In 1997, BMW Group was presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to acquire Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. This was much more than just another business deal. Rolls-Royce is an institution, a name famous around the world, with a history going back to 1904. It is also a byword for excellence: brands and products across almost every industry aspire to be ‘the Rolls-Royce of…’
As the brand’s new owner, BMW Group faced an immediate and daunting challenge: to create a new home for Rolls-Royce, befitting its status and heritage. Towns and cities all over Britain put themselves forward to be the chosen location, with the promise of investment and high-quality local jobs that would follow. It quickly became obvious that only one place would befit the marque – and the clients it was created to serve.
Rolls-Royce has a long-standing, personal connection with Chichester and the surrounding area. The company’s co-founder, Sir Henry Royce, lived and worked for the last 16 years of his long and illustrious life at his beloved home, Elmstead, in West Wittering. It was here that he produced some of his most memorable work: famously, he sketched the basic design for his Merlin aero engine – which later powered the legendary Spitfire – in the sand on West Wittering beach.
That historical link focused attention on Goodwood, eight miles up the road. Motorsport fans worldwide already knew it as the home of the Goodwood Motor Circuit and the Festival of Speed. The wider Goodwood Estate also includes the racecourse and hotel, both at the centre of international society and therefore familiar to Rolls-Royce’s clientele. It was obviously the ideal choice.
Rolls-Royce immediately secured an enthusiastic and influential champion for its project in the Estate’s owner, the now Duke of Richmond, who identified a parcel of land that perfectly suited the company’s needs.