Date of current building:
- Charnham Sreet c1970, showing the Mobil garage on the left, and IA Bennett's on the right.
- Bear Corner, c1925, showing Stradling's shop on the right, and the petrol pumps at the Bear Hotel on the left.
- Charnham Street c1980. A poor composite photo showing Hungerford Garages on the left, and IA Bennett's on the right.
- Aerial view of Hungerford Garages, c1982.
- The Mobil Garage, 13 Nov 1959 (note the gasometer still in use).
- Dick Lovett Mini Garage, Jun 2007.
The land was originally part of the Sun Inn, 36 Charnham Street.
"Sun Garage", ?? -c1960:
1940 Blacket's Dir: "Sun Garage", A Middleton - electrical contractor. Adjacent was "Sun Inn, A Bravery; Miss O E Bravery, Music Teacher".
Robert James recalled: "Arthur Bravery ran the pub with his wife and daughter, who taught piano. Alf Middleton was an electrician by trade and he lived in the pub and married. They had no children. Alf was also the local comedian, and played the accordion and piano as well as other instruments. When James & Co took a day off to go to the coast (no holidays in the 1920s and 30s) my father and uncle always took Alf to entertain the men with songs in the "charabanc". Arthur Bravery always had good beer. He kept the barrels in the kitchen and served the beer through a hatch into the saloon or the "Jug and Bottle". There was a row of three petrol pumps along the pavement which were closed down during the war as they could not get petrol."
A painting of the Sun Inn in the 1930s showing the three petrol pumps is reproduced in Roger Day & Tim Green's "A Mortoring History of the Kennet Valley", page 95.
Chilton Garages (c1960-1972):
(Thanks to Gideon Pickering and Alan Staddon for the following:)
c1960: Stradlings sold out to the Chilton Group, at that time the principal employer of labour in Hungerford. (See Chilton Factory). The Group diversified into the selling of motor cars. A Ford dealership and Mercedes Service Agency were established, in addition to the existing petrol station, on the former Stradlings’premises.
The Chilton Group also bought the petrol station adjacent to the Sun Inn on the opposite side of Charnham Street, thereby controlling petrol sales on both sides of the Bath Road. The combined gallonage was reputedly the highest delivered between London and Bath.
By 1969 management of these two outlets was in a parlous state and Gerald Ward, who had retained an interest, called upon his former Company Accountant to come back and sort things out. His name was Jack Williams and the full story can be enjoyed by reading his book: “A Man of Hungerford”, published in 2001.
Hungerford Garages (1972-2001):
On 1 Mar 1972 a new company, Hungerford Garage Ltd, incorporated by Peter Knowland, a B.M.W. dealer in Faringdon and his friend Gideon Pickering, took over the whole garage business. With Gideon as Managing Director they opened
- a B.M.W. showroom on the south site (40 Charnham Street), adjacent to the Bear Hotel, and
- a workshop behind the petrol station on the north site.
The M4 motorway between junctions 9 and 18 was opened on 22 Dec 1971 and the two filling stations immediately lost significant amounts of trade.
The north site ceased selling petrol in 1975 and, in 1981, following negotiations with local planners, a new showroom was constructed so that B.M.W. sales and service could be on one site. That same showroom now houses the Dick Lovett Mini franchise and B.M.W. service reception.
The new building was opened in 1982 by the Managing Director of B.M.W. GB with an evening launch event, attended by many Hungerford Garages customers. In order to provide adequate space for guests, Carters of Reading covered the entire car park with a lined and carpeted marquee, with furnishings extending into what was then the workshop, creating a seamless space for cocktails and canapés, followed by dinner.
A surprise attraction, parked inside, was a Bell Jetranger Helicopter, owned by one of Gideon Pickerings’ friends who thought B.M.W. customers might be interested in learning to fly, or chartering the aircraft. It had landed in Bennett’s yard oppoosite (39 Charnham Street), touching down close to where number 1 Bearwater now stands, before being wheeled across the road into the marquee. At the end of the evening a draw was held for a trip in the helicopter over the winner’s house. It was won by Alan Holland.
Dick Lovett (2001-now):
Apr 2001: Dick Lovett, a family owned Swindon company, founded in 1959, bought the business in Apr 2001, continuing with a B.M.W. franchise, subsequently obtaining planning permission for construction of a new showroom on the old “Specialist Vehicles” site, (including the public toilets which were demolished).
Feb 2003: Dick Lovett announced that the Chrysler Jeep division of Dick Lovett Companies had moved out of Hungerford to its Swindon branch because of shortage of space. (See "Jeep dealership has outgrown its town premises", NWN 27 Feb 2003).
Dick Lovett redeveloped the site with the new BMW sales unit, completed in 2004, leaving the premises next to The Sun available for their Mini franchise.
In 2018 it became public knowledge that Dick Lovett were aiming to relocate the BMW and Mini garages to a green-field site near Thatcham, to the east of the West Berks Hospital. See "BMW dealer to quit town, NWN 11 Oct 2018. However, these plans were turned down by the planners.