Most people who have today reached what I will politely call “late middle age” will recall the 1953 film Genevieve, either as a film they saw in the cinema of the day or on of the innumerable times it must have bene shown on television for probably 40 years following that date.
The film featured a 1904 vintage car, a Darracq, taking part in the London to Brighton vintage car run.
Few people, however, will know of the link between the particular car chosen to play Geneveive in the film and Takeley.
Built in 1904 the Darracq would have come from the Darracq factory near Paris. Nothing is known of its early life or should I say lives, until in 1945 a discovery of around 15 vintage vehicles rotting in the undergrowth of a derelict builder’s yard on the Lea Bridge Road Leyton. (Such derelict sites were commonplace in 1945 following the bombing in the war).
The rusting cars were discovered by a bailiff, Bill Bailey who, whilst serving a writ on the premises, cut his leg on a bit of chassis protruding from a hedge. The recluse (Mr Rouse or Rowse) who owned the derelict builder’s yard and hence the cars agreed to sell them all for £45 to two enthusiasts called Jack Wadsworth of Isleworth and Bill Peacock of Chiswick.
The various chassis and other remains of the cars were pulled out of the debris of old bricks and chimney pots that had been stored on the land. Among all the parts were the remains of two Darracqs and a combination of the parts from these two vehicles was to become Genevive. Over a number of months these vehicles were towed or trailered to one or other of the two owners homes. The two Darracq chassis ended up in Isleworth
Now this is where the Takeley link comes in. A newlywed Takeley man by the name of Peter Venning bought the two Darracqs for £25 and set about making a single rolling chassis from two.
The assembly of the car appears to have taken place in a borrowed workshop near Kew Bridge
He then had this chassis towed to Cannons Farm near Start Hill Takeley where it was stored in a dry shed.
There was nothing left of the bodies of either car but Peter Venning was offered an old body from another old car by farmer Cannon of Start Hill This had been salvaged from an old car many years before and used by the farmer for many years as the seat on a gig being pulled by a horse. This was found in a barn on Cannons farm and was then transferred to the Darracq in its shed nearby, whcih it fitted perfectly. The car was registered in 1947 so was presumably in a state where it could run even if not totally restored. It would be nice to think that it drove its first few miles in its rebuilt state through the lanes of Takeley
In 1949 Peter Venning, for whatever reason, advertised the Duracq for sale and it was sold to Norman Reeves of Uxbridge for £35. The advert offering the Durracq for sale had the address Venning, Vicarage Takeley, Bishops Stortford, Herts.Further investigation is required to discover the exact location of Cannons Farm at Stat Hill and also whether peter Venning lived at the Vicarage (Takely House?) or whether this was being used as a corresopndance address.
And that is where the Takeley link ends. I'm sure more must be know locally about Peter Venning and farmer Cannon of Start Hill and somewhere out there could be a photograph of the car actually in Takeley.
Most of the information I have given above is from an excellent book titled “A Darracq called Geneveive” by Rodney Laredo. Available from Amazon and other booksellers.
This is a very readable book which goes on to describe how this particular vintage car was chosen to play Genevieve, the use of the car in the film, the actors and actresses and the subsequent fate of the car and cast following the film up to today.
If you want to know more I reccomend you get a copy.