Gordon Armstrong was captain of the Beverley and East Riding Golf Club in 1933 and president from 1944 to 1955. Gordon’s full name was Fullerton George Gordon Armstrong. He left Beverley in 1944 to take up residence at Winterbourne Steepleton Manor with his 3rd wife Hilda Kathleen Armstrong (nee Gray but previously Briggs) whom he married in Hull in 1941; Hilda died near Bedford in 1999. They lived there until about 1962 when the estate was sold off. Gordon died on 30th July 1969 in Weymouth, Dorset.
An engineer and inventor to his socks, Gordon Armstrong began building motorbikes and cyclecars. In 1907 Gordon opened a garage and workshop in 49 North Bar Within and in 1909 he built a car, the “vibrationless Gordon”,which he manufactured until the First World War. His workshop was used for munitions work during the 1st world war. The site of his workshop became the Triangle Garage and is now St. Mary’s Court, a small shopping arcade.He ventured into aircraft and built and flew one (once) on the Westwood in 1910 without much success. He is pictured below, holding the aircraft to the left. He had interesting views and in 1911 he is reported as having proposed the demolition of the North Bar on the grounds that it impeded the flow of traffic in the town.
During the first world war he worked on munitions and tractors, and in 1917 to provide additional space he bought the Eastgate site which had formerly been occupied by Crosskill’s. In 1919 Armstrong produced the first of several models of shock absorber. They became the mainstay of the firm, and by 1926 he was producing 200 shock absorbers a week and had gained orders from Ford. An order from Morris in 1929 enabled the scale of the business to be enlarged tenfold, and in 1938 Armstrong built new and larger works on the Eastgate site, where at the outbreak of war he produced 4,000 shock absorbers a day and employed about 450 workers
During the 1930’s and 1940’s Gordon lived at Longcroft Hall on Gallows Lane in Beverley now the site of Beverley College.The photo of him is dated 1937, four years after he was club captain. 1937 was also the year that Gordon’s 2nd wife, Violet Carrie, whom he had married in 1930 in Wandsworth died of pneumonia on a liner bound for Rio de Janeiro, South America. Gordon presented a lifeboat named “Violet Armstrong”. He would have been an impressive man about the town as he drove a Bentley 3.5 litre sports saloon that he acquired new in 1935 and kept until 1950.
He was very active during World War 2 supporting the war effort. A soldier recalls: “There were a lot of men in uniform in Beverley. Gordon Armstrong of Armstrong Patents had a stall in the square which he provided himself for five years serving tea and refreshments for free for any member of the forces and that must have cost him a fortune. He was a great patriot was Gordon Armstrong and he bought two spitfires for the nation so he must have had plenty of brass. He did a lot of good for Beverley, but until recently Beverley forgot about him.” He is also reported as donating £8,500 to purchase a Hurricane fighter and setting up a collection via local newsagents. William, Gordon’s son by his first marriage, ran the business when Gordon semi-retired after the 2nd world war. Gordon was born on 9th April 1885 in Bewcastle near Longtown in Cumberland, the third child of William and Prudence Armstrong. His father William was a farmer. In the 1891 census the family lived at Border Rigg. The farm seems to have been in the Armstrong family since at least the 18th century although William was born in Haltwhistle, Northumberland while Prudence came from Scotland. William gave up farming and in the 1901 census the family is living at 30 Middle Street, Driffield. William now works as a land agent/auctioneer while Gordon has left school and at the age of 15 is a clerk to a Provisions Merchant. He then trained as an engineer in Gateshead and served as fourth engineer on a ship in the North Atlantic.
Gordon’s parents and his siblings (Gordon included) moved to Beverley sometime in the 1900’s and in the 1911 census are to be found living at 27 Woodlands. Gordon married Margaret H Clark in Easington in 1912. Gordon and Margaret had two sons William (Bill) and Gordon junior both born in the late 1910’s.
After leaving Beverley in 1944, Gordon seems to have been a fairly regular traveller between England and Durban/Cape Town as a first class passenger on various liners. He was accompanied on five occasions by his daughter by his third wife, Patricia Noeline born on 28th September 1947. His status on the liners at that time was shown as single and father and daughter were accompanied by Noeline’s nanny or governess of the time. Noeline went to school at Sea Point, a suburb of Capetown; she is still alive today living near Bedford, England. Noeline has a half brother adopted by Gordon; he was a son of Hilda’s from a previous relationship and today lives in Herefordshire.
Armstrong Massey was formed from two well established motor traders based in North and East Yorkshire called Gordon Armstrong and Robert B Massey. The companies were purchased by the giant Unilever Corporation in 1974 and became Armstrong Massey which remains the trading name today. In 1982 a Management buyout was completed.
Gordon Armstrong featured in chapter entitled “Captain of Industry” in the book Tales of the East Riding by Martin Lown in 2006.
Beverley Art Gallery has a painting by P W Storey of Gordon that is dated 1962. It is believed to be after the style of a painting by Fred Elwell but this has not been verified and the whereabouts of the Elwell painting are not known.