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People of Note

Sir Herbert Austin (1866-1941)

Sir Herbert Austin

Herbert Austin, founder of the Austin Motor Company, was born in 1866/7 in Missenden, Buckinghamshire, the eldest son of Giles Steven Austin born Bovingdon, where it is noted in 1841 and 1871, were other farming families by the name of Austin.

It is recorded that his mother was the daughter of Willoughby Simpson of Rotherhithe, who in 1881 was a Civil Service Inspector living at 56 Wotton Road, Deptford St Paul, Kent.

By 1879, the family were living at Wentworth where his father was employed as a farm bailiff for Earl Fitzwilliam.

The 1881 census lists the family, living in a private house at Wentworth:

Herbert attended Rotherham Grammar School. In 1884 he went to Australia with an uncle who had emigrated there. In 1887 he married Helen Dron. They had 3 children: Vernon (d.1915), Irene and Zoe, who as Zoe Lambert wrote a biography of her father (Lord Austin The Man).

In Australia he met Frederick Wolseley, owner of the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Company, which he joined in 1888. In 1893 he returned to England to become General Manager of the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Company, which had moved its headquarters from Sydney to Birmingham. He set up manufacturing premises in Alma Street, Birmingham, where he indulged his interest in the design of a horseless motor vehicle and in 1896 exhibited an experimental motor vehicle at Crystal Palace, while his third car design won a silver medal in the 1000 miles trial in 1900. In 1901 he persuaded Vickers Ltd to buy out Wolseley's motor vehicle business and became General Manager of the Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Company, which operated from a factory at Adderley Park in Birmingham. By 1905, however, he was dissatisfied with his position there and left to found the Austin Motor Company at Longbridge, Birmingham.

The Austin Motor Company's most successful product was the Austin Seven, introduced in 1922.

He was knighted in 1914 and was Conservative M.P. for Kings Norton, Birmingham from 1918 to 1924.

In 1936 he was created Baron Austin of Longbridge.

He died on 23 May 1941 at his home, Lickey Grange, in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.

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