A Motoring Holiday by Constance Ruby Fisher
In a 12 horse power light Gladiator with an Aster engine during summer 1903
Little is known about Constance Ruby Fisher, except that she took the name Meakin when she married. She was aged about 15 when she wrote her motoring journal. Her family were obviously well-to-do and lived somewhere in south east London.
Listen to her description of a car journey during the summer of 1903
or download free from itunes (subscription required)
The journal came to Hampshire Archives and Local Studies as part of the Automobile Association archive in 1994.
We travelled through Purley to London, crossed London Bridge and had just reached the end of Waltham Cross High Street when we heard a sound like a pistol shot. Five heads appeared over the sides of the car and beheld – a burst tyre!
Father took the car to a cycle shop. The bad tyre was taken off and our spare cover put on; we always carry a spare cover and tubes in case of such bursts. After that, we resumed our journey northwards, through Ware, Royston and Caxton and stopped the night at Norman Cross Inn.
Another gentleman staying at the inn had a curious motor with a forerunner, a very light and springy arrangement. Next morning we took the road to Stamford and the other car passed us. When we stopped for petrol we found him there too. He filled his tank and rode away. When our tank was full and we were just leaving, the shopkeeper suddenly remembered that the other gentleman had not paid for his petrol! Father said he was sure the man would pay him on his return journey and we left the shopman satisfied.
The roads of Stamford are in a very bad condition. They are mostly of cobbles and there are many short and sharp hills in the town itself. Where the cobbles are uneven it makes dips in the road. One time this caused our car to stick half way up a hill with a full load and we had to get out before it could go on because the wheel was in a hole. A passer-by asked us where our whip was! Father felt inclined to ask him where their road overseer was.
We were on our way from Stamford to Oakham when we lost compression in one of the cylinders which detained us for about 20 minutes. Melton Mowbray came next, then Asfordby to stay with friends. On our way to Chellaston we had a little trouble with oil on the sparking plug. Our friends in Chellaston were not at home so we moved on to Derby. Once there, Father examined the carburettor, compression etc as he was not satisfied with the engines but he could find nothing wrong. While he was doing this a crowd had collected. We set out up the hill towards Belper but the engines kept stopping and the boy had to be continually sparking them so we decided to turn around and roll down the hill into Derby again. Father and the boy took the car to a garage who found the cause to be grit in the carburettor.
We set out again the next morning to Belper, and had a lovely run to Matlock and visited Chatsworth and Haddon Hall. Then through Bakewell and to Higher Buxton to visit relatives. Father took three of us up Axe Edge and we got out at the top to look at the view. When we began our descent something caused the engines to stop often but there was nothing wrong with the sparking. While we were examining the car a cyclist passed us and then turned back. After watching us for some time he snatched a camera off his cycle, adjusted it, took a snapshot of us with the bonnet off the car and then rode away with a grin on his face. Eventually we found the carburettor was not flooding properly but we got back all right and had the tank cleaned out.
After several days we moved on through Miller’s Dale, through Hope and on to Castleton where we visited Speedwell Mines and saw the Bottomless Pit. We turned the car towards Mansfield where a cousin on a ‘motor bike’ showed us the way to a rural cottage at Edwinstowe which he had booked for us. We visited Newstead and Thoresby Park and Newark but on the way home from Newark one of our back tyres collapsed so we had to stay the night at ‘The Lord Ossington.’ We spent 8 days at Edwinstowe and then we packed up and sent the boy home by train with the luggage.
It was a wet day when we started for Retford and we had to wrap up in waterproof clothing but by the time we got there we were absolutely soaked. We stayed the night with some relations and sped on southwards the next morning. At Caxton we found we had a puncture. It was a lovely summer day so we all got out and had a picnic while some of us helped Father. We wanted to get home on Saturday but the puncture had delayed us so we had to stay overnight and start again on Sunday. However, we had only gone a few miles when our tyre failed again and we were bound to mend it so as to get on. We reached London in due time but while we were going through London our tyre collapsed again so Father had to take the car into a stable nearby and mend it once more. We went on again. There were some boys who blew up paper bags and then burst them just as we passed them. The explosions sounded just like a tyre bursting, but we weren’t fooled.
We got as far as Queen Street when the tyre went down again so we took the car to the Queen Street Motor Garage where we left it to be seen the next morning while we went to Cannon Street station and took the first train home.
Considering that our car is meant to carry four and that our party consisted of six, we think she did very well. If only we had had a lighter load we should not have had a single aggravating stoppage on account of the tyre. The car came home on the following afternoon, repaired and fresh for another outing.