Frederick Richard Simms (oil painting right) was an engineer, inventor, and, as a pioneer for motor cars, he became a leading figure in the early British motor industry. Simms and his second wife lived in Chislehurst from 1915 until his death in 1944, at a house called Storth Oaks next to Waratah in Walden Road. The house is no longer there.
Simms was born in Germany and as a young man did an engineering apprenticeship. He became a friend of Gottlieb Daimler and in 1893 he purchased the rights to manufacture petrol engines for boats from Daimler and formed the Daimler Motor Syndicate Ltd. This is believed to be the UK’s first petrol motor company. In 1900 Simms established his own vehicle manufacturing company, Simms Manufacturing Co. at Kilburn, where a wide range of vehicles was produced.
As well as his engineering skills, Simms was a leading advocate for the newly invented motor cars. The car industry that developed in Britain can be said to have begun through his efforts. In 1895, with his friend the Hon. Evelyn Ellis, Simms took the first petrol driven horseless carriage ride on English roads – illegal at the time. He took part in the Emancipation run between London and Brighton in 1896 which was to celebrate the emancipation of horseless vehicles from the severe restrictions previously placed on their use. This is now the annual London to Brighton Run.
Simms founded the Motor Car Club in 1896; the Automobile Club in 1897 (which became the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) 10 years later); and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in 1902.
Simm’s ashes are placed at a memorial just inside the Lychgate of the Annunciation Church below a large white memorial which is a copy of Michaelangelo’s Pieta in St Peter’s, Rome.
We would be pleased to hear from anyone who can add any information about the Simms’ family’s Chislehurst life.