This year would have been the co-founder's 144th birthday.
Rolls-Royce is celebrating several historic landmarks in 2021. This year marks the 110th anniversary of the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy emblem as well as the 100th anniversary of the first Ghost built in America. Now, to celebrate the 144th birthday of the company's co-founder The Hon Charles Stewart Rolls this month, Rolls-Royce took the new Ghost on a special tour around London, stopping at significant locations associated with the co-founder's life and career. Along the way, Rolls-Royce also took the opportunity to capture some striking photos of the Ghost posing at iconic London locations.
"While he is of course best known as one of our co-founders, The Hon Charles Stewart Rolls, born on this day in 1877, was also a pioneer of aviation, a successful racing driver and a gifted engineer," said Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
"His audacity, fearlessness, love of adventure and willingness to push boundaries continue to inspire us and our products. To mark this occasion, which means so much to our company, we've visited significant places from Rolls' story with Ghost - a motor car with technology, performance, craftsmanship and excellence which embodies everything this remarkable man stood for, cherished and pursued during his extraordinary life and career."
The first stop of the pilgrimage was 35 Hill Street, Mayfair, where Rolls was born. As the third son of Lord and Lady Llangattock, he had a privileged life. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge and had the freedom to enjoy his passions for aviation and motor racing. His business partner, Henry Royce, on the other hand, came from a comparatively humble background, working as a telegram delivery boy at the Mayfair Post Office.
In 1901, Rolls co-founded the Royal Aero Club with Frank Hedges Butler and Vera Butler. Until 1961, the Royal Aero Club was located at 119 Piccadilly. Rolls started his career as a balloonist, making over 170 flights and winning the Gordon Bennett Gold Medal in 1903 for the longest sustained time in flight. Notably, he also became the second person in Britain to be awarded an aeroplane pilot's license in 1910, was the first Englishman to fly an aeroplane across the English Channel, and the first person to fly non-stop from England to France and back again.
The next stop was at the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), which was established in 1897 back when it was known as the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland.
Rolls was one of the original founding members, leading to fellow RAC member Henry Edmunds introducing him to his future business partner Henry Royce at the Midland Hotel in Manchester in 1904. RAC Secretary Claude Johnson was also Rolls' business partner in his car dealership, C S Rolls & Co, and later became the first managing director of Rolls-Royce.
From 1905 until his death in 1910, Rolls had an office at 14-15 Conduit Street in a building that connects Bond Street and Regent Street. The building served as a base for demonstration drives of early Rolls-Royce models. In 2010, its historic significance was marked with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The Rolls-Royce Ghost's final destination was Berkeley Street, close to Rolls' birthplace. Today, Rolls-Royce's flagship UK store is based in Berkeley Street.