Site of first Land Rover drawing, Red Wharf Bay

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In 1947 mechanical engineer Maurice Wilks made the first ever drawing of a Land Rover on the beach here, to explain to his brother his concept of an all-terrain vehicle. The Land Rover Defender was one of the most successful road vehicles in history – more than two million were made before production ceased in January 2016.

Maurice Wilks was born in 1904 and worked for car manufacturers in the USA and England before becoming chief engineer of Rover in 1930. During the Second World War he led a team of Rover engineers which developed a practical gas turbine aircraft engine. He was also part of a Rover team which improved on Frank Whittle’s pioneering jet engine design.

After the war Maurice drove a former army Jeep on the farm he’d bought on Anglesey as a retreat (his main home was in Warwickshire). The Jeep, made in the USA by Willys, got him thinking about a new type of vehicle which would suit farmers, in particular.

In 1947 he discussed the concept while visiting Red Wharf Bay with his brother Spencer, who was managing director of Rover. To illustrate how the vehicle might be configured, he scratched a sketch in the sand here.

Development and testing proceeded rapidly, and the production version of the Land Rover was launched in 1948. Maurice died, aged 59, at his Anglesey home in 1963 and was buried at Llanfair yn Cwmwd, near Newborough.

About the place-name:

Red Wharf Bay is known in Welsh as Traeth Coch (red beach or bay), indicating the colour of the mudflats. The English name was written as The bay of the Reyde Warth in the 16th century and Red Warth in 1617. Warth, commonly used in south-west England, meant a shore or strand. The name had evolved into Red Wharfe by 1730, possibly because a harbour had existed here since medieval times.

With thanks to Prof Hywel Wyn Owen, of the Welsh Place-Name Society, for place-name details

Postcode: LL75 8RJ    View Location Map

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