Friday, 13 March 2009

Ben Barnes & Sons Ltd - Part One - Coach Proprietors

Mr. Ben Barnes Senior

Strictly speaking "haulage and coaches" could well have already been in Ben's blood for many a year, after all his father John Barnes had begun a haulage business in Haslingden going back to the 1850's when he would transport by pack horse, corn from the local corn mills to the many surrounding farms of the area....

Many, many moons ago, I used to work for Ben Barnes and Sons cousin's who where Mark Barnes and Sons of Haslingden. I can remember having the great privilige of speaking with Jim Barnes or his sister Mrs Middleton whom where at the elm of Ben Barnes's coaches them days. When they were super busy we would supply coaches to them or vica versa. They also had amassed a great haulage business which took prominence in the firms later years.

The Company was originally formed by Benjamin Barnes (see above photo) and was based at Townsendfold in them early days of the 1900's, and would them days have started with horsedrawn carraiges, later evolving to the char-a-banc and then on to the early modern day coaches of the 1950s and early 1960s.

During the heyday of the business we think there would have been a fleet of between 10 and 15 coaches and for most of the life of the Coach Business would have been administered and garaged at Holme Bank, just off Newhallhey Road. Holme Bank had previously been a Foundry. In fact Holme Bank garage is still there today.
The Coach side of the business was actually sold in 1964 and were taken over by Ellen Smith Tours of Rochdale.

Besides Coaches and Haulage, Ben Barnes and Sons Ltd also ran the West End Garage which was next door to the Rossendale Free Press Office (them days 1930s - 1964) and very close to the Rawtenstall Library. West End is where they ran there Limousine business from and besides selling Petrol or Derv to the public, they also carried out maintainance repairs and the administration of cars for Weddings, Funerals and special occasions. In 1964 when the Coach business was sold, also West End was sold and this was taken over at that time by Cordingleys of Haslingden who where very well known within the Motor Car Business. Barnes's Limousines where took over by Eric Shufflebottom who also ran his own limousine business from the Wood Top area. Below are newspaper cutting pictures of West End kindly sent in by Dave Haworth. Nowadays on the site of West End is the large Petrol Station (just before the Public Library).

The acquisition of West End came about in the 1930's when Barnes's took it over from Messrs Billington's who themselves had also ran limousines. It also appears that the firm of Belshaw and Barcroft who were a coach firm actually based out of Crawshawbooth did themselves garage a couple of their coaches out of West End and Barnes's did actually take over this firm also ..

The Photo above is of Roland Billington's Shop and Cheapside, which was just across the road from West End. Here if you look close you will see the shop was also used as a Booking Office for Ben Barnes, and the photo below is of the hearse which Barnes's owned.. (please click over pictures to enlarge...)

Recently I was very lucky to obtain a few photos of some of Ben Barnes and Sons coaches which they owned.

I am indebted to Mr. David Barnes (Grandson of the founder) and also other members of the Barnes family, who have so kindly helped with information on the Company and also provided a large amount of the above photographs shown in this short article...

Here on the left is a lovely Barnes family photo with the founders sons, on the left is George Barnes (Snr), in the centre is Jim Barnes (father to David), and to the right leaning on the Coach is Richard Barnes (Snr). Also the photo to the right is Richard Barnes (Jnr) with his coach JTB 964.
Also many thanks to Dave Haworth who sent in the newspaper pictures of West End. and there is lots more information and photographs about Ben Barnes's wagons in Part Two (Click here)........

If you want to see other photos of neighbouring Haslingden's Independant Coach Firms click here

Email kindly received from Gail Garrard (Australia) 3rd October 2013. Who's grandad was Ben Barne's from Heatherlands and her Great,Great Grandad was Ben Barne's the founder of Ben Barnes & Sons Ltd (pictured at the top of the blog)

Hi Bryan, my name is Gail Garrard from Melbourne Australia. My mother put me onto your site. She is Georgena Barnes, and George Barnes was her grandfather. Her own father Ben Barnes passed away only this year aged nearly 91 or 92. My great grandfather passed away when I was just a baby I think but he had remarried a lady called Cathy when his wife died. My mother called her Grandma Cathy and all of us lot did too. She lived in the Barnes cottage Benbar. Because I was a relatively well behaved girl I often got to stay with Grandma Cathy in the cottage. the last time was in 1978 when I was 17. She was quite old but very robust and still drove her car around. She was profoundly deaf though and trips with her were very scary as she couldn't hear car horns. My grandfather Ben Barnes I think had maybe been disowned by George? I remember seeing Ben Barnes and Sons trucks and thinking they were my grandads but he just would shake his head and ignore them. He had a big garage in Helmshore with massive tow trucks etc. they seemed to live quite well and had a nice house in those days and had a maid etc. By the time I went back in 1978 they had gone bankrupt and drove matching red and white minis instead of Porsches. They lived in a little one bedroom apartment and Grandma said they had never been happier. I was surprised to learn that the Ben Barnes Company was still going so recently. It was like it never had anything to with this set of Barnes. My uncle, Keith Barnes, is still alive in the area. Anyway, I just wanted to say what an amazing site! It just seemed strange reading about my family. Regards, Gail Garrard