ID PH01_SST / Elaine Barker

TitlePeldon Service Station
AbstractPeldon Service Station used to occupy the plot on the corner of St Ives Hill and Lower Road. It was built in 1948, similar in design to a Nissan hut, but with a much higher roof and designed by a local architect, Colonel Walker, who lived next to Pete Hall. It was built for Dudley Patmore whose wife, Enid, owned the land and they lived in Sunnyview (now known as The Cottage) adjacent to the garage. The east end section of their house was a cycle and motorbike shop and the garage area used for the stock and maintenance and repairs.

The son of the landlord of The Swan at Stanway and an engineer by trade, Dudley served in the Royal Army Service Corps in WW1 and in the 1939 register he was already living in Sunnyview, Peldon and described as an Internal Combustion Engine Fitter. Heavy Worker.

Prior to moving to Peldon, Dudley had run a garage in Layer de la Haye, where, in the Kelly's Trade Directories of 1922, 1925 and 1929 he was listed as a cycle agent. His garage, which he ran with his brother Edward Herbert Patmore, was in High Road, Layer de La Haye; below is a Patmore Bros petrol bill dated 1928.

Dudley Patmore was also involved with maintaining and repairing the motor bikes from The Wall of Death attraction at Southend's Kursaal and was a keen motor cyclist himself.

The first UK Wall of Death came to the Kursaal Amusement Park at Southend in June 1929. It was a barrel shaped wooden structure about 32 foot across and 20 foot tall. The riders used centrifugal force to ride an almost 90 degrees angle to the floor. The public would stand on a platform round the top and look over the edge to view the motor bike riders. Two of the most celebrated Wall of Death riders at Southend were George Tornado Smith and his wife Doris whose stage name was Marjorie Dare. Ever the self-publicist and showman, Tornado would ride a penny-farthing round the area promoting the show. He had a pet lioness, Briton, who as a cub lay across the handlebars while Tornado and Marjorie did their stunts. When the lioness grew too big they then put her in a side-car. There are also photos of a skeleton sitting in the side-car and a report that an Austin 7 was driven round the walls.

Tornado was born in Newton Green, Suffolk and his father was landlord of the White Hart in Boxford from 1921 into the early fifties. The lioness, which died in about 1939 is buried under the courtyard there. There are local stories of Tornado taking the Wall of Death, which was transportable and toured the country, to The Compasses in Boxford for his show.

The favoured vehicles for the Wall of Death riders were the Indian 101 Scout motorbikes which, no doubt, could sometimes be seen in Dudley Patmore's workshop as he serviced and repaired them.

Indian 101 Scout motor bike from 1929 used in the Wall of Death stunts

Following the breakdown of his marriage, Dudley moved into Barnards Cottage on the corner of St Ives Hill and Mersea Road, Peldon (where Bluebell Cottage now stands).

The garage next passed into the hands of Jack Martin and his son Keith. Jack was an engineer by profession and was responsible for building the sluice gates at Heybridge Basin and it was his son Keith who did the motor repairs at the garage. In copies of St Mary's Messenger (the Parish Mag) from 1965, proprietor A J Martin advertises that they offer 'agricultural repairs'.

Advert in St Mary's Messenger (Parish magazine) 1964

In the early 1960s, the Martins had a bungalow built by the garage, situated on the corner of St Ives Hill and Lower Road but now no longer there.

In 1966, The Souths, Hector and Eve, moved into the bungalow with their three young daughters and took over the garage.

Eve had been brought up with a father in the motor trade in Clacton. Hector came from Colchester and they had been living in Layer de La Haye before moving to Peldon. So began forty years' living and working in the village.

Peldon Service Station circa 1977. The house on the left, The Cottage, was Sunnyview where the garage's first owner, Dudley Patmore, used to sell bicycles and motor bikes.

An advert for Peldon Service Station in the Parish Magazine from August 1979

A report by local school children in the 1986 BBC Domesday Reloaded project relates

Peldon Service Station sells oil,
cars, lorries, petrol, diesel and duck eggs.
There are horses behind the
garage. The people that own the
garage are Mr and Mrs South.
The garage repairs and services
agricultural machinery as well as
private cars. They also perform
M.O.T. tests. There is also a small
second hand car business.

Many of the Souths' regular customers will remember Hector carefully rationing fuel during the tanker drivers' strike and being able to buy ten pounds-worth of petrol from Peldon Service Station when every other petrol station had long queues or had run out. It was, however, competition from the supermarkets that sounded the death-knell for the business.

End of the road for village garage

COMPETITION has driven a village petrol station out of business. Its owners have admitted they can't compete with cut-price supermarkets. Eve and Hector South have run Peldons ervice station for almost four decades. But now they've been forced to throw in the towel because of competition from their giant rivals.

Eve said ' We're having to close because trade has just dwindled away over the years because of the supermarkets,. We just can't carry on. It's got out of control.'

The garage's petrol is up to 5p a litre more expensive than some supermarkets because they don't have the superstores' buying power. Eve says they make just 2p a litre profit on fuel.

'It's just not viable any more' she said. 'People are up in arms about it in the village. We've been running a service for all these years but most people go to supermarkets now. Once the whole village used us. Now we've just got a faithful few customers who have been with us from day one. We don't sell used cars any more because the bottom fell out of that. Now we just rely on MOTs and general repair work.' Eve added 'The village shop closed two years ago so now there will only be the two pubs left here. It's a shame more can't be done to protect local services. We're all going out of business one by one.'

Hector and Eve now plan to retire after 39 years pumping fuel. They say there is little chance of anyone else taking over the business.

'We can't pass it on to anyone because everything needs updating'.

October 2005. Local artist, Steve Sharpe, took a series of photographs a few weeks before the Peldon Service Station closed. The 1960s bungalow on the corner was originally built for the Martins.

Hector and Eve finally gave up the garage business and retired October 31st 2005 and the plot was subsequently used to build five new houses, completed in 2014, Corner Cottage, The Haven, The Lodge, Field View and The Croft.

Elaine Barker
Peldon History Project

Thanks to Steve Sharpe
The South family

AuthorElaine Barker
SourceMersea Museum
IDPH01_SST
Related Images:
 Peldon Service Station a few weeks before it closed.  PH01_SST_021
ImageID:   PH01_SST_021
Title: Peldon Service Station a few weeks before it closed.
Date:27 October 2005
Source:Peldon History Project / Steve Sharpe