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Uncovering The Story Of Motor-Racing Driver W A Cuthbert And His Guildford Connections

Published on: 21 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 23 Jun, 2020

By David Rose

William Alexander Cuthbert was a racing driver in the 1920s and 30s and for a few years ran a motor-car repair and tuning business in Guildford High Street, just over the Town Bridge near St Nicolas Church.

Alex Cuthbert. Picture supplied by Steve Waddington.

He was a works driver for the Riley team and raced at Brooklands, Weybridge. It appears he was known to most people in the motor-racing world as Alex. He was also the first owner of an Aston Martin Inter Le Mans, L1/126, a vehicle that exists to this day!

Steve Waddingham, who is the company historian for Aston Martin, contacted me as he is undertaking some research for the owner of this car and is interested in any details about Cuthbert and his connections with Guildford.

Alex Cuthbert seated in his Aston Martin. Picture supplied by Steve Waddington.

Steve’s friend, genealogist Michelle McDermott, has been looking into Cuthbert and has uncovered more details, while I have had a look at Cuthbert’s garage in Guildford.

1930s motor trade advertisement for Cuthbert’s garage in Guildford, supplied by Steve Waddington.

We know that it was at 92 High Street (previous street numbering) from two trade advertisements Steve has found, and it would appear it was in buildings that is now where the White House pub stands.

1930s motor trade advertisement for Cuthbert’s garage in Guildford, supplied by Steve Waddington.

Also, Cuthbert was originally in partnership with a Mr Houghton at the garage. A notice published in Motor magazine on July 5, 1932, states: “In future, the business of Cuthbert & Houghton Ltd, 92 High Street, Guildford will be carried on under the name of W. A. Cuthbert, Mr Houghton having resigned his position.

A 1935 edition of Lasham’s Directory of Greater Guildford lists Cuthbert’s garage. The next directory I have in date order is a Kelly’s Directory of Guildford & Godalming for 1938 and listed at 92 High Street is a building firm called R. W. King and also Whitehouse Motors. Perhaps the latter took over from Cuthbert?

It would appear that Cuthbert’s garage was not in business for many years, and unfortunately, I doubt he made much of a mark on Guildford.

Steve also enquired whether a photo of Cuthbert’s garage exists. Until very recently, I had not seen a decent photo of that exact part of the town specific to the time the garage was there. However, a few weeks ago Vivien Smith kindly emailed me some wonderful photographs she found in an album that belonged to her uncle of the floods in Guildford in January 1928.

A view taken during the floods of January 1928 from what was then Moon’s timber yard (currently Debenhams store) looking towards buildings that may have been Cuthbert’s garage. St Nicolas Church can be seen on the left. Picture courtesy of Vivien Smith.

Although I have a number of photos of these floods, I had not seen any of the ones Vivien has, and I will be featuring these in a future story. However, one of them shows a ramshackle group of buildings that may well be where Cuthbert’s garage was.

A some point Cuthbert sold his Aston Martin to the Marquis de Belleroche, and its known that the pair were connected in motor-racing as on a website, Racing Sports Cars, the pair raced a ‘Riley Cuthbert Special’ at a 500-mile Brooklands race on September 21, 1935.

Genealogist Michelle McDermott has discovered that Richard Robert Michael “Mike” Milbank, Marquis de Belleroche, was born on February 20, 1909, and died on December 9, 1976.

Interestingly, Michelle has found that on the 1939 UK register (a kind of Second World War census) Richard Robert Michael Milbank de Belleroche was 30 years old and married. He is listed as living at “Hosk Farm, Broad Street, Guildford, Surrey” and he is described as a “picture telegraphist”. The head of the house is listed as “Marcia De Belleroche, born August 1882, married, relationship uncertain”.

There is a Hook Farm close to Broadstreet Common, accessed via a track from Aldershot Road, opposite Gravetts Lane. Unfortunately, I can find no listing of anyone with the surname of de Belleroche in the Worplesdon section of the 1938 and 1939 editions I have of Kelly’s Directory of Guildford and Godalming.

But the Cuthbert connection with Guildford continues and yet another person joins the mystery.

In 1940 Cuthbert took out a patent with an Arthur Leonard Monger, who may have had connections with Guildford as well, although I can’t find him listed in any of the Guildford and Godalming Kelly’s I have for around that time.

Detail from the Cuthbert / Monger patent for a level and clinometer.

The device that they registered the patent for was a level and clinometer. This appears to have had a use in aviation, which Steve Waddingham suggests would fit in with Brooklands, possibly.

He has also found details of an aircraft crash involving an Arthur Monger in 1929 Aviation Safety Network website and Steve adds: “A quick look online reveals a person of the same name as having served in the Royal Flying Corps and the RAF.”

The crash occurred on January 31, 1929. Monger was flying a De Haviland Airco DH.9J on a training exercise. Taking off from Stag Lane Aerodrome, Edgware, Middlesex, he crashed at Moat Pond, Cranston Road, East Grinstead, East Sussex, with the aircraft being “written off.”

The report notes: “The crash involved ‘a civilian gentleman’ Mr Monger whose De Haviland nose-dived into the frozen pond one afternoon in 1929. The plane flipped over on hitting the ice.

“The police and members of a nearby tennis party then took to the pond in a punt to rescue Mr Monger who was ‘perfectly alright’ and ‘none the worse for his adventure’, and was found sitting calmly inside smoking a cigarette.”

W A Cuthbert was not only a motor-racing driver and repaired and tuned cars. He must have had skills as an engineer, besides his joint patent with Arthur Monger.

It has come to light that a machine tool bears his name and linked to a Guildford engineering firm – Warner Engineering that was on Ladymead, roughly opposite the old fire station.

It is yet again another website, Lathes.co.uk that provides the details.

The Cuthbert lathe as featured on the Lathes.co.uk website.

Within the page Cuthbert/Warner/Reffells  & TW Monoturn “Lathe” it includes: “Not really a lathe, but actually a con-rod boring machine made for use in the engine reconditioning trade, this machine was built originally by a London Company, Warner Engineering.

“At some point during WW2, having been bombed out of their premises, they relocated to Guildford in Surrey, to a factory opposite Reffells Engineering, who specialised in the rebuilding of IC engines.

“From there they moved to Godalming, in Surrey, becoming Cuthbert Machine Tools of Guildford and finally, in 1956, to Chichester in Sussex.

“For some time it was believed that the first machine discovered had originated from Reffells. In 1946 Harry Taylor, the foreman of that concern, had offered the machine to the father of the present custodian in exchange for a worn-out Myford/Drummond lathe that Harry wanted for model making. Upon handing over the machine, Harry said, ‘I think we have enough castings around to put another lathe together.’ However, he did not mean Reffells, but Warner Engineering, where he had previously been employed and from where he must have obtained the machine.

“Just post-war, in a time of great shortages, anything that resembled a small lathe was greatly sought after, and so it comes as no surprise that it was adapted for other than its original purpose.

“In summary, the Cuthbert ‘Lathe’ lathe is strictly a Warner Engineering Ltd. (Guildford) con rod boring machine – the tailstock, which was bolted to the bed in its original incarnation, had no means of feeding the poppet and no guiding tongue and the 3-jaw chuck fitted is mounted on an adapter in the headstock taper.”

The above would suggest that Cuthbert may have gone to work for Warner Engineering when it relocated to Guildford and later owned the business once it transferred to Godalming.

Staff of Warner Engineering, Ladymead, Guildford. Pictured from the book Guildford the War Years 1939-45 by Graham Collyer and David Rose. Click on image to enlarge in a new window. Perhaps Cuthbert is among them?

Ladymead today, roughly where the Warner Engineering building stood.

And that is about as much as is known at present about W. A. Cuthbert and his Guildford connections. Only to add he is honoured at Brooklands Museum in that one of the garage doors is painted in his racing colours and as a suggested replica of his garage in Guildford.

The garage door at Brooklands Museum painted in honour of W. A. Cuthbert, with a 1929 Riley 9HP ‘The Cuthbert Special’ pictured in front of it. Image from the website of Historics Auctioneers.

Steve Waddington is continuing his research into Cuthbert and would be pleased to hear from anyone with any additional details. Perhaps a reader with an interest in genealogy and / or motor-racing and engineering history may like to undertake some further research?

He can be contacted by email to: stevewaddingham@hotmail.co.uk or email David Rose at drosedragon@gmail.com

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test 11 Responses to Uncovering The Story Of Motor-Racing Driver W A Cuthbert And His Guildford Connections

  1. Steve Grove Reply

    June 22, 2020 at 9:32 am

    David, I have a 1937 Kelly’s Directory of Guildford, Godalming (Incorporating Lasham’s Directory of Guildford Directory). There is a listing for Cuthbert W A Ltd at 92 High Street. The entry reads as:

    “91 Ayers lawrence
    ….. here is Bury St …..
    St Nicholas’ Church
    ….. here is Millmead …
    92 Cuthbert W. A. Ltd, motor car agents, engineers and garage. Telephone 2151 & 2152
    ….. here is River Wey
    92A Clark H. Wingrave. estate agent
    92A Fountain Cyril Percy. post office
    92B Lawleys Ltd”

    The only Cuthbert listed as a resident in Guildford is a Percy Cuthbert at 68 Cline Road. There is no Monger listed in the 1937 Kelly’s.

    I hope this info is of some use.

    Best wishes.

    David Rose replies: Thanks Steve, very useful as I am missing the 1937 directory.

  2. John Lomas Reply

    June 22, 2020 at 10:57 am

    I am not absolutely sure of the following, but I believe it describes the use of the Cuthbert Warner machine tool.

    The conrod boring machine would have been needed in the days before big-end shell bearings.

    White metal was cast into the recessed part of the con-rod end then bored out to the nominal size, each rod had then to be individually lapped and scraped to fit its own particular journal on the crankshaft. Similarly, the phosphor bronze small end bushes may have had to be bored out.

    It is quite possible that our own Austin Ten con-rods had been through that machine as our next-door neighbour worked for FG Barnes on Ladymead and I think it was him that got them re-metalled. My father and I did the re-fitting and lapping them onto the crankshaft, with the car engine in situ.

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    June 25, 2020 at 11:31 am

    Ths is fascinating to fans of historic motor racing. As a volunteer at Brooklands, I have always wondered at the significance of the Cuthbert door.

    One wonders if young Billy Monger the racing driver, from Charlwood, Surrey, could be a descendant of Arthur Monger, the aviator?

    • John Lomas Reply

      June 25, 2020 at 2:49 pm

      Here is a starting point for your wonderings, Jules.

      An Arthur L Monger born June 6, 1893, is shown at Ridgemount “Inglenook” Cliffe End, Guildford, in the 1939.

      The 1911 census shows the same person at Wateringbury, Kent, as a motor engineer.

      His RAF service record finishes around 1931 with an address at The Haven, Epsom Road, Guildford.

      There is a marriage registered in 1924 in Maidstone, Kent.

      Also another in 1932 at Yarmouth, Norfolk.

      This might indicate a second marriage or two different Arthur Ls, but I have found no other records showing two of them.

      There is also a newspaper article, in the Mercury and Herald”, entitled “A Serious Matter” https://tinyurl.com/yd5yono6 which our own David Rose might care to peruse.

      If you want to search further I suggest trying to find out if he had a son and who said son might have married etc…..

  4. John Lomas Reply

    June 26, 2020 at 6:15 am

    Since my earlier entry I have looked further into the 1939 register (on Find My Past website).

    Cliffe End is designated as the road, but on the linked map accompanying the entry it pinpoints Denzil Road between the Upperton Road and Genyn Road junctions.

    The family there is the Bennet family; Helen Bennet (matriarch) Denis Bennet looks like her son going by ages, plus two others and also A. L. Monger, so it looks like he was a lodger, which would explain why David couldn’t find him in the Kelly’s directories.

    David Rose adds: The 1939, 1940 and 1944-45 Kelly’s lists Helen Bennett (note two t s) as Cliffe end, Ridgemount. Ridgemout, of course, being off Guildford Park Road, north side, therefore close to the linked map on the 1939 register (Find My Past website) John mentions.

  5. Jan Messinger Reply

    June 26, 2020 at 10:46 am

    Such an interesting story, as always from David Rose. We will need a follow up when people have found out more. Guildford and its surrounding villages certainly have a lot of history.

  6. John Lomas Reply

    June 26, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    There is another Guildford connection with performance modifications to cars.

    Many of older readers will have heard of Les Ballamy. He started his businesses in Streatham and Clapham.

    After the Second World War he moved to between Caterham and Whyteleafe.

    In the 1960s he lived in and had premises in Guildford.

    Home address: 5 Albany Road.

    Works address: Rowland’s Yard, Ladymead and Weyford House, Woodbridge Meadows.

    Ref: is.
    http://www.colinchapmanmuseum.co.uk/?page_id=214

  7. Jan Messinger Reply

    June 27, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    Further to reading David’s article. I decided to look at Find My Past, which the 1939 register shows living at Hook Farm Broadstreet as Robert R. De Belleroche, born 1909, with one other person blanked out.

    Plus, he was on the ship’s passenger list for Cape South Africa In 1947 and Durban, South Africa In 1954.

    Also, R. M. M. de Belleroche married in Guildford in 1934, with a person with the same initials also married in 1946 in Lewes, Sussex.

    A Richard E. M. de Belleroche married in Chichester in 1940. He died in Blyth in Suffolk in 1976.

    In the 1943-44 British Army records casualty list there is R. R. M. M. de Belleroche.

    William Alexander Cuthbert, 1902-1978, records show he was buried in St Mary’s, Chiddingfold, and was married in St Margaret, Westminster, in 1925.

  8. David Rose Reply

    July 8, 2020 at 9:38 am

    Reader Malcolm Watson has replied with the following details:

    I read your story about W A Cuthbert with interest. I do seem to tick all the boxes for ‘a reader with an interest in genealogy and / or motor-racing and engineering history’ but not sure I can add much!

    I did find an address for him at his death, assuming it’s the right Cuthbert, at 1 The Cricket Green, Chiddingfold.

    This is on the probate records and also tells us he left £26, 642 in 1978. The dates and place tie up with what Jan Messinger has added.

    The marriage certificate is available online and shows him as a law student, living in Westminster.

    He seems to be quite elusive apart from this, though, especially having a name for his father and his wife – would expect to see him on the 1911 census and 1939 register, perhaps WWII military.

    However, none of the ‘William Cuthberts’ look right in Find my Past.

    The other possibilities would be company records for Warner and/or Cuthberts and perhaps some motor racing records but I’m not sure where to go for these, I will have a look around.

  9. Brian Buxton Reply

    January 23, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    I have used a clinometer of this design in the electricity supply industry.

    Was this the W A Cuthbert who lived in Broadbridges, The Avenue, Compton?

  10. Nicholas Houghton Reply

    April 29, 2022 at 6:54 pm

    My grandfather, Frederick (Jack) Houghton, was Cuthbert’s partner in the Guildford business at 92 High Street. I was always told that he raced Lagondas at Brooklands. I took my late father (born 1931) to Brooklands some years ago. Strolling around the grounds he suddenly stopped in front of the Cuthbert garage door and declared that he was his Godfather.

    My great grandfather built “Sandy Knowe” near Puttenham and Frederick also lived in Compton. Frederick married Jeanne Davids. Her sister Mary, married Gordon Campbell VC author of “My Mystery Ships”. Mary and Jeanne’s father Henry VS Davids had been a merchant with the Dutch East India Company and British Consul to Java.

    Frederick had been wounded in the trenches and lay dead in no man’s land for three days. He was taken to a mortuary. Only when he was seen to move did he receive medical attention. He died in Tiverton in 1966.

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