The Reliant Motor Club is delighted that on Saturday 8th July 2017 we achieved one of our primary ambitions to see a blue plaque unveiled at Tom Williams’ (Reliant co-founder) former residence at Bro-Dawel on the Kettlebrook Road in Tamworth. It was here that the first Reliant prototype was built in 1934 and so the plaque both commemorates the birth place of Reliant and pays tribute to its founders.
In a 1950 booklet on the birth of Reliant, Williams details that when the Raleigh cycle company decided to discontinue the manufacture of three-wheeled vehicles, he believed there was a market to be further exploited. To pursue the project further, he commenced the design of a prototype vehicle in the back garden of Bro-Dawel in August 1934. In October of the same year, he was then joined by Ewart S Thompson who had also worked at Raleigh and together the pair set about building the first prototype. Williams then registered the vehicle as a RELIANT on January 1st 1935.
Williams lived at Bro-Dawel with his in-laws, the Oliver family, after marrying their only daughter Ellen. It is believed that following his wife's death due to illness in 1941, that he remained there until 1950 when he moved into a purpose built flat above the Reliant offices at Two Gates in Tamworth.
Bro-Dawel therefore, whilst splendid in its appearance, has stood quietly back from the road for many years with this part of its history hidden away with even many people local to the area unaware of its historical connection to Reliant.
The Reliant Motor Club wanted to change this and Elvis Payne contacted the house owners, Jaymie and Marc Rogers to ask their views on a blue plaque and they were in full support of it. Having joined the Tamworth Heritage Trust (THT) several weeks earlier, in February 2017, the RMC then sent them an email detailing the possibility of a Reliant blue plaque. A chain of events was then set in action.. Margaret Clarke, the Chairman of the THT replied back saying she would look into it further and the RMC proceeded to investigate manufacturers of blue plaques to get an idea of the prices. With a basic design drafted and a quote for the plaque, the committee of the Tamworth Heritage Trust was approached and suddenly it was approved and all systems were go with the plaque being co-funded between the THT and the RMC.
The order was placed with a company in Wolverhampton and within a couple of weeks the postman was knocking at Elvis’ door with a rather large parcel, the blue plaque had arrived. Made of cast metal and measuring 350mm across, the plaque is coated in a tough weather proof powder coated finish and has been designed to last many years without maintenance.
As to whom would unveil the plaque was never actually a question, in our minds it was always accepted that we would ask a lady called Pat Afford, the daughter of Reliant co-founder Ewart Thompson. We asked Pat who graciously accepted saying she would be most honored. Due to numerous events and shows, the closest date we could find for the unveiling was 4 weeks away and so a date was agreed upon and set, 8th July 2017. The house owners Jaymie and Marc were fantastic, offering what ever assistance they could and opening up their garden to the public.
The next few weeks was spent inviting as many former-Reliant employees as we could find to the unveiling. Sadly, just two days before the event news came via Pat’s daughter Charlotte Oliver that Pat had been taken to hospital and would not be out in time for the unveiling. Whilst we debated whether to postpone the event or not until Pat was better, we soon discovered that it would be several weeks until we could fix a new date where everyone was available with so many events and shows. The sad decision was taken to press ahead and ask the only other person who could take Pat’s place and maintain the family connection. Pat’s daughter Charlotte (Ewart Thompson’s granddaughter) graciously accepted to unveil the plaque on Pat’s behalf.
On the day a number of people arrived to watch the event many of which were former Reliant employees including Reliant’s longest serving employee, Mick Hilton, and John Tracey who started at Reliant in 1949. In addition guest included Stacy Birt from Tamworth Council and representatives from both the Tamworth Heritage Trust and the RMC.
At 11am, Caroline Payne (the secretary of the RMC) started proceedings with a speech that was followed with speeches from Margaret Clarke (Chairman of the Tamworth Heritage Trust) and Barrie Wills (President of the RMC). Barrie then handed over to Charlotte who then proceeded to unveil the plaque to a rapturous applause from all who were watching.
With the plaque unveiled, people also got a rare opportunity to view the brick shed that Williams and Thompson worked from in the back garden whilst enjoying refreshments that were endlessly, and most kindly, supplied by the house owners’ Jaymie and Marc.
The RMC wishes to thank Pat Afford, Charlotte Oliver, Jaymie and Marc Rogers, the Tamworth Heritage Trust and all those who turned up on the day to support us. Thank you very much, the event was a huge success.