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Photo discovery sparks vintage car mystery

PUBLISHED: 11:30 08 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:31 06 July 2010

When the boss of a Norfolk funeral directors began researching her family history for a new firm's website, she was intrigued by a photocopy of a photograph unearthed in her aunt's attic.

When the boss of a Norfolk funeral directors began researching her family history for a new firm's website, she was intrigued by a photocopy of a photograph unearthed in her aunt's attic.

Could the elegantly dressed driver at the wheel of a 1904 Wolseley two-seater be her great grandfather, and firm founder, Arthur Jary?

And was the street of terrace houses, where the Liberal councillor must surely have been turning heads driving such a striking vehicle, somewhere in Great Yarmouth and the long-time home of the Jarys?

The faded image prompted Debbie Jary to start researching the history of the car, but she fully expected the trail to quickly run cold.

“More than a century on I thought it must have been scrapped a long time ago. Imagine my amazement when a member of our staff did a Google search on the car's registration number - AH407 - and immediately found a picture of the car taking part in the London to Brighton veteran car run only two years ago,” she said.

Mrs Jary, 46, who, with her cousin Susan Thompson, is the fourth generation of the family to run Arthur Jary and Sons, in Northgate Street, used the power of the internet again to trace the present-day owner Warren Rushton, in Ottershaw, Surrey, and found him to be equally astonished to learn about the history of his family's pride and joy.

The mother-of-one, of South Garden, in Gorleston, who drives a rather more humble Citroen Picasso - “good for carrying golf clubs and my son's cement mixer” - now hopes EDP readers can provide more pieces in the jigsaw of the Wolseley's history.

She said: “We think there is a good chance of a family connection with the car because the photocopy of the photograph was found together with a picture of the firm's Northgate Street premises when it was still a flour mill pre 1917.

“My great-grandfather was born in 1868 so he would have been 32 in 1904, possibly matching the age of the driver or passenger in the car. We can't be sure because the only pictures we have of him are when he was much older with grey hair, a beard and glasses.”

Mrs Jary learned from vintage car collector Mr Rushton that the Wolseley had been bought by his father more than 40 years ago and had since taken part in countless London to Brighton runs.

She said: “Apparently, the car was found in a bad state in a barn in Bolton during the 1950s. The person who found it traded it in for a new car and received £7 for it.

“The garage owner in Liverpool who bought it gave it to his apprentices as a project to restore and it was then sold to Mr Rushton's father.”

She said it must surely be classed as a good investment as a similar restored Wolseley had recently sold for more than £70,000.

Mrs Jary confessed she is now on a mission to learn the complete history of the car and cranes her neck when she is driving around Yarmouth, trying to recognise the house in the photograph.

She said: “I have contacted the DVLA and Norfolk County Council Records Office to try to find out anything pre-1950, but have had no luck. The council has a record of it belonging to a C Harroll, of Commercial Road, Lowestoft, in 1919, but nothing prior to that.”

Mr Rushton, who runs a sewing machine firm, said he had been “flabbergasted” to receive a call from Mrs Jary about the photograph of his car with his niece and nephews in it.

He said: “When we have got to the bottom of the story I have got it in mind to invite her along to next year's London to Brighton run.”

And he is confident of the car still being up to making the 55-mile trip - it has only failed to reach Brighton on one occasion because of a broken back axle.

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