Motoring | Features

Henry Royce

Henry Royce was born into poverty, but with £20 in his pocket and with a dedication to engineering perfection, he left behind a priceless and lasting legacy

  • By Dejan Jovanovic, wheels
  • Published: 15:35 April 8, 2013
  • Wheels

Henry Royce
  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Rolls-Royce’s first car was the 1904 two-cylinder 10HP.

It’s not easy to assert your independence amongst four siblings, much less so when you’re the youngest. Things became even more difficult for little Henry Royce when his father died in abject poverty at the age of 41, leaving the nine-year-old boy to carve a life path out of nothing. But nothing is all that the ingenious Royce needed.

By the time he turned 17 even his lack of education couldn’t stop him, and the teenage Henry toiled for one penny per hour at a toolmaker after completing an apprenticeship with the Great Northern Railway. His climb up the engineering ladder strayed towards electricity and its applications when he answered a newspaper ad by the Electric Light and Power Company in London.

In just a couple of short years Royce was promoted to chief electrical engineer, thanks in part to his complete disregard of social and recreational life and his devotion to after-hours education in order to catch up on what his childhood surrounded by poverty couldn’t provide.

With £20 saved up from four years of employment, in 1884 the 21-year-old founded F H Royce & Co and, led by its mastermind, the company innovated and established much better electrical applications than its rivals. By 1899, Royce’s £20 gamble turned into £30,000 — today’s equivalent of about £7 million, or about Dh40 million.

Unfortunately that very year also ushered in a recession and a slump in trade. However, even staring bankruptcy in the face, Royce refused to cheapen his products and accept lower standards of quality to survive. “Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it,” he once said famously.

Instead, Royce would diversify, and his new purchase, a De Dion automobile, gave him some ideas. A subsequent vehicle, a two-cylinder Decauville, led him to cure repeated mechanical issues with the car and improve its many components, exacting the same quality standards as with his company’s work.

Related Links

After a while Royce realised that instead of constantly tinkering with the little French automobile, he would just build the very best, from the start. His simple engineering philosophy — the pursuit of excellence — was on its way.

In no time at all, in fact by 1907, through a partnership with Charles Rolls, the new motor car manufacturing company Rolls-Royce Limited was producing one of the best cars in the world: the Silver Ghost.

More than a century later, his pursuit of excellence continues at Rolls-Royce’s Goodwood factory, and the legacy of this genius engineer carries on. 

Packed with the latest local and global motoring news, first drives, up-market car products, bikes and more

Wheels
Life & Style editor's choice
FROM THE NETWORK

More from friday

More from Wheels

More from alpha

More from aquarius

  • Noura_Main
    Highly commended finalist: Noura Al Ramahi

    Along with our three fabulous finalists, the judges decided to include a Highly Commended category as the standard of entries to our competition was so high. This goes to Noura Al Ramahi for her stunning villa in Abu Dhabi. Well done Noura – it’s beautiful!

  • IO_141020_Home of the Year awar86
    In pictures: InsideOut Home of the Year Awards

    The InsideOut Home of the Year Awards 2014 party held at the Nawwara Bar at the JW Marriott Marquis on the 20th October went with a swing! Here’s our gallery of a really great night….

  • IO_141014_Casablanca_STF_Stefan07
    InsideOut Home Of The Year finalist: Dana Jaber

    Dana Jaber’s Al Barsha villa was considered by the judges to be bold, original and eclectic. We loved her individual approach to decorating which lends interest and unexpected touches to every room

  • Main_2
    InsideOut Home Of The Year finalist: Helena Brown

    Helena Brown’s home in Umm Suqeim was a favourite with the judges because of the many personal touches, and undeniable sense of comfort and style. Her interest in Feng Shui has helped achieve a calm relaxed ambience

  • claudia (4)
    And the InsideOut Home Of The Year winner is...

    Claudia Baliyan's apartment in Dubai Marina impressed the judges. Here's why

More from insideout