BRITAIN’S oldest coachbuilder was based in Huddersfield for more than 100 years and will be the subject of a new history book.
The famous Rippon Brothers built coaches for Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.
Later the company landed an exclusive manufacturing deal with Rolls-Royce.
Leading motoring historian Jonathan Wood is currently researching the book and needs the help of Huddersfield locals who have memories of the town’s coachbuilders from later years.
Rippon’s associations with Huddersfield date back to 1870 when William Rippon established the business in St John’s Road.
Before the First World War the company moved to purpose-built premises in Viaduct Street.
The building was occupied until 1971 and is now part of the site of the Tesco supermarket.
Jonathan, co-founder of Classic Car magazine, explained: “Before the business came to Huddersfield, Walter Rippon is credited with having introduced the coach to England in 1555 with his first customer being the Earl of Rutland.
“In 1584, Rippon built a special ‘chariot throne’ for Elizabeth I and also made a coach for Mary Queen of Scots.”
Decendant William Rippon set up the Huddersfield business and it was later taken on by his three sons William, Joseph and George.
The firm started to operate a thriving business making the transition from horse-drawn vehicles to horseless carriages.
Jonathan, 65, from Shropshire, said: “In the 1920s it was awarded sole selling rights in the area for Bentley and the prestigious French Delage marque. Rippon built bodies on these chassis and many others which included those of Daimler, Lanchester and Renault.
“But the company’s reputation for excellence was rooted in its association with Rolls-Royce, having built its first body for what was a new make in 1906.”
Rippon made the bodies of nearly all the Rolls-Royce models until 1958.
Jonathan said: “Rippon was ideally placed to sell and body Rolls-Royces because many of its customers were wealthy mill owners who lived in and around the town.
“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.”
The company’s chairman and managing director from 1949 until his death in 1969 was Joseph’s son, Colonel Reginald Rippon.
Following Col Rippon’s death in 1970 the firm was acquired by Appleyard of Leeds.
Renamed Appleyard Rippon, the Huddersfield premises were sold in 1971, and moved to Leeds. The Rippon name was later dropped.
Jonathan is the author of some 35 titles of automobile history.
He said: “Rippon has a fascinating history and the quality of its work was second to none.
“I am seeking any information on the company’s activities, be it coachbuilding or retail, personal reminiscences, photographs and any printed material.
“They will, of course, be acknowledged and returned after use.”
Jonathan can be contacted by e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01584 875438.
Or write to him at: The Merchant House, Lower Corve Street, Ludlow, Shropshire SY8 1DU.