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British Industrial History

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John Portwine

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John Portwine (c1867-1958) of Auto-Carriers

1901 Listed in Lambeth as a Butcher and Employer.[1]

1903 Financial backer of Weller Brothers. He thought their 20 hp car would be too expensive to produce and encouraged Wellers to design and produce a little delivery 3 wheeler. Weller did so, called it the Auto-Carrier and a new company was founded, named Autocars and Accessories.

1911 Living at 25 Lancaster Road, West Norwood: John Portwine (age 44 born St. Giles, Lambeth), Butcher, Dealer, also Manager Motor Works (factory) - Employer. With his wife Emma Attree Portwine and their seven children.[2]

1920 Shown as Director of Auto-Carriers.[3]


1958 Obituary.[4]

THE funeral took place at Mickleham Church, Surrey, on Tuesday of Mr. John Portwine, who died at his Dorking home on Wednesday, last week, aged 91. John Portwine was a man known in West Norwood for more than 70 years. His enterprise led to many new developments of this half-century. At a time when there was customer-resistance to chilled and frozen imported meat John Portwine opened a chain of butcher's shops - The London Suburban Meat Store - to supply the poorer people with good-quality meat from overseas. He won. The time came when everyone ate meat from the Dominions. John Portwine had already pioneered the market.

When motor cars came in he took up motoring. His proud boast in later life was that he held driving licence No. 4, issued by the London County Council. He saw, too, that motoring would become the hobby of the people. He met young John Weller, an engineer and backed him financially, while still supervising his chain of shops. Their enterprise produced the cheap three-wheel tiller steered motor vehicle, first built in a West Norwood factory rented by John Portwine. After various adjustments of title the name today is "AC" Then came the light touring sociable; light car in which two passengers sat side by side . . . and another market was opened. Not only in England, but as far away as Japan the "A.C." found a market. John Portwine and John Weller prospered together.

Motoring called for service so John Portwine built and established what was, at that time, the most modern garage and service station in South London - the Lancaster Motor Company. It is next to the Regal Cinema, West Norwood - but was built long before the cinema.

Portwine was also closely linked with the early development of the world-famous Tannoy sound equipment. It's founder and chief director, Mr. Guy Fountain, is a son-in-law.

When large scale building development by private enterprise was going ahead between the war John Portwine entered the building trade; he financed the Hamilton Joinery Works in Hamilton Road, West Norwood, for the mass production of doors and window frames for the large estate developer. Even in retirement, when he moved from Lancaster Avenue, Sydenham, and later to Sussex, he was still out for new ventures. He became a printer and publisher, securing control of a mid- Sussex local newspaper and printing business, which prospered under his direction.

John Portwine was for years a deacon at Chatworth Baptist Church, West Norwood, and conducted gospel services at Birchington. He was represented at the stone-laying of the new church two weeks ago by a member of his family. He was one of the early members of the Rotary Club of West Norwood. He was a frequent visitor on festive occasions to the Turney Road Special School for children suffering physical disability. On one such occasion a young boy at school went home and said "Mr. Portwine gave us toys; he loves to make our eye-balls jingle!"

The name of John Portwine is linked closely with many charities and social organisations in the district. Although he has not lived is Norwood for some )wars his name is still a by-word for good and generous living, and for pioneering enterprise. He leaves a widow, son and four daughters.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1901 Census
  2. 1911 Census
  3. Marriage Certificate of his daughter Constance Emma
  4. Norwood News - Friday 30 May 1958