Photos reveal Stevenage’s motoring history
PUBLISHED: 08:44 18 March 2015
Photographs which give an insight into the history of Stevenage but spent years in an attic covered in dust are now proudly on display – and attracting lots of attention.
Craig Chalkwright, who owns barbers Boys2men in the High Street, was given the two photographs which show the building of Stevenage Motoring Company’s showroom just across the road in the 1930s, and the completed showroom in the 1950s.
After cleaning up the images he decided to put them on display in his shop – and since they went up on the wall they have generated lots of interest, especially from pensioners in the town.
Craig said: “I think someone must have said something to the people at Stevenage Museum who have then told everyone else because we keep getting pensioners coming in asking to have a look at them.
“They’re really beautiful photos and are a real snapshot of what life was like back then.
“I suppose a lot of the people who come in here to look at them remember what the town was like 50 years ago and enjoy looking back and reminiscing about the time.”
Craig was given the pictures by a customer who lived in Southend Farm at the back of the High Street before he moved out of the area.
The earlier image was taken in 1933 and shows men with horses and carts filling in the Weir Pond which was where the firm’s showroom was later built.
The more recent picture was taken in 1958 and shows the building after it was completed.
In this image a young man is being taught how to put petrol into a car.
Craig would like to find the subject, if he can, so he can show him the slice of history and talk to him about what life was like working in the town more than half a century ago.
“We worked it out and we reckon the young guy in the photo is probably between 70 and 80 now so there’s a good chance he’s still alive,” he said.
“I’d ask anyone who worked at the company at the time or knows who this person might be to get in touch with us and help us track him down.”
Author Hugh Madgin has written several books on the town’s history and explained the role the company played in the area.
He said: “The motoring company was opened by Sidney Hall at 15A High Street in 1915 and moved premises several times as it expanded. It was the largest garage in Stevenage which bought and sold cars.
“The business continually expanded from when it was established until the 1960s and was the main Austin Morris dealer in the area.
“At the time the second picture was taken it was run by a guy called Major Clarkson who was a decorated First World War hero and by all accounts a bit of a character.
“One of the company’s offshoots was the Stevenage Electric Lighting and Power Company which was the first firm to bring electricity to the town.”
The company operated until 1985 when the showroom was demolished and the southern part was turned into B&Q.
The DIY store itself shut down in November 2007 and has since been turned into a block of flats called Townsend Mews.
Anyone who knows the identity of the man can call Craig on 01438 369949.
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