Research – exquisite art in a Rolls-Royce Phantom 1 car!

I have come across today an article concerning a vintage Rolls-Royce car from the 1920’s which is unique in style and its interior has been likened by Bonhams auction house as being similar to the throne room in Versailles!

The car was commissioned in 1926 by one Clarence Gasque who at the time was the finance director of Woolworths – the car was to be a gift for his wife Maude!  The  coach builder Charles Clarke of Wolverhampton  was at the time lead by a Mr Barnett and Mr Gasque demanded the design of the interior must be French.  Mr Barnet was duly inspired by a sedan chair belonging to Marie Antoinette which he saw at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The actual chassis and drive train was purchased from Rolls Royce for £1600 and the tapestry back seat ended up costing £500 each due to Mr Barnett commissioning craftsman from Aubusson in France – the tapestry took 9 months to make!

What is incredible, as can be seen in the photographs in the article is the art on the interior satinwood veneer panels and the ceiling which is  classical Baroque style with portrayal of simple religious scenes of cherubs playing  or tending to an angel – there is however no religious narrative relating to a biblical story.  The styling of the furniture and detail surrounding the artistic panels is also Baroque with the gold detailing and heavy curved lines as well as the attention to detail and feeling of movement – it is simply stunning in this car.  I particularly like the roof of the car – it is almost like a ceiling panel which could be placed in any Baroque era room in a grand house.

Mr Barnett added a make up cabinet, drinks cabinet, a French ormulu clock and lavish lights amongst other details but also designed a fake coat of arms in honour of Mr Gasque’s French ancestry which he added to the rear doors.

Remarkably Mr Gasque decided not to see the car during construction which took 10 months to complete and the car eventually cost £6500 which was a huge sum at the time and 3 times the cost of a normal Rolls Royce!  The car was delivered to the couple in April 1927 and sadly Mr Gasque died just 18 months later but his widow continued to use it for another 10 years until it was eventually placed in storage.

In time the car was sold to the father of Jack Sears who was an English racing driver before being sold again to a Japanese Rolls-Royce collector and then to an American before finally returning to England around 2002.  It is now up for sale again with a guide price of £500,000 to £700,000 and my personal hope is it remains in the UK  – I say my personal hope as I live just 1.5 miles from Rolls Royce in Derby so hence my interest in this particular vehicle!

I have never seen a car quite like as it is totally unique – the Baroque style art combined with that exquisite tapestry seat trimmed so beautifully and the satinwood veneer panels all add up to what is described in the article as being like the inside of a fine Georgian manor house and I can only imagine that to see it in person there is no doubt the photos, as good as they are, do not do the car justice.


Tonkin, S. 18 October 2016.  Palace on Wheels:  Unique Vintage Rolls-Royce bought by Woolworth’s boss as a surprise gift for his wife is set to sell for £700,000 at auction [online]. [Date accessed:  18 October 2016].  Available from:

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