Rolls of honour
CREWE, definitely. Derby, certainly. But Huntingdon is not a town normally associated with building Rolls-Royce cars. Yet the Windover company, of George Street, hand-built 800 bodies for Rolls-Royce chassis – one of the most prolific and prestigious coac
CREWE, definitely. Derby, certainly. But Huntingdon is not a town normally associated with building Rolls-Royce cars.
Yet the Windover company, of George Street, hand-built 800 bodies for Rolls-Royce chassis - one of the most prolific and prestigious coachbuilders for the classic marque in the first half of the 20th century.
The Huntingdon company had established a huge reputation for its horse-drawn coaches following its founding in 1857, and attracted several royal warrants after building vehicles for Queen Victoria and her successors on the throne and their families.
The order book for much of the company's first century could be an extract from high society "bible" Debrett's, combined with a catalogue of colonial worthies and the Raj.
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"Windovers of London, Paris and Huntingdon" has a certain warm ring to it.
Although the family had been saddlers in Devon since the early 17th century and moved on to building vehicles in Grantham, it was not until 1857 that Windovers established in Huntingdon, in Sandford House, George Street - later the sorting office and then an antiques emporium.
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The factory, long since dismantled, was next door, on the site occupied by the county court building and Huntingdon town centre's only industrial estate, soon to make way for redevelopment, if Huntingdonshire District Council has its way.
Windovers' history has been chronicled in a new book, The History of Windovers, by Jane Hutchinson (née Windover), great-granddaughter of Charles Windover, Mayor of Huntingdon in the late 19th century.
Although some of the book will appeal more to transport anoraks than social historians, there is much in it for the latter, as well.
Mrs Hutchinson, who now lives in Buckinghamshire, describes her forebears as "paternalistic". In the sense that they sought to look after their valued employees - though perhaps not so extravagantly as Quaker chocolate families, such as Frys, Cadburys and Rowntrees. That may be so, but their treatment of the distaff side of the family seems better to attract the epithet of "patriarchal". The author herself describes a difficult life, with little apparent assistance from the male of the species.
Nonetheless, she has retained sufficient fondness for her forebears to have produced 1,100 copies of this extravagantly illustrated 140-page volume to their memory at her own expense after four years of research.
She was driven to the work when she overheard one of her daughters proudly telling a friend that her grandfather had built Rolls-Royces.
"I decided that, as the Windover family built so many and various types of transport to enhance the comfort and pleasure of travelling, I must put pen to paper," she said.
"I thought my grandchildren (she has four children from two marriages and five grandchildren) really ought to understand what went on," she said.
"To the family, Huntingdon has always been an important place."
The town's present mayor, Councillor Jeff Dutton, might be interested to learn that Councillor Charles Windover was the first mayor to wear the central medallion in his chain of office.
INFORMATION: The History of Windovers is published by Jane Hutchinson, price £59. It is available from MK Books, 7 East Street, Huntingdon, tel: 01480 353710, through www.amazon.co.uk or directly from the author by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org