Fans of the Austin Motor Company are fighting to save the office of Herbert Austin from relocation.
A petition to keep Austin’s office, preserved since his death in 1941, as a historic motoring landmark in Longbridge has attracted more than 1100 signatures over the past two weeks. Recently announced plans would see the office of Lord Austin, founder of the Austin Motor Company, move from its home in Longbridge to the British Motor Museum in Gaydon as part of the museum’s Austin collection.
While the move could potentially bring a piece of Austin heritage to a greater audience, some automotive enthusiasts believe it should remain undisturbed. A petition started by Gemma Cartwright MBE is said to represent Pride of Longbridge (PoL), a community and heritage group celebrating the history of the site and the vehicles that emerged there.
The Change.org petition asks that Pride of Longbridge be allowed to look after and manage the office on the behalf of MG Motor UK, which is behind the decision to move the office to Gaydon. PoL calls the office “a credit to our local heritage”, adding that moving it would “restrict its accessibility to local people, schools and visitors.”
“Longbridge is the place for it to stay” explains Cartwright. “This is where [Lord Austin] chose his empire to be [and] it would be pointless to move this to Gaydon and wrong for our local heritage”.
Added impetus to keep Lord Austin’s office in its rightful place comes after much of Longbridge’s history has already disappeared. Demolition teams moved into the site in January to begin disassembly of several buildings, with Car Assembly Buildings 1 and 2 both meeting their end early in the year.
More than a thousand homes have already been built on the brownfield site since MG Rover vacated in 2005, plus a technology park, a park, and a retirement village, with further development planned. Just the design office, an administration block and the building housing Lord Austin’s office are left of the original site. However, the office has been moved once before, in the late ’50s.
Pride of Longbridge is best known for hosting the eponymous car shows which, in a conventional year, play host to hundreds of vehicles made during the Austin, British Leyland and Rover eras owned by enthusiasts all around the country.