On this day in auto history - August 22nd

Sun 22nd Aug 2021

It was on this day in 1963 that the legendary industrialist William Morris - Britain’s most successful car tycoon and biggest philanthropist - passed away at the age of 85.

Born to working class parents in Worcester in 1877 but raised in Oxford, Morris set up a business repairing bicycles from a backyard shed as a teenager before acquiring larger premises to sell, repair and hire a range of vehicles.

By 1912 he was designing his own cars and, following a period of rapid post-war growth, Morris Motors at one point held a 51% share of the British car market whilst remaining enormously profitable.

In 1938, William Morris was ennobled ‘Viscount Nuffield’ at a time when he was Britain’s richest self-made man and the most famous industrialist of his age. After World War II he increased his wealth further by merging Morris Motors with one of his major rivals, Austin Motor Company, to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC).

Married with no children, Morris was noted for his remarkably modest lifestyle and set about dividing his fortune amongst charitable causes, donating millions to medical research and founding the Nuffield Foundation to advance education and social welfare.

In all, Morris gave away at least £30 million of his fortune - equivalent to over £700 million in today’s money!