When I was a young manager on the “relief circuit” for Amalgamated Theatres I never knew where my next port of call would be. With Easter fast approaching, and without any instructions, I thought I might be home in Auckland for the holiday break. But it was not to be.  


“This time It’s Napier…”

In 1965 I was asked by Amalgamated Theatres’ Business Manager, Mick Sayegh, to relieve Bertie Bolton, the manager at the “State” Theatre, Napier.  He had ben manager there for many years and was going on holiday after almost continual illnesses of one kind or another, mostly bronchial. Bertie wanted to start his break at Easter. I was at home in Auckland between relieving jobs, not long having returned from a stint in Wellington at various cinemas there, and just having not long before having purchased my first car, a pre-loved Morris Six. I decided to take it on the trip to Napier. My friend Glenn-Ross would travel with me, motoring south on Good Friday, spend Easter in Napier with me and return by plane on Wednesday in time for a half-day in school. Neither of us had been to Napier before.

It was cold weather and the trip from Taupo to Napier seemed interminable, particularly the long winding up-and-down hill section of the highway that was still unsealed. But eventually we arrived on the coastal flat at Eskdale and knew we were coming to the end of the journey. As arranged, we checked into the Spa Private Hotel on the sea-front north of the city centre, and settled in.

The Spa Private Hotel on the waterfront, Napier

Arriving at the “State”

Bert Bolton had already left town for his holiday when I arrived. On Saturday morning, as planned, I went to the cinema to meet the senior cashier, Jean Tylee, to pick up the keys, get orientated, and to look over immediate tasks.

State Theatre Napier in the 1940s – unchanged in the 1960s
Tapuhi, Alexander Turnbull Library

Jean explained she had rostered extra people on for the afternoon sessions (2pm and 5pm) which weren’t going to be extra busy, to allow me the day off, returning in time for the 8pm session.  Jean had been employed at the “State” for many years: she was goldmine of information about the building, the staff, the patrons… to say nothing of her extensive knowledge about Napier and surrounds. She had lived all her life in the city, her house high above the street on the waterfront north of the central business district: if I am not mistaken the local jail was her next-door neighbour.

Jean was a walking encyclopedia, not in a know-it-all way, but when she was asked about anything she shared the answers, put in a matter-of-fact way. You could guarantee what she said was correct in every detail. Her experience at the “State” told me she was well able to handle the afternoon sessions in my absence. Time to look around Napier!


Glenn-Ross and I took off on a journey of exploration, first having a drive around Napier visiting Marineland, the aquarium, the “Veronica” bell and the War Memorial Fountain.

War Memorial Fountain


HMS Veronica Gardens

We soon came across the statue of “Pania of the Reef” amid manicured waterfront gardens.  We were not moved, apparently like so many visitors before us, to caress the beautiful maiden’s bronze bosoms!  We left her unmolested.

Pania of the Reef – 1965

We walked through the Anglican Cathedral and had a look at the nearby fire station. In ‘the suburbs’ we also paused at Kennedy Park which had at the time been very much in the news, subject of an almighty squabble involving Napier City Council. Councillors had raised a loan to build motel apartments on the Park which was public land, despite objections from Napier motel owners

who said the competition was unfair and that the Council had no place in business. Heated disagreement and protracted legal action ultimately ended in the Supreme Court which ruled the Council had exceeded its authority and could not operate a motel on Kennedy Park. By that time some 35 units had been erected, so the Council was in some difficulty.  But victory for private enterprise was short-lived. Empowering legislation was passed in Parliament allowing the City Council to continue the business. Nevertheless, it was something of a test case – local authorities everywhere realised they could not legitimately run a commercial business.

It was interesting to drive through Kennedy Park among the motel units which had caused so many headlines and so much fuss over several years.

As I recall it, it was a short drive from the Park to Vigor Brown Street. Its name had intrigued me since early childhood when I first saw it written by my mother as the address on the envelope of a letter written to her friends living in Napier. I can’t recall their name but I think the husband served in the same unit as my father during the war. John Vigor Brown, without the ‘u’, was an immigrant from Australia in the 1870s whom the street had been named after. A businessman, his talents were soon realised and after he settled in Napier he was elected to public office, notably the Harbour Board and Borough Council. He was voted Mayor in 1907, a position he held for many years: opportunity to develop the port and put in place many other public works. After the earthquake in 1931, still mayor at age 76, he led restoration, first canvassing the Government for funds and then appointing key officers to ensure Napier was rebuilt “better than before”.  So he was responsible for all the art-deco buildings so admired all these decades later!

Having traversed Vigor Brown Street, we drove to Hastings, had a look around the shops in the business area and returned to Napier.

Back to the Office…

We had an early dinner, returned to the hotel where I changed into my dinner suit ready for the 8pm session at the State. Evening dress was unexpected, I was to discover, because Bertie usually attended in the evenings in civilian suit. Jean explained he wore an extra layer or two to keep warm: often retaining his overcoat and scarf while in the office as well as turning on the one-bar electric heater for additional warmth.  The manager’s desk was tucked in a small room behind the ticket office on the Dickens Street frontage.

I met all the staff on duty, toured the projection box and the auditorium. It was there that I found several quaint features that the locals called “party boxes”, separate small rooms upstairs, partitioned from the main auditorium, that each seated 2-6 people. I attended to the usual managerial duties, saw the house in and checked the books from earlier sessions. At interval I walked about the cinema in conversation with staff members or those among the patrons who willingly engaged.

I recommenced the book work in the office and realised that I was suffering Bertie’s complaint – I was cold and turned the heater on.

A Long Trek

Next day was fine and I had the day off. Glenn-Ross and I decided to visit the gannet nesting area at Cape Kidnappers. We drove as far as we could towards the Cape, to Clifton, and finding the tides suitable, decided to turn down offers of a tractor ride along the beach. Instead, we elected to walk beneath the cliffs to reach the gannets – and back, careful to beat an incoming tide. It was quite a hike: we paced ourselves, and at one stage debated whether to hitch a ride when the tractor/trailer passed us. We stuck it out, walking across shallow bays, wading through rock pools, climbing up and over reefs and, wherever possible, trying to stay on the softer sand where it was easier-going. Once near to the Cape we climbed a steep track to a vantage position. It was well worth the trek and climb: there were hundreds of birds below us – some appeared to be nesting while others were departing and returning to the site, wheeling in the wind high above the sea and the cape before making their steep descent and alighting on the rock.

Given the incoming tide, we knew we did not have much time to linger if we were to return without having to wade across shallow inlets.

Cape Kidnappers

I recall we encountered a small hut where a sign offered drinking water, accompanied by an enamel mug or two. Help yourself service! We accepted… refreshment was welcome in the heat of the day. It was then that we probably realised that we had come quite unprepared for such a long walk! We set out back along the beach. We were getting tired. The tractor was going toward the Cape on its last trip to pick up any stragglers and as it passed us on the way back to Clifton we thumbed a ride, joining the few on the tray of the trailer for a rock ‘n roll, bumpy, trip over rocks and ruts and squishing through streams. I don’t think the trailer had any springs and the old mattress slung on the tray absorbed few of the constant jolts and shocks.

Talking to fellow passengers on the trailer I found out why we were feeling a bit tired. A woman told me it was about 4 and a half miles (8 km) from Clifton to the Cape! So we must have walked at least 10 kms!

Needless to say after that long walk, the exercise and all that sea air we slept well that night. Nowadays one can take a helicopter to the Cape or stay at a nearby luxury resort before making the short walk to see the gannets.

Easter Monday, we took in the old port area, the newer suburb to the North of Napier and a beach or two beyond the Eskdale turnoff.

Next day we motored inland to Rissington to see a Motor Museum there and then early evening, we found a restaurant. I had excused myself from the State until mid-evening…  it was a “farewell dinner” because Glenn-Ross was flying out next day. By arrangement with Jean Tylee I arrived at the cinema immediately after interval to “do the books”.

In the morning I reluctantly took Glenn-Ross out to the airport for his trip home. He was in school uniform because he was going on straight to school.  e was It was only when we reached Napier airport we realised the whole flat area comprising the runways and adjacent farmland was all a legacy of the earthquake, hitherto underwater, part of the bay. Photos in the airport waiting area documented the before and after.

It was a melancholy departure as Glenn-Ross left on NAC’s Fokker Friendship for Auckland…

 “The Yellow Rolls Royce”

Now alone, I put in much more time at the State. I noted we were to be screening a very popular block-buster movie “The Yellow Rolls Royce” with its all-star cast – Rex Harrison,  Ingrid Bergman, Shirley MacLaine, Omar Sharif, George C. Scott, Art Carney, Alain Delon and Jeanne Moreau.

I had been relieving at the State Theatre, Wellington, when it screened there and managed to get extra publicity for it by inviting British singing star Gracie Fields to opening night. She, perchance, was on a New Zealand tour and in Wellington at the time. I noted she was not performing on the Friday night so through her agent, J. C. Williamson’s manager, Arch Elliot, arranged for her to come to our premiere.

Gracie was still recording in the 1960s and 70s

I had found a yellow Rolls Royce owned by a veteran vehicle enthusiast in the Hutt and arranged for Gracie to be picked up at her hotel and delivered in style to the State just in time for the movie. She was presented with a grand bouquet of yellow flowers as she stepped out of the Rolls Royce – and ‘click!’- the photographer from the Dominion newspaper got a great picture of the emerging Gracie which featured on the front page of the Dominion the following (Saturday) morning. Arch Elliot told me later that he thought the picture and write-up benefitted Gracie’s box office as well as ours.

There was no Gracie Fields to repeat the publicity stunt in Napier when the movie opened there, nor could I find a yellow Roller. But there were a few of the famous cars in the Bay and I arranged for them to parade through the town and park up outside the State theatre: drivers and passengers as guests, all welcome to see the film about “The Yellow Rolls Royce”.


As a side-bar promotion I wanted something to do with motoring prominent at the State for the duration of what we could expect to be an extended season, given the movie’s popularity.  Somehow I got on to the agents for Fiat cars, Faulknor Motors, and the fact they were heavily promoting the Fiat 500, the baby model. I wanted maximum exposure with the slogan, something like, ‘Not everyone can afford a Yellow Rolls Royce’, or similar, alongside the Fiat 500. Faulknors agreed. I was keen to hoist two cars high up on the cinema’s verandas over the footpath, one on Dickens Street, the other above Dalton Street. But City Council permission would be needed and, besides, there was some doubt whether the aging structure would support the weight of the vehicles, even though they were among the lighter mini-car class!

The Longest Cinema Promotion…

I did not want to test fate. I knew very well the story surrounding the gala opening night for “The Longest Day” at the opposition’s Odeon Cinema.


The premiere was in aid of the local Returned Services Association, and to set the scene outside the cinema the Army had arranged to deliver a tank. There it was, outside the Odeon with its turret turned and barrel adjusted as if it was about to deliver a shell the length of Hastings Street. I am sure the Formal Gala began well… all the guests in their civilian finery and uniforms (with medals!) welcomed out front on the red carpet and, after drinks, taking their seats to watch the movie, without doubt a block-buster hit. But when, mid-evening, time came to remove the tank it somehow threw one of its tracks and there it was immobilised in the middle of the intersection and had to remain for 48 hours until military engineers arrived with equipment to restore the track and move the tank out. Meanwhile there was considerable inconvenience at the heart of the central business district, the road closed in one direction, with traffic having to go around it in the other. While it probably wasn’t positive publicity for the Army, the film or the R.S.A., some say all publicity is good publicity… and “The Longest Day” probably got its share!

So for “The Yellow Rolls Royce” I decided not to tempt disaster on the verandah, but rather to drive the Fiat into the foyer and display it there. The catch-line was “No parking space here for the Yellow Rolls Royce but plenty for the Fiat 500!” To get the car in we had to take down one of the main doors at the front of the theatre. Once unscrewed at the hinges the door easily admitted the car, in fact it was driven straight up to the ticket box and onto the carpet.

The Fiat parked in the foyer of the State Theatre, Napier

Incidentally the cost of a Fiat 500 at the time was £600. And, ironically, fast-forward to 2007 when Fiat re-introduced a new version of a similar-shaped vehicle, celebrating 50 years since the first 500 hit the road.

“The Yellow Rolls Royce” did very well, with coverage in the local newspaper (picture and write-up in successive editions showing Rolls Royce cars outside the “State” and the baby Fiat inside).

Patrons leave after the premier of “The Yellow Rolls Royce”

A Remarkable Feat

I was still recalling the long drive over the Taupo to Napier road that we had experienced on the afternoon of Good Friday.  As sole driver it seemed a long haul.  So I had every sympathy with, and a whole lot of respect for, a motorist I read about in the Hawkes Bay newspaper at that time who had a nightmare trip along that road. He was driving a Jaguar and was a little over halfway between Taupo and Napier when his head and side-lights failed. Undaunted, he turned the car around, and using the car’s small reversing light and tail-lights backed the car all the way into Napier, arriving just before dawn!

I could hardly imagine how he pulled off this feat but had to believe it because it was written up so authoritatively in the press article. The man was named and was on business in Napier and said his first port of call when he arrived in the Bay was to get his headlights fixed. Naturally!

Complaint #1 – The Cold Office   

I was aware of complaints about two things at the State.

The first grizzle affected me. No matter what I did I was always cold in the Manager’s Office.  No wonder Bertie was so often laid low with bronchial complaints. He was not a young man. Bert suffered … and now, so was I!  Then I noticed that as soon as the house had gone in, it was Jean Tylee’s habit to put her overcoat on.  She, too, was feeling the cold. I carried out a few tests. Lighted matches were blown out by the draught whistling between a side door and the front doors. I deployed a lighted candle to trace the air flow and the flame was blown out from the side door, through the unprotected office, on under the door which connected it with the ticket box, through the ticket box, over the counter and out the main doors. It was a proven wind-tunnel. I figured a partition might be worked into the foyer’s design without making it objectionable to the eye but which might deflect the draught. To prove the point I got one of the ushers to ask her husband, a carpenter, to bring in a sheet of hardboard which we propped up near where I thought a partition might help. The wind tunnel abated as if by magic just as soon as the deflection was put in place. Within a week I had successfully argued for funds from Head Office to build in the partition and paint it to match the rest of the foyer. The usher’s hubby soon completed the work and both the manager’s office and the ticket box were much warmer: cosy, in fact. Skipping ahead a bit, I had a brief note from Bert once he returned from leave, thanking me for “his warm office and clear lungs!”

Complaint #2 – Sound Problems

The second concern was muffled sound in some parts of the auditorium – important because it affected patrons’ enjoyment of the movies. It was well-known which seats were affected. Frequent patrons avoided seats in that block, and if the theatre filled these seats were among the last to be issued by the cashier in the ticket office.

Now it was time for me to look at the problem. The shape of the “State” was plain, like a large rectangular box. More than two levels high, as were most cinemas, it had the screen high up at one end, ground floor stalls with quite a significant rake, plus seating and the party boxes upstairs in the circle behind which was the projection box. At some stage the theatre had been redecorated, perhaps to reflect the art-deco look, with what looked like giant brightly-coloured shiny domes attached, haphazard, along both side walls. They looked like buttons or bubbles. When discussing the sound problem with the projectionist he said he thought the domes had been placed there to reduce unacceptable echo which was experienced immediately following the redecoration. It seems the sound from the giant horn-speaker behind the screen had been bouncing off the expansive walls, causing unacceptable echoes in the stalls. The domes were designed to break up the sound as it reverberated around inside the cinema. During our discussions we got a box office plan and shaded the seats known to be worst affected by the muffled sound. From the domes on the wall we drew lines into the shaded sections. While this didn’t prove anything conclusively, it appeared the domes could be to blame. I had the brain-wave that the shiny high-gloss paint might be causing deflections of the sound and discussed this with the one most likely to know about such things, Ray Bullen, the engineer at Amalgamated Theatres’ Head Office.  It was agreed I would get the domes repainted in the same colours but in thick matte paint in an effort to remedy the reflections. It took two coats to “roughen up” the surface. Problem solved, the sound was A1, evenly spread throughout the auditorium.

I think the staff were bemused that the young relieving manager had fixed two long-standing problems.

Bertram Yeatts Bolton

Staff at the State told me that Bertie Bolton was a graduate from live theatre, that he had been one of the last of the vaudeville men in New Zealand. I believed it.

I have since found that he was member of the troupe called “Diggers Pierrots” which during World War One had entertained troops at the front in France, and elsewhere, and then, post-war, toured Australia and New Zealand.

The Digger Pierrots in France during the First World War
Alexander Turnbull Library

The group repeated many of the wartime songs and added newer ones, combined with other burlesque and stage entertainment. J. C. Williamson managed the group and its popularity can be gauged by its sell-out  five week season at Sydney’s Theatre Royal. They toured Australia and then came on to New Zealand where Bertie Bolton was their advance manager, going on ahead of the troupe to advertise and arrange their tour.

The entertainment was very popular in New Zealand, too… so much so that the tour was extended several times, mainly to play some centres for the second time. Some advertisements say Bertie was a trombonist in the accompanying travelling orchestra.

Bert was advance manager for other touring acts and then in 1924 switched to film as manager for Universal Pictures based in Wellington. He subsequently worked for various companies managing or revamping properties… the Opera House in New Plymouth and then  in 1933, the brand new Plaza theatre in Napier. The State was built about the same time.

Bertie had traversed show business from live performances to silent movies, often accompanied by a pianist setting the mood and then later by the “talkies”, with sound. And black and white gave way to colour and the narrow standard screen to Cinemascope.

Jean Tylee and the Earthquake

Jean Tylee was a survivor of the 1931Napier Earthquake and one evening we got talking about the terrible loss of life, damage and changes caused by the big shake, and the fires afterwards, in both Napier and Hastings.

Jean had a book, a limited edition, I think published by the Hastings newspaper soon after the event, depicting aspects of the earthquake in text and photos. Jean advised that it was a rare book, that its value had greatly appreciated over the years but she kindly lent it to me to read. It wasn’t until I had grasped the full details that I realised just how devastating the earthquake, and its aftermath, had been.  The fires that followed the ‘quake, it seemed, had done more damage than the actual jolt and rumble.


I received word that Bertie was ill again and would be late back from holiday, and I agreed to stay on until his return.

Jean Tylee: Diagnosis

It must have been the end of a month and one of the tasks was to balance the books. There were several separate accounts – wages, revenue and entertainment tax being the main ones. This particular month I could not get the figures to reconcile. I could always add the figures “in my head” without an adding machine or calculator. I started with the wages book but adding the columns… pounds shillings and pence in those days… was getting me nowhere with a different answer every time I tried. I began to fret that my mental calculations were somehow going awry. In desperation I called Jean Tylee to the office. “I can’t get this to balance: it’s my addition. Watch me while I try again”. We agreed that I would call out the numbers as I whipped up the column. I thought I was doing great, zoomed up the figures in the “pence” column following progress with my pencil, and calling out the sums. Just as I was about to announce the answer Jean interrupted. “Look where your pencil is!” Somehow I had strayed across the work-sheet moving left, from column to column, so that the last few figures I had added  were not in the right-hand pence column, where I had begun,  but way over to the left in the pounds column. No wonder things weren’t adding up and as a consequence the monthly returns could not be completed.

Jean immediately said that she thought I might benefit by wearing glasses.

The very next day I was off to the opticians, I think the name of the company was Styles. Tests revealed I would benefit by prescription spectacles. So at age 19 I started wearing glasses – just for ‘close work’, it was explained. I had no further trouble adding multiple columns of figures.   The books were balancing again!

 Don Low in Town

About this time I had a message from long-time friend Don Low who was coming to Napier for a couple of weeks, relieving in NZBC’s Napier radio newsroom.

After he settled-in we met for the first time in a coffee bar. Sitting across from us was young woman. I told Don I greatly admired the attractive young blonde and, that somewhat awkwardly, it seemed I was always bumping into her in the street, at the shops and at the cinema. I wondered who she was. She always seemed to be alone.  A few days later Don rang to say “your ‘girlfriend’ has turned up and what’s more, I know who she is!”  Don had been covering Napier Police Court that day for radio news, a case of a local woman charged with attempting to perform an abortion. The young woman I had taken a shine to was in court giving evidence. She turned out to be an undercover Woman Police Constable (WPC), as she was differentially called in those days, on special assignment from Auckland. She had been a decoy to catch the defendant “in the act”. The aged woman must have been busy because she faced many similar charges after a procession of out-of-town undercover WPCs had called on her services. Part of the prosecution’s medical evidence, I recall, said that the abortionist was a danger to the community: her “patients” frequently suffered physical and mental after-effects.

This, of course, was before the days of reform of the law regarding abortion and the advent of clinics. While abortion wasn’t often mentioned in open company, in private it was known that some doctors could “engineer” examinations and procedures that might induce miscarriage and, by word of mouth and careful referrals, those wanting an abortion might be introduced to health workers providing a covert service. It was widely rumoured that chemists (pharmacists), knew how to prepare “a brew” that might trigger an abortion and then there were numerous procedures and recipes for self-abortion circulating in the community. Some of these were “old wives’ tales”, well-meaning but of dubious efficacy.

By the way, I never saw the young WPC again.

A Rude Awakening

Early one afternoon it was dreadfully cold in Napier. Don and I had a late lunch at our favourite café despite the falling temperatures. He said it was snowing not far from the city, reports coming in from Rissington. Encouraged by the thought of seeing snow falling for the first time in my life I motored out towards the hills just beyond Rissington where it was snowing enough to gather in small drifts. I did not hang about. Having experienced the snow, and the freezing cold, I quickly got on the road back to Napier in case I got stuck.

My interest in fires and fire-fighting was well-known.

Early one June morning, perhaps around 5 am, there was a sharp rapping on my door in the Spa Hotel.

It was the manager summoning me to get dressed so I could go to a fire. Don Low had received word that Hastings Central School was well alight. He phoned the hotel (unused to phone calls at that hour) asking that a message be passed to me saying he was on his way to Hastings… he knew I would like to go with him and so would the manager please alert me because Don would be along in a few minutes to pick me up. This he did and we attended the blaze which was almost extinguished by the time we arrived, but flames had earlier swept through several classrooms.

Fire-fight in freezing temperatures. “Fighting Flames” by Russell Kirby

Hastings Fire Brigade had made a good save, cutting off the blaze thus saving most of the school. Ironically firemen were working in freezing conditions. I recall Don’s inquiries revealed that this gave the fire-fighters problems. Subsequent checking found that the men’s wet uniforms chilled their bodies as they fought the fire. The Fire Chief, Len (Tiger) Harlen, was taken to hospital with concussion and several broken ribs after he fell on a flight of stairs during fire-fighting. He made a good recovery.

Return to Auckland

Bertie Bolton was ready to resume. Before he arrived back in Napier I was on my way back to Auckland, so funnily enough I never met the man.

I had been in Napier more than 2 months. I was not certain what was in store for me at Amalgamated Theatres which was unusual because normally I got a letter from Head Office, Business Manager Mick Sayegh, advising where my next assignment was.

It turned out the manager of the Lido, Epsom, had left the company’s employ and I was asked to take over. Managing the art-house suited me down to the ground. I was very familiar with the place having worked there part-time when it was the Regent and after its conversion in 1962 to the Lido.

What’s more it was very handy, just around the road from the family home in the Epsom “village” where I spent my youth. I looked forward to the up-market audience and getting to know many patrons personally.

It was a dream appointment. I took over on July 1st 1965, the first night of a 1954 French film in black and white, “Lesson in Love”, directed by Ingmar Bergman. It may be unique – he made a brief appearance as a man in a scene at a railway station. Copying Hitchcock! For a Bergman film it had a short (two-week) season.


RCC 2015


Papers Past – National Library of New Zealand

National Library of New Zealand – wartime entertainers

Trove – Sydney stage shows 1920

Investigating what makes up the 1930 Dennis Dart fire engine, I found interesting stories: not just from Dennis Brothers themselves, but from various makers whom the Dennis company trusted to supply the appliance’s top-quality mechanical and electrical equipment.

“Top quality” was held important by Dennis because the company long had a policy that its appliances must always be serviceable, ready to respond to fight fires in those communities around the globe which had purchased – and relied on – a Dennis fire engine in times of emergency.

                            1930 Dennis Brothers’ Dart Low-load fire engine

Dennis Brothers, thus, chose only makers with proven products for their fire engines. Research into the componentry turned up the almost unbelievable story behind Albert Champion, originally of spark plug fame, then the connection between the Dart and the first armoured car (or was it a tank?), along with the innovative oil filter and also the maker of the Dart’s ammeter, Frederick Simms who coined the name “motor car”, the prolific inventor Edward Weston who on his death owned more than 300 patents. And Dennis Brothers themselves, who reputedly made one of the first motor vehicle in England. Here are their stories…

 Dennis Brothers – Patented Worm Drive

This was developed and patented (Patent Number 3224) in 1904, creating acrimonious debate among the motor engineers of the day, many of whom favoured the bevel drive. Ray and John, the Dennis brothers, persisted and showed their worm drive to be much more durable under rough treatment. They included the worm drive in a racing car they built in 1903.

Dennis Brothers said the advantages of the worm drive over chain drive included less clunking noise, smoother take-off without jerks and less maintenance on the chains and cogs. Without chains, vehicles with the worm drive were arguably safer: no exposed moving parts to get caught up in while the car was underway. By the end of 1904 the brothers had turned their attention to the design of commercial vehicles and late that year showed their 15 cwt. van at the Crystal Palace Motor Show. It had a 12 horse-power De Dion engine, and of course the, now, notable worm drive.

Dennis Brothers’ first-ever commercial vehicle,                        1904.  Dennis Society

The reputable Harrods Department Store purchased it – this immediately led to other sales and by 1905 the Dennis Brothers were making more commercial vehicles than cars – charabancs, vans, trucks and buses. The Patented Worm Drive played its part in the vehicles’ enviable record. Customers wanted reliability above all else and they liked the relative quietness. Reliability was reflected during World War One when Dennis Brothers received full Order Books from the Military, mostly for trucks.

In 1906 a Dennis staff-member was recruited by Pierce Arrow in the USA to take the worm drive principle to that company’s vehicles.

     The Worm Drive                   components

The drive shaft was enclosed in a “torque tube” which was at first slung above the rear axle and to one side where it entered the worm drive. Later (1924) the tube was lowered beneath the axle, re-positioned to the centre line (the low load models from c 1929) and braced to the axle case.

This meant the whole vehicle could be lower, which was a plus, particularly, for Dennis buses with fewer steps for passengers’ convenience and also allowed greater stability for (later) double-deckers.

An outline drawing of the Worm Drive often featured in the Company’s letterhead along with the text “Pioneers of the Worm Drive”.

Tamini – Patented Water Pump

Mario Tamini, of Milan, Italy, invented a version of a centrifugal pump, patented in 1922. He called it a multiple rotary pump.

Patent Papers for Mario Tamini’s Rotary Pump, 1921, Patent/US 1392090

The American publication “Fire Engineering” said in 1922 that the Tamini pump being shown in New York “… is of quite simple of construction and is said to have a very wide range of capacity. In the construction of the pump, in order to make possible a more compact arrangement, the various passages are arranged in such a manner that the water flows in opposite directions in alternate passages and the delivery outlets are arranged on the same side of the pump as the suction inlet.

Tamini No. 2 pump on ex-Masterton Fire Board’s 1922 N-type Dennis

Known as the Tamini Pump, it is made in a number of sizes ranging from the smallest, which weighs 86 lbs. with a capacity of 150 to 200 gpm (gallons per minute) at 80 to 100 lbs pressure, to the largest, which has a capacity of 700 to 760 gpm at ICO to 150 lbs. pump pressure and weighs 322 lbs. with primers. The pump is equipped with primers which are brought into action by means of a control valve operating a specially designed clutch on the main pump spindle, and when not in use remains cut out completely”.

Dennis Brothers at first used Gwynne pumps on their appliances, replaced by the Tamini in the very early 1920s, styled the Tamini-Dennis pump. But the inner workings were modified by Dennis engineers to give better pumping capacity. The name Tamini was dropped and Dennis Brothers patented their improved “turbine pump”, the first granted in 1921.

Mario Tamini continued inventing – in 1926 he was granted a patent for the “Means for tightening the glands of stuffing boxes” and in 1927, he took out a patent for another of his inventions that became universal on fire appliances, the means of having two drive shafts, one to provide locomotion, the other to power a pump or other equipment, both independent of each other. In Tamini’s words “a manually controlled clutch associated with said shafting to throw said machine into and out of operation while the engine is running, a second shaft concentric with said first shaft, means to associate said second shaft with said engine shaft independently of said second shaft whereby the engine may be cranked without turning said machine”.

Not sure if this was used on the 1930 Dart appliance.

But it has exactly this arrangement and was one of the first models (if not the first?) that had the revolutionary design with the drive-shafts (one to the transmission, the other to the pump) side by side, rather than one above the other as hitherto. This enabled the chassis to be lower to the ground making it easier for firefighters to get on and off the appliance and to unload/load equipment. Hence the name Dennis Dart Low-load.

Among Tamini’s other inventions was a 1932 system of improved priming for water pumps, preventing vapour locks.

Dennis Brothers – Patented Turbine Fire Pump  

Dennis fire engines have always had turbine pumps. Early models had Gwynne pumps up to 800 gpm, such as was fitted to the appliance purchased by Auckland Fire Board in 1910.

Most powerful fire pump, the Auckland Fire Brigade’s 1910                       Dennis/Gwynne fire engine. Sir George Grey Special Collections,                                        Auckland Libraries, NZG-19101102-23-1

In the early 1920s Dennis replaced Gwynne with the Italian Tamini pump (see above). Then Dennis soon began making its own multi-stage pump based on the Tamini design, but improving capacity and pressure. A range of this pump was developed with outputs from early 100 gpm (portable pumps) to 1,000 gpm (1950’s F12 appliance).  Letterheads for Dennis Bros Ltd (the style they used from very early on) in 1922 proclaimed “Pioneers of the Turbine Fire Pump”.

And the pump did not always have to be on a Dennis vehicle. Advertisements in the 1920’s show the company’s willingness to supply their pumps for other makes, with an illustration of a front-mounted pump on a Model T Ford.

Dennis Brothers Ltd – The Bodywork

This was carried out by coach builders in the Dennis, Guildford, Works. The timber is Ash (Fraxinus excelsior, Linn.), from a tall, handsome tree, common in Britain and readily distinguished by its light-grey bark. It’s the only representative in England of the Olive tribe, Oleaceae, and specimens have been known to live for more than 400 years. Ash timber is exceedingly valuable, not only because it grows relatively quickly, but it is among the toughest and most elastic woods of European trees.

The wood is also heavy, strong, stiff, and hard with a long straight grain. Ash shrinks only moderately in seasoning and bends well when seasoned. It will take a high polish. In olden days it was used for spears (spear = aesc in Old English, = Ash). Arrow shafts made of Ash dating back to the Middle Bronze Age have been discovered.

The timber has been used in railway and other wagon carriage building, automotive and caravan frames. From axe and spade handles to hop-poles, ladders, carts, and fence posts, it also makes the best of oars and the toughest of shafts for carriages. Ash takes a shock or strain, and absorbs it smoothly without risk of fracture.   Durable and used underwater, it does, however, rot if in constant contact with the earth.

The finest Ash was grown in the Midlands and because of a shortage of first-class timber at the end of the 1800s, the Coachbuilders’ Association in 1901 appealed to the President of the Board of Agriculture to try to stimulate landowners to grow more Ash trees to help ensure supplies of the valuable timber.

In several locations on the vehicle’s bodywork timbers the vehicles’s Box (or Body) number appears, stamped into the wood – 15373, which coincides with the maker’s plate on the firewall.

One piece of the original ash in the bodywork was found to be rotten when the Dennis was being restored. It was replaced with recycled New Zealand native timber, Rimu, Dacrydium cupressinum, a durable wood used in furniture and house building.    

Clayton Dewandre  – Servo Assist Rear Brakes

The Clayton Dewandre Company derives from Clayton and Shuttleworth a well-known engineering works in Lincolnshire. Nathaniel Clayton and Joseph Shuttleworth went into partnership in 1842 and, at first, made threshing machines and farm machinery then branched into steam-driven traction engines, steam rollers and shovels. Expanded to 3 works about 1900, C and S went on to make planes (Vickers and Handley Page), armaments, and railway rolling stock.

In 1931 they invented a heater for cars, piping hot water from the engine and fitting a  fan to blow hot air around the car. There was an enlarged model for buses. And a patented ticket machine for buses was made. Railway engine construction became rail car manufacture in the 1930s and later again, once the company was taken over as Clayton-Dewandre, there was an amalgamation with Westinghouse Brakes.

Clayton-Dewandre servo assist brake systems, at first connected to rod systems, later hydraulic, were fitted to such makes in the 1930s as Daimler, Rover and early Triumph cars.

White and Poppe – Clutch, Engine Design (Dennis, but based on W and P)

Dennis Brothers saw the ready market for fire engines in 1907 (“motorised appliances will reach the fires quicker than horse-drawn and steam pumps won’t either have to be kept fired up, or firemen wait for them to get up steam”). The Brothers figured 60 hp engines would be needed, bigger than the Aster engines they favoured until then.

They approached Coventry engine manufacturers White and Poppe… Alfred White and Peter Poppe (pronounced Poppy)…  agreed to supply suitable engines and the Dennis brothers set about designing their first fire engine which, when completed in 1908, was purchased by the Bradford Fire Brigade. This appliance had a 4 cylinder 50hp W&P engine, though a 6 cylinder later became optional which realised better pumping capabilities. The cylinders were in pairs, like similar contemporary engines.

White and Poppe logo
Benjamin Hawkins

In 1912 Dennis Brothers found they had more orders on the books than White and Poppe could provide engines for. White and Poppe, it must be remembered, had other motor vehicle manufacturers to supply, too.

Many motorcycles had W&P engines including Aerial, Sunbeam, Enfield and Calthorpe. The very first Morris (Oxford) car had a 9hp W&P engine, and so did Singer and Whippet cars. The first Guy trucks in 1914 had a W&P engine as did trucks made by the Danish company, Thrige, notably a 100 hp version in its military vehicles. The French Artillery Railways used a smaller 60hp W&P to power locomotives used in shunting yards.

White and Poppe honoured those on the
staff who served in World War One

Supply must have dried up to other customers in 1919 because by then Dennis was buying White and Poppe’s entire output and later that year the company was absorbed into Dennis Brothers. Alfred White and Peter Poppe became Directors alongside Ray and John Dennis and others. The Coventry factory was closed, the Guildford plant enlarged to cater for the engine production line.

The Dennis brothers had much earlier (1901) modified the De Dion engines used in the famous French cars of the same name. Changes resulted in an extra half horsepower. Now the brothers turned their attention to improving (and eventually redesigning) the White and Poppe engine, but with their own name on it. By 1924 they had a 40/50-hp engine powering a truck which boasted a 6-ton payload.

In 1925 a revolutionary engine for heavy vehicles was unveiled, a 36 bhp model which had its cylinder block cast all in one piece with the crankcase and a clutch unit and gearbox all bolted together in a single unit. This became known as Unit Construction in the industry.

 Autovac – Petrol Pump (Original?)

Autovac Manufacturing Company Limited of Heaton Norris, Stockport, England, manufactured early automotive fuel systems used by many vehicle makers, including Rolls Royce, Bentley, Thornycroft, Vauxhall, Alvis and the French manufacturer Salmson. The Autovac on these models was their mechanical in-line petrol pump, not to be confused with the vacuum powered fuel system that Autovac developed.

One Higginson, a champion driver in hill climb events in his day, is said to have invented this system which was used extensively on heavy trucks and buses. It is connected to the main fuel tank and is a kind of header tank holding a few gallons. Vacuum pressure from the engine keeps the tank topped up, thus ensuring a steady flow out to the carburettor, especially when the vehicle is travelling up inclines.

The Build Sheet shows the Dennis was fitted with an Autovac petrol pump, but there is some doubt about this.

AC – Petrol Pump (Present)

This was manufactured by the company which was founded in the USA by French-born Albert Champion.

             Albert Champion

He had been a keen cyclist and motorcyclist: for the latter he made his own spark plugs. This became a prosperous business by 1899, Champion Ignition Ltd. Partners, the Stranahan brothers, acquired the undertaking, including the brand-name Champion and continued the firm’s success.

R M Sotheby

This left Champion unable to use his own name. But through associations and a series of mergers, Albert Champion was by 1916 heading a separate company as part of the General Motors conglomeration. Its products were branded AC (Champion’s initials).newgmparts.com

In 1927 GM acquired 100 per cent of the company and much later in 1974 changes meant the name was changed to AC-Delco – the company distributing its products worldwide.


The A type AC petrol pump was current until 1931 when it was superseded by other models. Given that the petrol pump presently on the Dennis was made in January 1929, and that this model was widely used in English commercial vehicles at the time, it is likely that the Works Build Sheet is incorrect… rather than an Autovac petrol pump, an AC was fitted. “Commercial Motors” by H. Scott Hall, Vol 2, p. 99, talks about an AC petrol pump fitted as standard to Dennis 3 and a half and 4 ton models, followed by a diagram of the AC pump and the cam arrangement.

Auto-Klean – Oil Filter/Cleaner

Developed by a British Company, this is an in-line oil filter and cleaner incorporated in many engines of early motor vehicles and later developed for aircraft and larger engines. (An Auto-Klean was found to have been installed in a captured Italian tank during World War Two).

During circulation in the engine, the oil flows in the top of the Auto-Klean where, inside, any impurities are caught in a series of tapered overlapping combs made of very thin metal slivers. A handle on the exterior is turned periodically, and this gradually scrapes the impurities down the combs until they reach a small sump at the base of the Auto-Klean.

In many versions the Auto-Klean is turned, ratchet effect, by a lever connected to the foot or clutch pedal. Each time the pedal is worked in the course of driving the spindle is turned one notch, thus revolving the combs and gradually brushing impurities to the small sump.

The system has since been further developed by a company that took over the original Auto-Klean, to enable vegetable and other oils to be cleaned in commercial quantities, with particles up to 38 microns in size caught in the combs.

Simms – Magneto

The magneto takes the name of the “Father of the British Motor Industry”, Fredrick Richard Simms (1863 – 1944), who together with Herr Robert Bosch invented the Simms-Bosch Magneto about 1902, before forming his own company in 1907, Simms Magneto Co Ltd.

Frederick Simms, coined the word “motorcar” in England: it stuck!

The magneto greatly improved the running of the internal combustion engine, producing the spark in co-ordination with the engine’s revolutions.

Simms is credited in 1890 with starting the English term “motor car” bringing it with him on his return to England to describe the new “horse-less carriages” he had been working with for Daimler in Germany. He set up as an agent for Daimler in England.

In 1896 he founded the Royal Automobile Club and on 14th November that year he and Gottlieb Daimler took part in Emancipation Day Procession, a run from London to Brighton to celebrate the lifting of the speed limit under the Locomotive Act which had required vehicles to travel no faster than 4 mph (6 km/h). This Emancipation Day drive is still commemorated by its annual replay, the London to Brighton run.

In 1900 he invented and patented the first 4-cylinder engine with mechanical overhead valves.

The following year he designed and built what he called his “motor war car”, a kind of tank that ran on rails. He refined the design to a wheeled version. Simms is thus credited with creating the first-ever armoured car

Simms, I applying for a patent for his design stated -”This invention relates to a motor driven car adapted for use in warfare and as a means of defence, attack transport or traction….”.

Simms’ “motor war car”, first armoured car

In 1902 the Simms-Welbeck automobile was on sale and in the same year Simms had invented an 8 hp engine. In 1905 he demonstrated another of his inventions, the safety bumper bar for cars and fitted them fore and aft to his 1908 model of the Simms-Welbeck. car

The makers of the Arrol-Johnson car selected Simms-Bosch electrics for the vehicle they modified especially for Shackleton’s 1912 Nimrod expedition to the Antarctic.

Dennis Brothers used Simms engines in some of the earliest models of their cars.

Fredrick Simms changed the name of his company in 1913 to the Simms Motor Union Ltd to carry on a wide range of developments in automotive ignition systems, which were also used in some aircraft engines.

In 1930 Simms oversaw the development of his diesel injection motor. The Bosch Company went on to become an international conglomerate making and distributing automotive parts, heavy electrical gear and appliances.

MCL and Repetition Ltd – Starter, Dynamo and Lighting System

This Langley, Birmingham, company manufactured automotive ignition and lighting equipment using the “Midgley patent”. A. H. Midgley is regarded as one of the pioneers in the field of automobile electrics. In 1930 MCL was advertising that “most commercial vehicles now being used and purchased by the War Office Subsidy Scheme have MCL equipment”.

Midgley’s dynamo design was revolutionary in that it has four poles, 2 each for North and South, but each are then split, an arrangement that provides constant current at all speeds. (In other designs the current increased together with the speed, until, after a certain point it decreased and stabilised).

The controller arrangement enables the dynamo to generate enough output to power the lighting system, independent and regardless of the state of the battery.  The controller design also gives both a positive make-and-break movement (rather than vibration), and operates at a higher voltage, 15.5 – 15.8 volts, than other models on the market. This voltage increases if the battery becomes sulphated, thus breaking down the sulphate, lengthening the life and efficiency of the battery.

This company is also credited with making bayonets with its own registered mark M166, the “m” standing for Midlands. It was one of a number of companies the War Office turned to when its usual suppliers could not satisfy demands. MCL is listed in the UK Companies records until the mid-1980s when it apparently disappeared in a series of takeovers/amalgamations. Involved were BDD Bolts Limited and GEI Realisation, Number One Account, Limited.

Weston Electrical Instrument Company – Moving Coil Ammeter

While the ammeter on the Dennis is American-made, there is consolation that it was invented by an Englishman, and a famous pioneer in measuring current, at that. The name, Weston  Electrical Instrument Company, Newark, New Jersey, USA, derives from its owner, the British-born American electrical engineer and industrialist, Edward Weston (1850 – 1936) who in 1886 invented a practical precision, direct reading, portable instrument to accurately measure electrical current, a device which became the basis for the voltmeter, ammeter and watt meter.

                      Edward Weston
                   IEEE History Center

By 1893 Weston had developed and was using the alloy Manganin for the series resistance coils in voltmeters, which has essentially zero temperature co-efficient for resistance. This allowed greater precision. His inventions became precision laboratory measurements of voltage, and the standard for calibrating other meters worldwide.  Weston also improved and perfected electroplating techniques and invented tungsten and other filaments for incandescent light bulbs.

He set up several companies to make and market his various major inventions, like the dynamo, improved carbon arc lights, together with their generators and the cadmium cell, including Weston Dynamo Electric Machine Company, Weston Dynamo Machine Company, Weston Electric Light Company, Weston Electrical Instrument Company and Weston Instruments.

He went on to invent the electric arc furnace, electric motors, transformers and foot candle meters. In 1933 he invented a blind-landing navigational device for aircraft. In 1935 he introduced the Weston photographic light meter which is still sold globally. Edward Weston had 334 patents to his name when he died.

Smith and Sons, (England) Limited – Speedometer and Dashboard Clock

Smiths trace their history to a jeweller’s shop opened by Samuel Smith in 1851. Clocks and watches were also sold.  One of Samuel’s sons began providing clocks, “motor watches’, for earliest automobiles and in 1904 the company produced its first speedometer, followed by the manufacture of acetylene lights, carburettors and electrical equipment. The separate S. Smith and Sons Motor Accessories Ltd was created for this side of the burgeoning business,  (this is what the “Smiths MA” stands for, the trademark included on products over 3 or 4 decades and which shows on the clock on the Dennis). By 1913 Smith’s motor accessory manufacture had moved into Speedometer House, Great Portland Street, London. Just 3 years later there was another move to Cricklewood occupying  what was billed as one of the biggest factories in the United Kingdom, housing some 3,000 staff.

Smith’s dashboard clock, same model as the one on the Dennis. ebay

During World War One Smiths opened a big factory at Cricklewood, London, to cater for its extended range of products, including aircraft instrumentation.

Post-war Smiths took over, or amalgamated with, a number of other companies in similar business adding magnetos to the range, and by 1927 it had control of KLG spark plugs. Smiths also took shares in Ed Jaeger Ltd (London), giving access to the French watchmaker and instrument-maker’s expertise. A joint venture was created to make escapements for Smiths and Jaegar clocks.

In 1930 Smiths shed its ML Magneto Syndicate Ltd to Joseph Lucas Ltd together with an agreement that each company would not “poach” the other’s territory. Smiths could thus concentrate, unhindered by threat of competition, on new developments like automatic pilots for aircraft, new marine instruments (acquiring Henry Hughes and Sons Ltd) electric petrol gauges for automobiles and oil pressure switches. The first electric impulse clock was made in 1937.

About this time an arrangement was entered with Bosch, the German spark plug maker, for Smiths to use the Bosch design to make ceramic plugs with the KLG brand and using Bosch’s secret formula for making the mica plugs. The price was reduced to meet the market, the idea that volume would be better for business. KLG plugs were provided in new Austin, Rolls-Royce, AEC, MG and Leyland.

Smiths produced car heaters in the late ‘30s by they were slow to catch on and at first were based on imported components, with British Klaxon providing the motors.

During the Second World War there was tremendous increased production across all fields, especially aircraft-related manufacture. KLG plugs were developed especially for aircraft applications (despite difficulties with the Bosch arrangements which were severed in 1944) while competitors Champion and AC-Delco concentrated on vehicle and other requirements.

In 1944 operations were changed … under S. Smith and Sons (England) Limited, there were 3 subsidiary selling companies covering motor, aircraft and instruments. Clocks were another separate selling company. Jaegar was, slowly, totally taken over.

Post-war, Smiths built up the car heater business and many of the items it made across the board were converted to electric operations. Arrangements with Jaegar France and Switzerland were revisited and lasted until 1961.  KLG carried on, improving components to spark plugs and in 1972 Smiths acquired the whole of Lodge Plugs Ltd. It also supplied plugs to Rootes’ factories for the group’s new cars.

The Company, presently Smiths Group plc, has retained few of its manufactures developed over a century, but added others like security and medical electronics. Its clock making facility was shut down abruptly in 1970.


The Smiths clock that was purchased for the Dennis at Murray’s Antiques Shop in Tirau, appears to be the right vintage… it is exactly the same model as the one in the ex-Christchurch Dennis Dart and it fits perfectly in the hole in the dashboard where a clock was once installed. The original clock was missing when I purchased the Dennis. Teagle Smith’s (Wellington auto merchants) 1930 catalogue shows the same model Smiths clock, with a distinctive letter “N” on the dial.  The catalogue lists it as “Type Number A237, Flush-fitting with provision for dial illumination, 8-day, Black Dial, Clamp fitting. Diameter over flange 3 and a quarter inches, rear wind and set”.  My brother Noel engineered a suitable bracket to hold the clock in place.

The Smiths speedometer had not worked since I purchased the Dennis. In addition to 0 – 60 mph it showed total miles travelled and there was also, a trip odometer. The glass was pitted, the bezel a little twisted and the dial shabby. Compared to the look of the refurbished clock, it was showing its age and so it was removed, together with the cable to the gearbox, and taken to Robinsons Instruments, Sale Street, Auckland City, for refurbishment. It was overhauled, bearings replaced, re-calibrated and then refitted. The odometers were re-zeroed.

Labelled model MRN on the face, it has a black dial with white Arabic figures and white needle. The numbers for both the “total distance travelled” and the “trip” odometers show through separate holes from behind the dial, the “trip” odometer shows tens, units and tenths, i.e. 99.9 maximum,  while the “total distance travelled” odometer shows tens of thousands, thousands, hundreds, tens, units and tenths, i.e. 99,99.9 maximum. The tenths on both odometers are shown in white figures on red while all the others figures are white on black. At some time “3360 rpm” has been etched on the casing with what looks like a screwdriver blade.   Noel fashioned a knob to replace the one that hadn’t been on the speedometer since the vehicle was purchased.. the knob re-zeros the trip odometer.

 Bluemel  Brothers – The Steering Wheel      

The original steering wheel was manufactured by Bluemel Brothers of Wolston, Warwickshire near Coventry. The wheel itself is made of steel while the spokes of an alloy similar to aluminium. There are 4 spokes and 8 finger indents in each quarter. These are, in fact, small formed metalled pieces riveted to the inside of the wheel. It’s diameter is 50 cms (19 and a half inches) across, about 155  cms (5 feet 2 inches) around the circumference, with 25cms, (10 inch), spokes measured from the hub to the outer circumference of the wheel.

The Bluemel Brothers, Frank and Douglas, first registered their company in 1891 and moved to a new “greenfield site” in 1904 as it was near Coventry, the centre of British cycle manufacture and eventually auto manufacture.

Bluemels Brothers was a company manufacturing car and cycle accessories and worked in a new Bakelite material, cellulose acetate (Celluloid). Their steering wheels were used by many car manufacturers, with the “sprung” so-called “Brooklands” model with 5 metal rods (often chromed) incorporated into the spokes to minimise vibration.

        The famous five wires of the later Brooklands wheel. abingdonspares.com

This is also known as “The Great British Steering Wheel” and sold for 24 shillings in the 1930s. Some were 17 inch diameter wheels, some were adjustable, most had either 14 or 15 finger indents to each of the three segments.

Bluemels steering wheels were used by Jaguar, Bristol, Continental, Rennsports (Borgward), MG, Morgan and the Austin 7 Type 65EB. There was also a Bluemel wheel on the novel £20 3-wheeler car. In the mid-1920s Bluemels were sole makers of steering wheels for MG cars.  Bluemels  company records (1891 – 1968) are held at Coventry Archives.

Ripaults – Bonnet Catches    

The bonnet catches are steel (latch) and brass knob (adjusting head) and are of the screw type. Turning the knob adjusts the latch… screwed clockwise the hook on the inside of the bonnet cover rises to engage in the staple attached to the scuttle. Ripaults manufactured bonnet catches/latches along with automotive electrical goods in England from the early 1900s and for decades many British marques had Ripaults as standard factory fittings.

An early product was an automotive battery, as well as electrical harness wiring, insulated high and low tension cabling and connectors. The company is still going, known as Ripca, now based in Holland.

1930 Dennis Dart Low-load fire engine: its makers carefully chose quality componentry throughout.



“The Illustrated History of Dennis Buses and Trucks”, Nick Baldwin, Haynes Publishing, 1987.

“Dennis World Trucks No 6, Pat Kennett, Patrick Stephens, 1979

“Dennis, 100 Years of Innovation”, Stewart J Brown, Ian Allan Publishing, 1995

“Report on the Supply of Electrical Equipment for Mechanically Propelled Land Vehicles”, Monopolies Commission,1963, published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office

Smiths Company – history



RCC 12th May 2002, July 2019 pix added. May 2020 updated.