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  WEB NEWS 63  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a brief at the Heaver Coach Builders and Whitshire Moonrakers

  Heavers Coach Builders - The small village of Durrington, just north of Amesbury on the edge of Salisbury Plain was an unlikely place to find a coach builder. In 1901its population was just 427 but twenty years later had increased to 3005, caused mainly by the inclusion of Larkhill camp, which contributed 2000 army personnel and their families. John Heaver was born at Hammersmith in 1883, the son of a plate layer and nephew of a coach trimmer. He started in the carriage trade aged 14, working for George Peters whose business was in arches under the Metropolitan Railway viaduct at Studland Street. In 1915, and now married, John was drafted into the Army Service Corp at Bulford Camp in Wiltshire. Here he remained throughout the 1914-18 war, maintaining all types of military vehicles, including ambulances, cars, lorries and steam tractors. Sadly his wife, Sophie, died in 1918, leaving him with three small children to bring up, so John’s parents moved down from Hammersmith to help. His aunt and uncle Abbot also moved to Durrington and together they worked hard to build up John’s business of motor repairer and coach builder, combining skills he had learned in London and in the army. By 1922 John had remarried and had a bungalow built in Bulford Road with a workshop at the rear measuring approximately 116 ft x 55 ft. Extensive advertising helped bring in orders for work and the first large job came later the same year for a charabanc, thought to have been for an Amesbury operator. This was the beginning of a long production of bodies for numerous companies all over the country and some to Africa.

In 2009 Peter Heaver, grandson of the founder, donated Heaver material to the WHOTT archive and from this we produce some idea this small business had in providing bodies for new vehicles or second bodies on existing vehicles for west country operators. The Heaver business finally shut down in 1957, with design materials passing to Reading Coach Builders of Portsmouth, who continued to supply some long established Heaver customers, such as the Guernsey Motors. Below is a view taken in the late ‘twenties of Heaver’s workshop with what looks like a Bentley tourer parked outside. As work increased, Heaver had larger premises built on the other side of the road in which double-decks could be accommodated.

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Wiltshire Moonrakers - Trawling through the archive we have discovered some more gems that solve one or two mysteries and at the same time raise more queries, answers to which some of our readers may be able to help.

The first discovery was of a Leyland TD1 double-deck belonging to Swindon Corporation Omnibuses that was photographed somewhere in the Exeter area. Leyland records say that a TD1 was demonstrated to Exeter in May 1929 but until now it had been a mystery as to which it could be. The photo reproduced here has a little ‘camera shake’, which only worsens when enlarged. However, the fleet number 24 is clearly visible and this correlates with Leyland TD1.70613 with Leyland L24/24RO body and registration number MW4656 in the Swindon fleet. It is unusual to have the word ‘Omnibuses’ displayed in such large lettering. The vehicle stayed in Exeter two days and was then handed over to Swindon brand new. Exeter didn’t purchase any Leyland TD1s until 1931, taking single-decks instead from Leyland, Bristol and Maudslay.

A choir outing to Chepstow may be a little outside our area but the accompanying photo of a Dennis suggests that the happy group are setting off from somewhere in Wiltshire. The clue is in that county’s registration number – MR1091 – but we don’t, as yet, know who the operator is. The date is 4th August 1924 and the vehicle is about two years old, during which time it has had its front solid tyred wheels changed to pneumatic balloon tyres to dampen jolts from the road surface and to ease steering. Also worth noting is that the hood is in the raised position, suggesting inclement weather is on the way. Most pictures that emerge of charsabanc have the hood lowered. Whatever the weather was like in Chepstow that day, it can be assumed a good sing-song was had, in the key of D, on the way home.

J Crook & Sons of New Broughton Road, Melksham were coach and road haulage operators and in October 1927 had in their fleet an AEC chassis waiting for a new coach body. Two quotes were received from Messrs Motor & Accessories Company of Waltham Green, London SW6, one described as a 28 seater and the other a 28/32 seater. The option of four extra of seats on the latter being accounted for by placing an upholstered board across the centre gangway at £2 each! The remaining seats in this vehicle were one seat either side of driver, one tip-up by front entrance, four pairs of cross seats with centre gangway, one 4-way seat adjacent to rear entrance, with a row of five seats at the very back. The seats, all numbered, were to be upholstered in semi-bucket fashion –ie with sprung backs, trimmed in best quality leather, colour to match paint work, complete with nickel plated ash trays and rug rails. Moquette carpet to be fitted on backs of seats with leather on sides of body and door panels. A polished mahogany waist rail fitted round inside of body with mahogany dash with all fittings incorporated in same. The floor to be covered in linoleum. All this could be had for £475 providing the AEC chassis was delivered within three weeks and a one third deposit paid. If hire purchase terms were preferred, the one third deposit would still apply and the balance paid over twelve months at 7% interest. The quote for the 28-seater version was the same price with no mention of occasional seats but having a hammered dash and Van den Plas front wings. Other details described the type of hood and its mechanism, pointing out that it was worm driven and not chain.



Ten Years Ago

Colin Morris

Future Activities


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Web News 64


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