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Thornycrofts at work

Some brief accounts of examples of work carried out by Thornycroft goods vehicles during the ’thirties are given in the following paragraphs.

Through the Alps with a Thornycroft

A 2 ton (2,032kg) Thornycroft Manly van was hired by Autocheques from road-haulage and express-delivery firm Carter Paterson, for carrying the luggage of competitors in the 1933 International Alpine Trial motoring event.

The Thornycroft set off from London and crossed the English Channel from Dover to Calais, from which it headed for the Italian town of Merano where the luggage was loaded on board. Then, keeping ahead of the competitors at each stage of the trial, the Thornycroft drove mostly over the tortuous competition route, running to a strict timetable. Numerous hairpin and right-angle bends were negotiated over the 670 mile (1,078km) journey between Merano and Nice, as well as mountain passes as high as 8,000ft (2,438m), many of them needing second gear. The 80 mile (129km) stretch between Milan and Turin was covered at the Thornycroft’s top speed of 35mph (56kph), without overheating. On the return trip, the Thornycroft averaged 25mph (40kph) over the 521 miles (838km) between Valence and Calais.

Driven by Mr T W G Jude of Carter Paterson and Capt. E R Atkins of Autocheques, the Thornycroft was trouble-free during the outward and return legs of the journey, covering 2,488 miles (4,003km). Of this mileage, it travelled 980 miles (1,577km) unladen over which it consumed 68.5 gallons (311 litres) of petrol, averaging 14.3mpg (19.8 litres per 100km). The remaining 1,508 miles (2,426km) were covered loaded, for which 135.63 gallons (617 litres) were used (11.1mpg/25.5 litres per 100km). Virtually no oil was reported to have been consumed.

Supporting the 1934 International Alpine Trial

The Thornycroft van used for transporting luggage in the 1933 International Alpine Trial (see above) was used for similar work in the 1934 event. As before, it was hired from Carter Paterson by Autocheques, who organised hotels for the competitors and transport for their luggage in the 2 ton (2,032kg) Thornycroft. Also as before, the vehicle was driven by Carter Paterson’s Mr T W G Jude, and co-driven by Capt. E R Atkins of Autocheques, who also acted as courier.

The test was much more severe than for 1933, the total distance covered was 3,650 miles (5,873km) instead of 2,488 miles (4,003km) and luggage comprised 116 valises, suitcases and trunks, each weighing between 40lb and 60lb (18.1kg and 27.2kg), making a total weight of 2¼ tons (2,286kg). Starting from England, the Thornycroft took the following route: France, Switzerland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria, Germany, Austria, Italy, Austria, Germany, Austria, Germany and France. The trip was exceptionally demanding, Jude and Atkins encountered flooded roads due to storms and had to turn back several times to take alternative routes.

The two occupants only had 4½ hours of sleep and scratch meals over the last three days, which involved a journey of 888 miles (1,429km), during which there were loading and unloading difficulties with Customs. Time taken for the complete trip was 16½ weeks, average speed was 25mph (40kph) with a petrol consumption of 14.17mpg (19.9 litres per 100km), and two quarts (2.27 litres) of oil were used. The Thornycroft behaved impeccably over the entire trip, despite carrying more than its rated load up mountain passes such as Julier, the Tauerne, the Lueg, the Katschberg and the Wurzen.

Over 643,000 miles (1,034,587km) with a Thornycroft

After entering service with an East Yorkshire-based operator in February 1925, a Thornycroft covered no less than 486,000 miles (781,974km) as a 20-seat bus, after which it was converted to a lorry, reaching a total mileage of over 643,000 (1,034,587km) by August 1934.

Thornycrofts on contract haulage from Liverpool

In 1936, the fleet of a Liverpool-based haulage firm comprised ten petrol and diesel-engined Thornycrofts ranging from 4 tons to 10 tons capacity (4,064kg to 10,160kg), with four and six-wheels. The firm carried goods daily between Liverpool, Manchester and South Wales, to Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and other centres. General merchandise was carried to South Wales, and an important load was tin plate from South Wales to Liverpool and Manchester, this industry having developed rapidly since the mid-twenties. The haulier attached great importance to maintaining its vehicles and employed four regular mechanics for this purpose, three in Liverpool and one at the Cardiff depot. In addition to drivers and second men, the company employed staff to handle the legal side of the business.

There were over 50 customers on the company’s books, many of whom had been with the haulier for over ten years. Most of them had expanded their trade during the previous two or three years, resulting in the purchase of more Thornycrofts by the haulier. The company considered that, by 1936, conditions under which road transport was operating were very much better than a few years previously, and welcomed much of the recent legislation introduced as being better for the business. However, the haulier also considered that it was time the government gave relief through lower taxation.

Thornycrofts do well on timber transport

In 1937, a Deptford-based timber transporter delivered no less than 40,000 tons (40,640 tonnes) of timber by road to builders within a 100 mile (161km) radius of London. The firm’s timber store occupied 3½ acres (1.42 hectares) adjacent to five wharves on the Surrey canal, where the timber, imported from the USA, Russia, Finland and Sweden was unloaded from barges.

Thornycrofts were used for the heavier loads, the first vehicle being bought in 1924 and, since then, 5 ton and 7½ ton (5,080kg and 7,620kg) vehicles had joined the fleet. With their legal maximum operating speed of 30mph (48kph), the 5 tonners (5,080kg) were especially suited to rapid deliveries. Thanks to their 16 ft 4 ins (4.98m) platforms and detachable steel bolsters for supporting timber projecting over their cabs, the 5 tonners (5,080kg) were also suitable for carrying long timber sections.

One skilled fitter was retained for maintaining all vehicles, a factor which, the firm claimed, kept their maintenance charges low. Mechanical overhauls of the vehicles were carried out by Thornycroft’s service branch in London.

Big Clyde shipbuilding firm relies on Thornycrofts

A large shipbuilding and engineering firm with interests in the Clyde district owned shipyards, foundries and workshops spread over a wide area, for which it operated a large supporting fleet of Thornycroft lorries. The latter ranged in capacity from 1½ tons (1,524kg) to a 12 ton (12,192kg) RSW, which was sometimes used with a trailer.  In 1938, this firm claimed to have the UK’s most up-to-date foundry, where it produced general castings and those for diesel engines. Some of these cast items weighed over 20 tons (20,320kg), and were transported by Thornycroft vehicles from the foundry to the machine shops, and thence to where they were needed after machining.  

Each company department operated and maintained its own vehicles. That the maintenance was of high quality was demonstrated by the daily use of some elderly, high-mileage Thornycroft lorries delivered as far back as 1919.