Most of us have heard the claim that Huddersfield was once home to so many wealthy folk that it could boast more Rolls-Royce cars than anywhere else in England, or Britain, perhaps even the world.
Who made that claim, in which year and was it true?
With help from the Huddersfield Civic Society, we’ve delved into the archives in an attempt to find some answers.
Chris Marsden, chairman of the society, has been collecting Huddersfield-related quotes for many years and is fascinated by the Rolls-Royce connection.
The Rolls-Royce/Huddersfield quote crops up again and again, over many years, in many different publications, including on television.
When Huddersfield-born actor James Mason made a film for ITV in 1972, he said: “Enough brass has rubbed off to make some Huddersfield folk very rich. It was once said that there were more Rolls-Royces here than any other place in England.”
Chris Marsden says it crops up on all manner of websites, as a quiz question and in newspapers.
Huddersfield’s Samuel Tweed Fabrics has the following on its website: “With Huddersfield having the largest concentration of Rolls-Royces in the world, by the late 1940s due to the wealth of the mill owners, business thrived.”
In a Guardian quiz, Are you a true northerner?, one question asks: “In a survey of the number of Rolls-Royces per head of population, which place had the most?”
The correct answer wasn’t London or Wilmslow but Huddersfield.
According to a Financial Times article from 2008, “Anecdotes vary as to whether it was Huddersfield or Bradford...that once had Britain’s highest per capita ownership of Rolls-Royces, purchased on the back of fortunes made in the wool trade.”
The earliest reference Chris could find was in a book, Education and the Working Class (1962) which says: “Huddersfield is a rich city (sic). It claims to have more Rolls-Royces per head than any other place on earth.”
And here the trail goes cold.
Chris believes the answer may lay in one of Huddersfield’s wealthier suburbs. He has recently helped put together a book about Edgerton’s villas which, when published, will reveal Edgerton was once home to many Rolls-Royces, possibly as early as 1910.
Further clues may also be found in the archives of Rippon Brothers, a Huddersfield coachbuilder which landed an exclusive manufacturing deal with Rolls-Royce in 1906.
Rippon made the bodies of nearly all the Rolls-Royce models until 1958 and sold them to the wealthy who lived in and around Huddersfield.
In 1963 Rippon Brothers received an impressive endorsement of its work when Rolls-Royce presented it with an award to commemorate the delivery of the 1,000th Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
Chris is still keen to find out more, having spent hours poring over archives.
“I keep reading the Rolls-Royce quote about Huddersfield but it is never substantiated. I have been to a lot of sources but have been unable to find out where it came from.”
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