In the days before a series of amalgamations reduced the British motor industry to a shadow of its former self, Bexhillians were spoiled for choice when it came to motor dealers and car marques.
Now a new photo exhibition at Bexhill Museum casts fresh light on half-forgotten businesses and long-defunct makes.
Once, the likes of Morris House, Dodson’s, Bexhill Motors, Russell’s, Buck’s, Waghorn’s, Marina Garage and the Black and White were household names in Bexhill while the products of the Austin and Morris factories and those of Hillman and Riley and Standard Triumph puttered along streets that appear near-deserted in the fading photographs.
Museum administrator Don Phillips has provided the independent, voluntarily-run establishment with some delightful railway exhibitions in the past. Now he and curator Julian Porter, assisted by volunteers Ken and Mary Bywater, have turned their attentions to the town’s motoring heritage.
For this they have trawled the museum’s photo archive – recently considerably augmented by the Bexhill Observer’s photo files.
Well-wishers have donated photos and the museum has acquired others from a specialist dealer.
Long ago the Bexhill Motor Mart traded “opposite Bexhill GPO” to quote its advertisement.
Researching the exhibition has demonstrated how individual local business upgraded to larger premises as motoring developed in the inter-war and post-war years.
Don Phillips says the exhibition is an opportunity to put together material gathered from these sources in one display.
He said: “Pulham’s started off in De La Warr Mews (Station Road), which then became Caffyns. Pulham’s moved into Sackville Road and then onto Marina which then became Marina Garage.
“Buck’s moved from Sackville Road into bigger premises on the opposite side of the road.
“Mr Sivyer took over Marina Garage from Pulham’s – and so it went on.”
The exhibition fills one wall of the corridor between the museum’s Sargent and Costume and Social History galleries. But gaps remain in the photographic record, gaps that it is hoped that museum supporters might be able to fill.
Don Phillips says: “There are certain garages that it was almost impossible to illustrate. The one which stood on Little Common roundabout is a case in point. We have almost nothing on Russell’s Garage. There are no photos whatever of the former Devonshire Garage in Endwell Road.”
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