Bognor in 1902 must have been quite an exciting place. As we have already reported, the current railway station was built and opened during the summer. The Arcade was opened in July, 1902, which allowed pedestrians to walk through a set of shops to the sea – quite a new phenomenon at the time. With this type of development there was also an increase in population and new businesses were starting. Sadly, not many remain, but one which has is W. E. Jones and Sons, the garage situated in Lennox Street.
In September, 1902, William Jones opened a cycle shop in the High Street, where today we have William Hill. William Snr, as he became known, was married with two sons, William and Stanley.
This shop in the High Street advertised Humber, Raleigh, and Triumph cycles in a decorative manner. In the early days it was possible to hire tricycles – which, incidentally, were made at the shop -for use on the beach. Eventually, a workshop was built in Belmont Street, which is still in use today, and the staff was engaged on motorised repairs. In 1917, they had a number of charabancs which were used to transport staff all the way out to Middleton on Sea to the Norman Thompson Aircraft factory. However, disaster struck and there was a serious fire that burned out all the vehicles.
The firm recovered and grew into an important service provider not only in the town but also to the surrounding district. The collection of children’s tricycles they still owned were available on the seafront for 3d. a ride. Each night these tricycles would be returned to the garage, hosed down, oiled and greased ready for the eager children the next morning. Just this week, a gentleman told me he could remember small vehicles being available for hire at the end of Lennox Street from a gentleman called – Mr. Jones.
At the end of the First World War, cars were increasing in importance. Some of the early records show that in 1925 a total of 44 were sold by Jones and the numbers continued to increase. In 1933/4, Jones’ showroom was built in Lennox Street on the site of Osborne’s Coal yard and the early Observer offices. This was such a different era. Then, it was possible for cars to be brought into W. Jones and Sons for their annual overhaul. This entailed the cars being left sometime between September and February so that cars could be dismantled to ensure all parts were carefully and individually maintained. During Goodwood week, it was possible for your car to be ‘garaged’ for between 1/- (5p.) and 1/6d. per night. (7 1/2p.)
Bicycles were still important to the business and could be purchased for £5 each at this time. In 1935 company records showed that they sold 283 bicycles. Charabancs were also continuing to provide excursions. Some of the trips would take people out to North Bersted to view the old Stamp House in addition to other trips around the neighbourhood.
The Second World War obviously interrupted the hire and selling of vehicles however Jones’ continued with their service philosophy. During this period, they employed girls and men who were unable to go to war due to age or health. Their task was to make small ammunitions for the government. For some of the men this was classed as their war service. More than 100 people were employed and covering 24 hours per day making over 13 million pieces of ammunitions for the war effort.
It is reported that petrol was delivered to the garage in two-gallon cans. This was then stored in a unit with a half inch steel plated door. This same area was then used to charge batteries. Some customers, such as Mr. Fletcher, in Hotham Park House, even had their petrol delivered. Many people would have two batteries, one in the car and one in to be charged.
When the war finished and people returned to their everyday lives, cars were needed again. As a result, Jones’ servicing and maintenance facilities increased. Many ‘commercial travellers’ stayed in nearby hotels and would call into the showroom. Many of them had nicknames, such as Mr Mars, who would always bring Mars bars for the staff. Another gentleman was known as Mr Coffin Handles. He would visit Reynolds.
When we consider the cars over the years and the service the motorist receives it is fascinating to hear the stories of this one family and their service to the town. or many years Jones’ was an Agency for car manufacturers Singer, Humber, Morris, Wolseley, Riley, MG and Ford.
One of their employees was engaged on all repainting tasks as required. W. Jones Snr was also engaged in the 1950s in collecting the Royal Mail from Fontwell to be sorted here in the town.
Eventually, they became involved again in hiring out vehicles, this time cars, and it was not unknown for all their 200 cars to be out in one week, so much so that they eventually opened an office at Heathrow Airport.
I have recently come across a used car list for 1971. One item which caught my eye was the information on the ‘speedo reading’ for each car – A 1967 Hillman Minx with 40,200 miles would cost £475, while a 1970 Triumph with 13,300 miles would cost £1,500.
Throughout the years you could always depend on finding an advertisement for W. Jones or W. Jones and Sons in any booklet or brochure as they have continued to support their hometown.
William Jones Snr. was also one of the founder members of the Bognor Fishing Club.
Bognor Regis has changed; the town and seafront developments have also created changes, such as the acquisition of the original Butlin’s site on the seafront for the building of today’s flats. This meant that Jones’ lease for offices and parking was eventually terminated to allow these buildings to be demolished.
At this time in the 1990s Ford, with whom the family had been associated for many years changed their dealerships. Thus today they sell ‘near new’ low mileage Ford cars, any new vehicle and selected quality used vehicles.
Jones’ business remains a family concern. Their service is offered from the showroom rather than from an open forecourt. It is here that you have personal service as you discuss and select your new vehicle.