|Austin, Baron Austin|
Herbert Austin (1866-1941) was the son of a farmer, and was born at Little Missenden (Bucks) and brought up in Yorkshire. At the age of eighteen he went to Australia with one of his maternal uncles who was already based out there and who had come home on a visit to his family. He secured varied engineering experience with a number of different companies and came home in 1893 to manage the English subsidiary of the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Co. He soon turned his engineering skills to the design of motor cars, however, and produced the first Wolseley model in 1895. In 1905 he set up his own company with a capital of £20,000 and within five years he had accumulated profits large enough to buy Lickey Grange, which lay conveniently close to his works at Longbridge. Within the first few months of the First World War his only son was killed in northern France, and it may be for this reason that he threw his factory into the production of aircraft and armaments for the war effort, for which service he was knighted in 1917. He also became a Conservative MP for six years, although he never spoke in Parliament. In the 1920s, he designed the Austin 7 as a mass-production car, and his firm went from strength to strength during his lifetime. The great wealth which he derived from the company was used increasingly for philanthropic purposes, to provide endowments for hospitals and universities, and he was further honoured in 1936 on this account, being raised to the peerage as 1st Baron Austin. Since he had no son to succeed him, the peerage died with him in 1941, and after his widow died the following year, Lickey Grange was sold to the Birmingham Royal Institution for the Blind. He left two married daughters, who were the principal beneficiaries of his will.
Lickey Grange, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
A large gabled brick house, built for Joseph Rowlands, a Birmingham solicitor, in 1880, with largely symmetrical fronts on both the entrance and garden sides. When it was built it was in a deeply rural location and had substantial grounds, but the style and appearance of the house is that of a large suburban villa rather than a true country house. The architect is unknown, but it was probably one of the large Birmingham firms whose main output was commercial work: on balance, J.A. Chatwin is perhaps the most likely candidate. Stylistically it is perhaps more like the work of Essex, Nichol & Goodman, but their practice was not formed until about 1884.
|Lickey Grange: entrance front|
The entrance side has two-storey canted bays either side of a shallow recessed porch; the garden side has similar bays either side of of a stone canted bay that may be a later addition. Inside, the hall has a deep frieze of pre-Raphaelite style wall paintings that is much interrupted by the arched doorcases through which rooms open off the hall.
|Lickey Grange: garden front|
|Lickey Grange: entrance hall|
Descent: built 1880 for Joseph Rowlands, solicitor; sold 1910 to Sir Herbert Austin (1866-1941), 1st Baron Austin; sold 1943 to Birmingham Royal Institution for the Blind; sold after 1991 for redevelopment.
Austin family of Lickey Grange, Baron Austin
|Herbert Austin (1866-1941)|
1st Baron Austin
(1) Hon. Irene Austin (1890-1977), born at Ascot Vale, Victoria (Australia), 15 September 1890; married, Oct-Dec 1918, Col. Arthur Cyril Roy Waite MC (1894-1991) of Fernhill Park (Berks), a member of the Austin Motor Co. board and racing driver, son of William Nicholas Waite of Adelaide, South Australia, but had no issue; died 1 September 1977; will proved 18 November 1977 (estate £949,581);
(2) Vernon James Austin (1894-1915), born 21 November 1894; served in First World War with Royal Field Artillery (2nd Lt., 1914); killed in action near La Bassee in France, 26 January 1915 and was buried at Canterbury (Kent); administration of goods granted to his father, 7 September 1915 (estate £1,056) and 30 March 1942 (further effects, £1,131);
(3) Hon. Zeta Elaine Austin (1902-93), born Oct-Dec 1902; author of Lord Austin: the man, 1968; married, Jul-Sep 1928, Charles Powell Lambert (1903-90), son of A.F. Lambert of Gerrards Cross, and had issue two sons and one daughter; died 23 November 1993; will proved 29 April 1994 (estate £237,981).
He purchased Lickey Grange in 1910. It was sold after the death of his widow in 1942.
He died of a heart attack following pneumonia, 23 May 1941, and was buried at Holy Trinity, Lickey Hills; the peerage became extinct on his death. His will was proved 3 November 1941 (estate £509,712). His widow died at East Finchley (Middx), 24 May 1942 and is also buried at Holy Trinity, Lickey Hills; her will was proved 3 December 1942 (effects £39,136).
L.G. Pine, The new extinct peerage, 1884-1971, 1972, p.19; A. Brooks & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Worcestershire, 2nd edn., 2007, p. 428;
Location of archives
No significant accumulation of personal papers is known to survive.
Austin Motor Co. Ltd: minutes, 1919-58 [Warwick Univ., Modern Records Centre, AUM]; other records, 20th cent. [British Motor Industry Heritage Trust, Gaydon (Warks)]
Coat of arms
Gules a cross between in the 1st and 4th quarters a garb and in the 2nd and 3rd quarters a lozenge or.
Revision and acknowledgements
This post was first published 3 April 2017.