro and Metro. All are available to take on an instructor-accompanied drive, with all cars equipped with digital cameras to capture the experience.

Relive memories of your motoring youth, or perhaps do something that you never could as a child – Drive Dad’s Car. Just pull out the choke, turn the key and take the ultimate trip down memory lane.

Entry to the Great British Car Journey visitor attraction is included with every Drive Dad’s Car experience. To arrange a classic driving experience at Great British Car Journey, please visit www.drivedadscar.com

Adult admission to Great British Car Journey starts at £16 and tickets can be purchased online here

Great British Car Journey secures Autocar archive merchandise deal  

We’re delighted to announce that Great British Car Journey has completed an agreement with Haymarket Media Group to reproduce images and articles from the Autocar archive, which spans more than 125 years of automotive history.

The deal, secured by the Derbyshire-based classic car visitor attraction, follows the digitisation of more than a million pages of Autocar magazine, which has been published since November 1895. 

Great British Car Journey is the first organisation to be licensed to reproduce and sell images from the Autocar archive. 

Autocar is one of the world’s oldest car magazines, and the weekly’s archive is made up of around 6000 magazines.

The images from the newly digitised archive will be reproduced on a range of on-demand wall art, including framed and unframed canvases and prints as well as metal plaques.

The images are all available to order in a range of sizes through Great British Car Journey’s new online store.

Great British Car Journey founder, Richard Usher has selected an initial 75 front covers, dating from 1925 to the mid-1960s. They feature a range of British marques and models that have either disappeared from, or are rarely seen on, UK roads, including the Austin Seven, Morris Minor and the classic Mini. 

The selected front pages are mainly hand drawn colour illustrations. “They are stunning images and evocative of a bygone era,” said Richard.

The images are available in four different sizes and prices start from just £16.99 and can be viewed and purchased from here.

Great British Car Journey was opened to the public in May 2021. Its new online store and partnership with Haymarket represents an exciting new development for the business.

Richard said: “This is a tremendously exciting development for Great British Car Journey. We are excited by the opportunity to present the Autocar archive and to share it with other car enthusiasts.”

Rachael Prasher, Managing Director of Haymarket Automotive, added: “Day-to-day we inevitably tend to focus on our future, but we are incredibly proud of our past, and it makes perfect sense for us to partner with a company that understands the history of the brand and the industry so well.” 

“Autocar front cover is famous as the billboard for car manufacturers who want to show their latest model to the motoring public. Many of the marques that appeared on the Autocar front covers can now be found within the visitor attraction.”

More Autocar covers will be offered for sale soon.

Richard explained: “We will be adding more Autocar covers to our online store in the future, however we were keen to get the store launched ahead of Christmas.”

The Autocar prints can be purchased online at https://greatbritishc1.wpenginepowered.com/buy-merchandise/ or ordered within the giftshop at the Great British Car Journey.

Discover the Autocar range today

A stunning selection of Autocar images are available in a range of sizes as framed and unframed prints and stretched canvases.