January 1999

On Tuesday 5th January 1999, I went over to Albrighton to visit Peter Lisle and to have a look at the Star with the view to purchasing it. I took it for a 3 mile drive. The car generally seemed be in very good order but it did require a certain amount of cosmetic work to the body.

I made an offer to David Lisle, Peter's son, who was acting on his father's behalf. In principle the offer was accepted but, as the car was owned by a partnership there were hurdles to be cleared before it could be finally accepted.

Whilst in the Wolverhampton area I decided to try to find some of the houses mentioned in the various documents. Listed below are the results of the search.

The Oaklands, Edward Lisle's home at Tettenhall. This is opposite the Pond on the Green at the top of Rock Hill and is now used as the Public Library.

Kate (Benjamin Davis's daughter) and John Hinches' house at 16 Crowther Road. This was a modern detached property of about 1920.

The last home of Sarah Ann Lisle, 67 Tettenhall Road. This was a house in a row of Georgian properties within walking distance of the town.

I took photographs of all the houses. This is the Oaklands, Edward Lisle's home in Tettenhall.
I then went to Frederick Street, to see the Star Factory, and viewed the plaque on the wall, commemorating Wolverhampton's oldest motor manufacturer. The factory was still working at what seemed to be a metal fabricating business.

Next door the development of an industrial site had taken place in recent times. On the outside wall was a large bronze plate commemorating the Star Motor Company.

The history so far has covered the children of Joseph Rollings and his descendants up to the time of my Grandfather Henry. It would seem that we have found most of the information we are likely to find for this period with two exceptions.

The first is details of my great grandfather's business life. And the other is the exact location of John's home, the Pines in Penn Road.

I noticed that one of the companies of which Edward Lisle was a director did not relate to his engineering activities. This company was called the Days Sanitary Pipe Company Ltd. It will be interesting to see if this company may shed any light on Benjamin. I have written to the developer and the ex-owner of the Goldthorn Hotel to ask if they have any knowledge of John's house.

I now move back to Joseph Rollings, the chartermaster, and Jane Davis. My great great grandfather, Joseph, was born in Deep Dale, North Staffordshire, 7.5 miles south east of Lee, in the Parish of Grindon, in about 1812. His father was John, a miner, who was born in 1785. John's place of birth is unknown. Jane was born at Pant (which is now in Shropshire but was at that time in Montgomeryshire) in about 1820. Her father was David Davis. I have written to Grindon Church asking for any information on the Rollings family. I think it is unlikely that they will have any record but I thought it was worth trying.

In the week commencing 10th January 1999, I received supplies to my letters from Reg Goulding and David Bromley, the developers of the Goldthorn Hotel. They confirmed the following facts.

The house in the picture that came from my Uncle Jack (John Percy) was not part of the hotel complex before development.

The reception part of the hotel was The Pines Hotel. This establishes without doubt that it was the home of great uncle John Rollings from 1897 up to the time of his death in 1909. David Bromley kindly sent me a copy of a photograph showing The Pines as it was in the 1920s.

David Bromley's photo of the Pines in the 1920s.  Compare this with the photo below.
The Pines is now (Summer 2000) a Quality Hotel. The hotel has been extended on all sides but the front and you can still easily pick out the original frontage of the house.

Compared with David Bromley's photo the only change to this part is the removal of some timber work on the gable and the insertion of a window there.

On the Saturday morning I decided that the only way that I could locate the house in the picture from Uncle Jack was by looking for it in the Tettenhall area.
I therefore started working my way down all the side roads off Tettenhall Road, from St. Jude's Road going down towards Tettenhall.

After about one and a half hour's searching I was about to give up and decided to turn the car around at the next side road and return home.

On turning into Sandy Lane, proceeding about 300 yards along the lane, I saw the house on the left hand side of the lane.

It was now St. Joseph's Convent and Preparatory School.

This photo, which came down to me from my Uncle Jack, shows Benjamin Davis Rollings outside his house in Tettenhall. This was all I had from which to trace the house.
I went up the drive and knocked on the front door. Sister Denise came to the door. I explained who I was and showed her the old photograph of the house. She invited me to have a look around the downstairs and the outbuildings. I also spoke to Sister Bernadette who had lived at the house since 1947. Both of the nuns were most interested to see the picture. Sister Denise told me that there was a man in the lane who she thought new the history of their house. However she could not remember his name but would try to find it for me. It was an inconvenient time for me to call, due to a pupil being given some extra tuition and Sister Denise being in the middle of preparing the lunch. I therefore left. I have since written a letter, sending to them a copy of the house photograph, and asking if they can provide any further details, in particular the age of the house and what its name was before becoming the convent.

The establishment of the location of these two houses has taken us a great step forward. It now means that the principal missing detail is that of Benjamin Davis Rolling's building company.

On Saturday 23rd January 1999 I heard that the partnership which owned Star Motor Car LG6527 did not find my offer acceptable. I thought that the offer I had made was more than fair and would not increase it. So I told them that my offer was still on the table if they wished to pursue it. I always feel, in these situations, that if it was meant to be, it will be; it is best to just sit back and wait. I now learn that the car may be put up for auction.

On Saturday 30th January I received a letter from Sister Bernadette of St. Joseph's Convent. In the letter she says that the name of their house is Alameda, No. 24 Sandy Lane, Tettenhall. Sister Denise has visited a Mr. Hill, who lived not far away, and had mentioned to him my interest in the house. Mr. Hill had suggested I should contact him. I duly wrote to him and received a reply on Saturday 6th February. In the letter he advised that he could not go back any further than 1915, the time when Mrs. Griffiths lived in the house. It would now seem that my only hope of finding more details will be by making a visit to the Public Record Office.

Having been advised that the Star Comet was not longer for sale, I started looking for another Star car. I located a 1922, 11.9 hp, Star Tourer, registration number XL 543. This is for sale at Collectors' Cars, Kenilworth. Its owner is Mr. John Barlow. I have looked at the car, which is quite nice, but I would prefer the 18/50, so I will wait for the time being.

March 1999

On Wednesday 24th March 1999, I visited the chapel at the Royal Wolverhampton School, the purpose being to take photographs of the memorials to John Rollings.

The plaque to commemorate the donation of the bells was the first item I photographed. This is shown on an earlier page.

I then found the window in the south transept.

It is a four light stained glass window and it depicts Christ among the Doctors in the Temple. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Lichfield, Dr. Legge, on the 9th June 1912. This window, together with all the other windows in the Chapel, was erected by C. E. Kempe & Company, of London.

In the bottom right hand corner of the window is a panel with this dedication:

"Giving thanks to God for the dear memory of John Rollings of Wolverhampton, a former Vice-President and Governor of this Orphanage, his widow dedicates this window. A.D. mcmxi"

In February 1913 John Rollings was further remembered by the presentation of a beautiful reredos. It is a handsomely carved piece of work, of which the centre panel in white Staffordshire alabaster represents Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper.

This was presented by Lucy Rollings and a few friends. It was constructed by Robert Bridgeman & Sons of Lichfield, and dedicated on the 20th April 1913 by the Bishop of Lichfield, Dr. E. A. Were.

I found this brass plate on the reredos, commemorating the gift of the reredos in memory of John Rollings. It is dated February 1913.

May 1999

We are now at the 23rd May 1999. I have spent very little time on the story due to my being involved in the rebuilding of a Riley 2.5 litre motor car, and also due to my having taken a short holiday. On our return from holiday a copy of Joseph Rollings' will arrived. It made quite interesting reading.

As told earlier in the story he was a Chartermaster, running part of the mine in the coalfield at Monmore Green, Wolverhampton. It stated on one of the previous census forms that his wife Jane was an annuitant. The will discloses that he died on 12th July 1865 and that probate was granted on 12th February 1866. The estate was valued at less than £100 and comprised of a number of Freehold Properties which are described as follows:

4 Freehold Dwellings near to The Blue Pig Public House
5 Freehold Dwellings opposite The Red Lion Public House.

The properties were mortgaged. It would seem that Joseph was quite a businessman in his own small way. He had obviously worked very hard in the coal mine and achieved a quite high status in his occupation; furthermore he had been wise enough to invest his hard earned money to provide an income for his wife Jane and the younger children. The annuity amounted to the sum of fifteen shillings per week, payable on Monday mornings.

The final point I noted in the will was that he had another daughter, Ruth Cartwright. Her date of birth is not known but we do know that she was alive on 2nd November 1864.

Having spent almost twelve months on the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian times of the Rollings family I feel it is now time to move on to the early times in Birmingham. It is disappointing that I have not been able to find more information about the business life of my great grandfather. I feel sure that there is a lot more to find out about him - when the next Census Papers are released more information may be found. In the meantime I shall keep trying to follow up any leads that I may find.

August 1999

We are now at the 23rd August 1999. Having been involved in other matters for the past few months my researches have been put on to the back burner. Last week I decided to start again. I made contact with Peter Lisle about the Star Comet car. I was disappointed to learn that the people with an interest in the car had now sold the whole interest in it to one of them and it was no longer on the market. Peter though it might be put up for sale again at some time but I do not think my hopes of acquiring the car will proceed any further.

This morning I made a telephone call to the Wolverhampton Archives Department, to enquire about the building plans for my great grandfather's house, Alameda in Sandy Lane, Tettenhall. They were most helpful and suggested I should make a visit in order to find further details. However I was advised that the plans for Tettenhall had been lost in the changeover from the County Council to the Town Council, but some information may be found in trade directories. Hopefully I shall make the visit during this week.

I visited the Wolverhampton Records Office within a few days of making the enquiry. I spent a good deal of time looking at the trade directories. Unfortunately for the years 1902 to 1909 none were available and it is in this period of time that I feel information would be found on the house in Sandy Lane. However I did establish that my great grandfather traded as Benjamin Rollings, builder, from an address in Powlett Street.

It would now seem that this concludes the story of the Wolverhampton times of the family. The only remaining hope for more information about Sandy Lane will be when the 1901 census forms are released for public viewing in 2002.

October 1999

I made enquiries to Mr. David Evans, who runs The Star Car Register, a few weeks ago. A reply has now been received. It would appear that the History of the Star Motor Co produced by the Express & Star is not regarded as being particularly correct in many of the facts stated. Many of the people who met Edward Lisle describe him as being a brilliant craftsman but having no real technical knowledge. He employed several of his sons in the business and could see no wrong in their actions. He did however have the good sense to employ a professional office manager and designers.

My Great Aunt Sarah Ann was said to have ruled the house at Tettenhall with a rod of iron. This information is confirmed by what my uncle Jack said about his grandfather's sister being "a bit of a bugger". Other interesting points were that the company manufactured vacuum cleaners, electric fires, incandescent goods and wheels for horse drawn vehicles. One interesting product was an electric milk float, steered by reins and braked by pushing back on the seat in the same way that you would stop a horse and cart. Cars and commercial vehicles were sold under the brand names Star, Briton, Stuart and Starling.

If this looks like an old broom cupboard, it is meant to. It is part of the display at the heritage museum on Cannock Chase.

I noticed that there is a Star vacuum cleaner in there - it is the thing with the (new looking) white handle. You had to pump the concertina like cylinder up and down to create the suction.

I am not sure how efficient it was but it does illustrate Edward Lisle's willingness to try anything.

Amendment June 2006:  Frank Sharman, of the Wolverhampton History and Heritage Society, found an advertisement in The Cabinet Maker and Complete Home Furnisher for 1920, which showed that  the Star Vacuum cleaner was patented and manufactured by C. H. Roth, 2 Hulme Street, Southport.
The mystery of the Days Sanitary Pipe Co is resolved: one of Edward Lisle's daughters married into this family. The fact that Edward Lisle worked in his father's tin smith's business cannot be proved. It is reputed he worked on the railway in Stafford Road with his brother. The tablet and gift of bells made to St Luke's Church in 1894 by Edward Lisle were in return for a special dispensation for him to marry his deceased wife's sister, Sarah Ann Rollings.
This brass tablet, in the shape of a shield, is high up a wall and hard to photograph.

The inscription says:

"This tablet is placed here to the glory of God and to commemorate the gift of a clock fixed in the tower of this church in the year 1894 also a peal of bells in the year 1897 being the 60th year of the reign of Queen Victoria both of which were by the generosity of Edward Lisle Esquire a former resident in this parish and a scholar in the church schools"


The letter from David Evans contained information about several Star Cars, which were up for sale. It now seems that the Star that once belonged to Peter Lisle is no longer on the market. I decided to go and have a look at a 1930 Star Jason Coupe, which was for sale in Leicester.

The car had been completely rebuilt between 1989 and 1993, and had only covered 1,800 miles since the rebuild. Its owner was Mr. Roland Victor Johnson. I purchased the car on Wednesday 3rd October, 1999. It came with a full photographic record of the work carried out during its refurbishment. I am now the proud owner of a Star Car.

The first photo of the restored Star Jason Coupe. It is the 4 door model and thought to be the only one its kind left in existence.

Return to the
previous page
  Return to the contents   Proceed to the
next page