Historic motor engineering company is oldest in the town ; The Service Engineering Company (Grimsby) Ltd was established as Nicholson Bros in premises in Roberts Street, Grimsby, in 1910. The firm still operates from the same premises today. Join us as we take a fascinating look at the firm's history, which was written by the company secretary, Mr David C Barrcroft, in 1979.e En g i n e e r i n gSe r v i c
THE Service Engineering Company (Grimsby) Limited is the oldest motor engineering company in Grimsby. It was established in 1910 by Charles Frederick Nicholson after serving his apprenticeship with Ruston Ltd of Lincoln. He was later joined by his brother, John Webster Nicholson, who had served his apprenticeship with the Austin Motor Co. They traded under the name of Nicholson Bros and had their office and workshop at 56 Roberts Street, Grimsby, their principal work being car sales, body building and repair work. They were proud of their work and had painted on the side of one of their vans "Yes we built the first motor vehicle in Grimsby and we shall build the last - but not yet!" They next opened a showroom in West St Mary's Gate and had agencies for almost make of car on the market at the time - Austin, Daimler, Swift, Bedford, Flanders Ford and EMF Cars. In 1914 there was a staff of more than 30 including a skilled joiner, electrician and publicity expert as well as qualified motor and marine engineers and office staff. The First World War caused a change in the activity within the company and a larger staff was employed for servicing and repairing small motor launches for the Admiralty. A floating workshop was brought l Continued on next page l Continued from previous page into action and work was done more quickly and efficiently.
In 1917 Nicholson Bros became a limited company, Nicholson Bros Ltd, with CF Nicholson and JW Nicholson as directors.
Telegraph Monday, January 1, 2007 13 John Nicholson was very ill with tuberculosis and went to live in Pasadena, hoping to benefit from the warmer climate. Unfortunately, he died there.
Mr Chas Nicholson carried on the motor business.
The company needed more space so the West St Mary's Gate showrooms were closed and property acquired in South St Mary's Gate with an entrance into Garden Street.
They then had more room to display the stock which by this time included agricultural equipment - Moline tractors and ploughs, Caterpillar tractors etc.
There were few second hand cars for sale and always a waiting list for new cars, particularly large Austin cars for farmers.
Petrol was sold in two gallon tins. When petrol was in short supply during the war, gas bags were made to fit on the roof of cars and the engine adapted to run on gas instead of petrol. They were never very popular and after the war Nicholson Bros had a number of gas bags still in stock, so they had them made into raincoats which were sold to farmers and other outdoor workers.
Nicholson Bros were the pioneers of Austin products in Grimsby.
A London office was opened at 26-27 Budge Road, Cannon Street and another brother, Arthur Nicholson, took charge.
He was interested in the motor boat agencies they had at that time.
Around 1919-20, Ford Motor Co were looking for showrooms in Grimsby, to make a big display of their products and appoint a distributor for their vehicles in the Lincolnshire area.
Nicholson Bros had suitable premises and a great deal of experience in selling cars, but the showrooms were not yet built.
The Lincolnshire Motor Company had just opened large showrooms in Wellowgate and they were made distributors for Lincolnshire.
This was a great disappointment as Nicholson Bros were quite sure they would get the appointment.
Shortly after this the Garden Street premises were sold to RC Bellamy who eventually built a garage and showroom on the site.
The stock was transferred to Roberts Street, which was now the only depot.
In 1923 there was a need for more capital so an extraordinary general meeting was held and the following resolution was passed: "The capital of the company be increased by the addition thereto of the sum of Pounds 5,000 divided into Pounds 1 shares beyond the present registered capital".
The agreement was signed by chairman Mr CF Nicholson and secretary B Glynn John. The new directors were JC Store, H Hewins, GH Mudd and GW Parker.
The company specialised in making the Nibromo centrifugal pump, and this was shown pumping coloured water from large tanks at all the agricultural shows.
It was while Mr Nicholson was at one of these shows that the "floating workshop" in Grimsby Docks ceased to float - it sank!
The Docks Board ordered the company to remove it at once, so it was lifted out of the water and placed on the slipway.
They were then told to move it from the slipway and get it back into the dock.
Mr Nicholson refused to leave the show, where he was doing good business selling pumps, so I had to go to the docks to examine the damage and give instructions for repairs. This had to be done immediately as the cost of leaving the boat on the slipway was very expensive.
When I saw the floating workshop for the first time, it reminded me of Noah's Ark.
After the war, "Noah's Ark" was sold to Geo Bishop And Son, who took over the marine side of the business.
In 1929, owing to the death of two directors and the retirement of Mr Chas Nicholson, the company was again reformed under the name of Service Engineering Co, and Mr HJ Nixon, who had been in charge of the sales department, was made managing director. Service Engineering Co were the first stockists of Hepworth and Grandage products and later had the sole agency for Wellworthy pistons, rings and liners.
The company specialised in boring cylinder, remetalling and boring conrods and general engine reconditioning. Business progressed steadily and they had agencies for Leyland and Trojan vehicles.
The Trojan car was a novelty, with only seven moving parts, but not very popular as the general public did not like the solid tyres.
In 1933 the business was taken over by HJ Nixon, trading as Service Engineering Co.
The company had a contract with Ticklers Ltd, jam manufacturers, to maintain their lorries and keep them in good repair.
The lorries came in after work each evening and were ready for use the next morning - the men working all night if necessary. This was a good contract and it worked well.
Spillers Ltd, flour millers, joined the scheme and we had plenty of work for the fitting department, which had to be increased to cope with the work.
A works manager was appointed to look after that side of the business.
Unfortunately, this did not last long. The works manager decided to go and work at Spillers and do the vehicle maintenance on their premises, so we lost a good works manager and the Spillers contract.
Soon after this, Ticklers decided to send all their products by rail and our maintenance contract, plus the sale of Leyland lorries, was cancelled.
The life of Service Engineering Co did not always run smoothly, but we learned our lesson and decided not to "put all our eggs in one basket".
However, we carried on with more emphasis on work for the general public and not so much contract work. l You can read the second and final part of the story in next month's edition of Bygones.
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