Village relied on its garage

Lunesdale Garage started after WWI in Hornby was first to operate petrol pumps on Lancaster to Kirkby Lonsdale road writes David Kenyon

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 3:45 pm
Early 1920s photo of George Lamb using a manual petrol pump at his garage near the fountain at Hornby.
Early 1920s photo of George Lamb using a manual petrol pump at his garage near the fountain at Hornby.

his week we take a look at Lunesdale Garage, Hornby. This garage like many others was started after WWI by men who had learned their trade in the army or the Royal Flying Corps.

Lunesdale Garage in Hornby was started by George Lamb in 1920.

George was born at number one, Edward Street, Lancaster, in 1881, one of 11 children of William Lamb and his wife Elizabeth nee Mattinson. On leaving school he was apprenticed to Messrs Atkinsons, Motor Engineers of Lancaster and was a member of the team which in 1908 built the first motor vehicle to be assembled in Lancaster called the John ‘O Gaunt.

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George Lamb with his Austin 12 HP motor car, this was used to transport the Roeburndale children to Wray School from 1943 onwards.

George eventually left Lancaster for Hornby having successfully obtained the job of chauffeur to the Foster family, the owners of Hornby Castle at this time.

In Hornby, he lodged with the village grocer and his wife, a Mr and Mrs Pedder who became lifelong friends.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, George though, gave up his job at Hornby and joined the Army Service Corps, as a driver vehicle/mechanic.

After serving for some 18 months at Bulford Camp on Salisbury Plain, he was posted overseas to Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) serving more of his time in Basrah.

Drawing by Colin Miller of the original Lunesdale garage built in 1920 for George Lamb.

Before sailing to Mesopotamia, George married Bessie Shepherd in Hornby Church on March 14, 1916.

While in Mesopotamia, George contracted malaria, a disease which was to plague him for the rest of his life but he attained the rank of corporal and was awarded the British War Medal.

Post-war, George returned to his old job as chauffeur to the Foster family at Hornby Castle.

In 1919 a family relative William Yates had built a house in the centre of the village near the fountain and in 1920 - on adjoining land - he added garage premises, allowing George to leave his job as chauffeur and set up his own business as a motor engineer.

The new garage built in the early 1960s. The Lamb families are celebrating the first fifty years. Left hand group: Bob, Marjorie and Mary Lamb. Behind Mary, Mr Baldwin, Shell rep for the area. In the white coat was Clive Lamb. Right hand group: centre Ken Lamb, either side of Ken, men from Shell petrol.

This brick-built garage had its main doors facing down Main Street, looking towards Wenning Bridge. Part of this garage joined on to the semi-circular water trough known as the fountain - this has set into the rear wall a cat holding a rat dated 1858, the crest of the Pudsey Dawson family who owned the Hornby Castle estate in the 1840s. The fountain was always handy for finding punctures in car inner tubes.

The Lunesdale Garage, Hornby, started by George Lamb in 1920 was very successful, it was said that it was the first garage to operate petrol pumps on the Lancaster to Kirkby Lonsdale road.

In the early days of the garage, petrol was sold in two-gallon cans.

The pumps were worked by hand, having a glass tube which held two gallons, the garage man pumped the tube full of petrol, then the can was filled by a filler pipe.

The last day of Lambs Lunesdale garage, December 15, 2001. Near petrol pump, David Kenyon, local joiner and the owner of the van for many years. Near driver's door Mick Yeadon, rear of of the van Andrew Willis. The Austin 6 CWT van was purchased new from Lambs by Gordon Willan, local electrician in 1968.

In the 1920s garage work could be hard; with no electricity, tyres had to be pumped up by hand, imagine pumping up a tractor or large wagon tyre.

In the years between the two world wars, business was good, the local gentry was acquiring motor cars followed by doctors and the farming community, all needing repairs, petrol and oil. In these early years Lambs provided a taxi service for local villagers, and in 1943 when the Government introduced a taxi service to transport children from outlying farms to their village schools, this was a service George Lamb was happy to provide.

We now come to the war years 1939-45.

In the 1939 register, taken around the start of WWII, George Lamb was listed as an ARP warden and his wife Bessie as a billeting officer, also a member of the WVS.

Son William Kenneth known as Ken (1920-1990), was an apprentice motor engineer with his father.

In 1940 he joined the RAF and trained as an engine fitter serving in Malta for two-and-a-half years.

Second son, George Colin known as Colin, born 1923 and now aged 98 years,

was at LRGS at Lancaster

and joined the RAF in

1941.

After pilot training in England, he went to Canada in May 1942 to complete his training remaining in remained in the RAF for 37 years, attaining the rank of Air Vice-Marshal C.B, C.B.C, A.F.C.

Third son, Robert Mattinson known as Bob 1925-1990 was a motor engineer apprentice at Pye Motors in Lancaster and around 1943 he volunteered to join the army in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

When the war ended in 1945, Ken and Bob returned home to Hornby to work with their father in the family garage business.

Ken married Mary Halhead in 1948 and Bob married Marjorie Norris in 1954.

After the war, the garage purchased a coach, used to transport children from local villages to Burton-in-Lonsdale Secondary Modern School.

The coach was also used to take villagers on trips to the theatre and Blackpool and Morecambe illuminations.

George Lamb died in 1957 aged 76 and the garage was then run by his sons Ken and Bob, with help from their wives Mary and Marjorie.

In the early 1960s, they decided to replace the garage built in 1920 with a new modern garage built by Joe Johnson from Lancaster.

This had an office and store on the first floor and more modern facilities.

The main garage door now faced towards Lancaster, with the new petrol pumps moved further back from the road.

In late 1960 Ken’s son Clive joined the firm as an apprentice mechanic, and Hugh Bowman from Wray, who had served an apprenticeship with George Lamb returned for a couple of years.

Lunesdale Garage had now started to sell new Austin cars and vans so ‘business was good.’

Around 1962-63, the Lambs acquired the redundant old Hornby School, just across the road from the garage. This was then converted into a car showroom, with a large glass window replacing the front wall. It was said at the time that Austin cars weren’t the best quality but local people liked to deal with a local business that would give good service.

Sadly British Leyland who made Austin cars and vans at this time decided they wanted large upmarket showrooms selling their cars, and no longer needed the small country garage.

This was a setback for Clive who had enjoyed selling new cars and, sadly, his dad Ken and Uncle Bob had passed away in 1990.

Both men had been hardworking garage owners, Ken was famed for his talent for tuning carburettors by ear, a skill he learned when working on the Merlin Spitfire engine during the war.

Bob was a part-time fireman for many years, many spent driving the fire engine. A major incident that Bob missed because he was on holiday, was the Wray flood disaster of August 8, 1967, when many of the local villages were badly damaged by the floodwaters.

Clive was now running the garage on his own, assisted by his mother Mary and Aunt Marjorie. Mechanics were now employed, ably assisted by Chris Woods, to service the local vehicles.

Clive had, also, now started to drive coaches for Silver Fern at Redwell and he enjoyed driving around the UK and the continent.

Clive was also busy with civic duties, was on the parish council, the village committee, and many

others.

On December 15, 2001, Lunesdale Garage closed, and in 2003, the garage was sold, then demolished and a house built on the land.