Mansfield Motor Body Co.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Mansfield Motor Body Co.' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Mansfield Motor Body Co.' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Mansfield Motor Body Co.' page

Coachwork made for early motor cars in Notts

In the early days of motoring in the early 20th century, car manufacturers often sold vehicles simply as a 'rolling chassis' - ie without any bodywork.

Purchasers could them employ an established local carriage-builder to design a body to suit their requirements.

It was in fact quite unusual, in the early days, for a car manufacturer to make his own car bodies: after all, he was most likely an engineer with no experience of this elegant trade.  The work, therefore, was often contracted out to established carriage builders who were skilled in constructing specially designed bodies.

In Nottingham, for instance, the distinguished firm of carriage builders, Stareys Ltd (est. 1786), began building car bodies in around 1900.  They provided the coachwork for many of London's early motor taxis.

In Newark, the agrcultural machinery manufacturer, Geo. Stepheson & Son, found their skills in demand for making bodies for early buses.

In Mansfield, in 1907, this form of business was put on a vigorously commercial footing when a new purpose-built factory was set up to construct nothing else but motor car bodies.

 

Purpose-built factory

The Mansfield Advertiser (1st February 1907, p4 c5) heralded the new venture as follows:-

 "A New Industry - The factory premises at the end of Victoria Street*, which was erected by Mr. Scothern, hosiery manufacturer, are now utilised for making the bodies of motor cars.  Several have been instrumental in introducing this new industry, which is developing so rapidly that the premises are to be extended"

 (* Henry Walter Scothern is listed in the 1904 Kelly's Directory as a hosiery manufacturer at the Victoria Works on Victoria Street).

In 1909 a photograph of the works' interior was included in Linney's Directory of Mansfield for that year (see above).  It shows car bodies being built onto existing rolling chassis' with opulently upholstered car seats waiting in the background

It has been suggested that the motor bodies seen here under construction were for the Humber motor car works at Beeston, although judging by the overall apperance of the vehicles shown this is now thought unlikely.

A year later, and the business was still going strong as the Mansfield Advertiser (29th April 1910, p5 c2) included this report of a glittering presentation to one of the company's employees:-

"Presentation - Mr A.W. Fox, the manager of the Mansfield Motor Body Company's works has left the town to take up an important position in Birmingham, and on Friday night he was the recipient of a handsome present by his fellow employees at the works.  The gift took the form of a handsome roll top desk, and the presentation was made by Mr Wainwright who made an appropriate speech.  Mr Fox suitable replied.  Subsequently the following gentlemen contributed to an enjoyable musical programme: Messrs J.H. Finney, A. Bird, F. Haynes, U. Wragg, Gunn, Scotney, Fox, Baddock, Webster, Hicks and Allen".

Post 1910

In the years that followed, successive annual editions of Linney's Directory of Mansfield record the continuance of the business right up until the 1920s.  In April 1924 the business suffered an extensive fire (see account below), and why the Mansfield Motor Body Co. is still listed in Linney's Directory for 1925, it is possible that by that date a new, possibly successor company, called the Sherwood Body Co. Ltd., was occupying the same Victoria Street premises.

 

 

The fire at the Mansfield Motor Body Co. was recorded in the the Mansfield Advertiser on 11th April 1924 (p.10 c.5) in the following terms:-

"SUNDAY MORNING FIRE:  EXTENSIVE DAMAGE AT MANSFIELD:  BIG BLAZE AT MOTOR BODY WORKS

Damage estimated at between £2,000 and £3,000, and involving the destruction of valuable plant and offices, was done by fire early on Sunday morning at the works of the Mansfield Motor Body Company Ltd. in Victoria Street.

At 2.30am when the police saw the premises, everything appeared to be in order, but some time after 3 o'clock two shunters on the LM&S Railway saw the beginning of the fire and gave the alarm as quickly as possible.  It was at 3.40 that the Fire Brigade received the call and by that time a glow in the sky, which illuminated the town, showed there was a big blaze.  The brigade found that the machine room and the offices were burning fiercely, and they concentrated their efforts on confining the fire to this portion of the premises, and to prevent it spreading to the paint shop and the store room, and also to the houses at the rear, which at one time appeared to be in danger.  The occupants of the latter were naturally alarmed and precautions were taken to remove livestock out of danger.  Happily the fire was kept from the dwellings and also, fortunately, it did not spread to the remainder of the company's premises, for the machine room had brick walls up to the roof and the doors were fireproof.  At one time the flames reached to the height of 50 feet.

"The brigade soon had three powerful jets playing on the flames, and the fire was subdued in about an hour and a half.  The police rendered the brigade valuable aid in removing seven cars and a lorry to a place of safety.

"All the plant in the machine room was completely destroyed, as well as a private car, and the office was also gutted, but two safes were got out of the way and the books are intact.  The origin of the fire is unknown, but people living nearby say they think they detected the smell of burning wood on Saturday night.  Although the fire occurred in the early hours os Sunday morning it brought out a crowd of about 200 people....."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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