Document of the Month February 2019

This month's document is chosen by Deputy Archivist, Charlotte Gallant.

One of the great joys of working in an Archive of motor businesses is seeing what companies kept for posterity. Often they keep evidence of momentous occasions and all the associated ephemera. If someone keeps their program after a trip to the theatre for example, it records the name of the event and the date – something to look back and remind you of the occasion for years to come. My Document of the Month is an excellent example of the documents kept after an important event.

Why this document?

I particularly like menus because it is always interesting to see what events were celebrated in the Motor Industry and, of course, what food was in fashion at the time. This particular menu was donated to us in 2017 and commemorates an important landmark in the history of not just Morris Motors, but of British motoring too.

The occasion in question was the day that the millionth Morris left the Cowley factory in May 1939. It was a double achievement because the company was the first British motor manufacturer to produce a million vehicles. Lord Nuffield presented the car to Captain E G Waley on behalf of Guy's Hospital in London (see picture left). It was a Morris Fourteen Series III, one of a range of cars introduced two years earlier at the 1937 Earls Court Motorshow. 1939 was a busy year for Morris Motors. 

Although the Second World War was not declared until September, expansion had taken place across the factory to accommodate the onslaught of production which would be needed for the war effort. The assembly lines were a complex mix of moving assembly lines, overhead conveyors and parts ready to be fitted onto the automobiles, some of which can be seen in the background of the picture.

Lord Nuffield also put on a special luncheon to commemorate the manufacture and dispatch of the 'Millionth Morris' at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London on Monday, 22 May 1939. Among the guests invited were the seven workers with the longest service records. These men have signed the back of the menu and are mentioned in an accompanying press release which has been preserved along with the menu. They were:

  • B W Crease who was an apprentice in 1903 in the cycle manufacturing days and continued service during the First World War. By the time of this lunch he was Manager of several depots of Morris Garages.
  • J A Cooper who was in charge of the repair shops in Lord Nuffield's Oxford garage in 1907. He assisted in the production of the first Morris car.
  • A E Keen was also apprenticed to Lord Nuffield in 1903 and the first employee to be engaged when the motor factory started. By the time of the lunch he was not only the General Works Manager but also a Director of Morris Motors.
  • W H Thornton was employed 1904 to 1906 to make cycles, returning to the company in 1914 where he assisted with the first Morris-Cowley builds.
  • W H Anstey joined the company in 1913 and had clear recollections of helping to load the first Morris car into a railway truck. By the time of the lunch he was Transport Manager to the Company.
  • Mr Organ joined the company in 1914 but promptly left to join the Royal Flying Corps. Upon his return he re-joined and became a General Sales Manager.

So what was on offer for this commemorative lunch? As you can see there were four distinct courses plus coffee, and for those who do not speak French I have translated as best as I can.

Melon Frappe – not some horrifying combination of melon and coffee as I first thought but a frozen slush of melon, sugar and mint. Next followed Scottish Salmon in a Norwegian green sauce – the word glacé (ice) either referring to the salmon or the sauce. I'm not sure which but I'm hoping it's cold salmon rather than salmon ice-cream. Main course was Fried Derby Chicken, Jersey Green Beans and Fondant Potatoes – as far as I understand it was Chicken from Derby, rather than 'Derby' being a style of cooking but I could very well be wrong! Dessert consisted of Strawberry Melba, Vanilla Parfait and 'Mignardises'- small bite-sized desserts served at the end of the meal.

There are more commemorative lunch menus in the Archive for special occasions and hopefully more will be donated in the future.

  • Visit England Gold Accolade