Brief history of Humber

Thomas humber was born in Sheffield in 1841. When he reached the age of five his parents brought him to kingston upon hull, where he was educated at Salthouse lane school in the city. After leving school, he gained employment with a local Blacksmith, Mr William Campion, who in 1867 brought back from Paris a simple bicycle with the pedals acting directly on the front wheel. Thomas thought that this could be improved upon, and in 1868 invented the firsty 'safety' bicycle ever produced. Demand was great, and due to the success of the bicycle, Thomas Humber moved to a new factory at Beeston near Nottingham. By 1900 Humber Ltd was one of the largest bicycle firms in Britain. With profits from his bicycle industry, Thomas looked to the future, and in 1896 he was developing a small 3hp engine attached to his bicycle frames, which was to make Humber the first motor cycle producer in Britain. Also in 1896 Thomas started to assemble his first proto-type automobiles in newly constructed premises in Coventry, which resulted in a production of nine vehicles for the Stanlet cycle show in London, which gave Humber the honour of being the first maker of series production cars in England. By 1910 Humber had built up a reputation of reliability and endurance, which at the time made it the third most popular car to be bought in Britian. (only surpassed by Ford and Wolseley). As early as 1909, Humber had opened an aircraft department making 50 Bleriot type monoplanes. In 1910 the world's first air-mail service was operated in India by a Humber aeroplane, and in world war I they assembled aircraft for Avro. After WWI Humber entered their motor cars in early races, competitions, and tourist trophies, having numerous successes and enforcing the view of the public, of the reliability and endurance of Humber. By the 1920's and 30's Humber had established itself as a motor car manufacturer of the highest quality, with expensive coachwork and interiors that only the rich could afford, and a highly envious reputation which attracted the attention of two brothers, Reginald & William Rootes, who already owned Hillman and Commer. In 1932 the Rootes brothers took controlling interest of Humber, and also at the time, the firm of London coach-builders, Thrupp & Maberley. Thrupp & Maberley were also highly respected in the coach-building world with their history going back to 1760.

The pre-war years were good to Humber, as customers valued the Humber's consistent quality and elegance. It was at this time that King George VI ordered his first Humber car in 1935. At the outbreak of WW2 Humbers factories virtually ceased producing motor cars to help with the war effort. Two thirds of all wartime aircraft engines were assembled at the Humber development the worlds first 'Land Rover' type utility, with four wheel drive and heavy duty tyres. These proved themselves to be invaluable with every aspect of the armed forces, and Humber developed this idea into their armoured vehicles used in WW2.

The only motor cars produced were staff cars for the armed forces chief officers, the most famous being ' Old Faithful' which was General Montgomerys personal transport, and can still be seen today at the Museum of Army Transport in Beverly.


After the war was won (with a great deal of help from Humber) Humber again concentrated their production on high quality touring saloons and limousines. The reliability and quality of their cars had proved themselves time and time again, and it was at this time that the British Government awarded the contract to Humber to supply all their Embassy's and consulates worldwide.

The armed forces continued to use Humber motor cars as did the civil service. Every Prime MInister of the day would be seen getting out of a Humber at 10 Downing street, culminating in an order for 47 Humbers to be supplied new to HRH King George VI for all the state and commonwealth Royal tours. The 50's and 60's were indeed good years for Humber, but with the aftermath of the Suez crisis and rise in world oil prices, Humber failed to keep up with their competitors in a very financial market, and neglected to upgrade their dated production lines with their more modern rivals, preferring still to make their cars mostly by hand. Lack of investment lead to the American car company, Chrysler, taking over the controlling interest of Humber in 1967, which was to bring an end to one of the world's finest and historic motor cars ever to be seen. At the time the dreams of a young blacksmith called Thomas Humber also came to an end, and it was also to be the ens of an era.