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British Industrial History

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Lionel Walker Birch Martin

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Lionel Walker Birch Martin (1878-1945), motor vehicle dealer and manufacturer, of Bamford and Martin and Aston Martin.

1878 March 15th. Born at St. Ives, Cornwall, the son of Edward Martin, a china clay merchant, and his wife Elizabeth Emily (nee Birch). The family also owned the Lee Moor porcelain factory in Plympton, Devon. His mother's family owned Singleton Birch & Sons Ltd, chalk and lime merchants of Salford.

Educated at Eton and Oxford; graduated with a pass degree in 1902.

Through the Bath Road Club of cyclists, Martin met Montague Napier

1903 Martin and Napier went into partnership to sell De Dion Bouton and Napier cars.

1909 Married(1) the 21-year-old Christine Murray of Auchendinny, Midlothian.

1909 banned from driving for two years. By the time the driving ban was lifted, he had become friends with a new BRC member, the engineer Robert Bamford.

1909 Partnership dissolved: Lionel Walker Birch Martin and Ernest John Steel trading as Ernest J. Steel and L. Martin

1911 Living at 1 Radnor Mansions, Jubilee Place, Kings Road, Chelsea: Lionel Martin (age 33 born St. Ives, Cornwall), Private Means. With his wife Christine Martin (age 23 born Auchendinny, Scotland). One servant.[1]

During 1912 Bamford and Martin joined together to trade small cars from premises in Callow Street, Chelsea.

1913 Bamford and Martin was incorporated. Christine Martin died.

1914 Martin drove a Singer car in the Motor Cycling Club's London to Edinburgh trial and won a two lap cycle-car race in the Oxford and Cambridge universities fixture at Brooklands.

1915 The partners built a prototype car, naming it by reference to their sporting success at Aston Hill combined with Martin's name to create "the Aston-Martin car".

WWI Martin worked for the Admiralty at Chepstow shipyards which were turned over to wartime contracts.

1915 Became a director of the Singleton Birch company, which gave him income that he used post-war for cars

1917 Married (2) to Katherine Alexander

Post-WWI Bamford became tired of the slow progress in developing a new car so Martin bought him out and Katherine Martin took his place as a director.

1921 An Aston Martin car was ready for production but it was expensive and the company was struggling to stay afloat.

1922 his friend, the racing driver Count Louis Zborowski, contributed £10,000 to build two cars for the Isle of Man tourist trophy but they were not ready in time. Instead, the cars were entered in the 1922 French grand prix with poor results.

1924 another wealthy friend and old Etonian, John Benson, joined the Martins on the board after his mother, Lady Charnwood, made a considerable investment in the company.

1925 Bamford and Martin failed. Martin sued the receiver for slander over comments made about his directorship and won nominal damages.

The firm's assets were finally bought by Renwick and Bertelli who set up Aston Martin Motors Ltd.

1929 Martin became the majority shareholder of Singleton Birch.

WWII the restrictions of petrol rationing inspired him to return to cycling with fateful consequences. He was knocked off his tricycle when a car hit him at traffic lights near his home and he died a week later, on 21 October 1945, at Kingston-upon-Thames

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1911 Census
  • Biography of Lionel Martin, ODNB