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Preston’s vintage transport of the early 20th century

Posted on - 17th September, 2023 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Preston News, Transport
Advert for the J Hodson motor vehicle hire service Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Advert for the J Hodson motor vehicle hire service Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Advertisements were often placed in local newspapers and magazines that featured the transport of the day. Through these ads, you can trace the history of transport as well as local Preston companies. Some of them became large operators. The lead image shows J Hodson’s motor vehicle hire service, which started in 1919. This company was to be the origin of Ribble Motor Services.

Horsepower dominated until around 1910, and many early ads featured horse-drawn vehicles. However, motor vehicles took over surprisingly rapidly. By 1925 they were the main mode of delivery in towns and cities. However, motor vehicles did not supplant the railways until the 1950s.

Early motoring in Preston

Pre World War I advert for automobile experts Waltons Limited Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Pre World War I advert for automobile experts Waltons Limited Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Walton’s Limited had a car dealership on Walker Street, early in the 20th century. This sold Ford cars as well as some makes you may not have heard of, such as Waverley. Waverley Cars was a short-lived company that only manufactured vehicles between 1910 and 1928. They were based in London. Adams was even more short-lived lasting from 1905 to 1914. Ford began mass production in the UK in 1910 and the low price of the Model T was to sweep away many small manufacturers. This dates the image to before the First World War, as does the three-digit phone number.

When the only horsepower was the horse

Harding & Co. ad from the early 20th century Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Early 20th century advert for carriage and harness manufacturers WM Harding & Co Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Before the motor vehicle, horses dominated transport. Many support industries existed to supply horse tack and equipment. Most of these had gone by 1910. Goods were delivered by horse and  supplied from the railway station goods yard or the company’s premises.

Advert for Haysworth & Co's, mineral water suppliers Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Advert for Haysworth & Co’s, mineral water suppliers Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The image above shows a typical horse-drawn delivery wagon. Mineral water would have been delivered to pubs and cafes, as well as domestic customers. The water probably came from a local spring.

One company that is still trading today is coffin manufacturers Cartmell and Barlow. John Cartmell had a joinery business in Grimshaw Street. In 1887 his son joined the company and they began working from Albion Mill in Park Road. The ad is from the horse-drawn era.

Advert for timber importers and merchants J Cartmell & Sons Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Advert for timber importers and merchants J Cartmell & Sons Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The motor car begins to dominate

Advert from 1925 for the Humber at Merigold Bros. Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Advert from 1925 for the Humber at Merigold Bros. Pic: Preston Digital Archive

By the mid-1920s the car had come to dominate. However, It was still largely a preserve of the rich. The working classes mostly used the railways or buses. The Merigold brothers had a Humber dealership in Church Street. Prices started from £19,000 in today’s money. In comparison, the Ford Model T cost around £4,000. By 1925 the car was starting to become more reliable and easier to use. Innovations such as electric starters were coming into use and the engines were more powerful. Humber was also known for motorcycles with models available from £47, equivalent to £3,655 today. Not exactly cheap!

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