Britain By Car - A Motoring History

Santler

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One of the first petrol-engined cars to be manufactured in Britain.

Location
Howsell Road, Malvern Link; and later (c1892 & 1896) 5, The Colonnade, Grange Road, Malvern Link, and Worcester Road, Malvern Link. Grace’s Guide also makes reference to the company trading in 1908 from 2 Alma Villas, Worcester Road, Malvern Link. 

Date
1889 – c1922

Commentary 
During the mid-nineteenth century, Thomas Santler ran a well-established engineering business situated on the junction between Howsell Road and Quest Hills Road in Malvern Link, an area to the north of Great Malvern.

By the late 1880s, the company had begun to manufacture bicycles and to construct a small steam engine, largely the work of Thomas’s sons, Charles and Walter. 

In 1889 this engine was mounted on a four-wheeled chassis and tested nearby in the grounds of Madresfield Court. The steam engine, it appears, did not work at all well and was initially replaced with a gas engine and later, in 1894, with a single-cylinder petrol engine.  It is this car that is sometimes cited as the first petrol-engined car to be built in Britain.  (However, see also the Bremer car, built in Walthamstow, London, in 1892.)

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Although the Santler, also known as the Malvernia, still exists today, it is not with its original petrol engine.  This was replaced in the 1950s by veteran car restorer and harpsichord maker Alec Hodson with a unit manufactured by Karl Benz.  Not surprisingly, there have been some questions over the car’s provenance, but a detailed examination of the vehicle by the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain concluded that the car did date from 1894 and that the name Santler was more accurate than the previously used Malvernia.

The Santler brothers produced a second car in 1897 and further models in 1902 and 1907.  In 1914-1915, Santler built a range of light cars with an 1100cc-engine.  These were the company’s first cars advertised for commercial sale. The last car produced by Santler was the three-wheeler Rushabout, similar in overall design to the Morgan Runabout, also produced locally in Malvern.  It appears that only about a dozen of these cars were made, and that by around 1922, the entire business had closed.    

Further details 
• Worcestershire’s Motoring Heritage, Martin Watts, Amberley 2014.