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A Griffin's Tale - or should that be Tail?

You may or may not know how Vauxhall's famous emblem, the griffin, came to be on the bonnet or grille of their cars. The griffin is a mythical, heraldic creature with a lion's body and the head and wings of an eagle. There is a very interesting story behind Vauxhall's griffin, going back to the reign of King John (1199 - 1216).

The Vauxhall Griffin logo

A soldier named Fulk le Breant, a mercenary and a rather disreputable character, was granted the Manor of Luton, one of the rewards for his dubious services to the King. In time, he also became entitled to a personal coat of arms, and he chose the griffin as his standard.

He had married an ambitious young widow, Margaret de Redvers, acquiring her property in south-west London; including a house which, after the marriage, was named 'Fulk's Hall'.

Over the years, this became 'Fawke's Hall', 'Foxhall', and finally 'Vauxhall', which of course gave the name to that district of London we know today. Eventually, Fulk le Breant fell from favour, and died an impoverished exile in his native France.

Centuries later, in 1857, a marine engineer named Alexander Wilson established the Vauxhall Iron Works, close to the famous Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, which were laid out in the 17th century - the gardens, however, gained a certain notoriety, and were closed down in 1859.

The early Luton Griffin

Wilson's business, with Fulk le Breant's enduring griffin as an emblem, prospered, specialising in the manufacture of marine engines; though Wilson himself eventually left the company in 1894.

The first Vauxhall car made by the company was launched - after several attempts - in 1903 by F. W. Hodges and J. H. Chambers. Finally, the firm moved to new premises in Luton in 1905, taking the griffin back to its original home town.