May we wish you a very happy Christmas, and our best wishes for a prosperous New Year?
A number of our supporters have very kindly given us significant sums of money and I thought it was high time I wrote to say how we have used this as seed money to develop our potential. With this help and support, and that of other enthusiasts, the Bristol Owners Heritage Trust is now securely established.
Several years ago we agreed to separate from the Bristol Owners Club, whose committee members founded us. A Registered Charity cannot be run by an outside body such as a club, but has to be autonomous. This meant forgoing a steady annual income, but your kind donation has helped us fly solo and enabled us to achieve a number of our goals.
Firstly, we agreed to digitise our entire archive collection. This has now grown to include some 3000 photographs on large glass slides from the early days at Filton, kindly donated by Carole Flight (née Crook) and taken by Ted Ashman, the Bristol Aeroplane Company works photographer. Your donation helped us to employ a part-time graduate curator who took over work on our database and did the photography. All our glass negatives are of a very high quality and once digitised it made great sense to have some published with the blessing of BAE Systems who are the copyright holders. Several magazine and book publications used some of our images, but publisher Simon Draper liked them and his Palawan Press turned out our limited edition book “Car Division” using 300 of our photos printed to the highest quality, with text done entirely by Trustees and supporters. Much new material is to be found within, helped by a foreword from our President Sir George White, and his hitherto unseen original list of car and chassis numbers. This has raised us a very sound amount.
Secondly, we were offered the chance to put a display car in Aerospace Bristol, the new museum at the edge of the Brabazon runway in Filton demonstrating the sundry engineering accomplishments of the Bristol Aeroplane Company and its successors.
We found a barn find Type 403 in dire condition at mates’ rates. This would never run again but was restored to concours condition with some panels removed to display its remarkable advanced construction. Work was done by apprentices and a retired coach painter with a lot of help from Spencer Lane Jones Ltd. We are told this is now one of the top four exhibits.
Meanwhile our archive has been growing, and secure accessible accommodation has been a challenge. We were kindly given premises at Brabazon Motors followed by a spell in the mighty Brabazon hangar itself at Filton courtesy of the Bristol Aero Collection, then free space in a brand new Clifton workshop studio, a spell in a rented room at the Bristol Photographic Society and finally temporary space in our Hon Sec’s coachhouse.
Moving an archive the size of ours, which now comprises three estate carloads and is valued at over £70,000, is always a chancy business with risks of loss or damage in transit. We had hoped to site our archive at its birthplace in Aerospace Bristol’s archive, but space, cost and access were too restrictive for us.
So – thirdly – as our Charity’s brief is to acquire and conserve material relating to Bristol cars and make it accessible for education and research, the Trustees decided we could best meet this requirement and make our archives accessible to everybody free in secure surroundings by depositing them in the City of Bristol’s magnificent Archives in Bristol’s Bonded Warehouses.
We have been made most welcome there, and archive staff have assisted us greatly by downloading our database into the museum’s online catalogue, making our archives searchable and retrievable. And a copy of our book “Car Division” is available there for viewing, by all.
Fourthly, we have professionally produced and edited nearly 20 video interviews that I have made in the last decade with key characters connected with Bristol cars at every level – from shop floor to managing director, privateer racing driver, factory manager, restorer, le Mans team driver, son of the founder, et al. These are now available free to view on our website, Bristolownersht.com.
Fifthly, we have staged regular lecture days for aficionados with presentations from the world of aero engineering as well as that of Bristol cars, to emphasise these cars’ remarkable aero DNA. These events have always been well attended.
Sixthly (and perhaps that is quite enough for one letter!) our archives are alive and continue to grow with recent donations now being catalogued of exciting new material from the estates of Syd Lovesy, Dudley Hobbs and Dennis Sevier, great names from the glory days of Bristol Cars.
We are now, with your help, securely established with a stable home for our growing archives, a spectacular display car in a national museum, and a regular output of educational material.
Do get in touch if, as a small thank you, you would like a personal tour of some of our material when you are in the area.
We hope you approve of all this! Now, what lies ahead?
Dr Stefan Cembrowicz
Chair, Bristol Owners Heritage Trust
3, Sion Hill
PS. Oh, and by the way – don’t forget that donations/bequests to this Registered Charity can be Giftaided.
If you would like to make a donation please see Support for details