TWO weeks ago, we featured a series of pictures of lost Darlington garages. Lots of people were intrigued by the picture of the car from the 1970 TV programme UFO, which was visiting Skippers on the ring road, and we told its story last week. Here are some other memories from our legion of four-star petrolheads…

“I SERVED my time at the Cleveland Car Company from 1955 to 1961, and the little van about to turn into Grange Road is a Standard 10,” says Tony Crooks.

“The CCC were the main agents for Standard Triumph cars, and they sold a fleet of these little vans to a firm called Rent A Set. All the vans were painted cream and lettered upstairs at the CCC before delivery, and the Standard 10 was an ideal little van for carrying TVs about.”

The CCC was formed in 1904 by Charles Dixon, the owner of Cleveland Bridge, and Owen Pease because they had nowhere to service their motor cars – Mr Dixon had a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

It is therefore claimed that CCC was the first garage in this district. It was certainly the most characterful garage – right into the 1960s, it refused to accept new vehicles delivered on a car-transporter because it said the movement of the transporter's floor, to which the car was tied, caused the engine to leak oil in later life.

In November 1971, the CCC moved out to Blands Corner at Blackwell, and its half-timbered home was demolished in September 1974 to allow the road improvements.

Tony continues: “After leaving CCC, I worked for the National Cash Register Co in High Northgate. My first company car after nine years was a Hillman Imp, like the ones in your photo outside Minories,

“It lasted over four years and did 104,000 miles, most of the time carrying a load of cash machines for conversion to decimal money – not the best job for a little car and so it often ended up in Minories for repairs, but when it was in good order, it was a great little car.”

RALPH DAVISON spent a lifetime working in most of the garages pictured. “I started as an apprentice motor mechanic at 15 in 1951 at Minories in Grange Road,” he said.

Unbeknown to him, his future wife Pamela was starting out at the same time working in the office at the Motor Delivery Company in Grange Road, before she moved to the Minories branch in Chesnut Street.

When they got married in 1956, Ralph had moved on to Dove’s garage in Bondgate – the garage pictured in 1969 promoting the new Mini Countryman with a window display which included a mannequin with a 12 bore shotgun under his arm. Dove’s closed in 1980, by which time it was known as Wheatley’s, and it boasted the last over-the-pavement petrol pumps.

Ralph’s career then motored him out to Scotch Corner, where he became manager of the petrol filling station. He and Pamela lived in the bungalow beside the station for ten years, before bringing their family back into town when he got a job with Mill Garages in Chesnut Street.

“They opened up a new garage at Faverdale in the late 1970s and I moved there as service manager,” he said. “It was built on land owned by John Pickvance, who had owned Dove’s when I worked there. I think part of the deal was that he got a new car every year.”

After 12 years at Mill, Ralph moved to become body shop manager at Sherwoods back in Chesnut Street, before retiring in 1998.

“As you can see, for both my wife and myself, most of our working life has been in the motor trade,” he says. “We have been married for 63 years and are now 83 years young!”

“IN the late 1950s, as a teenager I occasionally made pilgrimage to Darlington to tour the car showrooms,” said John Biggs, of Etherley Grange.

“I’d get off the bus around the Odeon in Bondgate and could start with Lambert and Williamson (later Williamson) at Portland Garage, in Portland Place, which I think sold Rootes products.

“Next was Dove’s, in Bondgate, a BMC dealer.

“In Blackwellgate was the showroom of John Neesham, an important Ford main dealer. Coniscliffe Road enabled me to look into the showrooms of FW Keighley (Wolseley dealers) and Charles GS Buist, a large Morris dealership.

“From there I would go to Grange Road, starting with the Cleveland Car Company (Standard and Triumph), a look into Motor Delivery Company, which was a large Austin dealership, and finally the Vauxhall dealership of Sherwoods, which was also then in Grange Road.

“If I had a lot of time I might make it to Northgate and Minories, and in the late 1960s, there was a Saab dealership operating at the Drover’s garage in Cockerton.”

TODAY, all that there is to show for the Drover’s garage is a scratty piece of empty land beside Cockerton Silver Band Club on which there has been planning permission for houses for years without anything being built.

The garage was on the site of the Drover’s Inn, an ancient hostelry which apparently got its name as a stopping-off spot for Scottish drovers driving their cattle to Darlington’s famed mart.

In 1901, The Northern Echo reported how Robert Barker, the landlord of the Drovers', had been "badly mauled" in a vicious attack by three male and two female customers who refused to pay for their whiskey. Mr Barker and the Cockerton constable chased the assailants through the village and apprehended them.

“My grandfather, William Henry Beach, was the last landlord of the Drovers’ Inn in the 1920s,” said John Beach. “My father, Fred, started his haulage business in the yard behind the pub.

“He told me that he had the first tipping wagon in Darlington. It wasn’t hydraulic – it was hand cranked. In it, he carried most of the bricks that built the pre-war houses in Cockerton from a brickyard in Yarm Road.”

As the business grew, in about 1926, the pub ceased to function and was converted into garage premises. Mock Georgian timber was placed on it, either to make it look older or to mimic the effect on the Cleveland Car Company at the other end of town.

The garage was demolished in 1965. Jim Ruck’s cleaning company occupied the site for many years, but much of it has been vacant for at least a decade.