Take a walk up the steps to the Midland Hotel on Peter Street and look to your right. There you’ll see a sculpture and plaque dedicated to the most significant meeting to have ever taken place there. The list of celebrities, worthies and even royalty who have frequented the Midland goes on and on, but the visit by Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Royce in 4th May 1904 undoubtedly marked the start of a new era for the automotive industry. It was here that they decided to make ‘the best car in the world’.
Rolls was an aviator and balloonist, later gaining infamy as the first Britain to be killed in a flying accident. He brought experience in the automobile trade to the table, having established one of the first car dealerships in Britain in 1903. Royce was a founder and director of F.H. Royce and Company, based in Hulme, making electrical fittings, then dynamos and cranes before deciding to start making cars.
At their meeting in Manchester, Rolls was impressed by the three cars Royce had made and in December agreed to take all of the cars he made, which would be branded ‘Rolls-Royce’. The combination of Rolls’s wealth and Royce’s engineering expertise proved a success, and in 1906 Rolls-Royce Limited was established.
Today, Rolls – Royce still remains a symbol of British industry and luxury, despite being owned by BMW. Beyond the badge on the cars, the company bears little resemblance to that with its roots in Manchester and that little meeting in May 1904.