“This week marks the 120th anniversary of the first meeting between Henry Royce and Charles Rolls but the world famous brand they create may never have existed without the imput of the man who arranged that first historic encounter.” Henry Edmunds was born on 20 March 1853, in Halifax, West Yorkshire. His father, an engineer and iron merchant, gave him an informal apprenticeship, from which the young Henry developed an enduring passion for the then-new world of electricity. 

Having befriended Joseph Swan (the inventor of the incandescent lightbulb) he became a salesman for the Swan Lamps company. He was also friends with Thomas Edison and was present at both the first successful sound recording and telephone call.

In 1886, Edmunds became a partner in electrical cable-makers WT Glover & Co, based in Manchester. The company’s fortunes were transformed with the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 – and, more specifically, the docks and the world’s first dedicated industrial estate, Trafford Park, alongside it. Glover’s won the contract to supply the cabling for the vast arc-lighting system, which was designed and manufactured by another Manchester company, F H Royce & Co, owned by one Henry Royce and the two men became business associates and close friends.

In 1899, Edmunds joined the Automobile Club of Great Britain & Ireland (later the RAC).and eagerly applied his agile, inventive mind to the infant technology’s myriad challenges and possibilities. The following year he entered the 1,000 Mile Trial from London to Edinburgh alongside The Hon Charles Stewart Rolls, with whom he became firm friends.

By 1904, Edmunds had taken a business interest in  a company making ‘chains’ that fitted to car tyres. They entered a competition, the Slide Slip Trials, at the end of April that year, but at the last minute found themselves without a suitable car. 

Edmunds asked Royce if they could use his first 10 HP car. Royce agreed and the car was hastily sent by train to London, where Edmunds drove it successfully in the 1,000-mile event. 

Edmunds was enormously impressed by the 10 H.P. He also knew Rolls was desperately looking for a high-quality British-made car to sell in his thriving London dealership. He was determined to bring the two men together, and earned his place in history when, on 4 May 1904 at The Midland Hotel in Manchester, he announced: “Henry, may I introduce Charles Rolls”.