Unseen photos from 1910 Bournemouth air races discovered by Lichfield auctioneer
UNSEEN photos from one of Britain’s earliest aviation meetings, during which Rolls-Royce co-founder Charles Rolls died when his plane broke up mid-air, have been discovered by a Lichfield auctioneer.
The Edwardian album containing 96 original photographs, 28 from the 1910 International Aviation Meeting at Bournemouth, came to light following a house clearance in the Stafford area and go under the hammer with Richard Winterton Auctioneers at The Lichfield Auction Centre on November 6.
Nineteen licensed pilots entered the aviation displays held at Hengistbury Airfield, Southbourne, during July 11-16 as part of celebrations for Bournemouth’s 1910 centennial as a town.
On the second day, co-founder of Rolls-Royce Charles S Rolls became Britain’s first powered aviation fatality when his Wright biplane broke up during a sharp manoeuvre and the pioneering pilot plunged 80ft to the ground.
Aged just 32, Rolls had been the second Briton to go up in an aeroplane and, following the purchase of his own Wright Flyer, made more than 200 flights from October 1909.
In March 1910, he became the second person licensed to fly by the Royal Aero Club and, on June 2 that year, became the first man to make a non-stop double crossing of the English Channel in 95 minutes, earning the aero club’s gold medal.
His death at Bournemouth was also the world’s 11th aeronautical fatality.
Sixteen of the 28 original 3.5ins x 2.5ins photographs coming to auction show early planes in the air, with one captioned ‘Rolls plane 1910 fatal flight’.
Images on the ground include the Farman craft of Launcelot Gibbs and the monoplane of British pilot Alan Boyle plus the hangars of Gibbs, Boyle and fellow aviators George Barnes, Alec Ogilvie and Léon Morane.
One photograph has ‘Audemars smash’ written on the reverse – one of a number of mishaps to befall Swiss pilot Edmond Audemars during the event.
Another caption refers to popular British aviator Claude Grahame-White, who took part with his Farman plane.
“When you look at the flimsy nature of many of these flying machines, it’s amazing to think of the courage and faith demonstrated by the pilots,” said Robert French, valuer at Richard Winterton Auctioneers.
“By 1910, flying had captured the hearts of many people in England as a wonder of the modern day and the Bournemouth aviation meeting must have been an incredible spectacle.
“Photography was still in its relative infancy, with ownership of a camera and taking pictures far from routine for most people.
“It’s also believed that officials confiscated cameras following Charles Rolls’ crash.
“With remarkably clear images of aircraft up in the sky and of crowds watching down on the ground, these historical photographs are an evocative tribute to those magnificent men in their flying machines.”
Claude Grahame-White was one of the first people to qualify as a pilot in England.
He became a celebrity in April 1910 when he competed with French flyer Louis Paulhan for £10,000 offered by a newspaper as a prize for the first flight between London and Manchester in less than 24 hours.
Both Grahame-White’s attempts ended near Lichfield; his first in a field at Hademore Crossing and the second nearby at Whittington.
Paulhan won the £10,000 but Grahame-White’s achievement was nonetheless widely praised.
He continued as a pioneer aviator, promoting the military application of air power before the First World War and flying the first night patrol mission of WW1 in September 1914.
White’s other achievements included forming the Women’s Aerial League in 1909, a membership which included suffragette leaders Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.
Also included in the album coming to auction are 68 photographs featuring the crew of the SS Eugenie from 1906, taken at sea and in Constantinople, plus a personal log book from the ship.
The photographs feature in Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ Antiques & Home Sale on Monday, November 6, starting at 9.30am at The Lichfield Auction Centre, Wood End Lane, Fradley Park, WS13 8NF.
The catalogue can be accessed online via our Auction Dates page a week before the sale and viewing in person takes place at The Lichfield Auction Centre on Friday, November 3.
Free home visits for large collections and house clearance quotations are also available.