Feature: Big smiles for a little Rolls-Royce

The Rolls-Royce SRH is presented to St Richard's Hospital
The Rolls-Royce SRH is presented to St Richard's Hospital

We caught up with St Richard’s Hospital to find out how children are reacting to the Rolls-Royce SRH since it arrived on the ward earlier this month.

“Wow. Cool.”

Rolls-Royce SRH for Saint Richard's Hospital, Chichester. Photographed at Rolls-Royce factory, Goodwood, UK.

Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

Rolls-Royce SRH for Saint Richard's Hospital, Chichester. Photographed at Rolls-Royce factory, Goodwood, UK. Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

The tiny Rolls-Royce is every bit as impressive as a big one. Six-year-old George stops and stares at the car, then slides eagerly behind the steering wheel.

“How does it go? What does the light do? Can I drive it?”

A week after it arrived at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, the world’s first children’s Rolls-Royce is still causing quite a stir.

For Bognor boy George Burley, the paediatric day unit became a test drive track for the electric car.

Rolls-Royce SRH for Saint Richard's Hospital, Chichester. Photographed at Rolls-Royce factory, Goodwood, UK.

Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

Rolls-Royce SRH for Saint Richard's Hospital, Chichester. Photographed at Rolls-Royce factory, Goodwood, UK. Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

In a matter of minutes, George was whizzing about and deftly manoeuvring the paddles, one for forwards, one for reverse, in the lovingly created model, which is really a work of art rather than a toy.

The children’s ward has long had a car for its smaller patients to drive themselves to surgery in an effort to make operations less daunting but the battered old plastic jeep had seen better days.

Love Your Hospital, the official charity for St Richard’s, approached Rolls-Royce two years ago to ask if it was interested in helping with a new model.

“We never expected to receive such an incredible gift,” said head of the charity Amanda Tucker.

George Burley, 6, has a test run in the car at the pediatric day unit in St Richard's Hospital, with ward matron Sue Nicholls.

George Burley, 6, has a test run in the car at the pediatric day unit in St Richard's Hospital, with ward matron Sue Nicholls.

The handover last week was an emotional one for the bespoke manufacturing team, which had spent 400 out-of-work hours making the hand-crafted model.

A 3D-printed Spirit of Ecstasy adorning the bonnet has had 12 coats of paint and there’s the signature self-righting RR logo on the wheels above the mini chassis.

George tells me it’s fun driving the car and the wheels are really good but five-year-old Willow Stent said she liked the little statue on it best.

Lawrie Mewse, project leader of the Rolls-Royce SRH, said he was ‘immensely proud’ of what the team achieved and would never forget seeing the car welcomed to its new home.

Willow Stent, 5, has a turn in the Rolls-Royce at the pediatric day unit.

Willow Stent, 5, has a turn in the Rolls-Royce at the pediatric day unit.

He said: “Throughout the build of the Rolls-Royce SRH, the main driving factor was the anticipation on seeing the children’s reaction to the car and it did not disappoint.

“The excitement and glee on their faces was more than I could have expected, especially when they got to drive it for the first time.

“I was particularly taken aback when one of the patients, Daisy, walked into to the room. Seeing her face light up was a very humbling experience.”

Among the very first people to see the car were eight-year-old Molly Matthews and seven-year-old Hari Rajyaguru, both patients at St Richard’s.

The VIP guests were on hand as official test drivers following the full-scale dramatic reveal reserved for all bespoke Rolls-Royce models.

“I felt like a princess driving the car,” said Molly, who attends Southbourne Junior School. “It’s really amazing and I think it will make other children who are having treatment feel much better.”

Kyle Burrow behind the wheel of the Rolls-Royce SRH

Kyle Burrow behind the wheel of the Rolls-Royce SRH

Now carefully kept at the hospital, special rides in the car will be reserved for the surgery ward and for longer-term patients on Howard ward as a treat to brighten a child’s day and ‘turn a frown upside down’.

By the looks of the smiles seeing the car on the go, Molly is not the only child to feel like royalty behind the wheel. The gift is truly priceless.