Julius Guy: Inventor and Local Activist

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Today our cars with their independent suspension on all four wheels give a smooth ride, despite the occasional pothole and bumps in the roads.  Likewise all roads have smooth hard surfaces.  It was not always that way.  Pity the traveller in the nineteenth century, the roads at best were of variable quality and horse drawn carriages gave their occupants a bumpy ride.

Elliptical springs that had traditionally been fitted to carriages in the 1800s did little to improve the ride for passengers.  Julius Guy, a Lindfield carriage builder, set about finding a way to improve this crude form of suspension.  In 1885, after trying various possible improvements, Julius Guy discovered that the attachment of India rubber cushion blocks to the springs considerably enhanced their performance.  he patented his invention as the Climax Combination Spring.

This simple but effective device received great acclaim.  His invention was exhibited at the Anglo-Danish Exhibition of 1888, where it was awarded a gold medal and diploma of honour.  The Exhibitors Journal described Mr Guy’s invention as ‘One of the best and greatest improvements’ to carriage suspension saying ‘the unpleasant jarring is considerably reduced’.  It further explained ‘Another advantage is that the liability of breaking either springs or axles, and the wear of the carriage is very considerably reduced;  the oscillation and extra strain on other parts of the carriage is also obviated’.

Julius guy was enrolled a Member of the Institute of British Carriage Manufacturers and his patent was taken up by very many carriage builders.  It was also applied to the carriages belonging to the British Royal Family and the King of Belgium . A testimonial written by Lord Suffield, relating to the rubber blocks fitted to the carriages of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales, said they were ‘found to very much enhance the comfort’.  Praise indeed for a village coachbuilder.

Who was Julius guy?  He was born in 1831 at Chiddingly and after being apprenticed to his father, went to London and gained coach building experience at some of the leading workshops before opening his own business.  His wife’s health was affected by the foul London air and he decided to move to Lindfield in 1859, acquiring the business of Mr H Packham  Julius Guy’s home, workshop and yard were at the northern end of the Bent Arms, adjacent to Brushes Lane.

His business thrived, and with the introduction of the motorcar he transferred his skills from carriage building to being a motor body builder and repairer.  Julius Guy was also one of the first agents for the Car and General Insurance Corporation, the insurance company that pioneered the comprehensive motor policy.

 

Published in Lindfield Life April 2017

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