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In 1938, Bill Cox had taken the garage over from Doble's, and he was to stay until 1945, when Batten and Thorne took over. They would be followed in turn be Mr Humphries, and then by Mr and Mrs James. In the thirties, most cars you saw were Fords, Austin's, Morris's

Among those who worked at the Garage were Fred Rippon, Gibbs, who went into the Army, and Bill Mann was the expert on Fordson tractors: if you had the spade-lug version, you could buy curved pieces of wood to attach between the spade lugs for driving on the road, to save buying a separate set of wheels. Harry Boundy at Rowden had one and drove it once with salt water in the tubes. Fordsons were usually driven standing up. In the fifties, the Ferguson changed all that. The first Tractor sold by Witheridge Garage would appear to have been in 1939, when a Fordson GTA 360 was sold to Mr R Rowcliffe of Essebeare, price unknown. The next entry in the register is for 1942 when the garage purchased a Fordson DTT 926 for £100 from Mr Bulled of Upcott at Poughill. After giving it a full mechanical overhaul costing £18.19s, they sold it to Mr Rice of Elworthy for £150. Most of these early sales were to farmers, but in July 1942 one went to Taw Garages at Barnstaple, bringing in a profit of £20. Next month £100 was paid to purchase a Fordson from Mr W Hill, and a week later it travelled a short distance to Mr G Nott of Eastway for £150. A total of a further nine tractor seals took place in 1942.

From this point on, the majority of sales were to be new Fordson tractors. Buyers included Mr R Rowcliffe of Essebeare, Mr R Cox at Cannington, Mrs Matthews of Mill Farm, and Mr F Cox at Stockham. All but one of these cost £177, the exception being that of Mr Cox which was supplied on "rubbers" at a cost of £215. With the pressure being exerted on farmers to produce more from their land to meet the wartime pressure, a further nine tractors were sold during 1943. Amongst these buyers was Mr Keenor of Town, and Mr F J Crang of Upcott. From August 1943 to October 1943, the garage brought three and sold them all to Mr Atkins of Langport in Somerset. In November two new ones were supplied, neither yet on rubber tyres. In January 1944, Mr R Rowcliffe sold his 1942 Fordson for £120, and bought a new one, although still on spade lugs, for £172. Four days later his old one went to Langport for £145. Business continued with a mix of new and second hand. The oldest tractor on Bill Cox's register was that of Mr Kemp's 1937 Fordson, bought for £95 in 1944 and sold nine months later for £105.

From January 1944 to the end of 1945 there were 19 tractor further transactions, nearly all of new Fordsons. Prices had risen to £254 on spade lugs, and £301.10s on rubbers. Local buyers included Mr Smyth of Town, Mr F Hill of Pilliven, Mr R J Tarr of Dart Raffe, Mr C W Tucker of Higher Queen Dart, Nr J Adams of Hole, and Mr J Woollacott of West Yeo. By 1948 electric starters and lights had become standard equipment, together with independent brakes, and the price of the Fordson had gone up to £372, but this included power take-off and hydraulic lift.

In May 1949 Mr C Manning gave £680 for his new Allis Chambers, and in December another new Allis went to the Tiverton Golf Club. Mr R Rowcliffe gave £605 for a Case model with power take-off. From then on Business seems to have fallen away., for there was only one sale recorded for 1950, and none in the next two years. In 1953 one of two new Fordson diesels went to "Mr R H Rowcliffe Esq of Essebeare". In 1955 "C Mills Esq of North Coombe" paid £515.12s.6d for a new Fordson Major Diesel. At this point the entries come to a stop.

In the thirties and forties Austin Tens were popular, and the Austin Heavy Twelve Four used to be fitted with haysweep and tended to boil when a load of hay blocked the air from the radiator. By 1939, two farmers had ex-London Beardmore taxis. Some locals were reluctant to adopt the motorcar, and preferred to use taxis to go to market, or out on the Moor to follow the hunt. For example, it was not until 1955 that West Yeo acquired a car of their own, a black Austin A70 from Lock's of North Molton, registration number MXL 740.

Repairs of farm implements were usually done by the blacksmith. The Garage had three pumps, one for paraffin and two for petrol (could have been Texaco). Oil was either Pratt's or ROP (Russian Oil Product). The Angel had a petrol pump, Drayford Garage had two, Nomansland pub had one, so did the Bradford's at Blackdog, and Alf Pincombe at Rackenford, and Tidballs had a pump too. There was one at Thelbridge, and Tom Pike had one at Three Hammers.

In wartime, headlamp glasses had to be removed completely and replaced by masks and low-powered bulbs. The edges of the mud guards had to be painted white. About this time, most cars had no brake lights, and rules were brought in that brake light kits had to be fitted, with precise instructions on height from the road and distance apart. Petrol was rationed, but a number of people seemed to get by without using coupons at all. Some farmers used to carry a piece of machinery in their cars in case they were stopped, so they could say their journey was essential war work. Cox the Garage proprietor used to put a 5-gallon drum of oil in his car if he was going out for social reasons. Eggs, butter, and rabbits, were supplied to the Police Station to ensure a blind eye being turned.

Originally, "dipped lights," meant cutting out the offside headlight altogether, but later both had to be dipped, and for this all lights had to be rewired.

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In the sixties, the Garage had a small breakdown truck and a Bedford van. Frankie Kingdom had his Ford 8, and Marie Gloyn and Mrs Culhene at the Post Office had a van. Touts the butchers had several, one day Frank Gowan was delivering for Touts in Puddington when the engine stopped. A phone call was made to the Garage, and Fred said he would be on his way, but in the meantime would Frank please get the bonnet up. When Fred arrived, Frank still had not worked out how to undo the bonnet. Before Touts, butcher Masters had two Bedford vans. Percy Holloway had an Austin. In earlier days, Whitfields the bakers in West Street had a horse and cart, driven by Frankie Kingdom, who one time tipped it over down Worlington.

In the late thirties Cummings Bowden and Arthur Buckingham worked in the bus depot next door to the Garage. In the Garage was a single-post raised ramp, but no pit. There were drills and grinders, and over the office was the tyre department. Avon was the only make of tyre stocked, with the Avon Dualtread the top of the range. Beside the office was the store. There was an airline out by the pumps, but it was taken in at night. To take an engine out a tripod was fixed up, or it was lifted out manually. There were no regular car services then and tyres were changed when they were bald. There was a warning picture above the bench, showing a woman and two children at a table with an empty chair; the caption read, "that chair would have been filled if only he'd replaced his worn tyres". Spare wheels were mounted on the running board (with a petrol can bolted on) or at the back.

Witheridge Garage tanks held 1000 gallons. The village Exe Valley Electricity Company put in electricity into the garage in 1937. In the same year, a vehicle ramp was installed, powered by oil and compressed air. Once when Fred was working under a car, the ramp began jerking downwards, and they found that the seals were leaking, and had to be replaced, and refilled with 30 gallons of liquid. There was an airline for tyres, and air powered a tyre removing device. There were two lifting jacks, an axle stand, vices, drills, a valve grinder, and the original semi-rotary pump for inflating tyres.

In 1939, all vehicles had their lamp glasses replaced with lamp masks. Garage hours were 6am to 6pm; Mr Cox was keen to build up his business. Rivals were Bill Radford at Nomansland, and the bus garage next to Cox's did some car work. Once Cox told Fred to go down to Notts depot to do a lorry's gears, Frank Lawrence's job it was, but he agreed Fred could go, but tipped him off that that particular gearbox would only come off if it was put in second gear. One day a Coombe Quarry lorry stopped outside the baker's for a loaf. Unknown to the driver Fred Davey's young son had crawled in under, and when it moved off, he was killed.

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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