Sir Charles Wolseley

Wolseley Register Patron - Sir Charles Wolseley
Wolseley Register Patron – Sir Charles Wolseley

Welcome, from Sir Charles Wolseley

As joint Patron, with my wife, of the Wolseley Register, I take great pleasure in welcoming you to this website for those with an interest and passion for Wolseley cars.

No doubt the history of the marque, all technical and mechanical matters and details of the many models and variations thereof will be well covered elsewhere, so I will confine myself to a few notes on family history and connections.

The name and family are of ancient Anglo-Saxon origin in Staffordshire in the English midlands. Several titles were held by various heads of the family over the centuries but no hereditary titles until one Robert Wolseley was created a baronet in 1628, for services to King Charles I in the role of Clerk of the Letters Patent. He named his eldest son Charles in honour of the King and was naturally a staunch royalist during the Civil War.

Charles, however, supported the Parliamentary cause and became a close friend of Oliver Cromwell, which cannot have done much for the father/son relationship. He had seventeen children by one wife, over twenty years, all of whom lived to adulthood, a remarkable achievement at any time, but especially then. The youngest son, Richard, acquired an estate in County Carlow in Ireland and from him were descended Field Marshal Viscount (Garnet) Wolseley and his younger brother, Frederick York Wolseley.

Frederick emigrated to Australia aged seventeen, in 1854, eventually becoming a substantial sheep farmer. Shearing the sheep had become the greatest constraint on the numbers that could be kept, there being no shortage of land or grazing. Fred conceived the idea of a mechanical means of shearing, and over the years 1874 to 1877, with great difficulty and much experimentation (largely financed by Garnet, his highly successful soldier brother), he created a primitive,workable but quite unreliable model.

This was eventually improved and developed into reasonably reliable working models, with the assistance of a young engineer he had met named Herbert Austin. Fred formed a company to manufacture the machines in 1887. In 1889 the company was relocated to Birmingham, England, where engineering and manufacturing facilities were more readily available. Fred died in 1899, having been suffering from cancer for several years, but Austin, keeping the Wolseley company name, went on to diversify into automobile development and Wolseley cars duly evolved from there.

My wife and I are proud to have been Patrons of the Wolseley Register for almost a quarter of a century and are particularly pleased to have been able to renew the family connection with the famous marque, not least in contributing this brief introduction to the website of the Register.