Guest blog from Women’s Committee chair Serena Powis

Thoughts on ‘The Winged Wheel Grave of Llandudno’ by Roger N. Bloor

Learning to ride a motorcycle was probably the best decision I ever made – it has taken me all over Europe and allowed me to make friends all over the world.

Choosing Moto Guzzi as my preferred ride and joining the Moto Guzzi Club of Great Britain put the icing on my motorcycling cake – as we can share our adventures and experiences through the bi-monthly A4 full colour magazine called “Gambalunga” or at Branch Meetings or in a pub or at one of the many events like camping weekends – that I attend every year. I have always considered myself as a bit of a “Doing” person and am prepared to step forward to take on a task if I feel I can bring my skills to the table. This is probably why I have been appointed as a Trustee and Board member on a number of local Charities am an active member of my Trade Union – UNISON – as the Chair of South East Region Local Government Committee, an active member of the Woman’s Regional Committee and am currently elected as the General Secretary of the Moto Guzzi Club GB.

In April 2017 I was handed a fabulous 60 page A5 size paperback by fellow Guzzi Club member Steve Freeman, who said to me “If you had been around in those days – this is the sort of thing you would be up to”. As I thumbed my way through the pages, I could see it was full of pictures, diagrams and maps – just my sort of book and couldn’t wait to read it. It turned out to be the biography of Beatrice Blore- Browne by Roger N. Bloor.

Beatrice (or Bee as she was known) was born in Middlesbrough in December 1887. Sadly due her father’s untimely death when she was very young, Bee moved to Llandudno with her mother, brother and new step father – Edward Leach. Edward had secured the position as an electrician to the “Llandudno Pier Company” working his way up to Chief Electrician responsible for the installation of the first electric lighting for the pier – which turned it in to a very popular tourist destination in its day.

As Bee matured in to a young woman she became House-Keeper and Companion to a well-respected local Doctor – who was a popular member of Llandudno Society – and so this in turn brought her into contact with a layer of society she would not have mixed with as the daughter of an Electrician. It was at this time that she was introduced to an accomplished automobile racing driver named George Wilkin Browne. Bee and George developed a close relationship and in January 1914 she discovered she was pregnant with George being the father. I think that George was a bit of a “Cad” – as it transpired that he already had a wife and child, but for whatever reasons he and Bee did not marry – which was a very strong decision to make considering what the views were at that time with regards to unmarried Mothers (come to think of it – it hasn’t changed that much really as single mums are still derided by the general public, our politicians and by the media).

George was a bit of a self-promoter and in 1914 he learned very quickly how to use the power of the Press and he undertook stunts for free advertising to shift his stock of 10 Horse Power “Singer” Motor Cars, known as the “Singer 10”. In April 1914 the success of a Singer 10 in the Aston Hill Trials – driven by Lionel Martin (the founder of Aston Martin) gave him an idea for an advertising stunt locally which he felt would bring a great deal of publicity. He decided to organise for a Singer 10 to be driven up and down the Great Orme. To get maximum publicity he advertised the attempt to create a record for the “First Women ever to drive a car up the Great Orme”. The attitude towards women drivers at that time was (shall we say) dreadful and women still are the butt of derogatory comments even today. For example, papers like the Daily Mail quoted a Driving Instructor as saying “The Woman driver is either very good or hopeless” adding “The bad Woman driver is a source of danger. Absent mindedness and a sense of irresponsibility are their chief hallmarks”. No change of attitude at the Daly Mail since then!

So on July 11th 1914 – despite being 6 months pregnant – Bee drove one of George’s Singer 10’s up the cable track of The Great Orme. This was an enormous feat for such a low powered car but great interest has been aroused because the car was being driven (successfully!) by a woman. George made the most out of the publicity – even managing to have a newspaper claim that his drive down was more impressive than Bee’s drive up – just typical of George. However, I am delighted to say that Bee gave birth to a baby girl just 12 weeks later. On the Birth Certificate George was named as the father. Bee used the name Browne – even though they were not married, her legal name was still Blore, so 6 weeks later she changed her name by Deed Poll through the High Court taking the name Blore-Browne. It was particularly important to Bee to do this in order to safeguard her daughters future as in 1919 she was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast and her health deteriorated over the next 18 months. She was only 34 when she died leaving her daughter Beatrice Browne aged only 7.

Bee is buried in the church yard of St. Tudes Church at the summit of the Great Orme. It was George who organised the memorial stone for Bee in the form of a “Winged Wheel” with the fitting inscription “She feared naught but God”.

Serena at the Winged Wheel Grave with a copy of the book.

On a Saturday in May 2017 I found myself on my Moto Guzzi California 1100 staying with a group of Guzzi Friends in North Wales for the weekend including Helena Wroblewska and Pippa Beeson and duly inspired from reading this book I persuaded my mates to ride to the Great Orme to visit the winged memorial for Bee – which we did. If you have never been to the Great Orme, then please go and have a look – it is a stunning piece of geology and it won’t take you long to understand just how amazing Bee was to nurture that car up the 1:3 gradient to reach the top. Bee embraced the spirit of Women’s Rights and lived her brief life to the full and should be remembered for how she lived – rather than how she died.

Llandudno during the time Bee lived there is recognised as one of the first places in Wales to have a branch of the Suffragette movement. Only 3 months before her ascent, one of a series of monthly open air meetings to discuss the question of “Votes for Women” had been held on the Great Orme. As an unmarried woman, despite being aged 34 – Bee did not have the right to vote as she was not a property owner. The right for all Women over the aged of 21 to vote on the same terms as men would not be given until 7 years after Bee’s death, something I hope her daughter appreciated when she cast her vote.

If you have been inspired by Bee and want to learn and understand a lot more having read this summary, there is so much more in the book – then please consider buying a copy for yourself . All profits from the sale of this book go to Breast Cancer UK (IBSN 978 153 762 1821).