Rex Needle: Family heirloom won by Bourne doctor to be auctioned

Rex Needle Dr John Gilipin feature. EMN-160125-164327001
Rex Needle Dr John Gilipin feature. EMN-160125-164327001
Have your say

An Edwardian silver medal won by a Bourne family doctor, John Gilpin, who was an early pioneer of the motor car, is being offered for sale at auction next month.

It was awarded to him in 1906 by the Motor Union of Great Britain and Ireland and although there is no record of the event in which he took part, it was almost certainly organised by the Lincolnshire Automobile Club.

Rex Needle Dr John Gilipin feature. EMN-160125-164316001

Rex Needle Dr John Gilipin feature. EMN-160125-164316001

He was an active member, of the club, which was founded in 1900 and one of the oldest motoring organisations in the country and still in existence as the Lincolnshire Louth Motor Club after amalgamation in 1976.

The doctor was a member of the club with his close friend, Thomas Mays, also an early car owner, and it was this enthusiasm that influenced his son Raymond to begin his lifelong interest in the automobile. Raymond went on to establish the internationally-famous BRM company, with workshops in Eastgate which produced the first all-British car to win the world championship in 1962.

William John Gilpin, who preferred to be known as John, was born at Bedford in 1864 but after completing his education and qualifying as a medical practitioner, he moved to Bourne in the late 19th century to take over the practice at Brook Lodge in South Street.

In 1900, he married Ada Maria Bott (née Slater), aged 38, widow of Arthur Bott, owner of the Angel Hotel, who had died in 1899, thus becoming stepfather to their son Henry Malcolm Bott, who had been born on December 1, 1898.

Rex Needle Dr John Gilipin feature. Brook Lodge EMN-160125-164338001

Rex Needle Dr John Gilipin feature. Brook Lodge EMN-160125-164338001

Life was a comfortable one at Brook Lodge with servants to look after them, a cook and a handyman, and a domestic nurse or nanny to care for the child.

The doctor soon became a familiar figure out on his rounds in a pony and trap until he purchased a car, becoming one of the first people in the town to own one, and was often seen driving around at the wheel of his Peugeot, later a French Gregoire, sometimes with his wife in the front passenger seat and occasionally the family nanny, Jessie Moore, a local girl in her early twenties.

He earned himself a reputation as a flamboyant character, plain-speaking but kindly, a man who enjoyed the pleasures of life, particularly his pipe, which he was known to smoke during surgery hours.

He also liked shooting, fishing and walking and could often be seen strolling around town with his two pet spaniels while his wife was renowned for serving a delicious walnut fruit cake whenever anyone came to tea.

Motoring was his great passion and he joined the Lincolnshire Automobile Club, an organisation that had been formed in 1900 and had 91 members within two years and by 1914 the figure had risen to 322, one in every six of them being a doctor, professional men who could afford such a luxury.

In 1904, he read a paper to the club on the economics of motoring, giving some facts concerning car ownership based on his own experience, arguing that the cost of owning a car and even employing someone to look after it could be much cheaper than the horse transport of earlier days.

Dr Gilpin became an active member and competitor of the club with Mays.

In March 1910, the two of them were successful in the speed trials held at Grimsthorpe Park, when Mays won the Newsum Challenge Cup for the third time and therefore the trophy became his property. He was driving a De Dion and Dr Gilpin took second place with his new Gregoire car.

During the Great War of 1914-18, Dr Gilpin was appointed commandant of the military hospital run by the Red Cross, which was established at the Vestry Hall in North Street from November 1914 until December 1918, during which time 945 wounded soldiers from the front line were cared for.

In June 1918 he was awarded the MBE for his services in conducting the unit in such an efficient manner.

There were fears for his health in 1917 when he contracted blood poisoning while carrying out a post mortem examination. Although he was seriously ill for a time, he recovered and was back at work within weeks.

He remained in Bourne until retiring in 1929 when he went to live in Skegness but returned to medical duties for a time at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 because of the country-wide shortage of doctors. He died in 1943, aged 79.

His work for the community in Bourne was recognised by the town council in the spring of 2004 when streets on the new housing estate built on the site of the old Bourne Hospital in South Road were given names with medical connections and one of them was called Gilpin.

The engraved silver medal, with Birmingham hallmarks for 1906-07 and weighing 8 ounces, shows a vintage motor car from the period together with a scantily dressed woman, but has since been converted for use as an ashtray.

Before he died, Dr Gilpin gave it to Miss Barbara Stowe, his housekeeper at Skegness for 14 years, and she subsequently gave it as a wedding present to her eldest nephew, Tony Porter.

Mr Porter, now a retired bank manager aged 80, who also lives in Skegness, is currently downsizing and because of its strong connections with the town, the medallion has been entered in an automobilia sale at the Bourne salerooms on February 10, with an estimate of £60-90 .

It is hoped that it will be bought and preserved, perhaps by the Civic Society which runs the Heritage Centre in South Street where one of the major attractions is the motor racing museum celebrating the town’s connection with the sport.

Another of Dr Gilpin’s medals, which he won in 1905 for completing a 100-mile non-stop run in one of the first Peugeot cars, is already held in the archives of the Lincolnshire Louth Motor Club, having been bought from a collector in 2007.

A PORTRAIT OF BOURNE is the definitive history of the town and is available on CD-ROM. An order form may be downloaded from the Bourne website at