September 1, 2016

Lanchester Interactive Archive

LIA Logo

~~ “Calling all Lanchester enthusiasts!” ~~

For some years the main holder of Lanchester information worldwide has been Coventry University’s Lanchester Library, housed in the iconic Frederick Lanchester Building. Coventry University presents the Lanchester Trust’s annual Student Prize and is creating Masters degrees based on Lanchester’s aeronautical theories. The Library’s impressive Lanchester collection includes photos, correspondence, notebooks, sketch books, patents, blueprints, hardback books, magazines, press cuttings, audio and visual discs, and so much more. Many of these items and artefacts have been donated by myself, members of the Lanchester family, and others.


The continual hunt for Lanchester information received a special boost last year when the Heritage Lotteries Fund recognised the University’s desire to make the general public more aware of the profound work of Frederick Lanchester, along with his younger brothers, Frank and George. HLF’s generous three-year support has allowed most of the Lanchester Collection to be conserved and digitised by The National Archive.

The results will allow, for example, easy access to thousands of copies of original documents from the 1890s, originally written by Lanchester in pencil and therefore easily smudged! HLF funding has also allowed for a large, permanent display room to be created within the Lanchester Library. This is a place of fun and learning about Lanchester, for children and adults alike. Plans are already in place to arrange visits from student groups from primary through to university ages, while adult groups with varying interests will be welcomed.

Lanchester CAR for display v1.4

Individuals can attend unannounced, as this centre for Lanchester discovery opens many days each week. Officially named the Lanchester Interactive Archive, the impressive project employs an Archivist and two part-time Outreach Officers to spread the Lanchester gospel far and wide. Amongst many other initiatives, Frederick Lanchester’s profound work on ‘heavier-than-air’ flight is highlighted and his ‘flying machine’ designs are reproduced in model form to enlighten visitors.

One of the enterprising activities has been the building of a Lanchester car, from the bumper back to the rear window. Visitors are encouraged to sit in the car and try out the switches and steering. Eventually it is hoped that funds can be raised to allow visitors to see how car engines work, as they will show components moving in linear and rotary movement and with different gears in action.

The Lanchester Interactive Archive, complete with Lanchester car, is now finished and open to the public!

This is being followed up by the first of the annual LIA Open Days, on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th June 2017, which will showcase Lanchester cars, plus all Daimler and BSA cars. Owners and friends will then be able to explore the adjacent Library’s LIA – we hope to see you there.

There is the opportunity for YOU to be involved with the whole Lanchester Interactive Archive project. Volunteers will be encouraged to join in and help with:

  • introducing the information and artefacts to visitors
  • introducing computer games and augmented reality to visitors
  • making models of Lanchester aeroplanes and his other inventions
  • face-painting the large bust of Fred Lanchester

Coventry Uni Logo
To create the next phase of the Lanchester Interactive Archive and its display worthy of Lanchester, it is hoped that enthusiasts and the public will wish to donate Lanchester artefacts, photos, documents etc to the LIA. Most urgently needed are chrome-plated side, head and spot lamps, a chrome front bumper, 1932 chrome handbrake, and shock absorbers. An worthless engine and gearbox will also be gratefully received as more internal components can be made visible – this ‘car’ really isn’t going anywhere!

For more information about this great Lanchester project that we can all share and enjoy, please contact Chris Clark, Lanchester Historian (and volunteer at Coventry University since 1983).