Church Hislop and King Henry VIII might seem like to completely different subjects – but there is a strong link between the N gauge outreach layout of the Jet Age Museum and the Tudor Monarch. In short, had it not been for Henry’s ambition, Britain might not have led the world into the Industrial Revolution. And by extension cars, trains and aircraft would not have been built in Britain either!
King Henry VIII is best known for his six wives, his strenuous efforts to divorce himself from the Catholic church and the tyrannical treatment of his enemies but the 2015 study “Monks, Gents and the Industrialists: The Long-Run Impact of the Dissolution of the English Monasteries” by the US National Bureau of Economic Research revealed how monastic lands – as depicted on Church Hislop – were acquired by a rising class of rural gentry. These gentlemen then poured the commercial profits of their newly acquired agricultural territories into such technological investments as textile mills and new farming methods.
The American researchers compared how much money the monasteries were making at the time that the Dissolution began in 1536 with the industrial landscape in the early 19th Century. They found that the larger the monastic footprint in an area, the more industrialisation there was by 1838. or put another way:
“Parishes which the dissolution impacted had more textile mills and employed a greater share of population outside agriculture [and] had more gentry and agricultural patent holders.”
By selling off the monk’s land to gain wealth to sever ties with Rome, Henry unwittingly exposed the former monastic estates to market forces. By 1760 entrepreneurs had maximised the potential of the often rich land and the industrial revolution was under way.
King Henry VIII’s struggle with Rome began after Pope Clement VII refused to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. By the 1534 Act of Supremacy, Henry declared himself to be the Supreme Head of the new Church of England. He also oversaw the union of England and Wales with the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542 and gradually granted Parliament in Westminster many powers of decision making previously vested in the Church. In 1541, the Irish parliament declared Henry VIII to be King of Ireland and unified as one nation under him. By his death on 28 January 1547 as well, the Royal Navy comprised a permanent fleet of about 50 ships.
How apt then that Church Hislop with its Cistercian ruins, aviation fuel depot and aerodrome neatly bookends both the beginning and end of Britain’s industrial might – and gives us a glimpse into modern times as well. Having wanted one for the visiting vetenary surgeons of Church Hislop, I finally acquired a 1:148 scale Land Rover at the end of 2015, the Bronze Green 88″ wheelbase 4WD having been manufactured by Oxford Diecast and allowing their Morris Minor – never an off road vehicle – to be retired to the Abbey car park.
The origins of the Land Rover can be traced back to the end of World War II when the British government decided to ration steel to those motor manufacturers who could obtain the most exports. The Rover company in Solihull had been a manufacturer of expensive cars but decided to build a vehicle as rugged as the wartime American Willy’s Jeep but powered by the same 50 bhp 1.6 litre engine as the P3 road saloon to attract agricultural customers from around the World. In fact the idea came from Rover Chief Engineer Maurice Wilks who used a Willys Overland Jeep on his farm.
The first prototype of what became the World’s first mass produced civilian 4×4 – with an 80 inch wheelbase and registration HUE 166 – was completed in 1947 and was unveiled in public at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show. It had permanent four wheel drive with low ratio gearing and a locking freewheel mechanism while the body panels were made from lightweight aircraft grade aluminium covered in army surplus green paint.
All the early prototype Land Rovers had a tractor like centrally mounted steering wheel to save the expense of building separate right and left hand drive versions for export although this idea was abandoned for the production vehicles. HUE 166 is now preserved at the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon, Warwickshire. Production of the £450 Series 1 Land Rover started in 1948 with 86 and 107 inch wheelbase versions being introduced from 1954 and the now familiar 88 and 109 inch formats being standardised from 1956.