Book Of Remembrances

Tim Godfrey - Wolverhampton 41 Club



Tim joined Wolverhampton Round Table in 1966 and remained an active member of 41 Club until his death in January 2018. He remains sorely missed by his wife Ann, his daughter and son and their families and by his many friends in the sundry organisations to which he belonged.

But Tim was always slightly different from his other fellow Tablers and 41'ers in that he had two knighted grandfathers: Sir Nigel Gresley and Sir Dan Godfrey.

Tim's fellow club members feel that the story of his unique background would not only interest his 41 Club family but may well provoke interesting responses about these two eminent men from other members. This article can only touch on the lives of Tim's grandfathers but it may well lead to further facts coming to light.

Tim was born in Watton House, Watton-at-Stone Hertfordshire on January 13th 1938 to Violet, daughter of Sir Nigel Gresley and Geoffrey, the son of Sir Dan Godfrey. Tim was educated at Haileybury School in Hertfordshire. And he was passionate about wildlife conservation throughout his life. Also very important were his adored dogs.

Sir Nigel Gresley CBE was born in Edinburgh and he died at Watton-at-Stone in 1941 aged 64. He was arguably the greatest ever locomotive engine designer and amongst other achievements he was responsible for the locomotive icons Flying Scotsman and Mallard.

In 1893 Herbert Nigel Gresley, the son of a vicar and of aristocratic heritage, left Marlborough college to become a ‘premium apprentice’ at Crewe Railway Works.

Crewe was to provide a great springboard to what was a wide-ranging apprenticeship, as he witnessed the second ‘Race to the North’ in 1895. In 1905 Gresley became chief of the wagon and carriage department of the Great Northern Railway in Doncaster – especially being responsibly for everything that moved on the GNR (apart from the Locomotives). He also became deputy to Locomotive Engineer Henry Ivatt (1851-1923) who responded to the need for heavier and faster trains by introducing the ‘Atlantic’ type locomotives to Great Britain.

Young Gresley soon made his mark at ‘The Plant’ (as Doncaster railway works was known) by creating a new carriage design for the East Coast’s Joint Stock used on the principle ‘through’ train to Scotland the ‘Flying Scotsman’ . He also introduced a range of new innovative designs including ‘articulated carriages’ for suburban services that had shared bogies – a new arrangement which ensured a smoother ride.

On the ‘Scotsman Route’ new corridor carriages, restaurant cars and other increases in passenger facilities made for heavier trains – clearly more powerful engines were needed if the cost of using two engines (‘double-heading’) was to be avoided. A few years after succeeding Ivatt as the Great Northern’s Locomotive Engineer, Gresley began to design a ‘Pacific’ class of locomotive. This enabled a larger boiler to be used – in fact the largest possible on the Great Northern – and the weight spread over twelve wheels.

By 1922 the design was ready. With a good fireman these new ‘A1 class’ of locomotives could haul 600 tons at 50mph. Twelve were authorised for production, and the third – number 1472 – emerged from Doncaster works in February 1922 at a cost of £7944. The following year this engine acquired the LNER reporting number of 4472 and the name ‘Flying Scotsman’.

At this point, the Government grouped together 120 railway companies into just four: The Great Western Railway, The Southern Railway, the London Midland & Scottish Railway, and the London & North Eastern Railway.

The A1 class now became the LNER’s first fleet of express passenger engines, and Gresley was appointed their Chief Mechanical Engineer.

Gresley was a respected leader with a practical approach and willingness to experiment with new ideas from both home and abroad. He would be responsible for the design of twenty-seven different classes of locomotive.

Unusually for an engineer he also understood business and the power of publicity. His innovations and record breaking runs grabbed the headlines, gaining him a high public profile in the process.

In 1936 Gresley received a knighthood for his work on the LNER. Two years later, another of his designs – Mallard – established the world speed record for traction when it reached 126 mph on 3 July 1938.

On April 5th 2016 Tim and his brother unveiled a statue of Sir Nigel Gresley at King's Cross Station in London on the 75th anniversary of his death. Sculptor Hazel Reeves originally included a duck alongside Gresley in reference to his hobby of breeding water fowl and his bird-themed locomotive names such as Mallard. But this was removed from the final design at the request of his grandsons who felt that it was a distraction from the central theme. Earlier a memorial plaque to Gresley's achievements had been unveiled at Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station in 2001. It was created by the Gresley Society and incorporates line drawings of his Flying Scotsman and Mallard locomotives.

Tim's paternal grandfather Sir Dan Godfrey was a talented musician and a truly remarkable man. He came from an illustrious background of military musicians and attended the Royal College of Music in the late 19th century.

His was an illustrious career and we cannot possibly do it justice in these pages but at the early age of 26 he formed his band of 30 musicians to perform music on the The Pier at the new Winter Gardens in Bournemouth.

The band was later to become the first permanent salaried orchestra as the BOURNEMOUTH MUNICIPAL ORCHESTRA and on its 25th Anniversary in 1918 Sir Edward Elgar sent Dan a message saying: 'Congratulations and thanks for 25 years of wonderful work for English Music'. The orchestra was later to become the BOURNEMOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA.

Dan was a great supporter of women composers: one being Dame Ethel Smythe a renowned composer and musician of her day and a famous suffragette. Dame Ethel led the campaign for a knighthood for Dan and on July 8th 1922 Dan Godfrey was knighted for 'valuable services to British music'

In the same year he performed the first of the Easter Music Festivals in Bournemouth with famous guest conductor's including Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams and Henry Wood.

Sir Dan Godfrey was an indefatigable promoter of new music and was quoted by Elgar to be 'The greatest friend of the English composer'. He gave many opportunities to composers and to soloists in Bournemouth and if he was inclined to be peppery – then he certainly got things done. And he knew how to apologise too. If he seems reminiscent of any other British conductor of the time it is surely his almost exact contemporary, Henry Wood. Wood had his Queen’s Hall Orchestra and his Proms in swanky South Kensington; Godfrey operated on a rather more South Coast basis with a much smaller band but in many ways he was just as progressive and programmatically advanced.

He lived at 'Rosstrevor' in Bournemouth from 1922-34. Today the blue plaque on the property carries the words..............


Not only a fitting epitaph for the life of Sir Dan Godfrey but for his grandson Tim too. May they both continue to REST IN PEACE

(Compiled by Jeremy Hobbs Wolverhampton 41 Club – – 07929 323606)