Norton Garage

At the time the Inclosures came to Norton in 1807 the site where Norton Garage stood until recently was Plot Nos 132, 133 and 134, and was open farmland in the possession of William Vick.

Plot No 132 was the actual site of the garage and Plot No 134 became Vicks Barn and later Barn Farm.

See the following link for more information about Barn Farm; Barn Farm

The OS 25” 3rd Edition revision map appears to have been surveyed in the late 1930s.  Barn Farm is then present and the site of the garage is annotated as being allotments but the map still does not show a building on the site of the garage.

Whilst there are no premises shown on the map it would have been around this time that Walter and Alice Johnson made the move out of Gloucester to open a garage here.  In 1926 Walter was recorded as living in his father’s house at 41 Midland Road, Gloucester, but in 1929 Walter is listed as having a ‘garage abode’ at Norton although still resident at 41 Midland Road.  The same situation was again reported in 1930 but by 1931 both Walter and Alice Johnson are recorded at ‘Norton Garage’.  Walter had married Alice Sterry at All Saints, Longhope, in 1930 at which time he was already a motor engineer so the move to Norton must have marked the two of them settling down to married life.

The Gloucester Journal newspaper of 26 April 1930; "The wedding took place at Longhope Parish Church of Mr Walter Johnson, son of Mr and Mrs G Johnson, 4 Midland Road, Gloucester, and Miss Alice Sterry, second daughter of Mr and Mrs A Sterry, of Elm Bridge Farm, Longhope.  The Rev E M L Marsden officiated.  The bride, who was given away by her brother, Mr E Sterry, wore a gown of white crepe de chine with wreath and veil, and silver shoes.  She carried a bouquet of roses and carnations.  The bridesmaids were Miss H Sterry (sister of the bride) and Miss B Johnson (sister of the bridegroom), and they wore blue crepe de chine with hats and shoes to match.  The duties of 'best man' were carried out by Mr Austin Waite (friend of the bridegroom).  A reception was held at Elm Bridge Farm, when about 40 guests were present.  A large number of presents were received.  The future home of Mr and Mrs Johnson will be Norton Garage, near Gloucester".  

Walter Johnson outside Norton Garage in the 1930s

A special meeting of the Norton Parish Council on 12 June 1940 was called at the request of the Rural District Council particularly to organise the setting up of scrap metal dumps in the parish to assist the National War Effort.  The clerk read letters on the urgency of the scheme from the Rural District Council and the Ministry of Supply.  Mr H A Cook was appointed lead organiser and it was decided that dumps should be situated in various parts of the parish, one of which was Norton Garage.

In December 1942 they were advertising; "For sale. Hand power potato peeling machine to hold about 14lbs.  Suit canteen. - Johnson, Norton, near Gloucester".  Over the coming years all sorts of items were sold by the Johnsons from the expected, motorbikes, cars, etc, to the more unlikely billiard table, prams, etc.  In November 1948; "Two bowsers, 1 gallon, hand petrol pumps.  Johnson.  Norton Garage, Gloster".

Walter remained at Norton Garage until 1955 but remained in the village after this living in a bungalow adjacent to the garage until their deaths.  Walter died in 1982, Alice in 1991, and they both have a memorial in the churchyard at St Mary’s, Norton.

Norton Garage was taken on by Clive Rowlands and Harold Watkins.

Newspaper advertisement from 1964.

The following account was shared by Clive Rowland’s wife Norah.

“Clive Rowlands and Harold Watkins took over the garage on May 16th, 1955.  At that time there was four petrol pumps; Shell Mex, BP, National Benzole & Power plus a diesel pump. We moved here from Gwmaman, near Aberdare in South Wales, but my home was Huntley.  Joe, who lived at May Hill with his wife Angela, had a four year old daughter and within fourteen months we had two little girls.  On May 17th there was about 2ins of snow on the forecourt but it had all gone by the next morning.  The garage was open from 7:30am to 6pm but on summer weekends it could be open until 10 or 11pm.  Paul McCartney came in one day; he was on his way to Bristol to see Jane Asher.  Before the M5 was built the traffic was horrendous.  All of the heavy goods lorries from the Midlands used the A38.  The worst congestion was when the Midland factories closed for the annual holidays.  Some cars had not been used during the winter months but come the holiday the cars were piled high with people and luggage and the engines would break down.  There were no all-night open garages then so we had our sleep disturbed quite often.  On the return journey the purses would be empty and we had countless watches and lighters which people would pay to have enough petrol to get home.  Saturday mornings were very busy through the summer and we could sell sweets and ice-creams to the families who were stuck in the queues".

"One day a week we did a paraffin round through Norton and The Leigh.  Mostly the sales were in five gallon drums and cost 10/- (50p).  We bought a second hand van for £27 and painted it pink because the paraffin was named Pink Paraffin.  We called the road the ‘AA’ for Accident Alley; there were several fatal accidents and numerous people were injured.  If cars were damaged we would ring up the factors in Gloucester and the necessary spares would be delivered within half an hour.  The worst case of car non-management was a local farmer who was driving his wife and family in a car with tyres which were worn down to the inside metal.  In 1986 Joe’s wife died and then he was ill.  Joe and Clive were of retiring age so the garage was put up for sale.  We were lucky to have a buyer from Cheltenham who had a business with small buses taking children to the special school, Milestones, in Longford Lane.  So we moved across the road and vacated the garage on 3rd December 1991”.

The owners of the garage were often asked to bring their relevant skills to the assistance of the village.  For example, the Horticultural Show minutes 1950-1969 reflect many such occasions;

2 Jul 1952  -  “Mr Johnson was asked to provide the music”

24 Jul 1953  -  “The Secretary was asked to write to … Mr Johnson at Norton Garage about supplying a radiogram and loudspeakers for the Show”

8 Jun 1955  -  “Mr Bridge undertook to see Mr Johnson about the use of his radiogram and loudspeakers”.

28 Mar 1956  -  Mr Bridge volunteered to see Mr Johnson about the radio and loudspeakers”.

Garage had come into the hands of Mr Rowlands by November 1957 at which time he was also a Committee member.

5 Aug 1959  -  “Mr Rowlands offered to be responsible for the lighting arrangements in the marquee instead of Mr Sparrow”.

13 Apr 1960  -  “Mr Rowlands offered to see to the wiring for the electric lights”.

9 Aug 1962  -  “Mr Rowlands said that he would be responsible for the electric lighting in the marquee”.

3 Jul 1963  -  “Mr Rowlands was given authority to purchase whatever was necessary to complete the lighting of the marquee”.

In February 1964 the Minister of Transport produced an order to purchase lands at Twigworth, Down Hatherley and Norton for improvements to the A38, then known for the purposes of this act as the Exeter to Leeds Trunk Road.  The land in question included part of the forecourt of Norton Garage

In 1991 Clive and Norah Rowlands retired from Norton Garage but they too remained in the village for the remainder of their lives.  John Clive Rowlands died on 5th July 2013, aged 86 years, and Norah Elsie Rowlands died on 31st  October 2016 aged 91 years and they both have a memorial in the churchyard at St Mary’s, Norton.

From the 1990s, Norton Garage was home to Denwells Transport Ltd.

[September 1998]

By 2002 (see photo below) Norton Garage had practically been rebuilt and was still home to Denwells Transport Ltd who amongst other things, ran minibuses on local school routes for a number of years.  The small bungalow to the left of the garage, 'Lochinvare' was unoccupied at this time and was used by the garage as an office.

Norton Garage has now been demolished and replaced by several bungalows.

The site of Norton Garage in 2019