Before I talk about Mann Egerton I must make one thing quite clear about the name; although the second part might be pronounced by those not in the know like an egg (i.e. how it was spelt), it should be spoken ‘edge-erton’. It was often abbreviated to its initials, M.E. For most of the 20th century this was the major car dealership in the city of Norwich.
If you wanted a Bentley or a Rolls Royce for example (or more to the point, if you could afford one) you headed off to the branch of Mann Egerton in King Street; but if you could only run to a secondhand saloon you might go along to the Mann Egerton garage in Upper Surrey Street instead. Although it went by the name of Nunns, it was in fact the Ford branch of Mann Egerton. They also had dealerships with Austin/Morris, before that combination amalgamated with Jaguar and Rover to form the British Motor Corporation; later the UK’s main car manufacturing businesses became British Leyland. Of the main car firms in Britain, only Standard/Triumph stayed out of their hands and was represented in Norwich by Duff Morgan. The Head Office of Mann Egerton was at the top end of Prince of Wales Road, just across King Street from the G.P.O.
Cars were only part of their business empire. The firm of Mann Egerton grew from a Norwich based partnership of electricians in the last years of the 19th century. The electrical contracting business had been started by Laurence Scott, and when this company decided to concentrate on making electrical switchgear and machinery it was bought by Gerald Mann who had been born in distant Cornwall. Mann Egerton finally sold their electrical interests in the 1960s. From electrical contracting they progressed to building the bodies for Rolls Royce cars. Before 1914 they had opened garages across East Anglia, and in London.
During the First World War they were directed by the Government to move into aircraft production, like their contemporary Norwich firm at Boulton and Paul. At first they made aeroplanes to the deigns of Short Brothers, but went on to build planes to their own design. When the war ended they redirected their large aircraft produstion workshop to peacetime employment. As aircraft production then principally involved woodworking, the company transferred to the making of wooden school desks. The aircraft had been made in Reepham Road in Hellesdon, where the school furniture manufacturing was later carried out. This woodworking business was bought out by the management as late as 1986. The company’s motor interests were bought by the Inchcape Group, and although the name Mann Egerton is still used in certain parts of East Anglia, it has faded from the scene in its Norwich birthplace.
Gerald Mann went into partnership with Hubert Egerton in 1900. Although the business was then solely electrical contracting, Egerton had already been a pioneer in motor transport. He had driven a De Dion Bouton from Land’s End to John O’ Groats. The provision of petrol to inaccessible corners of Britain must have needed much preparation, and even today such a journey is a major achievement. It was the influence of the motor enthusiast Egerton that propelled the company into the car trade.
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