Sunday, 31 May 2009

Sir Alfred Herbert Index

This website records something of the life of the industrialist Sir Alfred Herbert from information and photos collected by his family. If you have any information or reminiscences that could suitably be added to this site, please e-mail or contact The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

Sir Alfred Herbert 1866 - 1957
Alfred Herbert's Schooldays
Alfred Herbert's Apprenticeship with Joseph Jessop & Co
Alfred Herbert Ltd
Alfred Herbert Apprentices Association
Alfred Herbert Ltd Associations and Societies
Sir Alfred Herbert's Close Associates
Sir Alfred Herbert's Family
Ellen Ryley 1863 - 1918
Lady Florence Herbert 1870 - 1930
Lady Nina Herbert 1874 - 1967
Sir Alfred Herbert and Asthall Manor, Burford
Sir Alfred Herbert at the Ministry of Munitions 1915 - 1918
Sir Alfred Herbert's Estate at Dunley, Hampshire
Lady Herbert's Homes and Garden, Coventry
Sir Alfred Herbert on Machine Tools
Sir Alfred Herbert's Motor Cars
Sir Alfred Herbert on Fishing
Sir Alfred Herbert on Shooting
The Rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral
Lady Herbert's Memorial at St James the Less, Litchfield
Sir Alfred Herbert and St Barbara's Church, Earlsdon
Sir Alfred Herbert and Town Thorns Residential School, Easenhall
Sir Alfred Herbert and the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital
Sir Alfred Herbert's Memorial Service in Coventry Cathedral 1957
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry
Sir Alfred Herbert's Wealth
Sir Alfred Herbert's Induction into Coventry's Walk of Fame 2009

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Memories of the Test at Whitchurch by June Gracey

'[Your photograph] was a happy reminder of days fishing at the mill when Gavin was about 10 years old. Piper came with us each day armed him some breadcrumbs (grandfather's suggestion) to drop in the water and provoke a 'rise' is so the boy would not be disappointed and turn into a good fisherman - which he did. Gavin could tie a number of excellent flies and was so keen'.  Grandfather (Sir Alfred Herbert) left the Mill and its bit of fishing in his will to Ian Hollick, (June's brother). 

Extract of a letter from June Gracey, Sir Alfred's granddaughter, to Herry Lawford 25th July 2010

Friday, 29 May 2009

Alfred Herbert Apprentices Association

Sir Alfred Herbert looking on as Lady Herbert presents the Certificates at to the Apprentices on 19th March 1953

One of the most important associations at Alfred Herbert Ltd was the Alfred Herbert Apprentices Association. Many of the Alfred Herbert staff were former apprentices - including Col Clark, later chairman of the company - and some became well-known engineeers with their own businesses, such as Sir Harry Harley and JC Bamford.

Sir Alfred himself had served an apprenticeship* with Joseph Jessop and Sons in Leicester, and strongly supported this path of learning. He and Lady Herbert used to invariably attend the annual presentation of certificates to apprentices.

*For many years until 1952 his fellow apprentices from Jessops made an annual visit to the works to see him.

Return to Sir Alfred Herbert Index

Sir Alfred Herbert's Hobbies - Fishing

Sir Alfred Herbert Fishing

Alfred Herbert loved the country pursuits of shooting and fishing. His greatest love was fishing, and in the 1930s he wrote a monograph describing his fishing career. It has fine descriptions of the rivers he fished and the people he met as well as the places he stayed in, and he gives space to his great fishing friends - particularly Dr FM Haig, Canon 'Tommy' Downing and Dr Hugh Bankes-Price.


Like most boys of my age, I started fishing by catching minnows and sticklebacks with bent pins. Afterwards came coarse fishing for roach and perch, but fly fishing did not begin until my early twenties. Then I met Tom Iliffe, one of Dr Iliffe's brothers. He was a fly fishing enthusiast and quickly infected me.

On his advice a blue Mahoe spliced fly rod was bought from James Ogden of Cheltenham with all the rest of the equipment. Tom Iliffe gave me lessons on the lawn. Quite apart from the hope of catching trout, there was a certain fascination in the art of casting and as soon as I got the hang of it I was keen to test my skill on a river.

After a good deal of enquiry Derbyshire was chosen and I found myself installed in the Charles Cotton Inn at Hartington. Oliver, the landlord, was a fisherman and through his good offices I got several days on the Dove, and its tributary the Manifold. These are limestone streams, not so clear as the chalk streams of the South, and more apt to run thick after heavy rain, but with plenty of week which means fish food and that means fish.

I made friends with a great character, one Fosbrooke who knew everybody in the neighbourhood. At one time he had been a water-keeper and in a long life he had accumulated a great store of knowledge about fish and flies. I kept in touch with him for many years.

My first day of trout fishing brought me a wonderful piece of duffer's luck. Fosbrooke took me to the Manifold and set me fishing in a lovely pool at the foot of a weir near the remains of an old Saxon flax mill, called The Brund. For once everything was just as it should be: weather cloudy but fine, water in perfect condition, and trout madly on the feed. Those were the days of wet fishing - three flies on a cast. Fosbrooke had chosen the flies wisely. He showed me all the likely spots for casting and before the days was over my basket was heavy and my heart very light. That experience made me a fisherman. But duffer's luck does not come often, nor last long, and fishing with all its joys usually gives more blanks than prizes.

The Dove below Hartington runs through Beresford Dale, first though meadow lands and then through the Dale itself, between high limestone banks covered in part by turf but with rock always near the surface and breaking through here and there into cliffs and pinnacles.

It was my good fortune to fish the Beresford Dale water for several years. At first my friend Haig and myself had rods on it; afterwards I rented the whole stretch of water. Beresfored Dale had been has been famous for its trout for generations. Charles Cotton, 'the father of flyfishers' lived at Beresford Hall on the high ground beside the river. Every years his friend, Isaac Walton, rode on horseback from his home in London to spend a fishing holiday with Cotton on the Dove. In memory of their friendship, Cotton built a fishing house, which still stands at the head of beresford Dale. Over the door is inscribed 'Piscatoribus Sanctum', with Cotton's and Walton's initials intertwined. Here they lunched and rested and sheltered, just as it was my own good fortune to do long years afterwards.

Sir Alfred outside Charles Cotton's Fishing House

The Beresford water joins Lord Hindlip's fishing and here I met Ernest Lock, his keeper, who has tied flies for me ever since. He now lives at Andover and has charge of some beautiful water on the Anton for Colonel Ratcliff. He tells me I am his oldest customer for flies and I think this must be true for it is well over forty years since he first supplied me.

I owe much to my fondness for fishing, for it brought me three of my best friends: Dr FM Haig, Canon Downing and Dr Hugh Bankes-Price who, I grieve to say, have all passed away.

Dr Haig succeeded Dr Reed and practiced in Coventry for many years. He will be remembered still with affection by his many old patients in the City. From him I leared what little I know about the art of dry fly fishing, of which he was a past master. He was so thorough, so skilful, and so accurate both in his work and in his sport that we called him 'The Professor', a name which stuck to him until his death.

Canon Downing, known to his friends as Tommy Downing, was curate of Trinity Church, Coventry. Afterwards he became vicar of Knowle, where the memory of his unselfish devotion to his work is treasured by many of his old parishioners.

Dr Bankes-Price was house surgeon at Coventry Hospital, during the time that my second wife, then Mrs Lucas, was matron. When Dr Haig left Coventry for Woking, Bankes-Price bought his practice and when he in turn relinquished it he settled near Lampeter in Wales where he combined doctoring with farming. When he set out for river or field he was always s little anxious lest his patients should think that he was unduly neglecting the practice - so he set forth in his dog cart with top hat and professional overcoat - and groom in livery - all covert. It was refreshing to see the joy with which he discarded all these trappings at the end of the journey and emerged in country suit and cap, his Clumber spaniel slept in seclusion under his seat.

These three spent many happy fishing days with me on many rivers and the memory of them is very dear.

Both Lathkill and Wye are beautiful streams not very far from the Dove. The former is, or was, full of trout, but I never had the good fortune to fish it.

I fished the Wye above Rowsley many years ago: there were then plenty of trout, but when i fished it years after, I found that the brown trout had diminished in numbers and their place had been largely taken by rainbows, which were obviously doing well - quite contrary to general experience.

Now we leave Derbyshire and come South-West to one of the most charming districts in England - the Cotswolds. I began to explore this country quite by chance. Mrs Bankes-Price gave me 'A Cotswold Village' by Gibb, a book which I recommend to all who love the unspoilt countryside. On my motor-tricycle I made expeditions to some of the beauty spots described in Gibb's book and then began to search for fishing.

Cotswold scenery is less wild and romantic than the Derbyshire hills and dales, but it has charms of its own. The main roads are mostly on high ground and the wide expanse of stone walled country, often rather lacking in trees and with few hedgerows, gives the impression of austerity and dreariness particularly in winter. But leave the highways and take the byeways, which lead down to the valleys, and there beside the little rivers you will find lovely grey stone villages set among green pastures and sheltered by groups of beech and elms.

The pleasant 'Glarstershire' speech of the people is dying out thanks to wireless and talkies and to more frequent contact with the outer world, but among the older people it still remains and adds to the feeling of remoteness from the rush and bustle of city life.

Bibury is a typical Cotswold village on the banks of the upper Coln. In the garden of the Swan Hotel there is a wonderful spring of water welling up from the limestone to join the river. It's brightness and transparency are amazing; every pebble can be seen through four or five feet of water.

Before the motor car the village was an oasis of peace and rest and the angler was undisturbed even when fishing from the main street, beside which he river flows. Now there are many tourists, the village inn has doubled, but Bibury still remains a beauty spot. Arlington Row, a group of cottages beside the river, is typical Cotswold architecture at its best. Pictures of it have been hung in the National Gallery, now it is preserved by the National Trust.

We used to stay at the Swan, to fish the Bibury water and one year I rented some fishing higher up the river beyond the village. Here my friend, Bankes-Price and I had a red-letter day. There was a great rise of Mayfly and the trout were feeding madly; a gale lashed the surface into waves and accurate casting was impossible, but no matter where our flies alighted, a trout was waiting to seize them. I am afraid to say how many fish we caught, but I think over twenty.

At Bibury Arthur Severn, a great fisherman and a fine sportsman had a Hatchery for many years and sent trout all over the country. It is great fun to see his huge breeding fish at feeding time; dashing madly at the food and rolling about like porpoises.

Some miles below Bibury the Coln runs through Fairford, another pleasant village, but on a main and rather busy road. The Bull Hotel has a length of beautiful water, plenty of trout but uncommonly hard to catch. They rise freely but they have seen many artificial flies and felt them too and have acquired great discrimination. I have fished here often. I remember Mr Carbonel, once vicar of Fairford, who was master of the angler's art and who rarely went empty away. There is a fine church at Fairford with wonderful stained glass windows - rather terrifying to evil-doers.

And then I discovered the dearest of all little rivers, the Leach, which rises among the downs and runs through Eastleach to join the Thames at Lechlade Mill. Eastleach was a much larger village in the past; there are actually two parishes Eastleach and Eastleach Turville. The two churches are hardly a stone's throw apart and the custom was to hold morning service in one and evening service in the other.

Harry Penson was a typical Cotswold farmer, his house and garden were close by the river which ran through his farm. I rented his water and remained his tenant form twenty-five years. Gradually I was able to rent adjoining stretches from Barton, George White, Luker, Arkell an Lord de Morley so that at one time or another I had fishing rights on almost the whole length of the little stream. At first I used to stay at Penson's farm, where he and his good wife treated me as a friend rather than as a lodger. later on when my family increased in numbers we had to find more roomy quarters and I rented a small house from Innocent in Lechlade. At other times we put up at the Lechlade New Inn Hotel, a very comfortable place with the Thames (rather surprisingly) running at the bottom of the garden.

On the Leach, Haig, Downing, Bankes-Price, my eldest daughter Gladys, and I had great times. There was a good Mayfly rise and for some time before and after its appearance the Alder was very successful. Indeed, even while the mayfly was on, trout would often prefer the Alder.

As I have not kept a fishing diary, I can only trust to memory for some of the good days, but some recollections come back to me: A wonderful Mayfly rise, in heavy rain, Penson carrying a huge umbrella, pointing out the rises and laughing with delight as one fat trout after another came into the net.

Another day on the water below Arkell's when I waded a rather deep stretch of not more than a hundred yards and came out wirth nine good fish all on the Alder.

Still another day when my daughter, Gladys, and I got twenty-two trout before lunch an not one after, and once more when whole day's fishing had resulted in nothing up to six o'clock, then it suddenly turned cold and the fish came madly on and six brace were killed.

But every day on the Leach was delightful, whether the bag was heavy or light, and I remember every twist and turn of the stream with the regret that the fishing is no longer mine, but with the hope that my lucky successors have as good times as I had.

In 1913 my late wife and I rented Asthall Manor not far from Burford. The Windrush ran through the garden and we had some miles of fishing. It was heavier water than the Leach and did not hold so many trout, but they were bigger and there were grayling too and pike and great chub. I have noticed that where there are some pike the trout, though less numerous, are larger and always healthy as the pike make short work of any invalids.

The Windrush had an amazing hatch of Mayfly, far too much in fact, for the fish soon became gorged and would look at nothing.

It was great fun on the river bank. We kept our rods all set up in the billiard room and if conditions looked auspicious we could start fishing in five minutes.

Windrush memories include one three pounder trout which took my Mayfly and promptly weeded me, apparently hopelessly. My sister-in-law, Miss Pepper, threw stones into the water above him until his nerve gave way and he left his weed bed and came down the stream and was played and killed. The thirteen pound pike, which adorns the hall at Dunley, was caught in the Windrush too, One of my labourer friends told me he had seen a pike 'as long as the bar of a gate' in the lower water, so off I went. He was not as big as that, but he was big enough tom give me a very exciting ten minutes when I hooked him on a light trout spinning rod. He made a gallant attempt to go over a big weir, but he just failed and I got him after a great fight.

Other rivers I have fished are the Lugg, near Leominster, and the Rye in Yorkshire, near Rievaulx. Both these rivers are different in character from the Cotswold streams; they depend more on surface water and less on springs, so they rise more rapidly in wet weather and shrink faster in dry times. They have steep banks with bushes and trees coming down to the water. On both streams the minnow is legitimate as well as the fly, and often accounts for the larger fish.

Foe spinning I used a short rather stiff rod and a natural minnow (killed previously of course) mounted on aerial tackle. It was not necessary to make long casts of to use a spinning reel. With a fine dressed line I found it best to collect the line in the left hand and to cast from the coils in the hand. Wading upstream and casting close under the banks paid best. This means recovering line rather quickly to keep the minnow spinning, as it comes down stream. On a larger water some form of spinning reel must be used, one of the thread-line reels or a Pfleuger.

Fly fishing on the Itchen at Ovington in Hampshire

In 1918 we came to my present home - Dunley near Whitchurch. This is the real chalk country and the Test and the Itchen are considered the best dry fly rivers in England. But although I have never had the good fortune to fish the Costa and the Driffield Beck, in the North, I believe they are nearly as good.

The Itchen was the favourite water of the late Earl Gray and he writes very charmingly about it. I know little of this stream, in fact only one beat which belongs to my great friend, Phelps, who for may years has given me happy days, generally in the Mayfly time. Phelps has one of tbe most charming places I have ever seen; the river divides into two streams both of which run through his garden, which in this and many other ways comes close to the Garden of Eden. On the whole I prefer it for I believe neither Tigris nor Euphrates produce trout and graying and one does not miss the Serpent. The trout which are large and rise freely offer quite enough temptations.

One stretch of this water is unique: the main river and the Old Barge stream run parallel for some distance with a narrow path between, and to have a trout stream on either side is surely more than any fisherman deserves (except perhaps Phelps) and whichever way the wind blows it is always right for one stream or the other.

The Test I know better. I have fished it up at Oakley, where it is quite clear and free from contamination and as bright as gin. Just above Whitchurch I have an Old Mill with a small length of water which adjoins the Whitchurch Angling Club. It was here that Charles Kingsley fished and here that his 'Chalk Stream Studies' where inspired. Another beat on the Lower Test at Compton, above Romsey, I have rented for a good many years. Here the river is wide and deep and the trout run larger (the limit is a pound and a half) but they are not very numerous. For some unknown reason this beat has gradually deteriorated, especially during the last three years; not only are there fewer trout but even the grayling, of which there were any number, are much reduced. At one time many grayling were netted every year, an still increased, while now although netting has been discontinued they are very little in evidence. The Mayfly too, of which at one time there were almost too many, has grown less and less, but the Mayfly comes and goes without apparent reason, and it may return. I hope it will for, on heavy water holding big trout, the Mayfly is all to the good, though on smaller streams I would rather be without it for the fish become gorged and and refuse for some time afterwards to even rise for smaller flies. The Compton water is entirely without shelter for the valley is wide and flat, and every wind of heaven tears across it, generally from the West, (mine is the East or left hand bank). if not from the West, then from the north, so that one has to flog against it more often than not and long casting is necessary for it is a big water. There are Halcyon days of course when 'every wind is laid' but the are few and far between and so are the days when a gentle breeze from the South-East comes to cheer the fisherman and fill his bag.

Just above Compton is Stockbridge water, perhaps the most famous length on all the river.

At Longstock, higher up, through the hospitality of Mrs Beddington, I have had many delightful days. It would be hard to imagine a more prefect water. It is well sheltered by woods with paths running through them, so that after having fished up the beat, one can walk back again through the woods without disturbing the fish.

At Leckford my friend Barker, alas no more, often invited me to fish. This too is a beautiful stretch.

Compton holds many happy memories for me of days when with my late wife [Florence], Haig, Downing, Price, my sister-in-law Margaret Pepper, or other friends, we have fished through the long summer days, often staying for the evening rise, and have driven home tired but very content. My wife's best trout was three pounds. once I had a four pounder, and Miss Pepper had many good fish including a grayling of three pounds and a half. She is one of the best woman anglers I have ever known. She was my pupil and I am very proud of her skill. She casts a beautiful line, has marvellous eyesight (a great gift to anglers) and an instinct for choosing the right fly. One of the most interesting days she and I had at Compton produced thirty-four grayling, of which she caught fifteen without changing her fly.

The Middleton water at Longparish I used to fish when my friend, Hornsby, rented it, a very attractive beat, but Hornsby - a fine shot and an excellent fisherman - has to the regret of all who knew him, left the district.

The Dever is a tributary which rises near Micheldever, and joined the test at Bullington. This I used to fish with my late wife when Henry Nicholl was alive. To him I have been indebted for many good days with rod and gun, and I remember him always as one whose charm and courtesy were unexcelled. The Dever is wide and shallow and full of trout, though I think that the grayling have increased in recent years.

And now we come to Hurstbourne Fishery, belonging to the Portsmouth Estates. This includes almost all of the Bourne from St Mary Bourne down to its junction with the Test above the Heronry. It is this water about which Plunkett Greene writes in 'Where The Bright Waters Meet" which all anglers should read and which leaves little to be said by one so unskilled in writing as myself.

Six lucky men, of whom I am one, have rented this water for some years. Edward Grove is the leading spirit and manages the water, and us, fore love of the job, and so gently does he drive his team that we are almost unconscious of his guiding hand, and everything fits together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle: everybody knows where to go on every day of the fishing season without risk of being disturbed and, which is much more important, without risk of disturbing anybody else. Wilkins, the keeper, is an old hand with his heart in his work and every day in the year he is doing something to make things better for us all. He is a great hand at spotting a trout and many a good one has he spotted for me.

Several books have been written about the Test, among others 'A Summer On The Test" by JW HIlls, 'River Keeper' by Hills and 'Fifty Years On The Test' by CE Pain.

Dry fly fishing was known and practised long before my time, but when I began to fish it was by no means general and I was fortunate enough to see its growth and development.

It would be a presumption for me to offer any advice to the old hands who know so much more about the subject than I, but one picks up ideas and get experience during long years , which might be helpful to the beginner.

I suppose an engineer naturally stresses the importance of having the best possible machinery for any job that comes his way, and as I am at least some sort of engineer, I feel that one should start fishing with really good equipment. One of my favourite business mottos (I believe it is original) is "the best is good enough, but only just". Anyway it is a sound motto for a young fisherman. Get, if you can, a split cane rod, with some backbone in it (9'-0" for choice); a reel with a large barrel for quick recovery, and the best double tapered line you can find, and be sure it is heavy enough for the rod (better too heavy than too light). These are the essentials, and there is one other, a good big net with a telescopic handle and a good stiff bow. Collapsible nets with a leather thong in front are no good for a weeded fish. You cannot dig him out because the net collapses.

Every fisherman has his own ideas about flies and "de gustibus non est disputandum" but I think that most of us have a far greater variety of flies in our boxes than necessary. I am sure that that i have, but i am learning. The most important thing about a fly is its size, colour coming definitely second. Maxwell for instance found that scarlet Mayflies of correct size killed just as well as those of natural colour. As to the merits of winged versus hackle flies I am no good as an adviser, for I wobble continually and make an inglorious compromise by using both. Frequently during a rise I have killed fish with three or four flies all of quite different colours and patterns. Niceties of pattern probably appeal to the angler much more than to the fish. Form is important; slenderly dressed flies are better than mops.

The trout sees the floating fly mainly as a silhouette against the sky and is conscious of its size, shape and natural behaviour, far more than of colour. With a wet fly, colour is no doubt of greater importance. By natural behaviour I mean that the fly should float freely over the fish at the same pace as its natural prototypes, and without drag either positive of negative. Avoiding drag is most difficult; get behind your fish when you can, but when you must fish across the cast as slack a line as possible, so that for at least a second or two the fly floats freely before intervening irregularities of current snatch the fly across the water. Experts are said to be able to cast lines with a bow (convex side upstream) and if they can it is no doubt an advantage, but I have never attained such skill.

I have just ordered my stock of flies for the coming season. Here is the list in what I believe is the order of merit at least for the Test and the Bourne:-

Reg Quill, winged and hackle
Greenwell's Glory, winged an hackle
Iron Blue, winged
Medium Olive, winged and hackle
Pale Olive, winged and hackle
Red Spinner
A few nymphs of sorts

I raise a respectful hat to the big game fishers who circumnavigate the world in search of monsters: sharks, swordfish, tunny, tarpon and the like, using for bait fish far bigger than any I have ever caught, but I envy them not at all, preferring the familiar chalk stream and the quiet refreshment that it brings.

Fishing on the River Itchen. Photo by Derek Hampshire

Here is my ideal:- to wade up a long and broad shallow in May or June, the water just deep enough to come halfway up one's thigh, and with patches of weed alternating with clear spaces of clean bright gravel; a gentle breeze at one's back, bright sunshine but with occasional clouds and a gentle shower every now and then; a rise of Olives or Iron Blues, just enough to bring the trout out from their shelters to take up feeding positions over the gravel patches, and with the light just right so that every fish can be seen.

To see the trout and not merely the ring of its rise adds greatly to the joy of fishing, because you can chose your fish and like carpenter with the oysters pick out those of the largest size, and avoid wasting your time on the smaller fry. When you can see your fish you can quickly decide what he is up to and what will be his most likely response to your efforts. If he lies deep and inactive in the water he may rise to you but the odds are against it. If he is deep but animated and moving from side to side with little jerky darts he is probably feeding on nymphs and will probably take an artificial one if you are not too much of a dry fly purist to use it. I am not. But if he rises quietly and sucks in every dun that floats above him, then he will probably take your fly if you present it to him neatly and deftly. If he lying on top of a weed patch with his back showing brown and bright with only an ince of two of water to cover him then he is yours almost for certain.

I say almost, for although he will take your fly you may fail to hook him. If you tighten too soon, the fly is snatched away, if too late it is rejected, if you strike too hard the 4X gut breaks and you leave your fly in his mouth. Even when well hooked he is not yours for certain, for he will surely plunge into the weeds if he can, and seizing a weed in his mouth, hold on like grim death to a deceased African. If you are quick and clever you may haul him downstream before he has realised what is the matter. But even if he weeds you there is still some hope. First slacken the line, he may fancy the trouble is over and come out of cover. If not, don't try to pull him out with the rod, but lower the rod and point it straight at the fish and put a firm but gentle pressure on him by pulling the line with your hand. Why this manouvre should succeed I don't know, but it often does. If not, then up with the rod point and reel up steadily, keeping a gentle pressure on the fish, wade up behind him and dig him out with you net, if indeed he is still there, for often enough the trout has got rid of the hook by this time and left it embedded in the weeds.

But the ideal does not often come in the angler's way and he must be content with something part way between best and worst.

The worst is something like this:- A tearing downstream wind making neat casting almost impossible and always a labour; no fly, or very few and those blown off the water as soon as they hatch; fish sheltering under the weeds and the water so rough that they would be invisible anyway; masses of floating weed from some upstream neighbour, who has chosen that very day for weed-cutting. It only remains to step into a hole and fill both waders with water, to stagger to the side and to smash one's rod point in struggling up a greasy bank, and the day is complete - especially if the flask has been left behind and the sandwiches are soaked to pulp in the rain.

But if few days reach the ideal let us be thankful that few are really of the worst.

Of loch fishing I have done little save for some dapping years ago in Loch Carrib were we were nearly drowned by our boatmen who got us on a mass of rocks in shallow choppy water, on which we bumped and bumped , expecting any moment to see a rock come though the bottom of the boat, but all was well and we got safely ashore at last.

For dapping, a light seventeen foot rod is used, at the end of the line some yards of floss silk are tied on and then a cast, with a natural Mayfly (or two) mounted on the hook. The boat drifts with the wind; when the rod is lifted the light floss silk is carried forward by the wind and when the point is lowered the fly falls light;y on the water where it floats until it is picked up again for a fresh effort, or until it disappears into the mouth of a great trout. Then the line is tightened slowly and the circus begins.

But I must not forget Loch Leven at Kinross, in some ways the most wonderful loch in the world. More than once over a thousand fish have been killed in the day. The fish average something under the pound. This sounds incredible but the loch covers more than four thousand acres so it means only one fish to four acres after all. There are about forty boats with two rods (and sometimes three) in each. Fishing goes on till midnight in the summer and very keen fisherman take three or four hours sleep and start again before dawn.

Loch Leven it must be admitted is rather commercialised. There is a large building on the Kinross with offices, waiting rooms, stores, boatmen's quarters and a tackle shop, where everything necessary to the fisherman can be bought. Boats can be reserved in advance by telephone and the while thing is organised on thoroughly businesslike lines. But for those who have only limited time to spare, Loch Leven probably offers the best chance of catching trout of any place in the British Isles.

There is a station close at hand and excellent roads. You can leave London by sleeper and be on the loch in good time the next morning. While to folk living in Glasgow or Edinburgh it is quite possible to start in the morning, fish all day and be back at work the next morning.

The actual fishing is comparatively easy. the boat is rowed up wind and then allowed to drift down broadside on; one rod sits in the bow, the other in the stern, and as the wind is always behind the line goes out with very little effort. Four wet flies are used, the favourite patterns are Peter Ross, grouse and green, grouse and claret, woodcock and yellow, Wickham, teal and red, teal and green, black and blue, the butcher is generally used as top dropper.

In this wet fly fishing colour does no doubt count more than with the dry fly and it very often happens that most of one's fish select one particular fly on the cast. the tail fly on the whole probably catches more fish than the droppers.

As in all fishing the weather is the main factor., an overcast sky but without heavy black cloud, and a gentle breeze from the East are the ideal conditions. With heavy winds the water gets very rough and fishing is then uncomfortable, but not necessarily unproductive. In hot calm weather the loch become glass smooth and then one's chances are very poor; in fact it is hardly worth going out until the evening. Just before sunset on such days there is often a rise of white moth (caenis) a small fly with greenish body and white flat wings. This appears in incredible quantities covering the boat, settling on one's coat, hat and face, and getting in eyes, ears and nose. Then the fish usually come on and feed greedily making a chain of rises in succession without troubling to go down between rises. They are almost impossible to catch in these conditions. There is no satisfactory imitation of the caenis, and if there were the artificial fly would only have one chance in a million. But don't give up hope. Wait till the sun has quite disappeared behind the western hills, then there comes a chill in the air, the white moth disappears as suddenly as it came, some larger flies are now seen and taken by the fish and the angler's opportunity comes to him at last. And it is worth fishing as long as one can see, and after.

Of sea trout fishing I know very little, and I envy those who have the chance of catching these most sporting of all fish. We spent some days on the Ythan over August. There are plenty of good sea trout but we were not lucky. Most of the fish are caught by trolling with a sand eel mounted on a spinner, but it is a slow business without the interest and exercise of casting.

[The original manuscript - typed (probably by Miss Tidd), with Alfred Herbert's handwritten corrections - is 25 pages long]

Click here for a short reminiscence by June Gracey, Sir Alfred's granddaughter, about her son fishing on the Test at Fulling Mill

Return to Sir Alfred Herbert Index

Sir Alfred Herbert's Hobbies - Shooting

Sir Alfred shooting at Dunley with Crouch behind him.

Sir Alfred loved the country pursuits of shooting and fishing. His greatest love was fishing, and he wrote a monograph on the subject in about 1935 which can be read here. He was also a fine shot and particularly loved grouse shooting on the moors of Scotland and the North of England. This piece recounts some of his shooting experiences.

Of the three British game birds - grouse, partridge and pheasant - the grouse must, I think, take the first place in his home among the moors and mountains of the North.

The red grouse is a truly wild creature found nowhere else but in these islands and those who are fortunate enough to enjoy his pursuit find themselves surrounded by some of the most delightful scenery in the country.

The grouse may be shot be walking in line (to my mind the least satisfactory way) over pointers or setters, or by driving.

I recall with vivid memories my first opportunity of shooting grouse through the kindness of my friend the late JK Starley. He is was who produced the Rover Safety Bicycle, which, as his advertisements very truly claimed, 'set the fashion to the world'. This machine was one of the forerunners of all bicycles used throughout the world today, and finally signed the death-warrant of the penny farthing, which for many years preceded it.

Starley had rented a moor in Scotland which had a limit of 200 brace. After killing 120 brace he was called away leaving 80 brace still to be shot. I had a telegram from him asking if I would like to take a friend and finish the quota.

Up to that time I had never even seen a grouse, except on the table, so it is easy to imagine the excitement with which I accepted this quite unexpected invitation. With a Coventry friend, William Burton, who was quite a good shot, we caught the night train to the North and arrived at our destination - Garve, on the shores the Beauly Firth - in good time next morning. Here we found comfortable accommodation in the local inn, an excellent innkeeper and a ghillie with a couple of pointers and a couple of setters. The moor was a delightful one within sight of the sea and in three wonderful days of perfect weather we killed the 80 brace and in due course returned from one of the most exciting holidays I can recall.

This was in fact the only time I have shot grouse over dogs and I am convinced that this is one of the most delightful ways of pursuing them. though, of course, it gives scope for only two or at most three guns to take part.

Walking in line with seven of eight guns is less satisfactory. It is very difficult to keep a straight formation, particularly on hilly ground: the young and enthusiastic are continually getting too far jn front, while the older and less athletic members of the party lag behind and the line is continually getting broken.

Driving is a much more complicated business, involving scientifically-sited butts, a well-organised group of beaters and all sorts of other preparations, but it is well worth the trouble and , with good weather and a reasonable stock of birds, it provides shooting at its best. Driving, however has its own particular risk of accidents for the inexperienced or excitable. When streams of grouse are coming from all directions and at all angles and if one has turned round two or three times in the butt, it is quite easy momentarily to lose one's sense of direction. The line of butts, which are not always very conspicuous, may be forgotten for a moment, and is then that dangerous shots at low birds may be fired. As a safe-guard, upright posts are sometimes stuck into the butts at the right and left of the gunner, so that his gun comes into contact with these posts when it has reached the limit of its swing.

For a good many years my nephew, Gerald Herbert and I rented a small moor in Aberdeenshire - The Forest of Birse. A jolly party of us stayed at the Huntly Arms Hotel, Aboyne, where we were hospitably entertained and provided with wonderful Scottish food. When taking a moor I think it is far better to stay at an hotel rather than to take a house, for with a hotel there are no problems of catering and the lady members of the party have a real holiday instead of being worried with all the problems of household affairs.

A party of young and thrifty students used to come out from Aberdeen University to help us with the beating. They camped in a tent on the moor, did their work in first-rate style, and were quiet happy to earn a beater's pay, which in those days was I think, about six or seven shillings a day. But times have changed.

In grouse shooting one is very much at the mercy of the weather, which may vary from extreme heart to quite wintry conditions. On the high ground, gales, fog or even snowstorms may be encountered.

The stock of birds fluctuates within wide limits from year to year from a variety of causes; weather, nesting conditions and good or bad growth of young heather, and the absence or presence of grouse disease. In a goodyear the problem is to kill enough birds to reduce the stock to reasonable numbers. If too many birds are left, one may be confronted next season with an outbreak of disease through overcrowding and lack of food. While we had several satisfactory seasons, we did have one very disappointing one when we were able to have only one day's shooting and that was a very poor one.

During one of my visits to Scotland, my host enquired if I would like to shoot a stag. In his garden was a life-sized silhouette of a stag cut out of a sheet of iron as a target. He lent me a rifle and after a few shots at it I managed to perform satisfactorily. I was taken by the keepers to a wood and posted outside among some rocks. A stone wall ran alongside and I was told that if there happened to be a stag in the cover he would most likely jump the wall in front of me. Then the men proceeded to beat the wood and sure enough a magnificent stag jumped the wall at the exact spot indicated. He caught sight of me and stopped short in astonishment looking straight at me for a moment. Up went my rifle, but it was wobbling so much from excitement that I missed him clean. And that was my one and only shot at a stag. Looking back I am thankful I missed such a beautiful creature.

Now we come to the partridge - a very good second to the grouse. He gives far more widespread sport to many hundreds of people, often quite near to their homes, and thus saves the long journeys and much of the time and expense which grouse-shooting involves. For many years hampshire ran Norfolk and Cambridgeshire very close for partridge-shooting records, but throughout the country (with of course some notable exceptions), the partridge has suffered many setbacks during recent years. in fact we have learned that modern agriculture and partridges do not agree.

We used to believe that the old proverb, 'the partridge follows the plough' was true and so indeed it was when the plough and all other farm implements were drawn by horses and farm work followed its old leisurely routine. Now all has changed and the horse has practically disappeared.

In the old days we could very safely predict that a dry nesting time would result in a satisfactory stock of birds, but now, apart from weather risks, which are always with us, we have to contend with such fatal operations as the making of silage, which involves cutting the silage crops in which the partridges are very fond of nesting, at the very time that the birds are sitting and when very many of them and their eggs are inevitably destroyed.

Now we have also the various noxious and deadly sprays which destroy insect life so essential for baby partridges and eradicate weeds, the seeds of which are another favourite food, while the dressing ofd seed corn with poisonous compounds is a further source of loss.

Even when satisfactory covers are hatched and keepers' faces are wreathed with smiles, we cannot feel safe for one by one the young birds disappear mainly, I believe, because so much insect life which essential has been poisoned. But in spite of all the troubles of the past few years there are some welcome signs of improvement, though it is certain that we shall never see a return to the wonderful bags of past years such, for example, as the following: On a beat not far from Whitchurch, 315 brace of partridges killed in a single day (in this I had the luck to take part); on another beat near Longparish, 198 brace and on only 700 acres and my own beat, 156 brace. These bags were all made in the thirties. On another beat not far away there is a record 530 brace in a day.

Sir Alfred Herbert (second left) on a shoot in about 1950

Vermin, of course, we have always with us. When I first came to Dunley it became a by-word that our main preoccupation was to deal with the 'Three R's' - not reading, 'riting and 'rithmatic, but rats, rabbits and repairs. Rabbits, through myxamitosis, have largely disappeared, and although from a farmer's point of view this is a blessing, they did supply excellent sport for many people, who had no other form of shooting, and particularly to lads in the learner stage.

This superb photo, which appeared in Country Life, is not of Sir Alfred, but of Capt George Brodrick and his gamekeeper Norman Buckingham. Capt Brodrick bought the Herbert estate at Dunley in 1979.

Return to Sir Alfred Herbert Index

Sir Alfred Herbert's Motor Cars

Motor Cars by Sir Alfred Herbert. This monograph, the original of which is corrected in his own hand, was probably written in the mid 1930s. The last car he mentions owning - the Lancia Astura 27hp - was being made in about 1935. A copy has been provided to the Coventry Transport Museum

The first self propelled vehicle I can remember was a motor bicycle. The Coventry Humber Co. made some experimental machines of this kind, with two long tubular horizontal cylinders. We were called upon, at the works, to bore out the first of these cylinders as the Humber Co had no machinery that would do the job.

About the same time, a small single cylinder motor was introduced. It was clipped to the front fork of the safety bicycle and drove the front wheel by a friction roller engaging with the tyre. This was probably the precursor of the outboard motor now used for boats. I think the first motor of this type was made by Werner. Leon Bolle, a Frenchman, was among the pioneers of the motor bicycle.

One of the earliest of Coventry's motor builders was the Horseless Carriage Company which started business with great eclat in the old Coventry Cotton Mill; Iden was the manager. This was succeeded by the Daimler Motor Company, of which Colonel Manville, subsequently Member for Coventry, was chairman. Charles Martin, an engineer of great courage and confidence, with Italian and American experience, joined the Daimler Company at an early stage. He now rusticates in the Elysian Fields of Kenilworth and breeds Guernseys.

The first motor vehicle I drove was a motor-quadricycle built by the Enfield Company and owned by my old friend, WS Hubbard of Leicester. It went extraordinarily well and I had a great thrill.

The first car I drove was a small de Dion with engine at the back and with belt transmission. This also belonged to Hubbard.

Then I had a motor tricycle and after that an American steam-driven Locomobile. A multitubular cylindrical boiler, the shell reinforced by coils of high-tensile steel wire, supplied the steam. The boiler, which was under the seat, was fired by a circular burner like an exaggerated gas ring. Before starting, a removable section of the burner was taken out and heated in the kitchen fire. It was put back into postion, the petrol was turned on and vaporized by the hot section of the burner. It was then lighted (with a great bang): in a few minutes pressure was up to 220 lbs. The blazing burner just behind the driver's legs was rather terrifying and unexpected draughts brought the flames a good deal nearer to one's calves than was pleasant.

The water tank had to be filled up every twelve miles, and a rubber bucket was part of the outfit. Naturally it was never safe to take the chance of finding a convenient ditch or pond at precisely twelve mile intervals and so every time water appeared one stopped and filled up the tank.

The engine was a tiny two-cylinder double-acting marine type with link motion for reversing. There was no gear box and the drive was always direct on top. The whole thing was extremely light and beautifully made. Steering was by tiller and was sensitive and correct. The car was almost perfectly silent and delightful to drive. At the foot of a hill you stopped and watched the hand of the pressure gauge gradually climbing up to 220 lbs, then the throttle was opened and the hill rushed, as long as the pressure lasted.

My next venture was a small single-cylinder car built by EJ West of Coventry, with a de Dion engine. Then came another West car with a two-cylinder engine made by Forman, who was, I believe, the predecessor of the present Alvis Company. This car carried two in the front and two in the back in a tonneau, a minute wagonette, with a door at the back.

I had now got the fever and bought from SF Edge a four-cylinder Gladiator built by Clement of Paris. France at the time was definitely leading in the development of the motor-car. She had been building cars successfully at a time when we were limited by the legal necessity of driving mechanically propelled vehicles at speeds not exceeding four miles an hour and preceeded by a man carrying a red flag.

The Count de Dion and Panhard Levassor were among the earliest French engineers to develop the internal combustion engine and in Germany Benz was early in the field.

This Gladiator was really first-rate judged by the standards of its time. Up to now all motor-cars had open bodies. Few of them even had wind-screens making goggles a necessity and weird and wonderful garments: in cold weather shaggy coats, and when it rained a waterproof called a poncho, reaching down to one's ankles. One sat on the cushion in a pool of water, which did not matter much until the poncho began to leak. I got a local coach builder to rig up a canopy for the Gladiator with a windscreen in front and side curtains of waterproof material running on rings - a wonderful contaption but quite useful in bad weather.

Next I got from Edge a four-cylinder 15HP Napier with an extensible hood which clipped to the top of the windscreen side curtains, and a good many elements of a modern car.

Then came a 40HP six-cylinder Napier; a big car holding seven people with an outside seat on the running board for the mechanic. When in a good mood this was a comfortable and speedy vehicle, but it suffered from crank-shaft whip.

A six-cylinder closed car built by the Standard Motor Company came next and then a 20/30 HP four-cylinder Renault. This was about 1907. It was far in advance of its time and gave wonderful service till three years ago when I finally persuaded a loacl dealer to take it away.

Just before the war I had a 45HP Rolls with a double-purpose body built by Hamshaw's of Leicester. While the body was being built, I drove the chassis with a temporary wooden body of the soap box type and in this form it was the most delightful car I ever drove before or since, having practically no body weight. It was rare to require any gear but at the top, and from four miles and hour to fifty or sixty it was perfect. During the war it was impossible to get petrol enough for a car of this kind and I sold it and dropped back to very modest vehicles: a two-seater Standard with a dickey, followed by a Windsor.

Then the four-wheeled brake was introduced in France and as English makers were rather slow to follow this, I imported an excellent Delage; very satisfactory but badly sprung.

After that my nephew, Gerald Herbert, brought me an early Lancia to try. The independent front wheel suspension made it altogether delightful , particularly on bad surfaces and it sat on the road like a poached egg on toast. Lancia engines were good but never very silent. I have had four or five of these cars in succession. My present one - and eight-cylinder Astura of 27HP - is satisfactory and comfortable. The long chassis has always appealed to me, there is plenty of room for dogs and guns and other impedimenta and a comfortable interval between front and back passengers.

I have always been rather a fogey about speed: forty miles is the limit at which I am driven. My idea of a perfect driver is one who never causes his passengers to look up from what they are doing, whether admiring the scenery, reading, or, as is my frequent practice, dictating letters.

Motor Cars by Sir Alfred Herbert. This monograph, the original of which is corrected in his own hand, was probably written in the mid 1930s Lancia Astura 27HPs were being made in about 1935. A copy has been provided to the Coventry Transport Museum

Return to Sir Alfred Herbert Index

Sir Alfred Herbert's Close Associates

The opening of a new Extension at Alfred Herbert Edgwick works in 1928. Sir Alfred and Lady Florence Herbert with PG Vernon (1), Joe Pickin (2), AH Lloyd (3), David Gimson (4), Mr Kelway (5), Mr Perkins (6), and Oscar Harmer (7). Click for a larger view

Alfred Herbert made one of his closest friends while at school at Stoneygate. William Hubbard was his immediate contemporary and next to him in class, and it was Hubbard's first job after leaving school - as an apprentice with Joseph Jessop in Leicester - that caused Alfred to chose a career in engineering rather than in the church. Subsequently Alfred and Hubbard worked together at Coles & Matthews in Coventry, before buying the firm when Matthews left and forming the partnership of Herbert & Hubbard. Their partnership was later dissolved but they remained friends and Hubbard, a brilliant engineer, returned to Jessops and designed some ingenious machines for the boot trade. Subsequently he became a director of Taylor & Hubbard, building cranes and went on to develop motor cycles and tricycles with Hubbard Motor & Engineering Co Ltd.

David Gimson (1880 - 1963) attended Stoneygate after Sir Alfred, and was a fine mathematician and athlete. After leaving school, he became an accountant, forming the firm of Wilshere & Gimson in Leicester which, in 1903, became auditors to Alfred Herbert Ltd. Gimson left the firm in 1918 and joined Alfred Herbert as their Financial Director, a position he held until he became chairman in the 1950s on Alfred Herbert's retirement from that position. He died in 1963, shortly before he was due to retire. Alfred relied heavily on David Gimson's financial acumen and would often answer questions with "Go and ask Gimson". They were very close and of course Gimson was one of those who attended the memorial ceremony at Litchfield for Florence, Alfred's second wife, in 1930. Gimson's uncle was the famous Leicester architect Ernest Gimson. [With thanks to his grandson, Guy Gimson, for corrections]

Sir Alfred Herbert, standing, with Oscar Harmer (with beard) and Capt Hollick, Sir Alfred's son-in-law, at the Ex-Servicemen's Dinner in 1932.

Oscar Harmer was an Irishman who Alfred recruited in 1897 and became Herbert's Technical Director. A brilliant engineer, he had spent some of his youth in America and was well-connected with both the American and British machine-tool industries and was a particular friend of Charles Churchill, who introduced him to Alfred Herbert. His son, known as 'Tiny', married Sir Alfred's youngest daughter Phyllis. The Harmer's lived in a house in Coventry called Dalhousie. Oscar Harmer too was among those who attended the memorial ceremony at Litchfield for Lady Florence Herbert. He died in 1939 aged 90, after 42 years service with Sir Alfred.

Harold (AH) Lloyd, MBE, joined Alfred Herbert as an apprentice in 1905 with a B.Sc from London University, and became head of equipment design and from 1926 Works Director. He was Design Director from 1945 until his retirement and died in 1955. A Welshman from Lampeter, he was a a founder member of the Coventry Amateur Dramatic Society and a great personal friend of Sir Alfred's.

Joseph Pikin joined Alfred Herbert as a draughtsman in 1895 after serving his apprenticeship at George Richards & Co and took many positions within the company and eventually became Herbert's Commercial Director. He lived near Sir Alfred's daughter Gladys and her husband Arthur Hollick, and their daughter June remembers him coming sometimes to collect Sir Alfred when he stayed with them and drive with him to the works. He was also another who attended the Litchfield ceremony. He retired in 1955 after 60 years with the company.
Return to Sir Alfred Herbert Index

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Alfred Herbert's Schooldays

The Stoneygate Class Lists of 30th July 1880. Click to read. 'Herbert' is mentioned on both pages.

Alfred Herbert went to school at Stoneygate, a private school on the outskirts of Leicester with - in those days - some 50 pupils.

The class list for July 1880, when Alfred was 14, show him excelling at divinity, English and the sciences. In that year, he won the Class II prize jointly with another boy, as well as a music prize. He still had at least two or three years to go and was must have been top of Class I when he left. Interestingly, the boy next to him in class was William S Hubbard who excelled in maths, algebra and geometry and with whom he later went into business. Also, above him in Class 1 was Gimson P., who was probably the older brother of David Gimson (1880 - 1963) who went on to be an accountant and in 1918 became the Financial Director of Alfred Herbert Ltd.

Although Alfred was expected to go on to Oxford and into the church when he left school, he met up with Hubbard, who had joined Joseph Jessop's Engineering Co in Leicester. Herbert was fascinated by what the small lathes at Jessops produced, so he persuaded his father to let him follow his friend's example. Subsequently he became an apprentice at Jessops and thereafter joined Coles and Mathews, a firm of engineers in The Butts, Coventry, which he later bought with Hubbard and which became the foundation of his own company, Alfred Herbert Ltd.

The 'Great Paul' being transported to London. Herbert and Hubbard took this as the logo of their firm.

He must have been interested in engineering from an early age. In fact, a short memoir that Alfred wrote in 1954 recalled that during his schooldays he was fascinated by the transportation in 1882 of 'The Great Paul', a 17 ton bell for St Paul's Cathedral from Taylor's foundry in Loughborough by a special lorry built by Coles and Matthews - the firm he later joined in Coventry. He wrote that he was at Stoneygate as the bell passed the gates and that 'we boys were allowed to see the procession and I climbed on to the lorry and wrote my name in pencil on the bell'. The story continues: "It was an imposing cavalcade preceded by a man with a red flag. Then came two great traction engines hauling the bell, a caravan for the men to sleep in and a water-cart completed the train......At Fenny Compton the road gave way, so boiler plates and jacks had to be sent to the rescue. The journey took about a fortnight and ultimately the bell was safely delivered."

Return to Sir Alfred Herbert Index

Alfred Herbert's Apprenticeship with Joseph Jessop & Co

'Some of my Shopmates and myself when young' - a photo from Alfred Herbert News November - December 1953. Both Alfred Herbert and William Hubbard appear in the photo, Alfred in the back row, second from the left

My old school-fellow (a farmer's son like myself), William Hubbard, afterwards my partner, was apprenticed to a firm of engineers, Joseph Jessop & Sons in Leicester, our native town. One day I went to see him at work. He was running a small lathe and I was spellbound to see the curly chips he was producing. It was intended that I should go to a University with the idea of becoming a parson and with that object I had already struggled through the Oxford Junior and Senior examinations. But Hubbard's achievements on this lathe were too much for me and I persuaded my father to let me follow his example. I wonder what would have happened to me, and to many others, if I had pursued my original intention.

In due course my indentures were signed [1880]. They were of the traditional kind, stipulating that in consideration of a modest premium I was to be instructed into the arts of a turner, fitter and draughtsman. For my part, I promised not to haunt play-houses and taverns, not to waste my master's goods or see them wasted by others; my master's lawful commands gladly to obey; not absent myself from work without permission and in all things to behave as a good and diligent apprentice should. My wages were 5/- a week, rising by half a crown a year; not very high pay by today's standards. I remember the thrill when I got my first five shillings. The was real earned money, quite different stuff from the pocket money my father gave me. With that five shillings I was able to buy five first-rate lunches at Boulter's, a small eating-house nearby. I wish I could get as good meat today!

There were five or six premium apprentices; our only priviliges were that we started work at 7 o'clock instead of 6 in the morning, we had the use of a small room to change and wash, and we spent our last year in the drawing office.

In winter my people lived in Leicester. In the morning I stood in a flat bath, poured a jug of cold water over my head, jumped into my clothes and ran a mile and a half to the shop with bread and butter and a screw of coffeee and sugar in my pocket for breakfast. At 8.30 the whistle blew and there was a wild rush to the steam kettle to fill our coffee tins.

In summer we moved to my father's farm at Whetstone Gorse about seven miles out of Leicester and I started work at 9 o'clock instead of 7, and I often rode my penny-farthing bicycle there and back.

My apprenticeship was one of the happiest times of my life. I was intensely interested in the work and in everything that was going on in the shop, and my shop-mates, without exception, were most kind and friendly. They answered my questions and did their best to teach my some of the rudiments of my trade.

Jessops employed about 150 men. They were engaged mainly in building cranes, hositing and lifting machinery, steam engines, and in general engineering. they turned out really good work, judged by the standards of their time but, by comparison with a modern shop, their equipment and their methods were distinctly primitive.

From Alfred Herbert News November - December 1953

His 'shopmates' remained friends all his life. Here are photos of some them on their annual visits to Alfred Herbert Ltd. These visits began in 1918 and continued until 1953!

Immediately after the First World War, parties of Sir Alfred Herbert's old shopmates - apprentices at Jessop's of Leicester, made an annual visit to his Coventry Works. This meeting was in 1932 and the last one occurred in 1954. 'The Erector' (sitting, middle right) was referred to by Sir Alfred as 'Yankee' who apparently did no work but sat on an upturned packing case chewing tobacco and directing his sweating mates.

Sir Alfred Herbert's old shop-mates from his apprenticeship at James Jessop, Leicester, in the 1880s on an annual visit to Alfred Herbert Ltd on 15th Sept 1937.

Standing: G Smith, Mr Arthur Hollick (son-in-law), TW Jones, Sir Alfred, A Underwood, W Jayes
Sitting: CA Sault, W Bloxham, Mrs Gladys Hollick (daughter), Ian Hollick (grandson), Lady Nina Herbert, W Grundy, J Taylor.

Return to Sir Alfred Herbert Index

The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry

The following is extracted from the brochure above, which was produced for the first opening of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in 1960. The photos are of Sir Alfred and Lady Nina Herbert. Click here for The Herbert website

'Alfred Herbert was born on 5th September 1866, the son of a Leicestershire farmer. After attending Stoneygate School in Leicester, he was apprenticed to Jessop and Sons after which he came to Coventry to take up the position of works manager in a firm of jobbing and general engineers, Coles & Matthews, in The Butts.

A year later the partnership was dissolved and the business was offered to Alfred, who was 22 years of age at the time. He went into partnership with an old school-friend, WS Hubbard and with their fathers' supplying the necessary capital, formed the firm of Herbert and Hubbard.

Hubbard was a clever mechanic with considerable inventive genius, so they decided to make machine tools, the first of which was a very ingenious machine for picking, sorting and storing pills. Machine tools suitable for use in the rapidly expanding bicycle industry were produced and quickly added to the firm's growing reputation. After two or three years Herbert and Hubbard dissolved their partnership and in 1894 a small company, Alfred Herbert Ltd was formed in which Alfred Herbert held the majority of shares. The new firm rapidly forged ahead with the production of machine tools of all kinds; agencies were taken on and foreign branches established all over the world.

Soon after the outbreak of the First World War, Alfred Herbert was appointed Deputy Director and then Controller of Machine Tools at the Ministry of Munitions, for which service he was awarded a knighthood.

During his lifetime Sir Alfred Herbert developed from very small beginnings, the largest machine tool works in the world.

Not that he is only remembered as one of the greatest industrialists of his day; he was also great in another sphere, as benefactor to his adopted city of Coventry.

Among his many gifts to the city were £1000* in 1934 to equip a ward in the Warwickshire and Coventry Hospital for wounded soldiers, two acres of land in The Butts for a park and playground; Lady Herbert's Homes and Garden as a memorial to Lady Florence Herbert in the centre of the city, Town Thorns Manor, which he gave to Coventry as a childrens' home, £10,000 to the hospital and the loan of a like sum free of interest; a covenant with the Cathedral Reconstruction Committee whereby it received £25,000 over seven years; and £200,000 for the provision of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum which is being opened today. This latter sum, with the accumulation of interest, has meant a contribution of nearly £275,000 to the cost of the buildings.

In addition to his public gifts, his private gifts were also many; such as the £25,000 he disbursed amongst his employees to celebrate his 90th birthday.

His death on 2nd May 1957 brought to a close a life of immense achievement and generosity. He was a natural leader of men and carried to the present age the Victorian virtues of thrift and industry.

He will long be remembered not only for his public gifts for which the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum will stand as a most fitting monument, but also for the unfailing courtesy and kindness he extended to all those who worked for him.

The world lost one of its greatest engineering geniuses, Coventry lost a true and loyal friend and Alfred Herbert Ltd its founder and father.'

The Herbert website records Sir Alfred's contribution thus:

The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum is named after Sir Alfred Herbert, a local industrialist who founded Alfred Herbert Limited, at one time the world's largest machine toolmaking company.

In 1938, Sir Alfred donated £100,000 to the City of Coventry to pay for the construction of an Art Gallery and Museum. Building work started in 1939 on a site on the other side of Bayley Lane from the present building.

At the start of World War II only the basement had been completed and work was stopped.

By the end of World War II the city centre lay in ruins, and work on the gallery was put on hold, although the basement was converted to a temporary art gallery in 1949.

In 1952 new plans were drawn up and on 20th May 1954 Sir Alfred was able to lay the foundation stone of the new building. He also donated a further £100,000 to the scheme.

In 1956 the plans were revised to include a room for science and natural history collections. This was because of a bequest from Alderman JI Bates which gave an additional £34,500 to the scheme. This room was called The Bates Room in his honour.

The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum takes shape - From The Alfred Herbert News July-August 1957

Sadly Sir Alfred did not live to see the Art Gallery and Museum opened as he died on 5th June 1957 aged 90.

On 9th March 1960 Lady Herbert, his third wife, declared the Art Gallery and Museum open

Click here for some recent photos of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum after its reopening in October 2008

In May 2009, Sir Alfred was inducted into the city's 'Walk of Fame' in Priory Place. Click here for details of the ceremony and a photo of the sculpture commemorating the award being donated to The Herbert by a member of his family.

The event is also referred to on the Herbert's website.

A new display marks the 50th Anniversary of the opening of The Herbert Art Gallery in 1960 and Museum and a ceremony was held in September 2010.

In December 2011, the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum received its 1 millionth visitor since its refurbishment in October 2008.

A mosaic compiled from over 7,000 images from exhibitions, events, collections, visitors, staff, objects, promotional materials, partners logos and more has been made in the likeness of the museums founder, Sir Alfred Herbert.

The Herbert is also prominent on Facebook and Twitter

*About £35,000 today (2010)

Return to Sir Alfred Herbert Index
Return to The Herbert website

Sir Alfred Herbert's Induction Into Coventry's Walk of Fame

The City of Coventry has created a 'Walk of Fame' in Priory Place near the Cathedral where the most famous of those with links to the city (as chosen by the public) are commemorated with plaques set into the pavement.

On 26th May 2009, Sir Alfred Herbert's plaque was unveiled at a ceremony at which two of his step-grandchildren represented the Herbert family. At the ceremony, one of his step-sons gave the following address:

It’s a great honour for the family of Sir Alfred Herbert that the public should have voted him on to the city’s Walk of Fame; he loved the city and in particular the many who worked with him and for him building up his highly respected machine tools business which was for a time, the largest in the world.

He was born and brought up in Leicester, but from the time that he persuaded his father to allow him become an engineering apprentice – an unusual career in those days for a public schoolboy from a wealthy background - he made Coventry the centre of his working life.

His first joined the firm of Coles and Matthews in the Butts, but by 1888 he had bought the business in partnership with a school friend and by 1894 had formed the firm that bore his name - running it until his death in 1957 at the age of 90.

In 1889 he married Ellen Ryley, the daughter of the manager of Lloyd’s Bank, who was born in Little Park St, very close to where The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum stands today. She bore him four children – all daughters. Sadly she died in 1918, just after he received his knighthood for his services to the country as Controller of Machine Tools during the First World War and also just after he bought his estate at Dunley in Hampshire, which was his country home until he died.

Thereafter he married Florence Pepper, a matron at the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. Very sadly she too died, in 1930, but not before he had begun the negotiations to create Lady Herbert’s Homes and Garden, which are still much valued today.

His final marriage was to our grandmother Nina, herself a widow, in 1933.

They maintained a simple flat ‘over the works’ at Edgewick and used to stay there in the week. However during the war when bombing was expected, they were persuaded to stay with his granddaughter June Vapenik and her husband at Leamington Spa. On the awful night of 14th / 15th November 1940 they were there, and she can remember him watching in agony from the windows, pacing up and down saying ‘My poor men, my poor men’. His granddaughter later took in five refugees from the city, as many did.

Those of you here well know the enormous success of his business up until the time of his death, and of his role as benefactor to the city, but above Sir Alfred’s great talent as an engineer, he was probably an even greater manager and leader of men, and treated every man as an equal. He would go down onto the works floor at all hours and especially on the night shift, cigarette in hand, and chat to whoever was there. As the Bishop of Coventry said at the memorial service for Sir Alfred in the shell of the cathedral in 1957, ‘he thought and cared and planned and suffered ..... with those men with whom he had worked so long. He did not regard them as his employees as much as his friends.’

And the Coventry Standard‘s headline put it beautifully: ‘The Humble and Eminent Unite In A Tribute To A Man Who Was Both’

Herry Lawford and Dr Piers Lawford
Step-grandsons of Sir Alfred Herbert
Also representing June Gracey (nee Hollick, later Vapenik), his granddaughter
Coventry 16th May 2009

On 24th August 2009 on behalf of Sir Alfred's family, Herry donated the glass sculpture commemorating Sir Alfred's induction into the 'Walk of Fame' to The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, as being the most fitting place for it to rest. Here he is handing it over to Keith Railton, chairman of the Coventry Heritage and Arts Trust outside The Herbert.

Return to Sir Alfred Herbert Index