W H WILLIAMS vehicles were a familiar sight on the region’s roads for decades.

The transport company, based in Spennymoor, County Durham, was built up from one man with a horse and cart to a 250-strong workforce with a busy fleet of 40 vans.

But in the mid 1980s, after failing to keep up with technology and suffering from the loss of business, the family firm shut.

On Saturday (March 14) former colleagues reminisced about the good old days at a 30 year reunion at Ferryhill Workingmen’s Club, in Ferryhill, County Durham.

Carl Williams, who ran the company with his father William Henry, said it was a pleasure to meet up with old friends from the only job he ever wanted to do.

He said: “My grandfather, also William Henry, started out in 1919 delivering groceries on a horse and cart and the next year got his first motorised vehicle.

“My father then me went into the business. I was there, getting involved from the minute I could stand, mostly with accounts but turned my hand to deliveries and mechanics.”

In the early years, delivering groceries from shops like Thompson’s Red Stamp Stores and removals were the mainstay of WH Williams.

Its vans also took ice from Icy Smith’s factory, in Durham, to ice cream parlours across the region, it was one of the first transport companies in the North to carry cattle to marts,worked for the Ministry of Food transporting meat and drove between banks swapping notes for change.

Big name furniture retailers including Hardy’s & Co and Sutton’s used WH Williams and after working for the Second World War munitions factory at Aycliffe it took full advantage of a boom in manufacturing.

Every day it had vehicles on the road taking electrical goods and textiles made in Spennymoor and Newton Aycliffe to stores and its own network of warehouses and later moved into delivering for mail order catalogues.

Linda Davison, nee Turnbull, 59, from Newton Aycliffe, was a sales and purchase ledger in 1974 when a Burroughs L3000 accounts machine was bought.

She said: “It was a huge monster but it was a computer and at that time we thought it was the bee’s knees.

“We were all proud to work for WH Williams, it was a good family firm full of gentlemen.”

Mr Williams, 67, of School Aycliffe, said: “There was a time Thorn never owed less than £1m because we did so much work for them, but then we stopped making things here on the scale we once had and mail order became huge to us.

“Unfortunately, technology moved faster than us, we’d be asked about a delivery and had piles of paper to sort through for answers when other companies could look it up on a computer.

“We were left behind and after changing and growing for years in 1986 we couldn’t go on, it was a sad time, my father never wanted to lay anyone off.”