Welcome toThe Rothschild Archive'swebsite

Sources for business history

Sources for art history: Catalogue of the pictures of Alfred de Rothschild 1901

Sources for yachting history: Plans for Nathaniel von Rothschild's yacht Veglia 1905

Sources for natural history: Walter 2nd Lord Rothschild and his zebra carriage: c.1910

Sources for global financial history: Map of lines of the Brazil Railway Company: c.1920

Sources for business history: index cards to bank files

Sources for social history: Rothschild Hospital Paris: 1920s

Sources for business history: detail of a Rothschild bond coupon

Sources for architectural history: Halton House: 1890s

Sources for the history of travel: Lionel de Rothschild's tours of Spain: 1909

Sources for local history: Tring Park: c.1900

Sources for Royal history: shooting party with Edward Prince of Wales: 1893

Sources for political history: Lionel de Rothschild: first Jewish MP: 1858

Sources for sporting history: St Amant winner of the Derby: 1904

Sources for local history: gardeners at Aston Clinton: 1899

Sources for Rothschild family history: Lionel de Rothschild's yacht Rhodora: 1927

Sources for London history: entrance to New Court: 1965

Sources for design history: plans for Lionel de Rothschild's Rolls-Royce: 1930

Sources for business history: Rothschild gold bars produced by the Royal Mint Refinery: 1930s

Sources for business history: letters of August Belmont Rothschild Agent in New York: 1860s

Armstrong Siddeley Motors sales catalogue, 1936

The collections of The Rothschild Archive London contain over two million pieces of paper, volumes, files, photographs, artefacts and art works. Archivist's Choice is a series a short articles each highlighting a treasure from the Archive collection, or celebrating an anniversary or special event. Browse through our library of Archivist's Choice articles to discover some of the fascinating stories behind our collections.

Leopold de Rothschild (1845-1917) had first become interested in the automobile in the 1890s, an interest he shared with his friend the Prince of Wales. His sons Lionel (1882-1942) and Anthony (1887-1961) were members of the Cambridge University Automobile Club, founded in 1902. Whilst at Trinity College, Lionel was summoned for “driving a motor car at a greater speed than 12 mph”, and fined the sum of £1. 

Rothschild, Wolseley and Siddeley

Rothschild involvement with Wolseley can be traced back to 1888, when N M Rothschild & Sons helped broker the amalgamation of the Maxim and Nordenfeldt ordnance companies, which were later taken over by Vickers, who took over the Wolseley Tool and Motor Company in 1901.

Lionel de Rothschild was elected to the board of The Wolseley Tool & Motor Car Company Ltd. Through Lionel, an approach was made by his friend John Siddeley to Wolseley, to help him design and build a car to his own specifications. The first cars of the Siddeley Autocar Company were unveiled at the Crystal Palace motor show in 1903. In 1904, Lionel ordered a Siddeley 100 hp racing car. 

In 1905 Wolseley purchased the rights of the Siddeley Autocar Company and appointed John Siddeley their London sales manager. Siddeley resigned from Wolseley in 1909 to go into partnership with H.P.P. Deasy and during the First World War, Siddeley-Deasy produced aircraft engines. In 1919, Siddeley-Deasy merged with the motor department of the aircraft engine business of Sir W.G. Armstrong Whitworth and Co Ltd and the new motor entity became known as Armstrong Siddeley Motors.

Lionel de Rothschild and Armstrong Siddeley

In September 1927, Armstrong Siddeley Motors quoted for repairs to an 18 hp Open Touring Car owned by Lionel de Rothschild, which had been badly damaged in an accident. The car was to be repaired and then allowed in exchange for a new Long 20 hp “Ascot” Touring car, to be painted the usual shade of Rothschild blue with a yellow coachline, with natural grain dark blue leather trimmings. In November 1932, Lionel wrote to his friend John Siddeley to advise him of his intention to acquire a new ‘small’ car for Exbury, his Hampshire estate, and subsequently purchased a 10 hp Armstrong Siddeley; the paths of the Exbury estate were designed to be wide enough to accomodate it.

The 1933 Siddeley Special

In July 1933 John Siddeley lent Lionel a 30 hp Siddeley Special to test; in a letter to John Siddeley, although Lionel enjoyed his drive and thought the car “remarkable value for the money” he found it heavy and tiring to drive when compared to his “Rolls”, and found the comparison unfavourable; “while I love the little 10 hp Siddeley I have at Exbury for running about, when I really go long distance I have been spoilt by the Rolls to such an extent that I rather fancy I shall stick to them.” Siddeley must have been put out by this rejection of the Siddeley Special as he was hoping to compete with Rolls-Royce quality, but despite Lionel’s concerns, he sold over 200 of these cars.

In 1936, Lionel purchased an Armstrong Siddeley Twelve Plus de Luxe Open touring car, registration CG 4444, blue with blue leather trimming. The car cost £350, around £22,000 today. The beautifully illustrated catalogue and associated correspondence survives in the collections of the Archive.

Armstong Siddeley was taken over by Bristol in 1960. The last model produced was the Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire; the last car left the Coventry factory in 1960, and one of the great names of British motoring history sadly came to an end.

RAL XI/15/59

The Siddeley Special that Lionel de Rothschild found wanting when compared to his Rolls-Royce

The Siddeley Special that Lionel de Rothschild found wanting when compared to his Rolls-Royce

The 12-plus Armstrong Siddeley saloon purchased by Lionel de Rothschild; perfect for hurtling around his Exbury estate

The 12-plus Armstrong Siddeley saloon purchased by Lionel de Rothschild; perfect for hurtling around his Exbury estate