Schaeffler awards garage with 100 year history

Schaeffler awards garage with 100 year history

Earlier this year, Schaeffler announced that it had crowned its first Bonus Point Millionaire, rewarding Markhams Garage with a million bonus points on its REPXPERT app. The reward came following a promotion run by the parts manufacturer in PMM magazine to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. By chance, the random draw taken from the workshops who had purchased Schaeffler products between February and April brought up a garage with a lot of history – 100 years in fact. PMM finds out more about the workshop’s long history from the garage themselves.

Tucked away in the office at Markhams Garage in Kingsland, Hereford, is a decorative till whose story predates even the garage itself and whose origin says a lot about the strong family connection and makedo spirit behind the successful workshop. Cashing in bills on that till at the turn of the century (the twentieth century, that is) would have been Lawrence Markham, local hairdresser, or maybe his wife Marion, who brought up their son Maurice in Smethwick until 1922 – having served their dues in the Volunteer Force by that time.

Schaeffler awards garage with 100 year history

Getting started

It is with Maurice that the Markhams story begins, but not before a spot of adventure. Out of the school gates, Maurice signed up for the Merchant Navy but soon returned and began repairing bicycles and motorbikes at the new family base just outside Kingsland with his younger brother.

That younger brother ended up opening a filling station and café by the A49, whilst Maurice himself built a worshop and forecourt opposite the now defunct Kingsland station. He also ran a taxi service from this site. For a time he slept in a hammock in the workshop, which, incidentally, had no running water. Eventually, the Evans family in the opposite cottage, who managed the level crossing and the signals, took him in as a lodger, even helping out occasionally with pumping the petrol. In those days pumping the petrol meant quite literally that – pumping the petrol by hand from a tank in the ground.

In 1928, Maurice expanded his business, purchasing Rosemaund Cottage, which is where the garage stands today in the centre of the small village. Here, he used cattle sheds as workshops and housed his compressor in the brick pig sty.

Schaeffler awards garage with 100 year history

Maurice now had two garage sites and by 1940 was living in a cottage adjacent to the Rosemaund site. As it turned out, he would marry the landlord’s daughter, Muriel.

Rosemaund was a thatched, two storey, timber-framed building with two front doors, suggesting that at one time it had been two dwellings. Attached was a plot of land stretching “right back to the Glebe.” Maurice dug out the floor of the easternmost third of the ground floor and opened it up to the roadside to create a car showroom. Petrol pumps were installed and he provided a radio accumulator charging service.

Maurice didn’t work alone in the garage; indeed, after a period spent away in combat, his one-time apprentice George Griffiths returned to Kingsland to take up tools as a mechanic and bodyworker, putting to good use the skills he’d learned in service. He remained at the garage until his retirement in 1982. Also on the books from an early point was Reg Hamer, who drove buses (another part of the business, alongside taxis, fuel, vehicle sales, TV, radio and car repair…) and kept the books.

Spreading out

The two adjoining properties, Greycote and Rosemaund, provided ample space for the garage, garden and a productive fruit and vegetable garden, the keeping of a pig and chickens and at the far end of both were two orchards where a number of old vehicles lay.

Day and night the phone rang in the house, and there was no extension or portable handset in those days; what’s more, family life and business were kept intertwined and balanced by the petrol pump bells ringing. Many a meal was interrupted in this way, and it could be any one of the family – now including four children, who would get up to serve the waiting customer.

An industry takes shape

In 1960 the Government introduced the MOT test, originally obligatory only for vehicles of 10 years and over. It was very basic: a check on brakes, lights and steering every year. In 1967 the test was extended to vehicles 3 years old and over. It is not known if Maurice joined the scheme straight away but having proven himself thus far to be of the enterprising sort, it’s likely he did.

The test could easily be carried out from a pit and Markhams tested this way until the early 1990s when a purpose-built testing bay was constructed. This facility has been upgraded and extended several times over the years with the testing mechanics required to undergo a refresher course every twelve months.

1966 saw son Bryan entering the garage and daughter Janice marrying local boy Godfrey Jones. The two set up home in a bungalow at the top of the garden, meaning the antique cars had to go. Fortunately, one vintage vehicle was spared: a Crosley which had lived in its own shed. At some time in the 1980s it was beautifully restored and for several years Bryan chauffeured brides to and from their weddings. Godfrey joined the business bringing his RAF-acquired electrical skills and became a much-respected member of the company, even winning a ‘Garage Hero’ award in 2008.

In 1973, larger, more modern petrol pumps were installed, old steel tanks being filled in and new ones sunk. At much the same time a modern workshop was built at the end of the yard. Four years later, Bryan bought the premises from Maurice and the business effectively became his own.

The next few years saw the business joining a larger garage business and losing its petrol pumps, placing greater emphasis on the school bus and taxi contracts. Since the early 2000s, however, the family has focussed its efforts on the garage activities: servicing, tyre-fitting and MOTs with several fleet contracts as well as many private customers within a thirty mile radius of Kingsland. The bus bay was converted into a workshop and the existing workshop into a bespoke MOT bay.

The garage has seen many apprentices and family members join and grow (literally) with the business, adding elements to suit the skillsets of its employees. In 2005, Bryan gave up sole trader status and Markhams Garage Limited was born, with Bryan and wife Jackie as directors alongside Lisa Juson, Simon Powney and Tavey Cameron-Swan, all of whom who had come up the ranks of the business over the years. The business finally bought the land the garage sat on, land that had been given over to the garage in a piecemeal way since the beginning as the business, and family, grew and grew.

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