A Century of Transport - House to House Deliveries
The motor vehicle had replaced the horse in most activities but horses continued to hold an advantage for frequent stop-start work such as house to house milk and bread deliveries. The evolution of the battery-electric vehicle changed that and from the early 30s gradually replaced the horse, although the latter could still be seen in numbers well into the 50s.
In the 1950s, before widespread ownership of cars, battery-electric vehicles were used for all manner of retail deliveries to homes, including laundries, grocers and even big city centre stores. And, of course, "Beer at Home means Davenports"! The most familiar users, however, were dairies and bakeries delivering daily to your door. Important dairies in the English Midlands were Midland Counties Dairy, the Birmingham Co-operative Society, Birmingham Dairies, Handsworth Dairies and Wathes, Cattell and Gurden (known as Wacaden). United Dairies was associated with London and the Home Counties in the '50s but also locally operated in Redditch, Solihull, Bentley Heath and south-east Birmingham. United Dairies purchased huge numbers of three-wheelers, built by Wales & Edwards of Shrewsbury, to replace horse drawn drays in the 1950s.
Daily house to house bread deliveries were once as routine as milk with sufficient demand for more than one bakery to serve an area. Hawley's, a well-known Birmingham bakery, ran a fleet of battery-electric vehicles in competition with the Birmingham Co-operative Society.
Austin and Morris joined forces in 1952 to form BMC (British Motor Corporation). Commercial vehicles would in due course carry any of the three names. BMC continued to target the lighter end of the commercial market of which Bedford was the leader, although Ford was also giving that Luton-based manufacturer a run for its money with its 'Thames' products. British Road Services and the manufacturer BMC evolved a special design of larger, diesel-powered parcels van, built for several years from 1958. The driver had a sliding door and could enter and leave the seat without having to clamber over a wheelarch. The floor height throughout was relatively low and the driver could walk into the rear from the cab. Despite their practicality, their odd looks gained them the unflattering nickname of 'Noddy Vans'!
Each manufacturer was allocated a certain amount of space at the Commercial Motor Show. AEC found this inadequate and therefore took stands for manufacturers it had taken over and displayed its products under those badges. It was therefore possible to encounter designs such as the Maudslay Mercury and the Crossley Bridgemaster which were rarely seen away from Earls Court! The Bridgemaster was one of several low floor models introduced in the '50s designed to replace existing low height buses with their inconvenient side gangway upstairs.
Surprisingly perhaps, the low floor double-decker concept had been pioneered by Bristol with its Lodekka model whose products were only available to nationalised operators and might have been expected to be slow in innovation. A licensed version of the Lodekka was built by Dennis as the Loline for sale to non-nationalised operators.
©Copyright 2003 Malcolm Keeley for the Transport Museum, Chapel Lane, Wythall, Worcestershire B47 6JX, England.
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