RCS Motor Club

History

  1. The Beginning: London Fire Brigade
  2. Moving On: Joseph Crosfield and Sons
  3. Return to London: Royal College of Science Union at Imperial College
  4. 1960’s
  5. 1970’s
  6. 1980’s
  7. 1990’s
  8. 2000’s
  9. 2010’s
  10. Early History Uncovered

The Beginning: London Fire Brigade

Jez at Pageant's Wharf in the 1920s

Jez at Pageant’s Wharf in the 1920s

In 1908 Dennis Brothers of Guildford introduced their N Type fire appliance in 1908, with great success. The introduction of a portable appliance with a turbine pump, and a live axle made the N Type the appliance of choice for many brigades.

Dennis Brothers built Jez in 1916 for the London Fire Brigade. The testing by Dennis took place on Jan 27th 1916. Having been driven out of the Dennis works on March 26th 1916, she was one of a batch of 6 supplied to LFB on April 6th 1916. During 2003, following an extensive search, the station at which Jez served for most of her time with the LFB was identified as Pageant’s Wharf (sometimes known as Rotherhithe or Rotherhithe East). This was initially thought to be her first station, however a document was discovered placing at Vauxhall shortly after being delivered in 1916.

Further information on Jez’s time with the London Fire Brigade can be found in LP8389 in London.

Moving On: Joseph Crosfield and Sons

Her life with the LFB ended in 1932 when when LFB were upgrading to dual purpose Dennis appliances.

She was bought by Joseph Crosfield and Sons Limited, a Warrington based soap manufacturers, to replace their Merryweather steamer. At this time she had no ladder and so Crosfield fitted an Ajax extension ladder.

Jez at Crosfield's in 1933

Jez at Crosfield’s in 1933

On her trip up to Warrington she was unfortunate enough to crack the water jacket on her rear cylinder block but luckily Crosfield were able to source a replacement from Dennis Bros.

During the early years of World War Two she had her Gwynne pump removed due to a failure of the priming gears. She ended her days at Crosfield’s carrying hose reels and towing a trailer pump.

A poem from the Crosfield Chronicle in 1955.

A poem from the Crosfield Chronicle in 1955. Copyright INEOS Silicas (formerly Crosfield Chemicals).

The account of a driver at Joseph Crosfield & Sons

The account of a driver at Joseph Crosfield & Sons

The last paragraph of this letter is amusing

The last paragraph of this letter is amusing

A letter from the Editor of the Crosfield Chronicle (1/2)

A letter from the Editor of the Crosfield Chronicle (1/2)

A letter from the Editor of the Crosfield Chronicle (2/2)

A letter from the Editor of the Crosfield Chronicle (2/2)

Return to London: Royal College of Science Union at Imperial College

At around the time when Joseph Crosfield (now INEOS Silicas) were looking to upgrade their 1916 works appliance the students of the Royal College of Science (a constituent college of Imperial College) were looking for a suitable means of transport for their President. On finding that there was a fire engine for sale, the students made contact with Joseph Crosfield and made an offer of £50 for the vehicle. After consideration of the offer, Joseph Crosfield were kind enough to donate LP8389 to the Students of the Royal College of Science for her “educational value”.

Response to the initial enquiry

Response to the initial enquiry

Letter donating the LP8389 to the students

Letter donating the LP8389 to the students

Four members of the Royal College of Science Union collected the vehicle from Warrington in mid-June 1955. Their introduction consisted of a drive round the block, after which they were left to face a two hundred mile journey with considerable trepidation. The reliability of the fire engine was in serious doubt, as the pump drive had packed up while the vehicle was still in the care of the previous owner, and the problems attached to restarting the engine if it stalled, or indeed was deliberately stopped, appeared to be rather overwhelming. Especially as the average range for a man had been quoted as 25 feet. However, the brave four set out, and were soon tearing along. Although no speedometer drive was fitted at that time, the speed could be determined by the accompanying car, and speeds in the region of 35 mph have been claimed. The driver at the time claimed that he was not quite sure whether he, or the fire engine was in control at the time. Not surprisingly the fire engine did not like this treatment being given to it and retaliated by running two bigends. So the crew were faced with a major repair job before they really knew their way round the machine. They found a friendly garage, and spent several quiet days replacing the bearings. Fortunately spares were included in a small selection of bits and pieces which came with the original deal. The run was continued at an easier pace, and without further mishap London was reached.

Jez Christening in 1957

Jez Christening in 1957

In the winter of 1955, the crew believed LP8389 would be safe, but they had failed to drain the cylinder blocks. As a consequence the cover plates cracked, but luckily these were repaired.

In the summer of 1956 some repainting and cleaning was attempted, and LP8389 was taken out for a run. Jez was found to be running away even up hill, so an attempt was made to switch off the magneto. It was found that the electrics were failing, and turning off the fuel stopped her. It was later found that the main jet had shaken loose, and petrol was pouring into the choke tube.

The name “Jezebel” was decided upon, and negotiations began to find Jezebel a garage.

In 1956 Jezebel had her first garage built by the students, with the hope of reducing the occurrence of problems such as the contact breaker rusting closed.

1957 saw a great deal of activity, with a number of trips out, and a large amount of work done. The knowledge of Jezebel was increasing, the club was getting to the stage where they could reliably start Jez. On 28th May the college was visited by the Queen Mother who commented on the new paint.

In November Jez took part in her first London to Brighton Run with the VCC, with the only problem a leak from the radiator. Jezebel visited the Dennis works in Oct 58, looking at their appliance DU179, and getting some input on her problems. Jez and DU179 attended the VCC Brighton Run, and after discussions on the seafront it was decided that Jez should return to the Dennis works for examination of her bearings. When Jez was examined the Club began to understand the workings of the oiling system, and replaced a poorly made piece of the oiling system. After 3 years they now had an understanding of how the oil system worked and had oil pressure!

In May 59 Jez was stolen from a UL event by University College, but was recovered a couple of days later.

June 59. Jez returned to Dennis again, timing case (magneto drive shaft) bearings replaced. Jez went out frequently and completed another London to Brighton Run.

1960’s

The 1960 VCC Brighton Run was the first where Jez was not allowed on the Front. Jez covered a number of miles in 61, with the silencer proving to be the major problem.

HCVC London to Brighton Run, May 1962

HCVC London to Brighton Run, May 1962

1962, Jez moved to a new garage in January. In May 62 Jez attended the first HCVC London to Brighton Run. The run had around 50 vehicles that were supplied with petrol at the start! Jez had a great deal of her repainted over the winter.

In 63 Jez had “Royal college of Science” painted on the scuttle and side boxes. Although she did not attend the HCVC run, Jez did attend the VCC run.

A number of jobs were carried out on Jez at the start of 1964. Jez entered the Brighton run, but with only around 20 miles to go Jez ran a big end bearing, she was towed on a short rope to Brighton. She had a suspended tow (from the rear end) on the return journey. The engine was dismantled when Jez returned to college, and it was found that it was more than just the one bigend bearing. Once again Dennis offered to help with the engine work, this was the first major engine rebuild the club had to do. The engine was rebuilt jointly by Dennis and RCS Motor Club. After a long period of time in which many items were fixed and the mainbox repainted she was (just about) running by 4th November 1965.

Soon after the repainting in 1965, the Queen Mother opened the Biochemistry building at Imperial College. Jez was newly painted and much consternation was caused when restraining Her Majesty from touching her, explaining, “It’s still wet!” However, she still left with a bright fire engine red coat.

On March 12th 1966 Jez had her “JEZEBELS GOLDEN JUBILEE RALLY”, and on March 24th 1966 she was finally running properly under her own power again. Jez attended the 1966 HCVC Brighton Run, with just a minor clutch problem. She attended many other events that year. In June 1966, Jez took part in Michael Winner’s “The Jokers”. Jez started the November ’66 VCC Brighton Run, but turned back when a knocking noise started in Streatham. This was found to have been a result of two of the little end bearings seizing and the twisting of the gudgeon pins shattering the piston rings. In removing one of the seized pins a piston was also broken. Jez moved garage (again), but was evicted months before the new one was to be erected. While the waiting for the parts, Jez was rewired.

The rebuild was done entirely outside. She was running again on 26th April 1967 and then successfully completed another HCVC London to Brighton Run. She finally moved into a new garage on 20th May.

Jez gained the lap record at Brands Hatch for “1916 Fire Engines over 9 litres, 9.63min (7.78mph), before winning second prize at Brighton in 1968. Some work was done on the cracked transmission brake.

Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip visited college in 1969 to open the administration block, and on seeing Jez remarked, “My mother warned me about that thing, she ruined a brand new coat on it.”

1970’s

HCVS London to Brighton Run, May 1973

HCVS London to Brighton Run, May 1969. Steve Chittock, Alan Redhouse, Geoff Beszant and Neil Irvine with a member of the IC Support Staff

By the 70’s Jez was spending a great deal of her time in the colours of the RCS Union (Black, White and Purple), with RCS/Jezebel signwriting.

Engine Rebuild

In 1971, Jez was beginning to get a little tired and forced us to give her a rest by running (and melting) a couple of big end bearings in June. An engine rebuild turned into a complete restoration and repaint when Andy Wilson (Motor Club Chairman) and Neil Irvine got carried away and stripped her down to the chassis, and repainted her in original London Fire Brigade livery, also restoring her ladder.

She was off the road for over two years, but by November 1973 was ready for a re-christening dinner, with Lord Montague of Beaulieu and Stirling Moss as guests of honour. The sign writing and gold leafing, some of it still in evidence today, was completed with only three days to spare.

Disaster

Neil Irvine (driving) beside Andy Wilson, with students from fifth-floor Beit (circa 1971)

Neil Irvine (driving) beside Andy Wilson, with students from fifth-floor Beit (circa 1971)

She ran successfully for a few years until March 9th 1976, a black day for the RCS Motor Club. As the log notes “The sump and crankcase were irreparably damaged when a connecting rod impinged upon a mis-aligned camshaft bearing, which had come out of its housing whilst returning from the Felix (the newspaper of Imperial College Union) treasurer hunt.” What this meant was a whacking great hole in the bottom of the engine, which proved impossible to weld.

As there are not many sumps lying around for a 1916 Dennis, it was feared that Jez would never run again. It was only by having expensive (£1700) patterns made up specially that a new sump and crankcase could be made. As it happened, the pattern maker was found to be just yards away from the original mishap. Having got the patterns made, new casting were made free of charge by apprentices at Alcan laboratories of Banbury, and after a lot of machining in the college department of Mechanical Engineering workshops, the engine was rebuilt and running by November 1979. A new pump was fitted about this time in place of the Gwynne, a 1923 Dennis No. 2 obtained from Merseyside Metropolitan Fire Brigade. For the first time in nearly forty years, Jez was able to pump, and quite creditably projected water half way across the Thames at Richmond.

1980’s

Jez on Blue Peter, 1982

Jez on Blue Peter, 1982

In 1980, despite a gearbox selector rod problem, Jez won first prize at Biggin Hill air fair in the fire appliance category. New rods were eventually made and the gearbox refitted just hours before Jez was due to transport the Royal College of Science Union and Imperial College Union Presidents to Buckingham Palace for the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday. Jez made her presence felt by dripping oil all over the nice pink gravel. In 1982 she appeared on Blue Peter just before being transported to Cologne in Germany to take part in the Karnival, of which the twenty five crew have only hazy (alcoholic) memories.

Later in 1982 Jez ran several main and big end bearings. They were sent off for re-metalling twice due to the incompetence of the company involved, and in 1983 she ran the bearings again, still due to the faulty workmanship, just before the main HVCS Brighton run. They were replaced just in time, but it was to prove the longest run ever, at twenty three hours duration due to the disintegration of the rear box joint (a form of universal joint so crude it defies belief) near East Grinstead. Whilst the support car went off for spares, the rest of the crew were trapped at a petrol station with a very unhelpful attendant, dubbed “Herman the Horrible” who refused to help, or even sell the Motor Club a barbecue to keep warn despite having bought ten gallons of petrol. Eventually Jez made it home by dawn. Also in 1983 she appeared in the Royal Tournament at Earls Court, including the TV coverage. The 1983-84 session proved remarkably trouble free and in November 1984 she acted as tender vehicle to car No. 1, 1892 Benz Victoria in the VCC run to Brighton. During the early part of 1985 a crack in the transmission meant the Jez was off the road and a freak accident during the summer necessitated an engine rebuild.

Repaint

In early 1986 a complete repainting of the bodywork was undertaken, a job which eventually took four months longer than expected, but she was completed in time to go posing in front of the Royal wedding crowds in July. It was discovered that Andy Wilson’s sign writing had been remarkably accurate, since on one of the body doors was discovered a metal plate hiding a piece of scorched paint work where Jez had got too close to a fire. At this time a new pump gearbox was also fabricated, and on the November Brighton run, the rear ladder support was bent by a maniac with a caravan who hit the ladder whilst Jez was parked in the Happy Eater at South Coulsdon. This has since been rectified.

She also raised £1200 for Guide Dogs for the Blind just before Christmas. Jez then ran relatively trouble free only requiring a new big end bearing which we caught before it ran, and whilst she was off the road was pulled down Oxford Street in summer 1988 by officers of blue watch Soho Fire Station, and later attended their open day under her own steam. A later pull meant that Jez helped raise about £10,000 for Great Ormond Street hospital. Also in that summer, Jez spent a week at the Colchester Tattoo.

1990’s

Jez attends a wedding in 1990

Jez attends a wedding in 1990

Winter 1990 saw the wings and bulk head repainted, so that most of the paint work has been redone since Andy Wilson’s great rebuild of the 1970’s. The summer of 1990 started well, with Jez winning a first and two third prizes. Then in August she was taken to the wedding of one of her drivers, but unfortunately she broke the main oil feed on the way there, and the oil pressure gauge stuck. This meant that she lost all of her oil without anyone noticing, and she ran the number three big end bearing. Whilst being dismantled, it was noticed that all the bearings needed attention, and one of the pistons was badly cracked. Out of a total of nine pistons that we had, only three were intact, and so one of the cracked pistons had to be used. After nine months off the road, she was running again in time to go on the HCVS Brighton run in May. During the time she was off the road, a lot of work was done that had needed doing for some time. New oil pipes were made and the oil pressure gauge was mended, the original radiator was restored so that it is (almost) leak proof and the tracking was corrected. We also replaced the trim around the mainbox doors, and the door supports were replaced.

The major work of 1992 was to refurbish the gearbox. This involved having a new pair of gears (for third gear) made, which was kindly done by David Brown Ltd, a new reverse gear layshaft and new bearing housings.

In 1993 it was the turn of the front suspension for attention. The kingpins (around which the wheels turn to steer) had become rather worn, so these were layered with chrome plating to bring them back to their nominal diameter, and the holes through which they pass were bored and sleeved to match. The front leaf springs were dismantled, greased and reassembled. Most of the shackle pins for connecting the springs to the chassis were getting rather worn, and were replaced. One of the steering linkage joints had its mating surfaces re-machined. Finally, a couple of cracks in the engine cylinder castings were mended or cut out entirely.

1998 was a mixed year for the club. Panic set in on the way back from a rally at Ardingley, when a seized big end bearing resulted in Jezebel having to be towed back to College. The journey was made doubly interesting, as France had just won Euro 98, and attempts to leap the towrope during the final stretches of the journey almost resulted in several squashed frogs. After a frantic rebuild, the fears of a repeat of the saga of the late seventies were dispelled, and Jezebel took to the roads once more in time to go to the Isle of White.

On the plus side, the club saw a return to form by training up first one, and then a second, student driver. This was the first time in over a decade that the club had not had to rely on the good will of its ex-students, and led to a literal explosion in terms of the quantity of activities the club was able to engage in.

Winter 1999 saw the wheels repainted, the bench seats revarnished and a new transmission brake cast using the original as a pattern.

2000’s

Jez at finish line of the 2003 HCVS London to Brighton Run

Jezebel at finish line of the 2003 HCVS London to Brighton Run

Winter 2000 saw an engine rebuild as a result of interference between a cam shafts lobe and its follower, and the replacement of a loose little end bearing. It also saw the transmission almost entirely dismantled as a result of fitting the then machined new transmission brake. A number of box-joint slippers were replaced along with fixing a few other minor problems.

Winter 2001/02 the clutch was relined twice due to the first job being poor.

2003 saw Jez happily in service for most of the year. In February she took part in ICU’s RAG Raid, raising money for charity on the streets of London. Following a pumping trip to Hampton in the Spring the right rear wheel needed attention, however Jez successfully made it to Brighton soon after. She had only only minor problems on the way and took third place in her category. Getting to the Odiham Fire Show proved slightly more problematic, with a dodgy weld in the carburettor requiring some by-the-road fixes … using super-glue bought from a local Waitrose. The weld was corrected permanently upon her return.

One of the wettest November London to Brighton Runs in recent history saw Jez and crew drenched whilst supporting Bo’. On her return journey, only a few miles from College, Jez engaged first and reverse gears together giving the crew a bit of fright! After some manual intervention she returned to College and had a rapid repair job the following week, just in time for the Lord Mayor’s Show.

2004 saw Jez off the road for several months while the main body was repainted. Sadly this was not completed in time for the 2004 HCVS London to Brighton Run, with Jez running without mainbox doors. This still wasn’t enough to stop her winning a prize!

Jez spent most of the 2004-2005 academic year on the road, with maintenance work postponed to allow her to take part in more events. She happily made it to Brighton in May with a newly rewound magneto and revarnished mainbox doors

2010’s

After a promising start to the academic year (2011-12), the November Brighton Run once again saw the running of a big end bearing – this time only number 1. On this occasion the Club decide to carry out the entire repair job in house – including casting the new bearing. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts in which jets of molten metal squirted over the work benches, a successful pour and subsequent machining produced a bearing that was declared fit for purpose and was installed. Unfortunately due to issues with insurance not many miles could be put on the clock and Jez spent most of the Summer at home – she did however attend the wedding of club alumni Lawrence Weetman and Kirsty Paterson.

The year 2012-13 saw Jezebel returning more to form as she got out an about attending a number of summer rallies which she had been absent from for a number of years: Uxbridge Autoshow, Odiham Fire Show and the Isle of Wight (Island) Steam Show. She also completed the HCVS London to Brighton Run without major incident  (there and back) and came second in her class. During the Winter the rear brake shoes were relined. There was issues with the magneto over the Summer and as a result it was swapped with one Jezebel had used previously – she had to be towed back to campus from Notting Hill.

The start of the new academic year saw problems with the dizzy – after having the whole assembly out a couple of times it was identified that its drive gear was slipping as its retaining pin had sheared, this was duly replaced. In November Jezebel once again did the first half of the Brighton Run (the same as in 2012), and in May entered the HCVS Brighton Run as part of the Special Class for vehicles built with the war grant. Throughout the year there was a lot redevelopment work taking place in the garage with the Mezzanine being removed, and new lighting, shelving systems and a second sink being installed.

In February Jezebel was on the set of Downton at Highclere Castle taking part in the filming for Season 5. She was featured in Epsiode 1, first broadcast on 28th September 2014, as the Estate’s fire engine and featured “Downton Fire Brigade” livery. On the 28th June, Jezebel was part of a contingent from the London Community Fire Cadets at the Drumhead Service of Remembrance at the Royal Hospital Chelsea attended by Her Majesty the Queen, HRHs The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Michael of Kent.

At the Isle of Wight Steam show the Club was presented with the The Ron Armstrong Award for efforts above and beyond the reasonable after the clubs efforts in rebuilding the multiple bearing failures in the lead up to the 2011. The award was dedicated to Andrew ‘Wiz’ Wilson, a life long supporter and mechanic for the Club (see above for some examples) who passed away earlier in the year.

Whilst the academic year 2014-15 was fairly uneventful – went to Staplefield and back in November, and came third out of three fire engines at the HCVS London-Brighton Run; the Summer was very busy. The top of the back box was repainted in the Leosoc art studio, and then on the way to Odiham fireshow the knuckle in the rear box joint failed and Jez didn’t make it. After a quick repair job using a blank that had been made previously, Jez was ready to go to the Isle of Wight not even a month later, but even the IoW show was not trouble free with Jez running over a traffic cone during a time trial braking an oil pipe. This was fixed by the model engine society on the island and Jez was back on the road by 10am the following morning. Although the very muddy field meant she didn’t go very far and had to be towed (by two tractors).

Paul, Lucy and Catherine Shuttleworth, grandchildren of Joseph Albert Shuttlewort, on Jezebel November 2015.

Paul, Lucy and Catherine Shuttleworth, grandchildren of Joseph Albert Shuttlewort, on Jezebel November 2015.

In November Jezebel once again went all the way to Brighton and made it back again without major incident – one of the pots was shaking itself loose and water was leaking out a joint in the pipes and spraying back in the cab but these were easily rectified. Jezebel was also visit by the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Joseph Albert Shuttleworth who had looked after Jezebel whilst she was working at Crossfield & Sons.

Early History Uncovered

The station in which Jez served with during her life in London was, for much time, unknown. With studious effort, Ben Hawkins (a member of the club) studied LFB history to discover clues to her origins. In the London Fire Brigade (LFB), each appliance had a number painted on it to identify it, and a brass plaque to denote its station but through repaints and repaints these were long gone. With reference to the accident register and photographs from the time, many estimations where made of the numbers.

On a trip to London Metropolitan Archives in 2003, the document that denotes the delivery of 6 appliances of which number 66 had the licence plate LP8389. From the accident register it was found that appliance 66 was stationed at Pageant’s Wharf (sometimes known as Rotherhithe or east Rotherhithe) in 1919. Several months after this, a photo was sent to the club showing her at Pageant’s Wharf, carrying station number 55.

Initially it was believed that this was her first station, however Ben later discovered a document showing her at Vauxhall, one month after being delivered in 1916.

Contact Us!


Email: jez@imperial.ac.uk
Write: RCS Motor Club c/o Student Activities Centre, Imperial College Union, Beit Quad, Prince Consort Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2BB
Tel: +44 (0)20 759 48085 Not always attended
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jezebel.dennis

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