Jowett Journey across Africa

The Jowett Motor Manufacturing Company was established in Bradford in 1901 by Benjamin, William and Ruth Jowett.  The company initially designed and built engines but designed a car in 1906.  They decided to commercially produce the car in 1910, manufacturing almost 50 cars between 1910 and 1916. Some Jowett records were collected by the Jowett Car Club, whose aim was to uphold the tradition and reputation of Jowett vehicles, promoting competitive events and social meetings and providing practical assistance to Jowett owners.  The Jowett Car Club collection was deposited with us in March 2007.  Reference: WYB324.

picture 1

REF: WYB324/12/1, Scrapbook, Feb 1926 – Oct 1926

The Jowett Journey to Africa first began when Mr Frank Gray (Ex Oxford M.P) accused British Manufacturers of producing the ‘wrong type of car’ for overseas use. Jowett Cars Limited propositioned Mr Gray to travel across Africa, a challenge he accepted.

On 16th March 1926, Mr Gray and Mr Sawyer embarked on their journey from Lagos to Jebba, Bida, Zungera and Zaria, crossing the Niger at the Jebba railway bridge. Having read the story by Jowett Limited, this event made history as it had never been attempted on any form of mechanical transport. Furthermore, it had to be done in the shortest time possible as no advance arrangements had been made for petrol, oil or any mechanical assistance. It was the 1920s version of a Top Gear challenge.

REF: WYB324/12/1, Scrapbook, Feb 1926 – Oct 1926

REF: WYB324/12/1, Scrapbook, Feb 1926 – Oct 1926

The story illustrates the difficulties faced by the Jowett cars and drivers during the journey such as crossing the Bunga ‘river’ which was a wide stretch of sand, deep and soft; or driving over the mountain range Ouera which they simply describe as ‘caked mud’. It also refers to their relationship with the natives and how an ‘Arab begged them to take some clean and really good water’ as well as how they had to convince the officials that they were not political agents. By the 31st May 1926, the journey had been completed.

Newspapers such as The Sketch commented in June 1926 that this event proved that ‘British built motor vehicles can give full satisfaction to its owner in any clime… and the sooner people stop scoffing at British products the better’.  This shows a triumph in British Engineering, it represents Bradford and Yorkshire at its finest. Mr Gray and Mr Sawyer were invited to a Civic Reception at the Midland Hotel in Bradford to commemorate their trip.

picture 3

REF: WYB324/12/1, Scrapbook, Feb 1926 – Oct 1926

The Jowett Car Club Collection is one of the treasures of Bradford Archives. It consists of copies of Jowett road tests from early editions of motoring magazines such as Autocar and The Motor. There are instruction books for various models, sales catalogues, illustrated price lists, various technical diagrams and information. It shows Bradford in its prime and glory, so please do come and see!

Documents used to write this blog were (REF: WYB324/12/1, Scrapbook, Feb 1926 – Oct 1926 and REF: WYB324/17/2/8, Across Africa by car in 60 days, 1926).  By Ameena Mughal.


One response to “Jowett Journey across Africa

  1. Keith Wear (Film Archivist and Librarian) of THE JOWETT CAR CLUB

    An invitation from THE JOWETT CAR CLUB

    The WYAS information about the Epic Journey of the two Jowetts named”WAIT and SEE” is appropriate because 2013 is the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Jowett Car Club in 1923.

    Amongst celebrations, Jowett Car Club members in their Vintage and pre-war models and post war Jowett ‘Bradford’ vans, Javelin saloons and Jupiter sports cars will be in Bradford over the weekend of Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th of August 2013.On both days, members of the public, free of charge, may see the vehicles, and meet their owners.

    On Saturday between 11.30 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. over 40 Jowetts will be displayed in the grounds of the Bradford Industrial Museum where the 28th Annual Re-union of club members with Former Employees is to be held. Inside the Museum , the permanent display of the unique collection of Jowetts may also be viewed.

    On Sunday, Jowett owners who have pre-registered their vehicles will be admitted into Manningham Park, and assemble from 10.a.m. for departure at 11 a.m on a run to Boroughbridge.The route followed will be similar to one used in 1922 when the Jowett Light Car and Social Club, had its inaugural meeting This was the forerunner of the Jowett Car Club.

    For further information about these events contact 07971 002432.

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