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Old Ship Hotel: Head Porter

Grandfather on duty outside the Old Ship Hotel

My grandfather

My grandfather,William Alfred Luke, was head porter at the Old Ship Hotel in the early 1900s. He was working there at the time of the 1911 census for about 20 years.

A mystery Rolls Royce

I found these two photos and was amazed at the crowds surrounding a white Rolls Royce (grandad is in the foreground). They even have the bonnet up and are peering into the engine. They wouldn’t be allowed so near it now.

Can you help?

Who did the Rolls Royce belong to I wonder? Have you any ideas? Please leave comment below if you can help.


Grandfather with the mystery Rolls Royce

Comments about this page

  • Hi Diane, fantastic photos but unfortunately can’t help with the Rolls. My Grandfather also worked there he was also in the 1911 census Alfred Raymond Roland age 16yrs. I’m trying to get a photo of him, we have none. Do you have any group photos, that my mother can look at she may be able to point him out to me. Thank you and kind regards. Good luck with your search.

    By Susan Loxton (07/01/2011)
  • Hi Diane, my grandfather worked there in the 1901 census, my mistake. Even so you might have a group photo at some point between 1901 and 1911. Regards, Susan.

    By Susan Loxton (08/01/2011)
  • Hi Susan. Unfortunately I have no other pictures of ‘The Old Ship’. Have you tried the hotel itself? Sometimes old places have pictures hanging up or in storage somewhere. Hope you find a picture.There are a couple of family trees on with him in (if he was born in Cuckfield) but no photos. Happy hunting! Best wishes.

    By Diane (11/01/2011)
  • Diane; I am sorry to disillusion you but the white car you refer to as shown in the lovely photograph is NOT a Rolls Royce. It is a Morris of circa 1926 and by the body style and the size of the sidelamps probably one of the ‘Bullnose’ model. The car to the right is also a Morris but probably a ‘Flatnose’ model Doctor’s Coupe with a ‘dicky’ seat, as this was registered at Southport Lancashire early in 1928. The ‘WM’ series of registration numbers ran from 1927 to February 1934. It is a pity we can’t see the number plate on the other car. The Morris was one of the cheapest motor cars on the British market retailing at one time in the 1920s for £299/0/0! The fact that the white car has its bonnet open is not for the general edification of the onlookers but the reason is given away by the signs to each side of the hotel entrance – ‘Garage’, with the finger pointing to the right. This was one of the largest garage premises in Brighton at this time behind the hotel in Ship Street. The Old Ship Hotel had a long association with the motor car from its earliest days and cashed in on the popularity of early motoring and many car rallies terminated there. I would guess this may well have been the concours at the end of such a rally when the cars were inspected and all polished up for public viewing much as they are after the annual London to Brighton veteran car run in November nowadays. If so, reference to the local newspaper of the time or motoring press might tell some more about it. These rallies were very popular and widely used to advertise different makes of motor car. By the flowers in the window boxes I would put this photo in the summer of 1928 as the right-hand car looks quite new. (There is of course the possibility that these cars could have been early MGs? Which were based on the Morris chassis, but unlikely.)

    By Tim Sargeant (13/01/2011)
  • Hi Tim, Thanks for the info. I automatically assumed that any old car that was large and white must be a Rolls! The year 1928 would be about right because Grandad worked there from the time of the 1911 census until he died in 1936. I think he started off by greeting horse-drawn coaches as well so he must have been quite excited by the appearance of motor vehicles. He seems to be keeping people back so that the photographer can get a good picture. It would be interesting to see newspaper reports. Regards

    By Diane (13/01/2011)
  • My grandad was a car park attendant here in his later years, the 1950s. I wondered if it would have been inside or out as there’s a garage under cover? He was a cook at The Brighton Union Club on the 1911 census at 138 Kings Road.

    By Anne Newman (10/04/2012)
  • Hello, My dads name was John William Luke and he was born in Patcham.
    Love the photo.

    By Jacqueline Ann Nunn nee Luke (29/04/2020)

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