Out of the past, October 1993

Mr I Fenton, who runs that 1912 Buick at VSCC events, has generously sent me some recollections of his uncle, Mr E W Brett, who from about 1915 to 1925 was associated with the West End Garage, in Elgin Street, Hereford, owned by a Mr Page, first as an apprentice. Although what follows, as extracts from these recollections, is rather regional motoring history, such memories are becoming scarce and anything we can record has its interest and value. So here goes.

It is remembered that the brother of a solicitor’s wife who farmed out at Monninton had a Seabrook and that the person who ran a milliner’s shop in Commercial Street, Hereford, used a Star. Then we learn that Calthorpe cars were owned for a time by Percy Bulmer, one of the founders of the famous cider company, Bulmer’s Cider being as well-known now as it was then, and by Sir Joseph Verdin of Garnstone Castle, Weobley. It is also recalled that Sir Joseph had an electric light plant and that when the dynamos were due for overhaul Mr Brett took them to Wolverhampton in the sidecar of his Indian motorcycle combination. When Mr Brett broke his arm cranking a car, which was not uncommon in those days, it was set by Edward Dubuisson, a surgeon at the Hereford General Hospital, who lived in Castle Street and ran a Vulcan car.

The West End Garage ran a Sunbeam as a taxi. At the other extreme, Sir Geoffrey Cornewall of Monnington Court owned one of the “cyclops” Briscoes, with the single, central, headlamp, and a Mr Cole, who was an inspector for the General Accident & Fire Insurance Company favoured a small Unic which had replaced his early pre-war Morris Oxford light car. Mr Brett remembers that the Belgian Metallurgique was quite popular in the town, three being used around there for many years, two by the brothers Baynham and a third by a man called Hurdle. In addition, Mrs Zeigler, Percy Bulmer’s sister, used a very smart car of this make, driven by her chauffeur, Gurney, when she was resident at Adams Hill, Breinton.

Peake the builder, living in Whitehouse Street, had a Crossley, and Alderman Hawkins, a gentleman farmer, used a Bean. In these far-away days in this remote country town and on the surrounding peaceful, little-used roads, Miss St John of Dinsmore Manor might be seen motoring in her Hupmobile, after Mr Brett had been called out from West End Garage to crank it up for her, and parked outside a house in Chandos Street in the between-wars years might be encountered the Trojan which a Mr Burgess drove, as a Lyons’ tea rep. Rarer sights were the Hampton and then the V8 Guy owned by Mr Beer, who had an antiques business in Church Street, and Mr Boddington might be met driving his Willys-Knight, when he lived at Burghill Manor.

After the 1914/18 war, Sir Joseph Verdin disposed of his Calthorpe and replaced it with an Armstrong Siddeley, and up at Broomy Hill Mr Symonds-Taylor kept a Stanley steam car for several years. Another unusual car was the 10 hp Turner of Gilbert Harding’s father, the Hereford Workhouse Superintendent — if you recall, the late Gilbert Harding was an outspoken BBC performer. A preI 914 Swift was driven by Patty Taylor, who had a business in Coningby Street, Hereford, and at the top of Bridge Street might be seen the Straker Squire of Rudge-the-butcher. Or perhaps Dr Colebatch-Clarke cranking up anticlockwise his Beeston-Humber, at the Vinery at Wellington. Mr Watkins of Causeway Mills, in Rose Road, preferred a friction-drive GWK. A snatch from the past, by a gentleman who was born in 1901 and recollects going to London with his father when the trams there were still horse-drawn. W B