So far as the advent of motor cars and motorcycles were concerned, Britain was at least a decade behind France and Germany. In 1896 there were only ten cars in the whole of the UK.*
Mr George Webb of Crockers Ash had probably been in business before this selling conventional pedal type cycles from his shop in Priory Street, Monmouth, where he advertised as being ‘Agents for all leading makes’ but he soon had ideas of breaking into the expanding new motor car and motorcycle industry with two or three new patents.
In 1889, Mr Webb formed a company called The Ganarew and West of England Cycle Company Ltd. With a registered office at 8, St Marys Street in Ross on Wye, he raised a capital of £3,000.00 mostly in £1.00 shares. Later this became his Monmouth Motor Company with a car sales and workshops and garage repairs business for which he trained and employed up to 30 local skilled mechanics. A large local business even by today’s standards
The general very rough state of roads at this time was blamed for all too frequent failures of the suspension, bearings and tyres of motorised vehicles so Mr Webb‘s motor cycle was offered as a machine ‘fitted with strengthened cycle parts’ and his patented ‘better bearings’ and assembled to order in his Crockers Ash work shop. By 1903 he was advertising ’his’ motorcycle but whether he manufactured the strengthen cycle himself or bought them in to order is not clear but he did fit them himself with a 2 speed Clement-Garrard petrol engine # which, from the picture, must have involved some fairly extensive modifications to the frame and wheels so it may well be that he made the whole bike in his workshops in Crockers Ash and where he went on to build over 50 machines.
One of his esteemed local customers was said to be the Right Hon’ Lord Llangattock and father of Mr C S Rolls, of Monmouth.
Because early motor cars carried no spare wheel a puncture meant removing the wheel to the nearest garage. His other patent was for a new type of car wheel with a ‘detachable divisible rim’ (as used in all heavy lorries today) that came apart enabling a puncture to be repaired more easily at the road side. Later he developed a detachable wheel rim holding the inner tube and tyre. This was the forerunner of the spare wheel we know today and a concept adopted by every car and lorry worldwide until very recently.
Mr Webb also made and sold a few motor cars but other than having a water cooled petrol engine I can (to date) find no further details although there are 2 photographs published one showing him and his family ‘in his car’ ## on the occasion of his sister in law’s wedding in 1903 and also, in a different car in 1906 with Field Marshall H R H Duke of Connaught and other dignitaries outside Drybridge House. The party was later in the same day to be involved in a car crash near Hay on Wye with no serious damage done resulting in the chauffer of the other car being accused of being drunk whereupon he threatened to kill himself. Such shame is not seen nowadays. It is not clear if the cars in the photographs were of Mr Webb’s manufacture.
There are stories of Mr C S Rolls, who was then interested in developing a high quality motor car, considering entering into a partnership with My Webb but this did not happen. ### In stead Mr C S Rolls and Mr Henry Royce developed the world famous Rolls Royce motor car company in Manchester.
MmOver the years Mr Webb had several subsidiary companies formed to develop products from his patented ideas and in conjunction with other noted component suppliers.
In 1932 Mr George Webb died in Ganarew where he started his business.
* At the time Britain’s rail network was so extensive that even the landed gentry lived quite close to a station and where they were taken to and from by horse and carriage in comparative comfort. It was not necessary for them to make long journeys by automobile.
# Clement Garard was an English company manufacturing motorcycles in Birmingham between 1902 1nd 1905. Clement sold ”clip on” engines to various bicycle manufacturers to insert into their cycles . So it sounds as if Mr Webb was doing the same thing.
A similar named company, Clement, also made motor cars at this time and, although it sounds likely, I could not prove there was a link between them.
Starting in Wolverhampton in 1917, the Villiers Company did exactly the same but on a much larger scale making engines for the majority of UK motorcycle companies at one time or another until the 1970’s.
At about the same time as this engines and chassis were usually made and sold by engineering companies such as Clement and Royce and then sold to a ‘coach builder’ who would finish of the car by making and fitting bespoke bodywork. Mulliner was perhaps the most famous English coach builder fitting bodywork to high quality cars such as Rolls Royce.
Clement allowed their product to be ‘badged up’ under the retailers name. I cannot find any evidence to suggest that Mr Webb purchased his car engines from the Clement car company to install in his cars but it is a nice thought, which if true would round off the story nicely.
The suggestion that Rolls might have entered a partnership with Webb in stead of with Royce is just a fantasy of a local writer. When reading the history of C S Rolls and his motor car business such an alliance was never on the cards.
In 1904 Rolls was operating the largest motor car sales and service business in London selling principally Mors and Panhard cars made in France. Daimler was the only wholy British car in those days and when Rolls met Royce who was developing his first cars in Manchester he was so impressed with his first models that they entered a partnership where Henry Royce would manufacture the cars and Charles Rolls would sell and service them through his business in London.