“Hardwick Hall, Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall”. Sir George White imparted this little rhyme to us as he was giving out the trophies at the Bristol Owners’ Club Concours d’Elegance, which took place recently in the grounds of one of the most significant Elizabethan country houses in England.
Now owned by the National Trust Hardwick Hall is situated on a hilltop between Chesterfield and Mansfield, and is found at the end of one of the longest drives I’ve ever seen. The windows are exceptionally large and numerous for the 16th century and were a powerful statement of wealth at a time when glass was still a luxury.
The Club’s Concours is the major annual gathering of Bristol cars and their owners and is centered around the judging of cars in various categories. This year Neil was press-ganged into being a judge by Events Coordinator Turplin Dixon. This was done in the nicest way possible – no pound coin found in the bottom his latte – and Neil found himself judging 2 classes under the welcome guidance of experienced judge Richard Baines – the Anthony Crook Trophy for Types 400, 402, 403 and the Elite Trophy for previous Concours winners - won by Kenneth Andren with his Arnolt Bristol (pictured).
We travelled up to Derbyshire the day before and I was grateful that Neil kept the speed to about 60mph to run-in my newly rebuilt engine. We met Churchill and his owners, Stuart and Tracey, at our hotel and parked a discrete distance from the other cars in the car park. Stuart was up at the crack of dawn polishing and Neil joined him at a more civilized hour but still managed a good hour’s polishing before breakfast.
Bristol Cars, now owned by the Frazer-Nash group, played an active part by providing a marquee with high-quality catering laid on throughout the day. As well as being a very generous gesture, this was taken as a welcome indication of Bristol Cars’ desire to become more closely involved with the Club. Indeed a brief conversation Neil had with Julian Ramshaw, General Manager of Bristol Cars, confirmed their strong commitment to the company’s heritage.
Whether this almost literal ‘buttering up’ of Bristol owners translates to more work for the service centre, or purchases of the yet to be announced new model remains to be seen!