The business survived as ‘Hartshorne Motor Services in Bentley Mill Close, Walsall.
How it all began:
Alfred Hartshorne’s father E. Hartshorne set up a haulage business at Bull Street, Darlaston, sometime in the early 20th century, most probably using army-surplus lorries from the First World War.
Alfred worked in the business with his father and sister Zilla until there was a family disagreement in 1929.
No one knows the story behind the falling-out but the upshot was that Alfred left the family firm to start his own haulage business at a yard at the corner of Old Park Road and Birmingham Street in Wednesbury.
Through the 1930s Alfred built up a steady business as a general haulage contractor and during the Second World War, like many haulage firms, he was placed under the control of the Ministry of War Transport.
In 1949 the government nationalised the road haulage business and although compensated, Alfred effectively lost his business.
Prior to this two of his most important customers had been F.H. Lloyd, then one of the biggest steel founders in Europe, and Wilkins and Mitchell, makers of Servis washing machines.
For F.H. Lloyd, Alfred Hartshorne used to transport the high quality silica sand used in casting from pits at Leighton Buzzard and Congleton.
To carry on in business Alfred effectively set himself up as a sand merchant, with five or six heavy trucks, buying up the sand at source and transporting and selling it to F.H. Lloyd.
He also operated a fleet of specially built lorries for Wilkins and Mitchell that could carry around 100 machines at a time.
These were designed so that their washing machines could roll from the production line directly onto the transports without the need for expensive protective packaging.
Bryan Mason (Who gave most of this information) first met Alfred Hartshorne in 1949. At that time he was articled to a firm of accountants in Walsall and he was assigned to look after the Hartshorne books.
They developed a close working relationship, with Bryan cycling to Alfred’s home at Rawnsley near Cannock. Even while on National Service, Bryan still found time to look after the Hartshorne accounts.
When Bryan married, Alfred would visit every week for dinner and would be put out if he did not get his favourite home-cooked fish and chips.
Through the 1950s and early ’60s A. T. Hartshorne grew into a very profitable business.
In the mid 1960s the company’s workshops were compulsorily purchased by Darlaston UDC.
In return the council sold a plot of land at Bentley Mill Close and there Alfred built new workshops and offices, which opened in 1966.
Twelve months later Alfred decided to retire and he sold his fleet of vehicles to F.H. Lloyd and Wilkins and Mitchell.
However, Alfred still had his new workshops and offices at Bentley Mill Close, ideally situated close to the M6 and the perfect place to set up a commercial vehicle service and repair business. So in October 1968 Hartshorne Motor Services was established.
Alfred, though retired, was chairman with Stan Bachelor as managing director and Bryan Mason as director and company secretary.
Bryan remembers well the visits by Alfred Hartshorne to the workshops at Bentley Mill Close.
“He would come in every Friday,” said Bryan, “he’d usually cadge a cigarette in the workshops and then he would go to lunch with Stan and I. We discussed more business and got more done at those lunches than we would ever have in an ordinary business meeting.
He had a £5 bet with Stan that the business would never reach a turnover of £1million; today it’s £70million.”
Initially HMS was a purely commercial repair business but they soon set up their long-standing association with Volvo.
Volvo trucks were first imported into the UK in 1967 by a Scottish firm, Ailsa Ltd.
This company wanted to set up a servicing network across the country so in 1969 HMS became a service and parts dealer for Volvo, and in 1971 it became a full Volvo distributor.
When they celebrated their 40 years in business, they employed just under 500 people across the Midlands at centres at Walsall, Pensnett, Birmingham, Burton-on-Trent, Shrewsbury, Alfreton, Newcastleunder- Lyme, Willenhall, Atherstone, and Stoke-on- Trent.
Some workers had been with the firm for 30 years or more and there were many second and even third generations of the same family employed.
Alfred T. Hartshorne passed away in 1977 and Stan Bachelor died in 1999.
At the last point in all this information, HMS was run by Stan’s son David Bachelor and Bryan’s son Ian Mason.
The business supplied Volvo vehicles and serviced them for a number of major businesses, such as DHL and Travel West Midlands, as well as working with many smaller transport and haulage companies.
“And this is where I falter, as I have no idea if they are still in business today …. Maybe you can enlighten me? …… But here is little more from people that used to work there:
Harry Brierley of Aldridge tells about his time there;
Harry said: “I worked for E. Hartshorne at Bull Street, Darlaston. The firm was run by Alfred Hartshorne’s sister and her husband Jack Beardsmore, who we called Mr B.
Later on the business was run by their daughter Eileen and her husband, New Zealander Rick Deverell. The manager was Tommy Saunders.
“I drove a 4-wheeled ERF, also a Thames Trader, ex-BRS 8-wheeler and a Guy Invincible.
The firm also had a 4-wheeler Jensen. The other drivers there were the Lowe brothers, Harry Grant, Jack Baker, Big George Lakin, and Jimmy Littlehales.
We carried everything, greasy bright steel, British guide rails, and wheat for Walsall flour mills, which we had contract vehicles for.
I left the company in 1959.”
Robert Severn also said;
WITH reference to the photograph of Alfred T. Hartshorne’s lorry, I have some slight knowledge of the Hartshorne family.
In 1923, at the age of 14, my late mother Kathleen Blick, as she was then, worked for the Hartshorne family at a public house they owned in Darlaston.
This was the Springhead Tavern on the Walsall Road just below and on the same side as Gordon Street.
I cannot remember Alfred’s father’s Christian names but I believe his initials were E.T. Hartshorne.
Alfred had a sister called Zilla who married a man called Jack Beardsmore and I believe some sort of partnership existed between Jack Beardsmore and Alfred’s father.
However, at some stage Alfred started his own business, hence his name appears on the lorry in the photograph.
Many years later, the Beardsmore’s lived in a magnificent house in Slaney Road, Pleck, which boasted a music room, morning room etc., and a tennis court in the grounds!
I watched the Queen’s coronation on their television in 1953.
In the 1920’s my mother, as a young girl, worked for Mr and Mrs E.T. Hartshorne as a barmaid at the Spring Head Tavern on Walsall Road, Darlaston.
Mr E.T. Hartshorne also ran a small transport business.
My mother used to recall that in addition to the haulage business Mr Hartshorne used to put seats on the back of his lorry at the weekends and use it as a kind of primitive charabanc to run trips to the local countryside.
The Hartshornes had a son Alfred T. and a daughter Zillah. Father and son ran the transport business together until eventually there was a falling out.
Alfred borrowed money to buy his first lorry and that’s how the Alfred T. Hartshorne company began.
My mother also recalled that in the first few years of Alf’s breakaway things were so desperate for he and his wife that, unknown to their parents, his sister Zillah used to smuggle food out of the pub to feed them.
Eventually, however, Alf’s venture began to prosper and he built up a fleet of modern (for then) well turned out and maintained lorries.
I can remember as a schoolboy at the nearby Kings Hill school in the 1930’s and 40’s A.T. Hartshorne’s depot on the junction of Old Park Road and Birmingham Street, always being a hive of activity.
In the late forties the then Labour government nationalised all transport.
I would imagine that Alfred T’s for certain and possibly the smaller E.T. Hartshorne would have thus been taken out of the private sector.
Much later when road transport was re-privatised I don’t think Alfred T. Hartshorne’s ever re-emerged as a haulage business. E.T. Hartshorne, however, now ran by Zillah’s husband Jack Beardmore (or Beardsmore) and eventually their son-in-law, did.
I know that the business was still running in the fifties and sixties because I rented a lock up garage from them at their depot in Bull Street, Darlaston.
Back to Alfred T. In recent years I have seen adverts and mentions in the business news of an Alfred T. Hartshorne in Bentley Mill Lane between Darlaston and Walsall who I believe are in the business of selling, repairing and maintaining vehicles connected with the heavy haulage trade.
I think they are still there. I don’t think that Alfred and his wife had any children, but to me, it seems likely that this is continuation of the original business name.
About 100 yards along Old Park Road from Hartshorne’s garage there used to be an old chapel facing the top of Franchise Street. Looking at the arched front door in the picture above, and the side extension it looks very much like the chapel I remember as a boy.
(It can be confirmed that the business at Bentley Mill (Hartshorne Motor Services) was founded in 1968 when the premises were acquired from Mr Hartshorne
“And there you have it ….. I know a bit about everything I do! …. And now most of you do too”