Wheeling through history

SHOW STOPPER: Restored 1910 Lanchester Landaulette in 1954 at a steam rally in Etherley Dene. Neilson Skilbeck is driving, with Mrs McConchie, a Wolsingham doctor's wife, in the passenger seat. Dr McConchie is in the back with Stewart Skilbeck, 6

WHEELS OF TIME: The 1910 Lanchester Landaulette in 1953, complete with flat tyres and Benny Newton

HISTORICAL: The Puffin Billy, designed by William Hedley

First published in Your Memories

MEMORIES 56 took on our long-running story about the vintage cars owned by Neilson Skilbeck, who had a car showroom in Langley Moor. We published a picture sent in by a reader showing his 1909 Wolseley-Siddeley 14hp tourer.

“My father, Neilson, is driving the car, and the passenger is me aged 15,” says Stewart Skilbeck, who now lives in Selby. “Not many 15-year-olds wore deerstalker hats in those days!”

Stewart says the picture was probably taken at the North of England Traction Engine Club meeting at Birtley, near Chester-le-Street, in about 1963.

He emails pictures of his father’s first veteran car, a 1910 Lanchester 28hp Landaulette, which was owned by the Hedley family of Burnhopeside Hall, Lanchester. Their family home, of course, was built by William Hedley, the designer of the pioneering steam locomotives Wylam Dilly and Puffing Billy in 1813-15.

The Lanchester was built in Sparkbrook, Birmingham, by three brothers with the surname Lanchester. Theirs were expensive, luxurious vehicles.

By coincidence, it came to live with the mine-owning Hedleys in Lanchester, County Durham. In the Twenties, they off-loaded it to Kaysburn Garage, Langley Park.

The garage proprietor, Benny Newton, used it to ferry the local football team to matches until it fell into disrepair.

In 1953, Mr Skilbeck paid £62 10s for it. “He took it to West End Filling Station, in Wolsingham, persuaded it to run and attended its first event at Etherley Dene in 1954,” says Stewart.

“The journey from Wolsingham to Etherley took about two hours with lots of fuel problems on the way. The only thing that shone on the car was the very new member’s badge for The Veteran Car Club of Great Britain proudly displayed on the front.

“In 1958, it passed into a Scottish Collection and in 1965 went to a collector in New York.

“In more recent years, it passed to my good friend Evert Louwman, from The Hague, in Holland, and now resides there in the famous Louwman Museum.”

The Louwman Museum was founded in the 1934 and houses the world’s oldest private collection of automobiles. It has 230 vehicles, including the original Genevieve, and the Lanchester from Lanchester features in its “luxury” collection.

In 2005, the Lanchester won first prize in the prestigious Concours d’Elegance held at the Royal Palace of Het Loo, in the Netherlands.

MANY thanks to all who bought the Memories book, The Road to Rockliffe, for Christmas, and especially to those who turned up at the book signing in Waterstone’s in the Cornmill Centre, Darlington, on December 23.

It was a great joy to be mistaken as a member of Waterstone’s staff by a male customer, greying at the temples, who asked: “Do you have a beginners’ guide to caravanning?”

I pointed him in the direction of a member of staff, but there was even greater joy when, about half-an-hour later, I spotted him clutching a book at the till and taking a great deal of time in counting out his coins. And, yes, there was a long queue of angry people building up behind him.

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