Fit For a Queen! An Open and Shut Case for MGAlzheimers #ByRoyalAppointment
James secured this beautiful set of matching Papworth luggage from a lady in Northern Scotland in 2019. He shares the story:
"The lady was very well spoken and confirmed she'd acquired these cases in the early 1980s. She stated that they'd had little use as her husband's old Aston Martins were sold years ago. With no offer of postage many potential buyers were clearly put off and a bargain was secured!"
James did some research after buying the cases and, quickly uncovered a motor industry connection to the Austin Motor Company and the infamous Green Goddess army fire engines!
As the cases bear Queen Elizabeth's Royal Warrant this set must have been manufactured after 1972 (when it was awarded) although records show this design was cosmetically unchanged from the 1950s.
It is no co-incidence that their name matches the Papworth hospital and Papworth charitable trust in Cambridgeshire. They were part of massive foundation settlement founded on the support of a disabled workforce in the early 1900s.
James Alexander Box, saddler to the Royal Field Artillery, was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1918 and declared unfit for service. Sent to Papworth, he set about putting his leather-working skills to good use and was the driving force behind the creation of the trunk and portmanteau workshop set up at the settlement in 1919.
With the unpredictability of the Papworth labour force, Box suggested that Papworth should form an alliance with his wife's family, the Charnocks, who were owners of a bag-making firm in London. The initial agreement made was that the Charnocks should finish off orders that Papworth was struggling to meet. Soon after the Charnocks were persuaded to shift their business to Papworth. The father wound up the London operation and the three sons spent the rest of their working lives at Papworth, each in turn running the trunk-making business.
Following a devastating fire in 1925, Papworth Industries opened a new well-equipped trunk-making factory in 1926. By 1937 output had reached thirty thousand pieces of luggage a year and the new factory was bursting at the seams. A brand new factory was completed a month before the outbreak of the Second World War and switched production to meet wartime needs, ranging from attaché cases for the Admiralty to canvas covers for Spitfire, Halifax and Stirling aircraft. In mid-1940 just after the evacuation from Dunkirk, Papworth Industries won a contract to produce 30,000 sets of leather personal equipment for infantrymen. The order, dubbed the Dunkirk Order, was deemed to be the crowning achievement of the department by Sidney Charnock.
A travelling wardrobe and matching travelling case were made for Princess Margaret on the occasion of the royal family's tour of South Africa in 1947.
In the early 1950s, the ballerina Margot Fonteyn was one of the first customers to buy a set of luggage with aluminium and plywood frame hidden from view beneath the full-grain hide exterior and the moiré silk lining.
The Vehicle Connection - Papworth Coach-building Division
The coach-building workshop was established in 1962 and won contracts to build the GPO (Post Office) commercial vehicles as well as the Green Goddess fire engines for the Ministry of Defence. However, in the immediate post-war period, between 1947 and 1949, Frank Jordon, who had been head coach-builder for the London General Omnibus Company, and became head of carpentry at Papworth Industries, secured for Papworth Industries orders to build 500 shooting brake bodies on the Austin 16 chassis. Later, 900 A70 Hampshire Countryman "Woodies" were built by Papworth Industries followed by more than 1,500 A70 Hereford Countryman "Woodies."
Warrants of Royal Appointment:
1924 Trunk and cabinet-makers to George V
1931 Trunk and cabinet-makers to Edward, Prince of Wales
Trunk and cabinet-makers to George VI
1972 Travel goods maker to Elizabeth II
1983 Design Council award for Papworth's Yuki travel goods
I can't wait to pack up a case or two, strap them onto the MG and head off to a lovely hotel for the weekend!
Papworth Archive Source: Wikepedia reference date January 2021