Road Map: A Look Into the Life of Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls, from Balloonist to Racer to Luxury Automaker - Play

Rolls-Royce recently celebrated its co-founder’s birthday by taking Ghost on a pilgrimage around London, stopping off at places connected with Rolls’ life and career.

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Rolls-Royce Motor Cars marked the 144th birthday of its co-founder, the Honorary Charles Stewart Rolls today, August 27.

Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls

“While he is of course best known as one of our co-founders, The Hon Charles Stewart Rolls, born on this day in 1877, was also a pioneer of aviation, a successful racing driver and a gifted engineer,” says Rolls-Royce Motor Cars chief executive officer Torsten Müller-Ötvös. “His audacity, fearlessness, love of adventure and willingness to push boundaries continue to inspire us and our products.”

Today, the company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BMW Group and is a completely separate company from Rolls-Royce plc, the manufacturer of aircraft engines and propulsion systems.

Over 2,000 skilled men and women are employed at the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ head office and manufacturing plant at Goodwood, West Sussex. The site is the only place in the world where the company’s super-luxury motor cars are hand-built.

In honor of the occasion, the marque undertook a pilgrimage around London locations associated with the great man’s life and career, capturing striking images of the Rolls-Royce Ghost at each stop along the way.

The itinerary took in the following sites:

35 Hill Street, Mayfair

The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls was born in this house close to Berkeley Square on August 27, 1877. As the third son of Lord and Lady Llangattock, he was born into a life of wealth and privilege, going on to be educated at Eton and Cambridge and enjoying the freedom to indulge his passions for aviation and motor racing.

By contrast, his business partner, Henry Royce, came from a humble background. In 1876, aged just 10, he was working as a telegram delivery boy at the Mayfair Post Office. His “beat” included Hill Street, so it is perfectly possible that he delivered congratulatory letters and telegrams to Rolls’ proud parents.

119 Piccadilly

Until 1961, this Grade II Listed building on Piccadilly was the home of the Royal Aero Club, which Rolls co-founded in 1901 with Frank Hedges Butler, a leading London wine merchant, and Butler’s daughter, Vera. Rolls began his flying career as a balloonist, making over 170 flights and winning the Gordon Bennett Gold Medal in 1903 for the longest sustained time aloft.

In 1910, he became only the second person in Britain to be awarded an aeroplane pilot’s licence; that same year, he achieved the unique feat of being the first Englishman to fly an aeroplane across the English Channel, and the first aviator ever to fly non-stop from England to France and back again.

Though now based outside the capital, the Royal Aero Club remains the national governing and coordinating body of air sport and recreational flying in Britain.

Royal Automobile Club (RAC)

Rolls was also a founder member of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, which became the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) in 1897.

It was a fellow RAC member, Henry Edmunds, who arranged the historic first meeting between Rolls and Henry Royce at the Midland Hotel, Manchester, on 4 May 1904. The Club’s Secretary, Claude Johnson, was Rolls’ business partner in his car dealership, C S Rolls & Co, and later became the first managing director of Rolls-Royce.

The Club took up residence in its current home at 89 Pall Mall in 1911, a year after Rolls’ tragic early death in a flying accident at just 32 years old.

14-15 Conduit Street

This building on Conduit Street, which connects Bond Street and Regent Street, was the West End headquarters of Rolls-Royce Ltd for much of the twentieth century.

From 1905 until his death in 1910, Rolls had his office here, and used it as a base for demonstration drives of the company’s early models. On March 22, 2010, its historic significance was marked with an English Heritage Blue Plaque, unveiled by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.

Berkeley Street

A stone’s-throw from Rolls’ birthplace and one of the most prestigious addresses in London, Berkeley Street is regarded as the heart of Mayfair. Today, it is the site of Rolls-Royce’s flagship UK store, the first in the world to be transformed with the marque’s new corporate identity.

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