Blog : Then and Now – Holland Brothers BL dealer

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Claire Cassey

LPG Allegro 3 Estate gets gassed up. This Allegro didn’t have a bad innings: According to the DVLA, it was registered in March 1981 and was last taxed in February 1994.
LPG Allegro 3 Estate gets gassed up. This Allegro didn’t have a bad innings: according to the DVLA, it was registered in March 1981 and was last taxed in February 1994

Your town or city definitely had one – perhaps even two, or three in some cases – not necessarily red light districts, but BL dealers. Lest we forget, Mann Egerton and the like, once had large showrooms packed with the best of BL (and later Rover) tin, but which are now turned over to Kia or Hyundai, or converted to other uses, or derelict, or torn down and long gone…

You know, it’s amazing that what was once one of the largest networks of new and used car sales and vehicle servicing outlets that ever existed in the UK does not exist at all anymore. Again, lest we forget, the cars that were once sold in these garages, lest we forget BL and Rover…

I was born in a small market town in rural Lincolnshire called Boston and, as BL/Austin-Rover dealers went locally, we had Holland Brothers in Boston town centre, Lewis & Kime in Kirton, a whopping four miles away, Austin Munks in Leverton (six miles), Davies of Coningsby (17 miles) and David Lefley in Holbeach (15 miles), TH Gosling in Mareham-Le-Fen (13 miles) and that’s just the ones I can remember, or have heard of, although I’ve heard that there was one once in Friskney, called AEL Motors, about 13 miles from Boston.

Looking back now, it does make you wonder how all these garages, selling the same product co-existed within a 20 mile radius of each other. However, Lincolnshire, due to its conservative, quiet, rural, background has always had a lot of elderly people in its environs. People who bought Austin Sevens and Morris Oxfords new and were still going to the same dealer with their pension funds to buy Metros and Itals (that ‘one last car’) 30 or 40 years later. That’s because these small, local dealers were not the big franchise chrome and glass car dealers we know now. Even in the Eighties, these places were, for the most part, a tiny parquet-floored, two-car showroom and a set of workshops. The dealer as a ‘personal friend’ and part of the local community.

“People who bought Austin Sevens and Morris Oxfords new and were still going to the same dealer with their pension funds to buy Metros and Itals (that ‘one last car’) 30 or 40 years later.”

Because of this, until the late 1990s around the South Lincolnshire area, it was quite common to see ancient, low-mileage locally registered Maxi 2s, Allegro 3s, Itals and first-generation Vanden Plas Metros still chugging around town and doing 40 in a 60 zone out in the open country. Their Trilby and Flat-Capped drivers would be found pottering around on a eternal Sunday drive before putting their cars back in their garage, not forgetting to put a old sheet over, ‘to keep the dust off’ until its next jaunt out in two months time.

Boston’s main BL/Austin Rover dealer was Holland Brothers, a chain of Lincolnshire BL dealers, with a long heritage. Unlike many former BL and Rover dealers though, this is a company which still survives to this day, but just as one sole Jaguar dealership in Lincoln.

Holland Brothers in Boston was based on Wide Bargate, with a smaller showroom around the corner, on Tawney Street. Eventually the large Wide Bargate site was sold to Iceland around 1989-1990 and the Tawney Street showroom and sales pitch was demolished to make way for two new smaller showrooms, one for Rover and another for Jaguar, and that’s pretty much how it continued until the late 1990s, when Wrights, a division of the local Co-Op took over the Rover sales and then pulled out altogether. Since then, it’s been a Bed Showroom, then empty and now a Co-op Pharmacy. Holland Brothers Jaguar ceased trading in Boston about two years ago and the showroom remains empty to this day.

I was lucky enough, last year, to get as a Birthday present a book I hadn’t seen for years and had been trying in vain for about a decade to find: a children’s book from the In the High Street series by Wayland Publishing, printed in 1982, called In a BP Garage.

The In the High Street range of books were part of a series of books printed for children in the early Eighties by Wayland Publishing to help Primary School-age children to discover what goes on (or did…) in the various institutions of the High Street, such as WH Smith, Marks and Spencer, an Electricity Board shop and, in one rather entertaining book, Bristol’s Radio West.

The book was illustrated, in part, by a small selection of stock publicity pictures from BP and, in the strangest quirk ever, Wayland, a Sussex-based publisher, had taken most of its pictures and story from Holland Brothers Boston, 188 miles from Wayland’s Hove HQ. Why, I don’t know, but I am assuming some sort of competition. What had once been a piece of history of a small rural town, and a distant memory, is permanently captured in a book, and now, this story!

Then and Now: Holland Brothers

Holland Brothers, Wide Bargate showroom, Late 1981.
Holland Brothers, Wide Bargate showroom in late 1981
Holland Brothers (2)
Former Holland Brothers Wide Bargate, June 2011
Holland Brothers Tawney Street, Late 1981.
Holland Brothers, Tawney Street in late 1981
Believe it or not, this is more or less the same spot on Tawney Street, thirty years later. The brown/white building in the background was the “new” Rover showroom Holland Brothers built when they moved out of Wide Bargate in the late 80’s. Although derelict when this picture was taken, it is now a smart Co-op Pharmacy.
Believe it or not, this is more or less the same spot on Tawney Street, thirty years later. The brown/white building in the background was the “new” Rover showroom Holland Brothers built when they moved out of Wide Bargate in the late 1980s. Although derelict when this picture was taken, it is now a smart Co-op Pharmacy
Petrol sales kiosk facing out towards Tawney Street in 1981. According to the book, the chap in the foreground is Holland Brothers’ General Manager.
Petrol sales kiosk facing out towards Tawney Street in 1981. According to the book, the chap in the foreground is Holland Brothers’ General Manager
Again sadly, more or less the same spot in 2011. Note the workshops in the above picture have disappeared.
Again sadly, more or less the same spot in 2011 – note the workshops in the above picture have disappeared
Locally registered Fiesta gets filled up. Lin Pac, the Toyota dealership in the background still exists today as a Toyota dealership but has changed hands and lost the Petrol station.
Locally-registered Fiesta gets filled up. Lin Pac, the Toyota dealership in the background still exists today as a Toyota dealership but has changed hands and lost the petrol station
Holland Brothers’ pump attendant fills up another locally registered car, this time TJL 507S, a humble Pug 104. The owner’s smiling but sounds less than satisfied with his purchase if his “Wish I’d bought British” sticker is anything to go by…
Holland Brothers’ pump attendant fills up another locally-registered car, this time TJL 507S, a humble Pug 104. The owner’s smiling but sounds less than satisfied with his purchase if his “Wish I’d bought British” sticker is anything to go by…
Tawney Street also had a used sales forecourt. The Princess, Vanden Plas Allegro, and Mini all have Lincolnshire plates on. SWX 801R is a interloper from Leeds.
Tawney Street also had a used sales forecourt. The Princess, Vanden Plas Allegro, and Mini all have Lincolnshire plates on –  SWX 801R is a interloper from Leeds
Salesman helps a customer look at a used Spitfire 1500. SD1 and Acclaim in the background.
Salesman helps a customer look at a used Spitfire 1500. SD1 and Acclaim in the background
Meanwhile, over the road at Wide Bargate, another customer looks at a very different sort of Triumph. This Acclaim is roughly where the pizzas are in the branch of Iceland that moved in here when Holland Brothers moved out.
Meanwhile, over the road at Wide Bargate, another customer looks at a very different sort of Triumph. This Acclaim is roughly where the pizzas are in the branch of Iceland that moved in here when Holland Brothers moved out…
Holland Brothers (12)
These pictures were probably taken around October 1981, the Acclaim’s launch date. If I remember rightly, the white Portakabin-type building in the reflection of the windows was a small AA service kiosk…
This branch of Holland Brothers Jaguar was built on the site of the used sales forecourt, I believe.
This branch of Holland Brothers Jaguar was built on the site of the used sales forecourt, I believe
Although Holland Brothers themselves no longer have a use for this building…
Although Holland Brothers themselves no longer have a use for this building…
Holland Brothers also had a large Service and Parts department. It’s engine out time for this Metro…
Holland Brothers also had a large Service and Parts department. It’s engine out time for this Metro…
Mini Clubman on the rolling road. Note Wolesley Landcrab in the background.
Mini Clubman on the rolling road. Note Wolesley Landcrab in the background
Levering a tyre off. Another SD1 and a Princess in the background.
Levering a tyre off. Another SD1 and a Princess in the background
“No, we’ve checked with the factory Mr. Wilson, and the steering wheel in your Allegro is meant to be that shape...” Customer Handover 1981 style.
“No, we’ve checked with the factory Mr. Wilson, and the steering wheel in your Allegro is meant to be that shape…” Customer handover 1981 style
The Parts Department.
The Parts Department
Smoking in the workplace and a Unipart Microfiche.
Smoking in the workplace and a Unipart Microfiche
This is virtually all that’s left of the Parts and Service department, although the Parts department survived a little longer than the rest, I think it was demolished about five years ago.
This is virtually all that’s left of the Parts and Service Department, although the Parts Department survived a little longer than the rest – I think it was demolished about five years ago
A reminder of different times on the remaining part of an interior wall.
A reminder of different times on the remaining part of an interior wall
Used Metro and Renault 6 being Valeted before customer handover. This one, and the one in the background both have “I (heart) My Metro” stickers in. I remember these as a kid, were they a BL promotional item?
Used Metro and Renault 6 being valeted before customer handover. This one, and the one in the background, both have “I (heart) My Metro” stickers in. I remember these as a kid, were they a BL promotional item?
Holland Brothers (23)
Parts driver on a mercy dash
It might have been rural Lincolnshire in 1981, but Holland Brothers were with “The Micro Age” back then with their Philips Prestel/Viewdata stock location system.
It might have been rural Lincolnshire in 1981, but Holland Brothers were with “The Micro Age” back then with their Philips Prestel/Viewdata stock location system

 

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

92 Comments

  1. Funny how sometimes pictures like this make you weep anew.
    from a thriving business to a desolate waste ground always conjour up thoughts how things could have been.

  2. We had two dealers in Blackburn when I was a kid on the late sevenites. Ten years after “the” merger, one sold Austin Morris cars & the other Jaguar Rover Triumph ones. In What Car’s new car section, the number of dealers was listed; Ford had around 350 whereas Auston Rover had over 1200. GM managed a far better job of merging the Vauxhall & Opel dealers although Blackburn seemed to have had one Vauxhall, one Opel & one Vauxhall-Opel dealer before the dealership mergers took place!

    I went in the Rover Group dealer in Clitheroe in 1991 only to find a BMC rosette on the door of the owner’s office. The business survived as a Rover specialists for a couple of years after 2005 but is now solely a petrol station.

  3. In South Shields we had a BL/MGRover dealer (formerly Ford) called “Streamline Garages” (family owned). Nice medium size showroom, parts dept and lower level workshop. They had a good reputation in used cars too and were located right in the town centre.

    In the late 90’s they were taken over by DC Cook(?) then sadly closed down in March 2001. I think all staff were made redundant. Since then the building remains, but has become derelict – boarded up, part roof collapse, weeds etc. Very sad when I walk past it now, recalling the Good old days…

  4. We bought our motors and vans from Buists, Newcastle upon Tyne. It’s now a Sainsburys. I first saw my current car, a Rover 214Si, near where the crisps and newspaper are now.

  5. where i live in crewe we had lookers of northwich james edwards in nantwich and dickinson bros in winsford all sold rover austin morris wolseley even landrover actually winsford had 2 dealers a lot for a small town. all these within 15 miles of each other!! all the pictures shown would be when i left school in may 1981 i remember seeing brand new W registered cars..

  6. I used to work for The Kenning Motor group in Hendon(Welsh Harp)and it still guts me that it is all gone.And I mean ALL GONE.Not 1 MG dealer in London.We used to be the main parts dealer and sent part all over London and of course had our own shop filled with Unipart items.Does anyone know how many BL (or whatever you would like to call them) there were in the the start of the 80s?.I remember Mann Egertons very well.So sad its all gone.

  7. All sad indeed, But it;s worth remembering that even surviving franchises like Ford and Vauxhall have far fewer outlets than they did in the 1970s and 1980s. There was an industry wide trend to bigger groupings because of increased investment required in modern car retailing and servicing.
    I was reminded of this in May, when parking in Tenby, on a new car park where the Ford Dealer used to be…

  8. Locally the Austin-Rover dealers got burgundy fittings and became Rover dealers.

    Around the time of the phoenix takeover they became used car dealers (to this day they’ll usually have a 200 or a 75 knocking about).

    The Ford and Vauxhall dealers seem to have merged, becoming Linday Ford (no more Coulters or Irish Road Motors) and Ballyrobert (Dencourts sadly missed).

  9. On the site of our former Austin Rover dealer is a Land Rover dealer that looks far busier and more industrious than it ever did selling Itals and Acclaims, so its not all doom and gloom.

  10. The main dealer where I lived was Studholme Dickson, who sold everything from Mini to Land Rover in the early eighties, but they left Rover in 1994 to concentrate on Hyundai and went bankrupt in 2003. Their former showroom and workshops, which were huge by the standards of the day, is now housing. Other dealers in Whitehaven were B and H Motors, who are now very successful SEAT dealers, Walkingshaws, who went over to Volkswagen in 1984 and vacated the town in 1997, and nearby Edgar and Son, who hung on to Rover until the bitter end and now sell Nissans, and John Timmins, who closed some time in the mid eighties.

  11. AMc. I remember Buists in Newcastle. Good dealership, nice staff and very helpful. I remember taking a Meto trailling arm in at short notice to get a roller bearing pressed in and it being done as I waited. Can’t imagine any main dealer doing that now! Good days

  12. We definitely lost something from the High Street when car dealerships re-located to out of town sites. Maybe not a great loss, but a loss of character which isn’t going to come back any time soon. As a kid a trip to the High Street was made more palatable by the knowledge that there’s be a new car showroom to look at. It would be interesting to have a webpage, perhaps on Facebook, of photos of High Street dealerships then and now.

  13. According to the booklet British Leyland Service in Europe, from January 1972. Boston had two distributors in the town – the aforementioned Holland Bros, which was a Morris & MG distributor and R.M. Wright, which was the Austin equivalent.

    Btw, they were both located on the same street.

  14. According to the booklet, British Leyland Service in Europe, from January 1972. Boston had two distributors in the town – the aforementioned Holland Bros, which was a Morris & MG distributor and R.M. Wright, which was the Austin equivalent.

    Btw, they were both located on the same street.

  15. Our local BMC>Rover dealer was Arnold Clarks; all through my life it never changed – within my lifetime it went from BL to Austin Rover, then finally Rover right up until the very end and Phoenix folded. It almost was immediately converted to a Vauxhall dealer.

    Funny I’ve moved out to the sticks in my adult life, and our local Ford dealer is still a tiny little two car showroom tucked inside a Shell filling station. There aren’t many of them left.

  16. @ Jonathan Carling:

    Quote: “We definitely lost something from the High Street when car dealerships re-located to out of town sites. Maybe not a great loss, but a loss of character which isn’t going to come back any time soon.”

    You may be pleased to learn that such dealerships do still exist in East Devon. In Sidmouth there is Slades of Sidmouth which held the Rover franchise until 1995 and then Ford until approximately 2000 when it then focused on being a Ford specialist rather than a franchised dealer.

    In Budleigh Salterton there is Staddons who are based in the High Street and remained loyal with MG Rover Group right up until 2005, before becoming an MG Rover Group specialist and dealer of all makes. I still use them for servicing my MG ZR and find their knowledge and enthusiasm still as strong. Good old fashion service and courtesy too.

    Walk down the High Street in Budleigh Salterton and there above the showroom window is still a large pre-2004 style Rover Viking longship badge jutting out from the wall. Onlookers often wonder why I suddenly stop in my stride and apparently look up at ‘thin air’ with a smile on my face. It is because I am reminiscing about the cars that used to wear the Viking longship badge. I really think there needs to be a preservation order placed on that sign. After all, its heritage!

  17. @David 3500
    I was on holiday in Devon this August visiting from Northern Spain and Staddons in Budleigh serviced my LHD ZT 190 euro spec which they found intrigueing. Yes, really great polite friendly service and right in the beautiful village centre so I could enjoy a pint and a pasty in the lovely pub whilst I waited. Proper job that. Made me quite homesick for England actually!

  18. The Texaco in Marple used to also be a Ford dealership until about 1992, one of the few filling stations, showrooms & workshops I can think of in a built up area. The dealership was Gordon Ford, which I think merged into Atlantic Ford.

    It closed for at least a year being totally rebuilt (new tank & everything), gaining a full car wash but losing the workshop & showroom.

    Recently it lost the carwash to expand the shop into a mini Somerfield, now converted to a Co-op.

  19. Postscript:

    Before it was Gordon Ford the Texaco was a Renault dealership, where my parents used to take their R12 & R18 for servicing.

    After that another Renault dealers opened up nearby Church Lane & was there until sometime in the 1990s. It was a 2nd hand dealers when I last looked, but stil had some yellow & black Renault facia.

  20. There is still Keswick Motor Company in the middle of Keswick whose showroom and workshops have barely changed since the seventies and still sell Fiats. It beats me how they keep going as the garage is so small, but they must have a loyal following in Keswick as there are plenty of Fiats around.

  21. My home village of Liphook had two BMC/BL dealers until the mid-1970s, one was a branch of Wadham Stringer and the other is still trading as a Renault dealer in the centre of the village. There was also a Ford and Vauxhall dealer, latterly just Ford, until 1970. All these garages had pumps as well then.

    • Ah, yes. Station Garage. Trying to think where Wadham Stringer might’ve been? Was it where that petrol station on the “old” A3 was up nearer the railway station, that has fairly recently become a housing development?

  22. In the early 1980s and late 1970s there often seemed to be far too many dealers competing to sell the same marque. In the Bradford area, for example, we must have had about fifteen to twenty BL dealers, all of whom in theory sold the whole range. Only two of them – Appleyards and Lookers – were seen as the City’s ‘main’ dealers. Did such a term ever officially exist, and why do people persist in using it?

    But it’s worth going back five or ten years in order to understand how this situation came about. Until the mid-1970s some were strictly Morris and Wolseley dealers, others sold Austins whilst a Rover/Triumph elite pitched theselves up-market and wouldn’t touch the lesser marques. I recall a visit to a local Triumph-only dealer in the area, proabably in 1974. This was one of the reasons for the 1960s badge engineering. Later, all dealers were allowed to sell and repair the whole range, which the smaller dealers just weren’t able to do efficiently or effectively.

    I can understand why multi-franchise groups have grown in recent years, given how marques tend to pass through sales peaks and troughs. It’s probably also to do with gaining local domination.

  23. When I was growing up in Stoke in the 70s, if memory serves there were 4 or 5 BL dealers in a 5 mile radius… John Black in Fenton, Hanley Garage in Hanley (obviously!) and another whose name temporarily secapes me being the big players, as well as smaller concerns such as Black Cat Garage in Sneyd Green and Endon Garage who I remember always having a display of Minis, Allegros and the like outside. It never struck me at the time as odd, that so many dealers sold the same basic range of cars… as one or two others have pointed out, the dealers frequently sold different marques and to a 7yo, even one as car-obsessed as I was at the time, an Austin isn’t a Triumph…!

    Also a distant relative owned an Austin garage in Market Drayton, and I remember him turning up in one of the first Allegros with the Quartic steering wheel, and giving me a cardboard model of the new car which I spent ages putting together. I still have a soft spot for Allegros to this day! I don’t admit it in polite company…

  24. Ah. Reminds me of the time when a small BL/AR dealer closed in 1988 (Smarts in Cardiff). I asked for and was given their BL illuminated sign. It just about fitted on the roof of my 1300 GT. I kept it in my garage for a couple of years and then passed it on to someone else as there isnt a lot you can do with a sign that big – but I wish I had kept it…

  25. AMc. I remember Buists – became CD Brammall. In the mid 1990s the company I worked for had a fleet of rovers (600 / 800 / 200s) and we got a flyer from the leasing company telling us that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES were we to take our cars to CD Brammall for any servicing or repairs as they were terrible. This was borne out for me in 2004 when I purchased a brand new MGZT 260 from them, and they fitted the trakker incorrectly and it cut off the climate control, the wipers and the sat nav. Their servicing department was crap. Much more use now as a sainsburys in my view.

  26. @29 At least Boston still has a Grammar School. They obviously didn’t even have spelling tests at your school.

    Here in Spalding, we also had a Holland Brothers BL main dealership – now demolished. I think Holland Bros also had a dealership in Sleaford.
    I remember Spalding selling TR8s as well as the usual TR7s and shedloads of Rover SD1s back in the 70s and 80s alongside Marinas and Princesses. But the group went downhill when it was bought by the Co-Op group under the Wrights banner. We also had W.H.Brands about ten miles away, who still deal in the odd second-hand MGs & Rovers, but are now Chevrolet dealers.

    South Lincs was a great area for Austin, Morris, MG, Rover & Triumph sales.

  27. Unipart.. you know, it’s easy to forget that the humble BL parts business is now a successful billion quid multinational enterprise these days. And it’s not just car parts either.. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they shipped out a 3 SIM card that I ordered.

  28. Following on to my post @ 13, Whitehaven also had the blue plate glass showroom, which looked state of the art in the seventies, of County Garage Ford, which was closed in 1989 and is now a car park. ( They moved to an out of town site and are now part of the evil empire of Arnold Clark).
    Other franchised dealers in the early 80s were SMT, who sold Vauxhall and Citroen and closed in 1982, but whose site eventually became B and H Motors. Leonard Stout sold Mazdas from a small town centre showroom, but closed in 1983 and his showroom is now a snooker club. If you wanted a Datsun, as plenty of people did, you paid Nathan Steele a visit from his purpose built garage, but this went under in 1987 or so.
    It’s amazing that out of all these franchised dealers in town, only B and H remain.

  29. Glenn,

    I lived most of my youth in Cockermouth which at one time had two BL dealers – JR Wild (if I remember correctly) and JV Ellwood (where I worked as a petrol pump attendant). Hard to believe now, given it’s still only a small market town. Plenty of other BL dealers nearby too.
    I can remember County Garage opening a new Ford showroom in the town – seemed pretty big and modern then but tiny compared to modern standards. Anyway, it’s long since ceased to be a garage. That said, although Wild is now an antique shop, the once Ellwoods still sells petrol, repairs cars.

  30. Irony – the first pic of the Holland Brothers petrol staton features an MG TF and a 75….

    Got to say, this is a top article. Great stuff. Well done.

  31. I started my career with Holland Bros in 1961 straight from school,went into the parts department and kept with them til they sold out to Lincolnshire Coop society under the Wrights Motor Group.In about 1971 I was given the job of going around the area as a Rep visiting not only the The BMC dealers (later British Leyland & then Rovers Dealers) but also the general trade.In the early days of Holland Bros we serviced the Dealer network with cars (those days all cars were delivered to us and then the dealers collected them from us) I can remember visiting within a 30 mile radius about 29 small dealerships.these were all in the local towns & villages I have now retired,but on the odd occasion I still bump into one or more of the older owners. Happy Days

  32. By an interesting coincidence, last time I was in Boston’s Wide Bargate – knowing nothing of any of this – I spotted a perfectly-preserved ’72 Morris Marina. That was in about 2010.

  33. I still remember my mother asking the salesman for a ‘I Love (heart symbol) my Metro’ sticker when ordering her new Metro for 1st August (first of the As) 1983 delivery. She collected the car but never did get the sticker! I am pretty sure it wasn’t actually an official Austin Rover item but it’s amazing how many Metros wore this sticker in the 1980s.

    I must admit I get very nostalgic about old car showrooms and find it quite sad that the vast majority of town centre dealerships are now supermarkets or demolished. Old car showrooms hold so many memories and recollections of excitedly collecting car brochures or viewing a car that my parents were intending to buy. I took over the old Hicks Rover showroom in Truro in the late 90s. Hicks was one of the very first Rover dealerships in the country. That showroom was demolished and is now an M&S. I totally agree that it’s a great shame that we’ve lost nearly all our town/city centre showrooms with the exception of a few in Park Lane, Mayfair and Staddons as mentioned above.

    There are still a few original showrooms in existence though, St Mawes Garage (an Austin Rover dealer from around the late 1960s to the early 1980s) still stands and still retains its original 1982/1983 BL logo sign and a much earlier “Austin” sign hangs in the window.

    I’d love to see more old photos of long gone car showrooms of all makes, does anyone know of any sites that feature them?

  34. Brings back fond memories of being 9, 10, and 11 in Stamford.

    Marshall in St Paul’s Street was the BL dealer. I’d trek round town on a Saturday getting brochures.

    Jessups for Ford, AC Williams Renault, Tillies for Talbot, Foryth and Ferrier Vauxhall-Opel and for a time Colt (Mitsubishi) Hindmarsh was Peugeot, and later Talbot, there was a Datsun dealer Sawyers? Up by the Jolly Brewer, and for a brief period, a littoe garage by St George’s Square sold Zastava (Yugo)

    Great seeing the old registrations. JL, DO, CT, FL. Being nearer Peterborough we also had EW and AV.

    I’ve not been back in years. Jessups is now Arnold Clark or someone, the Datsun garage is now a Vauxhall place from memory. All the rest I guess are gone.

    I suppose too the plates will all by F and A prefixes.

  35. Wrights of Boston was formally Stocks.
    The gentleman watching petrol going in,and wishing he had a British car, is I think Basil Perrium one time sales manger at Wrights of Boston

    • that is correct, the man leavering the tyre of is my Dad – Rodney Bent. The man handing the keys over is Gordon Dobbs, and I think the man with his head over the engine is Brian Wilkinson.

  36. It’s sad to recall but in Lincolnshire in the 1960s Austin & Morris had over 50 pc of the new car market.

    • I’m not surprised Austin/Morris had 50% of the Lincs new car market in the 1960s, I bet they weren’t far behind that in the 1970s. Lincolnshire, especially Boston/Holland areas seems to be one of those areas where BMC/BL/AR/MG-Rover products were more popular than in most parts of Britain. I lived in Boston from 1963-’73: Holland did Morris, MG, Wolseley, Riley & Leyland/BMC commercials. Wrights did Austin. Scotneys were Rover, Triumph & Land Rover. I believe Hollands may also have done Jaguar/Daimler, but it’s a long time ago and they would’ve been comparatively low-volume sellers, which is partly why I’m not sure if Hollands sold them.

  37. I bought my July 1994 Rover 214 Si Cat 5dr in Blue in March 1998 for £5000 as a replacement for my September 1988 Rover 213 S with 39900miles , from CD Bramall Staffordshire, the 214 lasted until March 2007 and 52000miles, sadly then I purchased a brand new Ford Fiesta 1.25 Style for £7495, I had owned about 1 or 2 Fords, a 1986 Sierra LX, 1981 Capri 1.6, I have owned a few BL cars including a 1982 Triumph Acclaim a 1988 Maestro 2.0 EFi, which is still going strong after 69000miles, I own a 2014 Kia Picanto.

  38. What a great picture of my Dad leavering a tyre off a wheel. Great pictures and good memories of how Holland Brothers used to be. Thank you.

  39. Thanks for the article. I worked as assistant to Robert Holland (described in a caption to one of the earlier photos as “General Manager” for ten years (roughly 1975-85).)

    It brought back many memories for me. The “customer” with the “I wish I had bought british” Peugeot was in fact Basil Periam a senior salesman – ah someone else has already commented – and I recognise Brian Wilkinson, Rod Bent (an apt name for a stalwart of Holland Brothers Angling Club),Service manager Gordon Dobbs,Jean Avery at the viewdata system, Harry Dickens in the workshop and John Smith with the fag at the parts reader. My memory is somewhat clouded after 30 odd years but, knowing that staff were used as “customers” for the publicity photo shoot, it really looks like me in my suit at the open door of the Acclaim instead of upstairs in my office over at Tawney Street!

  40. I drive a white MGB GT (October 1972) and got the factory record from BMIHT. Unfortunately I do not know who was the first owner but it was delivered from Abingdon directly to Holland Brothers Boston. It is great to see where the car was sold when it was new! I could image that it looked 1972 a bit like on the photos from 1981. Thanks a lot for the pictures and best wishes from Munich / Germany where the car is situated now.

  41. It’s a shame, but time moves on and customer care moves on and is probably a damn sight worse if Arnold Shark or Bristol Street Morons have bought up a lot of local franchises. At least with your local family business you knew them and if anything went wrong, they’d fix it quite quickly and had a reputation to live up to. Arnold Shark could probably sell you a very dodgy Fiesta and fob you off constantly as they’re so big.
    This is why I still have more time for companies locally that are family owned. The customer care is so much better and for all you might pay a bit more, it’s better than buying from a franchise that couldn’t care less.

  42. Re my comment no.4. Streamline Garages in Shields has now been demolished awaiting redevelopment… time will tell what happens next – doubt it will be another car showroom though.

    Agree with Glenn about preference for family owned dealerships and garages. You are able to build up a rapport with the owners & staff who usually work there for many years rather than the quicker turnover of staff in bigger dealerships.

  43. In Ipswich I remember BL dealers Akesters on Woodbridge Road. Now a tyre and exhaust place.
    And Henley’s on Felixstowe Road. Now an electrical retailer.
    And Mann Egertons on Majors Corner in the town centre. I remember Jaguars being on display there. Demolished in the 1980’s and replaced by a hideous cinema complex that is now derelict.

  44. Couple of stats that I ve looked up from reliable sources of the time. In 1978 BL had 1887 national UK dealers (ford only had 1238 dealers then). In 1983 BL had 1550 UK dealers, a drop of 337 dealers over a 5 year period. In 1994 the figure stood at 700 UK dealers and I think I m right in saying that in 2005, when MG Rover went bust there were just under 300 UK dealers. A massive drop in dealers over that 27 year period, 1978 to 2005, highlights a dealership loss of a whopping 1557 dealers in the UK, a massive loss of business, market share and prestige. Very sad statistics indeed!!

  45. It’s interesting that Ford were that far behind dealerwise, as the seemed to have showrooms even in some quite small places in the 1980s, or at least which were franchised for repairs.

    My Mum bought her Metro from Most Motor in Hyde, which was the main local Austin Rover dealership in 1984.

    Later it became Bells & also sold Seats, but doesn’t seem to exist now.

  46. There are so many dealer memories as most of the smaller ones have either given up or been bought up. Some literally were two cars in a showroom type of place with a small workshop at the back and space for a few used cars. One I can remember in Seascale was Postlethwaites, who sold Fords, and who lost their franchise in the nineties not because they were no good, but because Ford deemed them too small to make a decent turnover and they didn’t have the funds to build a new showroom. Also there was an even smaller dealership in St Bees that sold Chryslers in the seventies in a tiny showroom squeezed next to two petrol pumps. This has now become a pair of houses.

  47. There’s still a successful family dealership in Newcastle that trades from its original site on West Rd, perhaps the last dealership based on the old A69 out of the city. Wingrove Motor Company have sold Citroens since 1969 and have recently acquired an MG franchise and still remain as the principal Citroen dealers for Tyne and Wear.
    It’s nice to hear the company is doing well and hasn’t surrendered to the likes of Arnold Clark.

    • Glenn… in the Teesdale town of Barnard Castle, there used to be a small Ford dealer on the main street, which had a tiny showroom for one or two cars and a workshop/offices behind it. I can’t remember the name and it might not be there now as I havent visited there in many years.

      Perhaps it moved to an out of town site.

  48. Even in black & white, those used clubman estates still seem like quite a swanky motor to me, which is what they were at the time – tinted glass, velour seats and little plastic wheel trims. Lovely.

    • My friend’s dad bought a new H reg Clubman estate in 1970. White with the mock wood plastic side inserts. Was nice at the time when our expectations of cars were less.

  49. @ Ian SW, they were intended to be an upmarket Mini and also had a more modern dashboard with the speedometer in front of the driver. Also the 1098 cc engine gave it a useful hike in power and slightly more refinement than the 998cc engine. It was a more practical car as well, being an estate, and probably safer in a crash.

  50. Anyone from the South-East will remember Caffyns Ltd having the franchises for everything BL (and all that went before and after). There weren’t many towns down here that didn’t have a garage and showroom and they even had the dealership for Rolls-Royce, Jaguar and Leyland Trucks.

    My Dad was Sales Manager for trucks at the Eastbourne branch at 507 Seaisde, which was built in the 1930’s and was opened by non other than William Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield. The site went on to build car and truck bodies right through to the other side of WW2. It was demolished in the late 80’s to become a retail park although Caffyns still carry on in the motor business and I believe there may still be Caffyns family members on the board.

  51. Also in the Fens, St. Ives (Cambridgeshire) had two BL dealers when we first moved there in 1980. One was located on Station Road (I forget its name as it closed pretty soon after we moved there) along with Vindis (VAG) and Ouse Valley Motors (Fiat/Lancia). The second BL dealer was St. Ives Motors (Hunts) Ltd. owned and run by a Mr. Morris and located in The Quadrant. I remember this one better as it survived as a Rover dealers into the 1990s and a second hand car dealers into the millennium. My parents had their Marina, Ital estate, and Metro serviced there (the Ital and Metro were purchased there) and I purchased my first car (a Rover Metro GTA) from them second hand just after they lost the Rover franchise.
    As well as the above dealers there was Mann Egerton (Vauxhall, Opel and Lotus) on London Road, Hunts Motors (Ford) on Houghton Road, and a Citroen dealers on an Industrial estate on the edge of town. Not bad for a town of about 5000 inhabitants. Now the town is three times the size and only has one car dealers, TNS who today sell Toyotas, but in my childhood sold tractors, combine harvesters, and the like from the same site opposite the (now gone) Ford dealers.
    I still have the Metro (though not in running condition) and the St. Ives Motors (Hunts) Ltd. sticker in Rover maroon is just about visible.
    Last time I went passed the showroom it was a kitchen fitters studio

  52. Within four miles of me there were five British Leyland dealerships of varying size in the seventies, all family run. It’s likely in the first half of the decade at least, British Leyland was so big and its network of dealerships split between different parts of the business, it was profitable to have so many dealerships. However, amalgamation of dealerships, falling market share and the attraction of selling foreign cars saw a big pruning of the network from 1975-85.
    By 1985 only two local Austin Rover dealers remained and the other three went over to selling foreign marques.

  53. Edgars were probably the most durable of the British Leyland dealers in Cumbria, starting out in 1920 selling Morrises, then BMC, Austin Morris, Austin Rover and Rover right up to the end in 2005. A salesman who works there told me if they didn’t acquire another two franchises just before Rover collapsed, the business could have been in real difficulties, but they managed to survive and their original site on the A5086 now lives on very successfully selling Nissans.

  54. I grew up in Thornton Cleveleys near Blackpool. There seemed to be loads of Leyland / Austin Rover dealerships in the area supported I suspect by the disproportionately large number of old people retiring to the coast.

    From memory there was Charnleys in Cleveleys, Storeys in Hambleton, one that I forget the name of on Breck Road in Poulton le Fylde. Then there was the huge Dutton Forshaw in Blackpool.

    Our high school, Millfield in Thornton, purchased a Freight Rover minibus in the early 80s from Storeys. It’s was plastered in the blue and green Austin Rover decals. There must have been a deal done on purchase price based on a sponsorship deal.

    • Hi Nige, I have purchased the yellow austin 7 jo21 later cc7194 that sat at the austin dealers in poulton le fylde for many many years until 1980. Iam researching its history and would be interested in any photographs, memories, name of proprietor and business, etc. In fact anything at all. regards Russell

  55. I stumbled upon this article almost by accident. I actually worked at Holland Brothers in Boston in the mid 60’s when it was a BMC dealership
    I was in the parts department run by Arthur Whilley. It was in ‘the good old days’ when petrol was 4s/10d a GALLON. Theses days that’s less than 25p. As I have not been back to Boston for around 40yrs it no surprise that the site has changed considerably although some parts are recognizable from the older photos.
    The best part of the job was getting out in the van once a week going around other garages from Spalding to Skeggy delivering spare parts orders.
    A good article and thanks for bringing back nostalgic memories.

  56. I can well remember Studholme’s in Whitehaven, and going there as a kid in the mid to late 80s with my dad for spares for the Metro 1.3s he had (still has). There was a guy in the parts dept, Joe Swales I think he was called, who was an absolute legend for remembering Leyland part numbers. I can still remember the day when they did the launch for the new Metro with the K-series engine. Growing up I can remember that BMC/BL/Austin Rover cars were a very common sight on the roads of West Cumbria, up until the mid 1990s really. Must have all rubbed off because all I’ve ever driven since I passed my test 18 years ago is a succession of Austin and later Rover Minis.

    Also there was a Austin Rover dealer in Holmrook, H Mitchell & Son, where my dad bought his MG Metro from. To be honest despite them being worth more now, and having a better performance then, I always preferred the earlier 1.3s we had.

  57. I can well remember Studholme’s in Whitehaven, and going there as a kid in the mid to late 80s with my dad for spares for the Metro 1.3s he had (still has). There was a guy in the parts dept, Joe Swales I think he was called, who was an absolute legend for remembering Leyland part numbers. I can still remember the day when they did the launch for the new Metro with the K-series engine. Growing up I can remember that BMC/BL/Austin Rover cars were a very common sight on the roads of West Cumbria, up until the mid 1990s really. Must have all rubbed off because all I’ve ever driven since I passed my test 18 years ago is a succession of Austin and later Rover Minis.

    Also there was an Austin Rover dealer in Holmrook, H Mitchell & Son, where my dad bought his MG Metro from. To be honest despite them being worth more now, and having a better performance then, I always preferred the earlier 1.3s we had.

    • There were plenty of small family dealers in Cumbria. I can remember Tom Wrathall of Silloth, who was the county’s first Hyundai dealer, Long and Small of Flimby who sold Skodas and later Protons( they survive as a used car dealership), Tinnion Brothers of Prospect for Reliant and Lada( their showroom is now workshops), and the tiny Jubilee Garage in Egremont that held a Renault franchise until the late eighties. One that still defies the odds and still trades from the middle of Keswick is Keswick Motor Company, who have held a Fiat franchise for over 40 years and still use the same cramped garage.

  58. Studholme and Dickson of Whitehaven were the British Leyland main dealer for West Cumbria until Jaguar was privatised in 1984. This meant they could sell everything from Minis to Range Rovers, and their showroom and workshops were enormous by local standards. They ditched the Rover franchise in 1993, moving over to Hyundai and renting out some of their office space to a sales company, but 8 years later went bankrupt and nothing remains of their site now.
    Locally one name that does survive is Myers and Bowman, who started off selling Hillmans in the thirties, acquired a Toyota franchise in 1976, and after they divested themselves of the Peugeot franchise in 1996, still live on as a popular local Toyota dealer.

    • Hi guys.

      Have enjoyed reading all the comments published here, and especially viewing the photos!

      Just thought I’d introduce myself as I have a rather unique hobby which I’ve been working on over decades. Living in Scotland I hold comprehensive records of car dealers / franchises / dealer addresses for the whole of the UK going back one hundred and twenty years! Also vehicle registration records since number plates were first introduced in 1903 – where issued / dates etc.

      So for instance if you wanted to know the names and address of Ford Dealers in Suffolk in the 1950s I will be able to tell you. Or when Joe Bloggs & Son in Exeter existed and where and what car makes they sold. Or for example when / where reg. plate XH 2653 was first issued.

      These records include details up to the present day i.e have the dealer names / addresses of every single franchised car dealer in the UK logged.

      I am constantly researching / updating historical records (never ending!) and I would be pleased to try and assist in any enquiry you may have.

      Thank you

      Alan

        • Hello Steve

          Many thanks for your email, nice to hear from you. Apologies for the delay in replying.

          Hope you’ve had a nice weekend.

          Not been on here before and not sure of my way around it just yet!

          Anyway you mentioned copies of various dealer registers? Sounds like something I’ld definitely be interested in. And maybe I could assist you too with dealer gaps / addresses? – always happy to help. Where in the country are you Steve? I’m in central Scotland…

          Cheers

          Alan 🙂

    • Hi guys.

      Have enjoyed reading all the comments published here, and especially viewing the photos!

      Just thought I’d introduce myself as I have a rather unique hobby which I’ve been working on over decades. Living in Scotland I hold comprehensive records of car dealers / franchises / dealer addresses for the whole of the UK going back one hundred and twenty years! Also vehicle registration records since number plates were first introduced in 1903 – where issued / dates etc.

      So for instance if you wanted to know the names and address of Ford Dealers in Suffolk in the 1950s I will be able to tell you. Or when Joe Bloggs & Son in Exeter existed and where and what car makes they sold. Or for example when / where reg. plate XH 2653 was first issued.

      These records include details up to the present day i.e have the dealer names / addresses of every single franchised car dealer in the UK logged.

      I am constantly researching / updating historical records (never ending!) and I would be pleased to try and assist in any enquiry you may have.

      Thank you

      Alan

  59. Regarding high street dealers, on Wednesday Market in Beverley used to be Crystal Ford, they moved to a new purpose built site in either the late 80s or early 90s. The old garage is now a branch of Boyes department store, The showroom has changed hands several times and is now Right Car

  60. Another big family dealership that reminds me of the one in the article, Myers and Bowman of Distington, who in the early eighties had Peugeot, Talbot and Toyota car franchises, a Dodge van franchise, a filling station and a Lucas spares and car audio shop. This really was a dealers that could do anything and survives in a lesser, but still successful, form selling Toyotas from a smaller showroom. ( The old garage is used by several businesses).

  61. The last of the town centre car dealers in Whitehaven, B and H Motors( SEAT), has moved out of town from their sixties showroom that once belonged to Scottish Motor Traders and sold Vauxhalls and Citroens until the early eighties and became for a time a motorcycle and used car dealership before it was acquired by B and H in 1992 for their new SEAT franchise. ( B and H formerly ran two filling stations in town and sold Austins and Leyland vans until 1985).
    It’s interesting to recall the dealerships in Whitehaven town centre in the early eighties. As well as SMT and B and H Motors, there was County Garage( Ford), Studholme Dickson( British Leyland main dealer), Leonard Stout( Mazda) and N and Walkingshaw( Austin Morris).

  62. Does anyone recollect the BL dealers in North London in the 80s? I recollect Buntings in Harrow, Lex (?) in Alperton, James Green Motors in Sudbury and Henleys along the North Circular. There was one along the Kenton Road too – can’t remember the name of that one.

    My Dad used most of them over the years.

  63. Amazing write up. I too was born in Boston and remember at 11 going to the launch of the Acclaim. These photos bring back many happy memories.

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