© 2018 by The Sir Henry Royce Foundation. 

Fostering the engineering excellence of Sir Henry Royce into the 21st century

Charles Stewart Rolls

Born:    27 August 1877, Berkeley Square, London
Died    12 July 1910 (aged 32), Southbourne, Bournemouth

Nationality:     Welsh
Occupation:    Engineer
Engineering career Projects:    Rolls-Royce

Partnership with Royce

HRH The Duke of York, Lord and Lady Llangattock, Sir Charles Cust and the Hon. C.S. Rolls at 'The Hendre', 1900 (credit Main article: Rolls-Royce Limited).

Rolls was introduced to Henry Royce by a friend at the Royal Automobile Club, Henry Edmunds, who was also a director of Royce Ltd. Edmunds showed him Royce's car and arranged the historic meeting between Rolls and Royce at the Midland Hotel, Manchester, on 4 May 1904. In spite of his preference for three or four cylinder cars, Rolls was impressed with the two-cylinder Royce 10 and in a subsequent agreement of 23 December 1904 agreed to take all the cars Royce could make. These would be of two, three, four and six cylinders and would be badged as Rolls-Royces.


The first Rolls-Royce car, the Rolls-Royce 10 hp, was unveiled at the Paris Salon in December 1904, although in the early advertising it was the name of Rolls that was emphasised over that of Royce. In 1906 Rolls and Royce formalised their partnership by creating Rolls-Royce Limited, with Rolls appointed Technical managing director on a salary of £750 per annum plus 4% of the profits in excess of £10,000. Rolls provided the financial backing and business acumen to complement Royce's technical expertise. In 1907 Rolls-Royce Limited bought out C.S. Rolls & Co.

Rolls put much effort into publicising the quietness and smoothness of the Rolls-Royce, and at the end of 1906 travelled to the USA to promote the new cars. The company was winning awards for the quality and reliability of its cars by 1907. But by 1909 Rolls' interest in the business was waning, and at the end of the year he resigned as Technical managing director and became a non-executive director.

 

Pioneer aviator

Rolls was also a pioneer aviator and initially, balloonist, making over 170 balloon ascents. He was a founding member of the Royal Aero Club in 1903 and was the second person in Britain to be licensed to fly by it. In 1903 he also won the Gordon Bennett Gold Medal for the longest single flight time.

By 1907 Rolls' interest turned increasingly to flying, and he tried unsuccessfully to persuade Royce to design an aero engine. In 1909 he bought one of six Wright Flyer aircraft built by Short Brothers under licence from the Wright Brothers, and made more than 200 flights. On 2 June 1910, he became the first man to make a non-stop double crossing of the English Channel by plane, taking 95 minutes. For this feat, which included the first East-bound aerial crossing of the English Channel, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Aero Club. There is a statue to commemorate the flight in Monmouth and another in Dover.