14 August 2016

80 years of the club and 45 after the death of Walter Owen Bentley

Bentley Drivers Club remembers WO

A peaceful drive from HM to WO

The 40 people who had successfully booked themselves on this special event were, judging by the accolades that have been sent in, delighted with the day. This was in no small part due to good folk of Shamley Green – but do not let ourselves get too far ahead of ourselves.

The day turned out to be a ‘corker’ weatherwise which was fortunate as we gathered at our first port of call. This was the house once occupied by Horace Milner Bentley ( HM) the older brother of Walter Owen Bentley (WO). It is called the Mill as it has a giant Water Mill which can be seen still turning when you enter the building. The original building was occupied by Oliver Cromwell’s army during the English Civil War (1642-1651) but this building burned down. The present building dates from the 17th century though it has almost continuous development since. It has a number of bars one known as the Cromwell Room and one known as the Bentley Room.

After beverages and pastries had been consumed  we set out on the 12 mile journey using roads that existed in 20’s and 30’s to the village of Shamley Green where WO lived up until his death in August 1971. The roads were quiet, by Surrey standards, and the short drive was idyllic through beautiful countryside and English villages. Our trip had been co-ordinated with the folk who lived in Shamley Green and we received a mighty welcome when we arrived at our parking spaces in Front of the Arbuthnot Village Hall. Drinks (soft?) were offered as we entered the hall where we were entertained by the local historian Michael Harding who gave a short, highly entertaining, talk. He has lived in Shamley Green all his life and knew WO and Margaret well.

Tony Hodgson was on hand and as an official of the Cricket Club and a trustee of the hall and he distributed notes detailing the salient points of Michael’s talks. Amongst the many things we learned was that WO was a non-playing member of the Cricket Club. All too soon we moved on to the Red Lion for our luncheon, leaving quite an assembly of villagers looking at our cars.

We ate in the gardens of the public house and the pre-ordering of the food facilitated the simultaneous serving of the food. This would have been even smoother if people had known what they ordered and despite list being available some pre-empted anarchy by taking what they fancied ignoring their choices. This was all accommodated in a carefree atmosphere and a number ate what was in front of them, as opposed to what they had ordered, in good natured way. When coffee had been taken Michael Harding assembled those, and in deed most of the members and guests there, for the short walk to Lake Cottage, the home of WO. The house is mentioned in WO’s autobiography, My Life and My Cars, as hosting a party for Bentley Drivers Club members. He, and Margaret, were most pleased to find during the next morning clear up that there were no broken glasses nor any spilled drinks. Members then, as now, were and are a civilised lot. The house dates back to 1550 and Nick Russell-Davies was on hand to show our members round the cottage. It was a fitting conclusion to a day that had been filled with hitherto unknown facts and anecdotes about the man who was responsible for bringing us all together!

Captions to pictures from the top

Liz Card, Jill Baker, Roy Baker.Susan Van Maanen and Richard Van Maanen in front of the Cricklewood cars at the Mill

Coffee and Confectionery being taken at the Mill

The more modern end of the car line up

Michael Harding entertains Members, Guests and Villagers

Cars and guests have re-assembled at Shamley Green

Lunch is taken


Reproduced below is the publicity material that the Shamley Green Parish produced for the day    


 In his book ‘The Bentley Era’ Nicholas Foulkes wrote

 “Bentley is a name synonymous with engineering performance, craftsmanship and luxury. Remaining true to WO’s marque, Bentley continues to develop cars that are designed crafted and built to world class standards”.


Shamley Green residents congratulate and welcome you here today on Sunday 14th August 2016.



Compiled by Michael Harding  2016

(Chairman Shamley Green Histirical Society)




16th Sept 1888:  Walter Owen Bentley born, the youngest  of nine children four girls and five boys. He was educated at Lanbrook Prep School 1898 – 1902 and Clifton Public School 1902 – 1905.

1905 – 1910:  Apprentice engineer Gt. Northern Railway, Doncaster. Here he gained experience in castings, manufacture, machining and assembly of steam engines. He gained footplate experience as a fireman on Atlantic Express Loco’s. On his longest day as second fireman shovelling 7 tons of coal to service the 400 mile London to Leeds and return run, he described the experience in typically concise laconic style as ‘Not a bad day’s exercise”.

1909 – 1910:  WO raced Quadrant Rex and Indian motorcycles and took part in two Isle of Man trophy races. He studied theoretical engineering at Kings College, London and worked for the National Motor Cab Company helping to maintain its London fleet of 250 taxis. All these 12 – 14hp cabs were manufactured by UNIC between 1904 & 1913.

1912 – 1914:  He formed Bentley and Bentley with his brother Horace Milner known as HM or the Colonel and AW who soon dropped out. HM & WO sold French DFP cars. With engines modified by WO they won races at Brooklands in 1913 &14.

1914:  He married his first wife Leonie who died in the 1918 flu epidemic.

1914 – 1918:  Commissioned into the RNAS he worked with Rolls Royce on Eagle areo engines. He was innovative in introducing aluminium pistons and components (light weight, less corrosive and easier to fabricate).

1916:  WO designed and built his first aero engine at the Humber factory in Coventry. It was called Bentley Rotary 1 (BR1) and followed with the more powerful 9 cylinder BR2.

1918:  These engines were used to power Sopwith Camel biplanes, the main WW1 aerial workhorses used for reconnaissance, aerial photography, artillery spotting and bombing. Many of the Bentley Boys were former Royal Flying Corp pilots.

1919:  Bentley & Bentley designed and built the first Bentley Cars and opened their Cricklewood factory in 1921.

1920:  WO awarded MBE and £8k for aero inventions.

1920 – 1930:  Racing at Brooklands and Le Mans, France.

1921:  First win at Brooklands, 1927 great win at Le Mans with EXP2.

1930:  Financial problems forced the Bentley brothers to drop out of motor racing; in an anonymous bid Rolls Royce took over Bentley. WO was soon squeezed out of his uncomfortable consultancy role and began to work with Lagonda at Staines in Middlesex. Sadly when this happened he had to hand back his works Bentley car.

1934:  WO married Margaret Hutton nee Murray who had been born in Glasgow in 1892; she died in July 1989 aged 97. They had no children but Margaret had a son and a daughter by her previous marriage to Mr Hutton which had ended in divorce in the 1920’s.

1936 – 1945:  WO and Margaret lived happily at Colnbrook, though war time made many difficulties.

1945:  The Bentleys moved to Lake Cottage, Shamley Green (1945 – 1960) WO’s choice of car was a Morris Minor. He regarded it as the best mass produced car. He loved to adjust the tappets and tune the engine. The smell of oil and grease brought back happy memories.

1947:  WO agreed to become patron of the Bentley Drivers Club, which had been set up in 1936. Woolf Barnato (1895 – 1948) was to serve a term as president. The Club is now in its 80th year. 3,061 Bentley engines were built at Cricklewood between 1922 & 1931.

1957:  The Great Bentley Car Rally was held at Shamley Green with over 70 veteran vehicles on parade. WO laid on a couple of barrels of beer at Lake Cottage on this and similar subsequent occasions, such as his 75th birthday.

1958:  WO wrote his biography. Other books about Bentley Cars include Darrel Berthon’s ‘A Racing History’ and Nicholas Foulkes ‘The Bentley Era’ also research WO Bentley on Wikipedia.

1960:  WO had Little Garden Cottage erected on the rear half of the Lake Cottage curtilage and lived there with Margaret and various dogs until his death on the 13th,April 1971 in the Nuffield Nursing Home at Woking. His life long friend, the last surviving of the original Bentley Boys, was Sammy Davis who died 10 years later in 1981.

1960 – 1989:  Margaret lived at Little Garden Cottage until a few months before her death in 1989. She always made a point of attending and speaking at annual Bentley Club gatherings until shortly before she died. In her final years her daughter in law Mrs Mavis Hutton was on hand with regular support, so too were her long term neighbours Denis and Winifred Manfield. Local residents Lady Anne Morpeth, Mrs Rosemary Derby and Mrs Carol Norris had all been former pupils at the prestigious Scottish Girls School, St.Leonards at St.Andrews, Fife. Margaret Bentley had also been educated there. In 1972 they organised an 80th birthday reunion party for Margaret at Haldish Farm. Margaret continued regular participation in the local Bridge players circuit until her last year 1989.

2016:  100th anniversary of BR1 aero engine, 80th anniversary of Bentley Drivers Club and 45th of WO’s death 13th,August 1971.



1945 – 1960  the Bentley’s lived at Lake Cottage. In 1959 they sub divided the plot and had a Swedish style cedar wood bungalow erected on the rear half which since 1948 had direct access onto the Garden Close road. This still provides access to the rear garage and car port of Lake Cottage. In 1960 they moved from Lake Cottage into Little Garden Cottage and sold the former to Mrs Nesbit. The bungalow was to be their home until his death in 1971 and Margaret’s 18 years later in 1989. The next owners were Mr & Mrs Abbott. After Mrs Abbott’s death in 2013 a developer purchased the site, demolished the bungalow and erected two four bedroom detached houses.

Lake Cottage is a historic Grade II listed timber framed house (DBRG report 2535) dating from the early 1500’s. Surprisingly, the older part is to the rear and has iron slag foundations for its walls and chimney base supported by more recent buttresses.

The second build of the timber framed cross wing comprises the bulk of the frontage visible from the road and is dated to approximately 1600. Interior features include inglenook hearth with saltbox, evidence of a bread oven, carpenters’ marks and diamond mullion leaded windows. At one time the cottage was subdivided into three dwellings. It has undergone several major 20th century refurbishments when modern utility services were installed (water, power, light and mains drainage) Several extensions were added to the rear and side where an attached garage was converted into additional living space. Hazel and Nick Russell Davies have lived here from 2000 until Hazel’s death last year. Nick has generously offered the visiting Bentley Club members access to view the house after their celebratory lunch at the Red Lion. Also in attendance at Lake Cottage will be Denis and Winifred  Manfield who have lived in the adjacent semi detached house for most of the time the Bentleys lived here, so got to know both of them very well.


Eric Thompson (1919 – 2015) was a Lloyds broker who became an amateur long distance Aston Martin works driver in 1950. He won the 24 hour Le Mans race in 1949. In 1953 he won the Goodwood 9 hour race with Reg Parnell. He gave up racing in 1955.

Mr Stirling of Stirling Motors made his name as a racing driver in Canada. He lived at Shamley Wood (2002 – 2014) with his wife and five sons.

The son of Mr & Mrs Martin-Dye, formerly of Green Lane Farm, was a boy Go-cart racing champion. He was unable to get adequate sponsorship to sustain a career in adult racing but works in the motor industry.

Nicholas Salter, the son in law of Ruth Dixon a long time Nursery Hill resident, currently owns the vintage Bentley originally purchased by his grandfather Stanley Salter one of the founder members and former President of The Bentley Drivers Club.

Typography and printing by Tony Hodgson – July 2016

One mystery remains – where were WO’s ashes distributed? We know where he died, indeed the nurse that tendered to him in his last days was at the meeting in the Hall, but she and no one at this event knew the answer. If you are reading this and you have a clue please let us know!

Lake Cottage as it is today


The lucky 40

W.O.Bentley memorial Tour

14 August 2016




Bob & Marli Zannetti


Chris & Liz Card


Colin & Lynda Jardine


Jack Henley & Aimen


Sir Anthony & Lady Georgina Joliffe


Stuart & Christine Jeffers


Harry & Melodie Waddingham


Sir Richard Alexander & Sally Holborn


John & Lesley Lindsay


Guy and Lyn Talbot


Roger& Nora Felton


Roland & Amanda Fairfield


Richard & Susan Van Maanen


Adrian & Sarah Mortimer


John Chapman and Magaret


John & Fay Dorton


Tony Allen & Fiona


Matthew Truelove + stepson


Terry & Beryl


Roy & Jill Baker