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Our Car's History

Our Clément Panhard, Clementine, was imported into the United Kingdom by Colonel Walter Herbert Baxter (1866-1917) of Sherborne, Dorset in 1900. He collected the car from the factory in Paris in June 1900 and with the aid of an employee from the Clement factory drove it to a dock in France and then sailed across to Southampton.

In Southampton, he was met by Mr Herbert Farthing, an employee of Childs & Sons in Sherborne, and together they drove the car the 60 miles to Sherborne. In June 1942, Mr Farthing retold the adventure on the BBC Home Service programme 'In Britain Now'.


On 1 January 1904, the 1903 Motor Car Act came into force requiring all vehicles to be registered and increasing the speed limit on public highways to 20 mph from 14 mph which had been set by the Locomotives on Highways Act 1896.

Col. Baxter (left) on the car around 1900 outside of The Wilderness in Sherborne

Clementine was registered on 11 August 1904 and the plate assigned was ‘BF 149’, with the ‘BF’ denoting Dorset. Unfortunately, the ‘BF’ plate didn’t endure for long due to humorous associations, including the unkind moniker of ‘bloody fool.’ Consequently, in 1905, it was replaced with the more neutral designation of ‘FX’.

1904 BF149 Registration.png

The honour of 'BF 1', and subsequent 'FX 1', went to John Phelps Gooddens, of Compton House in Sherborne, with his 10hp Wolseley which he registered on 11 December 1903. Today that registration plate is assigned to a Tesla.

Edwin Childs, the owner of Childs & Sons, reminisced about the early days of motoring and the 'heroic' Colonel Baxter:

"Motoring in those early days could be a hazardous experience. The heroic Colonel and his car would venture forth, but more often than not the car would stop and fail to restart somewhere along the planned journey and Edwin would be standing by to rescue the stranded Colonel and his car. Borrowing two strong horses from the Brewery and equipped with a strong rope he would tow the car back to his workshop and sort out the problem."

After several years, Colonel Baxter exchanged Clementine for "something more modern" a two-cylinder model produced by the Star Motor Company of Coventry. He purchased that from Childs & Sons, motor engineers in Sherborne.

Colonel Baxter died on 18 May 1917 at the age of 53 in India. In October 1914 he was posted to India commanding 1,000 men of the Dorset Territorials. In 1916 they were posted to Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq & Kuwait) where he fell ill before returning to India. Mrs Baxter travelled to India and was with her husband when he passed away. Colonel Baxter's descendants followed him into the army and his great-grandson became Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe. There is a memorial plaque in Sherborne Abbey on the left of West Door with other Dorset Regiment memorials.

1905 to 1959

Childs & Sons kept Clementine running for some time until the tyres (which were then solid) became too deteriorated to use.

Edwin Childs (1859-1934) opened a cycle shop on Long Street in 1895 selling various brands of bicycles such as Singers, Rovers, Ormonds, Swifts, and Sunbeams. He offered services like renting, repairing, and cleaning bicycles and tricycles and provided riding lessons to customers.

The business did well and he expanded into automobiles with Colonel Baxter being one of his first customers. Around 1903 Edwin purchased a plot of land on Long Street just 60 meters from his shop and built the first garage in Sherborne. As his sons took a more active role in the business Edwin was able to devote time to his chosen charitable cause, the Yeatman Hospital and Cottage Hospital. 


Clementine was last seen in the Sherborne Hospital carnival of 1925 as part of Childs & Son's contribution:

"Messrs. Childs & Sons made a big contribution to the procession...... Another of the firm's productions was a very creditable representation of the progress of motor manufacture during forty years. An 1886 [sic.] motor carriage, in which were Mr. and Mrs. W. Farthing and Master H. Fox, wearing dresses of the period, was linked with the latest model containing a bride and bridegroom Miss B. Roberts and Mr. H. Childs."

Source: Western Gazette - Friday 06 November 1925


For the next quarter of a century, Clementine remained forgotten and almost undisturbed at the back of Childs' garage. On 30 September 1940 several hundred bombs fell on Sherborne, it seems the German bombers had mistaken the town for nearby Yeovil. A few bombs fell on either side of Childs & Son's, and seventeen locals lost their lives.

As a result of the 1953 British comedy film “Genevieve” there was a remarkable surge in interest in veteran cars. The plot revolves around two couples participating in the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and it celebrates the charm and quirks of early automobiles with the cars becoming characters themselves, evoking nostalgia for a bygone era.

Around this time Clementine emerged from her 25-year hibernation at Childs & Sons and was taken on the back of a truck to Dorchester for use in an exhibition by Tilleys Motor Engineers.

Tilleys Dorchester.jpg

Childs & Son's original store on Long Street, formally a tea house.

Mr Farthing's son dressed in 1900s costume for the 1925 Sherborne Hospital Carnival.

The car in 1952 after a quater of a centery of hibernation

Tilleys Motor Engineers on South Street in Dorchester, Dorset where Clementine was put on show

1959 to 1970

​In 1959 William Vaux (1915-1998) a car enthusiast and member of the Veteran Car Club (VCC) from Ilchester, Somerset brought the car. Mr Vaux showed the car off at a meeting of the VCC in early 1959 after having just acquired the car and before its restoration. 

In November of the same year, Mr Vaux entered Clementine in 1959 London to Brighton Run as entrant number 42. The Clementine complete the 60-mile journey.


A 1901 Clément Panhard owned by Major J. C. France also took part in the Run that year.

1959 FX149.jpg

1959 VCC meeting in Sherborne where My Vaux's new car was the centre of attention. 

Clementine at the start of the 1959 London to Brighton run with Mr Vaux at the wheel and then crossing the finishing line.   Excellent panning by the British Pathé cameraman in the video clip.

Later on, Mr Vaux loaned the car to the Cheddar Motor and Transport Museum and was on public display.


Clementine outside the museum with a 1904 Oldsmobile Runabout.

1970 to Today

Finally, in 1970 Clementine came into the Norwood family - its current owners. Since 1971 the car has taken part in, and completed, most London to Brighton Runs (we missed a couple due to 'engineering difficulties' and global pandemics).

Over the last 124 year history of the car, its image has been used many times. We know it has appeared in books, postcards, Christmas cards, book covers, and advertisements. It was even featured in a BBC radio programme. Now the car also has a website......


Above: my first London to Brighton Run in 1972 aged 4

A wet (is there any other kind?) London to Brighton Run with myself at the wheel

Short TV interview about the 2006 London to Brighton Run on Meridian Tonight broadcast in November 2006.

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