Lilian Roper collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection is comprised of two scrapbooks, which contain photographs (including images of Roper's cars and trophies), clippings, race results, details of tests, certificates, letters and adverts. These items largely relate to Roper's participation in various trials and rallies. The clippings are underlined in red where Roper's name is mentioned; there are also several pieces by Roper or articles about Roper. There are a number of articles concerning the contemporary debate on female drivers and women in motor racing, in which Roper’s name is often cited.

The first scrapbook (beige) dates from 18 Jul 1914-11 Oct 1929. The second scrapbook (brown) dates from 08 Aug 1929-c1938.

Administrative / Biographical History

Miss Lilian M Roper of Leamington, who learnt to drive in 1909 (with the help of a few hours of lessons and some reading), was viewed by many as one of the best trial and rally drivers of her time, and was known for her daring and skilful driving. As is evidenced by the scrapbooks, she won many medals and awards, and frequently drove at Brooklands. She also entered coachwork competitions, and taught both men and women to drive. She was the Honorary Secretary of the Midland Light Car Club, which was a unique position for a woman at the time.

Roper drove a variety of cars from a wide range of manufacturers. She bought a 2-cylinder Enfield Autolette in 1913, followed by a 10-h.p. 4-cylinder model, and then a 1913 baby Peugeot (the paintwork of which she renovated herself). In 1921 she bought a two-seater touring A.C., replacing that with another model a year later. Other cars driven by Roper include a 10.8 h.p. McKenzie, a 10.9 h.p. Singer, a 12 h.p. Armstrong-Siddeley, a Triumph "Gloria" coupé and a drophead coupé M.G..

During WWI, Roper drove in a motor ambulance convoy for nearly four years in France. It is noted by the Motor, 24 Apr 1923, that "the convoy consisted of 40 Napier ambulances run and maintained entirely by women." After the war, Roper became the family chauffeur and maintained the family cars. She also built her own garage, complete with tools and equipment (having already built another in 1913); the work included personally digging a 6ft by 4ft hole for waste water!

On 10th Jul 1923, Roper attained what was believed to be the fastest time ever accomplished by a woman (82.23 mph) in a 4-cylinder A.C. (1500c.c.). Clippings from The Light Car and Cyclecar (30 Nov 1923 and 14 Mar 1924) present Roper as one of the most famous woman drivers of the time.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers, by appointment. For further information, please see: nationalmotormuseum.org.uk/Motoring_research_service

Separated Material

There are a number of Roper's medals and trophies in the National Motor Museum's Objects Collection, and photographs and negatives relating to Roper in the Photographic Collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Please apply to the Archivist if you would like to make any copy of the material.