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Local Inventors
An Akroyd Stuart engine at Stacey Hill Museum

Milton Keynes Citizen, September 20, 2012

O’ what ripples upon the river of time shall our voyage through this earthly course leave.

Well, in my case a few local history articles and a couple of inventions, neither of which unfortunately brought any fortune or fame.

But at least it was an experience, with one involving a London ‘business’ meeting with the flamboyant Laurence Ronson, younger brother of the tycoon Gerald Ronson, and the other a complete rip off, for – after naively sending them the details – a firm ‘hijacked’ the idea which several months later found its way onto the commercial shelves.

Of course they knew the ‘little man’ could never fund a legal challenge and so, ho, hum, it was back to the day job and writing history articles.

But nevertheless ideas still occur; so what about placing a few steel shelters around golf courses, whereby during a lightning storm those golfers too far away from the sanctuary of the 19th hole could be within sprinting distance of an alternative safe haven.

For ‘techies,’ if struck by a lightning bolt the shelter would act as a Faraday shield, directing the charge to earth through the ‘skin effect,’ and although no doubt a noisy experience, it would seem preferable to being pole axed whilst standing under a tree.

So if anybody rips this idea off, you read it here first. And on the subject of inventors and golf courses, it was in 1906 that Colonel Broome Giles, of Holne Chase, helped to form the Bletchley Golf Club.

He was a veteran of the Boer War and after the outbreak of World War One his inventive ideas were taken up by Salmons and Sons, of Newport Pagnell, to produce the finest type of motor ambulance on the market and also a unique motor field kitchen, which allowed cooking to be undertaken on the move.

Not far from Holne Chase, the rectory of St. Mary’s Church had once been the home of the daughter of the Reverend Delves Broughton. She became the wife of the First World War naval hero Admiral Fisher, who in his early career had made the acquaintance of the inventor of a gun carriage, Mr. J. Vavasseur, whom he greatly helped in his endeavours. The two became firm friends and when Mr. Vavasseur died he left Lord Fisher’s son a fortune of £300,000 and an estate.

Also regarding guns, during World War Two whilst serving in Burma, Sergeant Sidney Pope of Church Street, Bletchley, came up with an innovation regarding the maintenance of field guns, for which he was officially commended.

As for more peaceful matters, during the 1950s the Bletchley garage of Cowley and Wilson enjoyed a national fame when one of their employees, George Turner, appeared on the B.B.C. television programme ‘The Inventors Club’.

This featured his ‘kitchen pot stirrer,’ devised ‘to contrive ways and means of relieving the over-worked housewife.’ As for the benefit of his employer, George devised a useful means of converting old coke stoves into burning waste oil, instead of digging pits.

Regarding other local inventors there’s no room here to recount them all but they include the well known William Smith of Little Woolstone, who achieved renown for his steam cultivating machinery. At Great Linford the inventor of Letraset once had a studio, whilst a former pastor of Newport Pagnell Congregational Church, who was the brother of a famous artist, invented the first fire resisting safe and a steam engine with separate condenser.

At Passenham, the Reverend Capell revolutionised the ventilation of mines and indeed ‘there are more patents under his name at the English Paten Office than to any one single English inventor.’

At the time of his death he was working on a silent propeller for aeroplanes but the most famous of local inventors was Herbert Akroyd Stuart.

However, his heavy oil engine today unjustly bears the name of a German engineer, Rudolph Diesel. Salutary proof, that even the most revolutionary idea is no guarantee of success for those possessed of the original conception.