Monmouth Commemorates the Life of Charles Rolls 100 Years After Death
Centenary Commemoration of Life of Charles Rolls, founder of Rolls Royce, in Monmouth, Wales, UK 12/07/2010
The life and times of the Hon. Charles Rolls were commemorated today by several events in and around Monmouth, Wales, United Kingdom. He was the third son of Baron LLangattock of Monmouthshire. The family seat was at The Hendre in Monmouth. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied Mechanical and Applied Science and was always fascinated with mechanical engineering from an early age. His sporting prowess on bicycles, balloons, aero planes and motor-cars were legendary.
He was known as "Dirty Rolls" at Cambridge because of his continuous tinkering with engines.
He purchased the third car ever seen in Wales. In January 1903 some five years after graduating he set up a car dealership based in Fulham. The company was C.S. Rolls and Co. In May 1904 he met Henry Royce in the Midland Hotel, Manchester; the result of that meeting was historic. He agreed to buy all the production that Henry Royce could make and to resell the cars under the name of Rolls-Royce. In 1906 Rolls and Royce became Roll Royce Limited and eventually that company went on to buy out C.S. Rolls in 1907.
He fell in love with aviation and was an early 20th century balloonist, making ascents using coal gas from a local Gasworks. He made around 170 balloon flights. He helped found the Royal Aero Club in 1903 and was the second person in this country to be granted an Aero Licence. His interest in balloons blossomed in 1907 into one for airplanes and he became one of those magnificent men in their flying machines, taking part in races and daredevil displays. His personal aircraft was bi-plane designed by Wright brothers and made by Short brothers. He was in a flying display at Henistbury Airfield on 12th July 1909, and the tail piece of his aircraft broke off. He was the first Briton to be killed in an aircraft crash. He was only 32 years old at the time. He was buried in St. Cadoc's Church, Llangattock Vibon Avel, near Monmouth. In 1911 Lord Raglan unveiled a statue outside the Shire Hall, in Agincourt Square, Monmouth. The statue shows Charles Rolls holding a bi-plane and gives details of his death in the flying accident.
One hundred years later the Shire Hall and statue have been undergoing refurbishment and the work has been finished just in time for the centenary of his death.
The events to commemorate the life of Charles Rolls began with a church service at Llangattock church where he is buried. The Rolls Royce Company (Rolls-Royce Plc) have given much generous support to this event, ensuring a thorough tidying up of the churchyard and that all the church graves were cleared of excess undergrowth.
The congregation passed two superb vintage Roll Royce cars and the service was opened by The Rev'd Simon Guest, the Vicar of Llangattock who welcomed the many people attending the church service. Throughout the church were a number of themed exhibits relating to Charles Rolls, even the pulpit had its own Rolls Royce badge. Hymns were sung and Mrs Olive Barrell gave the first reading. A second reading was given by a direct descendant of the Rolls family, Mr Simon Harding-Rolls. The Harding-Rolls family still live in the Hendre area.
A third reading was made by Mr Roger James, Community Relations Manager for Rolls-Royce Plc. A final address on the life and times of Charles Rolls was given by the Right Reverend Dominic Walker O.G.S. Lord Bishop of Monmouth.
Within the church a model bi-plane hung from the ceiling along with a superb flower arrangement of a bi-plane, the pulpit had a Rolls-Royce badge on it and a number of other items were on display to show the life of Charles Rolls. Once the service was over each member of the Congregation was offered a posy to take from the church porch and requested to lay it on Charles Rolls's grave as their personal tribute to the memory of this daring aviator. As they passed through the church porch the bell ringers rang the bells 32 times - one peal for each year of the life of Charles Rolls.
Elsewhere in the town of Monmouth a church service took place at St. Mary's Priory Church at 12 noon. This was a huge Congregation of individuals from County Council dignitaries to members of the armed services. Outside the church was an impressive display of Rolls Royce cars spanning the decades. An expected fly-past by the Battle of Britain Memorial flight was cancelled at short notice, causing much disappointment to the crowds. The service was followed by an official presentation at the refurbished Shire Hall and Charles Rolls statue, this was brought forward due to the cancellation of the flight and resulted in large numbers of people arriving for the official presentation after it had taken place adding to the disappointment felt. A cavalcade of Rolls Royce cars paraded through the town but many people missed these because of the decision to change the timing of the event. Many tourists, visitors and townspeople were angry and confused over the decision to change the timing of an event that they saw as an historic moment in the history of the town. A considerable crowd gathered in small groups unsure of what was going to happen next. Several tourists who had planned to arrive for the presentation were visibly upset that it had been moved forward and that they had missed it. Apart from this unfortunate event the celebrations were very impressive and one left feeling that the spirit, daring and drive of Charles Rolls was in the air at Monmouth once again.