By 14 September 2010 27 Comments Read More →

Desperately seeking Henlys

Sam Skelton

Researching isn’t always a bundle of fun, you know. I’m in the middle of writing an article which focuses upon Wood and Pickett in the 1980s and sources are proving difficult to find. Granted, I can find snippets which are useful to my quest – thanks, in particular, go to Andrew Elphick, Richard Nener and Jens Christian thus far – but, as far as getting the full picture goes, it’s not quite so simple as you might think.

You see, Wood and Pickett have moved premises and changed owners many times since the era my article focuses upon and their archives have sadly been lost. Henlys, who at the time owned Wood and Picket, have been through so many transmogrifications I doubt any original staff were left by the time the company went under in 2005.

I’m therefore looking for someone who either worked at Henlys or Wood and Pickett during the late 1980s – someone who can help confirm the bigger picture for me and who can help paper over the cracks by providing information about specific projects and modifications.

If you are one of these people, please drop me a line at – you’ll be credited in the final article and I will be eternally grateful for your assistance. Thanks.

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27 Comments on "Desperately seeking Henlys"

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  1. Andrew Minney says:

    Hi Sam,

    I am probably of no help but I can, at least, sympathise! I am researching and writing a history of Studebaker in the UK. Henlys, in the guise of Studebaker Distributors, were the importers.

    The early days, the beginings of the company and family history present no problems. However, after the death of Frank Hough in 1935, there is very little information. It does not help that the the Liquidator of Henlys was, in turn, liquidated!

    Anyway, if I find anything of use to you I will send it on. Can I ask likewise of you?

    Many thanks,

    Andrew Minney

  2. David 3500 says:

    I sympathise with you Sam as I am currently trying to write something about the Steels Motor Group which had dealerships in Cirencester, Cheltenham, Fleet and Southampton up until the 1970s. They covered the Austin, Land Rover, Rover and Wolseley franchises. Again, there is very little information to go on as I have not yet found anyone who worked for them. I will, of course, pass on any information about Henlys to you.

  3. Sam Skelton says:

    @Andrew Minney
    You certainly can – if I find anything of use, I’ll happily forward it on.

    @David 3500
    The same goes for your research – I’ll forward anything I can find on to you.

  4. Andrew Minney says:

    @Sam Skelton
    I’ve just re-read your message. I believe that, by 1985, Henlys were no longer Car Dealers. The business was bought by a private equity company, was initially linked with Coleman Milne and then got tangled with bus and coach companies. By the 1990s, 80% of the company’s business was in North America!

    Sadly, BL did for Henlys – a classic case of all the eggs in one basket! It’s a hard slog!


  5. John Olliver says:

    I sold cars for Henlys Ashford in the 1970’s – the best years of my life.
    I am keen to know what became of The company’s MD Douglas Chandler as I would like to find a photograph of him.

    • paul bowen says:

      Why on earth do you want a photo of what was really a gypsy.I worked at Henlys in the 70’s as group car hire manager, ashford was one of my sites. Henlys was a good company but the chandler family with all their relatives just stole everything they could which led to its downfall.One of them in ended up prison for fraud.

  6. francis brett francis brett says:

    Henlys took over Tom Mellor Ford in Rochdale in early 1987 and then sold the site in 1989, which while old was huge and viable with a excellent bodyshop and customer base that was second to none,a good friend worked there and i am more than happy to seek his assistance on this project.

  7. Chris Baglin says:

    No help for your article, but Henly’s BL dealership in Bath where I spent my early years was part of the scenery, especially as it was opposite the playground in Victoria Park where I spent a lot of my free time as a nipper.

    I wish you well in your quest.

  8. Tim_Burgess Tim_Burgess says:

    Henlys were still BL dealers in Bristol and Salisbury well in to the ’80s. My Dad always bought from them. The BL Bristol Showroom was in Cheltenham Road and has recently been converted in to flats. The jag / Daimler showroom was next door and is now Kwik-Fit.

  9. Tim_Burgess Tim_Burgess says:

    @7 The Bath Showroom is a Vauxhall dealer now IIRC.

  10. Former BL car owner says:

    My employer bough two company cars for me – Princess 2200 autos – the second from Henlys in Colindale. That one in 1980 was the worst car I have ever had almost entirely due to Henlys total incompetence. After the ‘fixed’ a burned exhaust valve, for example, the car consumed a gallon of oil in a return trip from London to Rochdale. It broke three adapter plates for the torque converter because the transmission was wrongly adjusted; roll-out clonk stressing the drive. When I complained after three new torque convertors and plates were fitted and suggested Borg Warner should be consulted, the workshop manager told me it was an AP transmission! (Those were fitted to Minis)It even said Borg Warner on the bell-housing for God’s sake! The day I was to return it for trade in it broke down on the M40 and that’s the last I saw of it thank God. 70,000 miles, two years, and never a day without a fault from new. Good riddance Henlys.

  11. Steve Davies says:

    A real shot in the dark this one!! but here goes. I have recently become the owner of a classic mini, registered new via Henlys(West) Salisbury in June 1988, it came with loads of history but with a piece missing. The original label on the rear window and the original rear number plate both say `Anna Valley` the Vauxhall agent in Salisbury at the time. Within 6 months the car was in Cardiff as all the subsequent stamps in the service book show. It`s the Anna Valley bit that puzzles me. The car was registered to a Mr. & Mrs. P Wright, then of Devizes, Wilts.
    Can anyone throw any light on this one thanks.

  12. Mike Sutton says:

    I have proud memories of Henlys Jaguar Centre The Hyde Colindale
    I was fortunate to gain their first indentured apprenticeship in 1959 after they moved from Great West Road.They used to bus the existing employees in from GW Rd
    to retain the skills for some time after the move.
    My prominent memory is of the E type launch when we were all usshered to the forecourt for the unveiling – love at first sight and is still my dream car.
    I recall the amazing characters I was mentored by – “Little” Frankie from Mauritious,Les Brady,Cliff Miles,Everest,and Mike Loooker among many others.


  13. Barry Chandler says:

    I feel I have to answer Paul Bowens’s reply above as I am a son of the so called “gypsy”. Nobody in the immediate family, and as far as I am aware the more distant family, has ever been convicted of fraud and/or has even spent time in prison. My father wouldn’t tolerate fools – perhaps this is why you have such a jaded view?

    There were three members of the Chandler family that used their real names, myself and my brother used aliases so that we couldn’t be accused of favouritism and our true identity was known to only a select few. Both my brother and myself left the company long before it spiralled into decline, funnily enough mostly caused by an ex-Leyland director.

  14. Martin Speedy says:

    I worked for Henlys from 1968 – 1974 and by and large I was happy there and I received an invaluable training and education and met some really good blokes.
    No organisation is perfect and there were efficiency problems as it got bigger, but I did learn a huge amount about the business as it was very hands-on.

    I can remember quite a lot about the Chandlers – Gordon the Chairman, Brian who went to Roy-Scott within the firm and Douglas (Mr D). And Maurice Bayliss who took me on.

  15. Julia Warner says:

    I bought an Austin half ton van from Bristol in the late 80s, it had been used as a dairy van and so was not all beaten up inside, I got it done up and then some b…… stole it in the mid 90s. It was black and beautiful. I still have the paperwork and was looking on line, to sell on ebay, thought I would google Henlys of Bristol whose stamp is in the service book(passport to service) and this is what I found. i also have a recommended price list which shows a 3,000 mile mini service to cost £1. 16s 3d.
    The van was an A reg, and the pasport vendors signature is possibly an S. REES 1.7.63. Bought by a Thos. Collins of St Werburgh Bristol 2

    I hope the people who stole my car got some really bad luck and bad things happen to them……….

  16. Denis bissell says:

    Hi Sam
    You may have started something here. I was only saying to a motor trade friend last night that no one has ever written up the history of the Henlys group. At its peak, probably the mid seventies, it was a very large and diverse group of companies. I can remember looking through a company booklet listing all the different companies that made up the group and it was absolutely amazing to see the number of franchises held and the geografical spread, practically all counties of the U.K.
    I started as fully indentured apprentice at the jaguar centre in Colindale in 1964 and stayed there till 1972. The Jaguar connection was the main reason for the early success of the group sir William Lyons was a great friend of founder Herbert Henly and the group were awarded the distributorship for jaguar and rover in the area south of a line from the Wash to the river Severn. This was in the days of distributors, main dealers and retail dealers. So in the early days Henlys built their empire on their percentage of every jaguar and rover sold in the south. It was a somewhat iniquitous system and was later? Changed to the current single tier dealership system that we have now, were the manufactures have the upper hand.
    Like Mike Sutton I have very fond memories of my time there, and can remember the people he mentioned little Frankies surname was Gereedharry and he was indeed from Mauritus others who came over from the great west road site include, Albert Medland the foreman Vaughan Davis production manager Cecil Perry general manager windy rumbold workshop controller Earl Sawney mechanic Claude Reid mechanic. It was a wonderful time for me gaining experience from all these skilled people and over 5 years I worked in every department including parts. And I still have a lifelong friend from that time. Mechanics came from all over the world to gain experience on Jaguar and that certainly enriched my early working life. Stories of the antics us apprentices got up to are many and varied and would fill a book on their own.
    I have done a little bit of research on the internet but have found nothing of the early history of the company, such a pity, so come on Sam widen your scope and write the history of the whole group! There would be a good read in such a book.
    Come on all you ex Henlys employees let Sam have your thoughts
    Cheers for now
    Denis bissell

    • Paul Pisani says:

      Might be of some interest regarding Henleys Bristol. My father Vincent Pisani was the parts manager at Henleys BMC in the 60’s before it became controlled by Leyland.

      I have some old photos of the staff if interested.
      you can contact me by email

      Also do you have the address from the original Henleys


  17. christopher storey says:

    The Henly’s/William Lyons connection goes back a long way before Jaguar. It was while Lyons and the Swallow Sidecar company were still in Blackpool that Lyons persuaded Henly’s to supply him with Austin 7 chassis, which he then bodied as the Austin 7 Swallow and sold through Henly’s who took the bulk of production . It was this venture which ran to many 100s ( and possibly a thousand or two in all – I can’t remember ) of cars which led to the SS Car Company, the move to Foleshill , and of course later in 1935/6 to the first SS Jaguar saloons. Thus Henly’s were part of the seedbed from which Jaguar sprung

  18. Dave Dawson says:

    @ Andrew Minney – ” and then got tangled with bus and coach companies ”

    Andrew, between 1989 & 1990 I did an industrial placement with Plaxton Group, the coachbuilder. There had recently been an acquisition of Henlys in some kind of reverse takeover arrangement

  19. Bob Horne (now Hirschhorn) says:

    I worked at Henlys Colindale 1970-72 in the Parts dept. Reg Northwood was over me and I shared the office with John Jackson. Others there were Bob Sadler, Ken Wilson, Chris Cook, & John Marshall,(brother of famous Gerry),who I met up with again recently. I’m also in constant touch with Trevor (looked after guard dog Storm) & Clive Smith, brothers who also worked on site. I remember a lot of the names others have recalled; an amazing mix of people. I enjoyed my time there working for what was a place of special character. I came there from Jaguar, Browns Lane, and went on to become Jaguar parts manager of Fields of Crawley. I ran a cheap old Mk2 3.4 whilst at The Hyde and was most grateful to those like Les Brady & particularly Joe Rudd for all their help in keeping it mobile! Let’s get more ex employees writing in and hope someone who knows more background will write a comprehensive history before too long. What about the possibility of a reunion meetup?

    • Robbie says:

      I am trying to find some information on an 1962 Etype open top sports
      This car was delivered to Henlys of London and sold by them
      It has a rare plate 5079 HJ
      Are there any records of when and to whom a particular car was sold
      Perhaps someone kept the records/ledgers?
      Could any of you gentleman help
      Best Wishes

  20. Jochen says:

    Really interesting reading – actually I’m looking for some info on the dealership or the persons that delivered my Jaguar XJ6 on 8-4-75 at “Henlys Ltd., Jaguar Showroom, 88 Piccadilly, London WIVONH36” and worked on it until 9-8-76.

    Any help appreciated


  21. Glenn Aylett says:

    Another company that seemed to vanish in the eighties and were major Austin Rover/ British Leyland dealers, Appleyard. I can remember them having a huge showroom and offices in the middle of Carlisle and branches in many of the bigger towns and cities in the North.

  22. Keith Woods says:

    Hi ,I worked for Henlys Colindale in the mid sixties 65 I think, started as a management trainee spending months in all the departments of Windovers and then the Jaguar Service and Parts operations including the mobile service dept going to customers houses to service their Jaguars on their driveways. I also met my wife there Janet Blogg we are still together 46 years later. I ended up as the Sales Manager at the Jaguar Centre and also the Rover Triumph showroom over the road. Both myself and Jan remember Dennis Bissel plus Carl Godbeer in the service department Reg Northwood was my mentor and was such a fantastic role model. Another technician Dennis Tierney married my sister they met on one of our Friday night get togethers Jim Kimber in the cost office .
    I worked for Henlys for about 15 years, sold the last Alvis TD 21 and the first of the limited edition Black E Type with the Gold Plaque signed but Sir William Lyons.
    Henlys gave me a fantastic training for the Motor Industry which I was in for most of my life, a great company and as Dennis said it started to go downhill when the structure changed from a two tier system to a single one, they lost the 4% of sales by others. I would love to hear from any Henly employees of the mid sixties to the early eighties, can I feel a reunion coming on here, I hope so if you want please email me
    Kind Regards

  23. John marshall says:

    Hi I started working at Henlys Colindale in 1965-1986 I was offered the job straight from school by the then jaguar showroom manager Stan Hiscock an old family friend. I started as a Jaguar parts trainee at that time we only sold Jaguar and Daimler parts but later went on to sell all British Leyland vehicle spares.I worked with lots of the previous email contributors .The names Dennis Bissell and others mentioned are all known to me plus many more.All aspects of Jaguar service were delt with there, we also had severel Land Rover which were used for mobile service on Customers own sites. We had close ties with Browns lane and quiet often factory cars with experimental engines would appear on there test runs up and down the M1. Regards. John marshall.

  24. L White says:

    My Grandfather was chairman of Henly’s., I was brought up surrounded by Jaguars. Sadly he died in 1977.

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