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SNAPSHOT 165: Petrol pumps at Gunnersbury Park Garage

James and Guy Loveridge of the SAHB have very kindly lent us three beautifully crisp press photographs for use in our Snapshots – and this is the first.  We suspect that it dates from 1926 at the earliest – because Gunnersbury Park, lying between Acton, Brentford, Chiswick and Ealing in West London, was purchased for the nation from the Rothschild family and opened to the public by Neville Chamberlain, then Minister of Health, on 21 May 1926.

In 1925, following the death of Leopold de Rothschild, his wife Maria sold the 200-acre Gunnersbury estate to Ealing Borough Council and Acton Borough Council for £130,000. Following the Great War, there was a demand for housing and building land in the area, and the Rothschilds could have got a much greater price had they sold the land for that purpose – but Mrs Rothschild sold Gunnersbury as a permanent memorial to her husband, on condition that it was only to be used for leisure, except for 13 acres for housing use.

We think, therefore, that this stylish garage was built to serve the residents of those houses and the many local visitors to this extensive park.

A further clue to the age of the picture comes from the petrol pumps.  They are made by Bowser, and sport the proud lettering on each one, “FILTERED” (although the D always seems to be obscured by the mechanism).  They appear to date from the late 1920s, before the introduction of more modern electrically-operated pumps.

Sylvanus Freelove Bowser (8 August 1854 – 3 October 1938) was an American inventor who is widely credited with inventing the automobile fuel pump.  Bowser marketed his patented kerosene pump from 1885, and the introduction of the motor car led him to develop it into the “Self-Measuring Gasoline Storage Pump”, launched in 1905.

Bowser became a generic term for fuel dispensers, then fuel tankers and finally for any kind of self-propelled liquid tanker for supply to consumers.  And we in the UK use it to mean a wheeled tanker that dispenses fresh water when normal supplies have failed.

As for the history of this stylish garage: what marques might it have handled from the very beginning?  We know from the internet that it was a Rootes Group dealer in 1965.  The Motor, sometime in October of that year, ran a classified advertisement stating: “Rootes Group Sales and Service, immediate delivery all models.  Gunnersbury Park Garage, Gunnersbury Avenue, Ealing, W.5.”  This rings true: both of our other two pictures feature cars from makers that would eventually become part of the Rootes Group.

Those pictures will have to wait for future Snapshots – but the first of those cars can already be seen lurking in the back of this photo.  More soon…

Picture courtesy of James and Guy Loveridge

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