James Loveridge has sent us this fascinating picture from a promotional postcard printed by the garage of C. J. Frost in the Norfolk village of Mulbarton. The reverse of the postcard tells us a little more about his business: he advertised himself as “Motor, Motor Cycle and Cycle Agent.”
The precise date is unknown, but the car in the picture is almost certainly a late 1920s Hillman 14, possibly the 1928 facelift that followed the takeover of Hillman by the Rootes Group – so this could very well be a picture taken between then and World War II.
Remarkably, we can find out much more about this garage thanks to the Mulbarton History website. The first mention of Charles James Frost was in the 1922 Kelly’s Directory. Frost had been working at the premises since before World War I. In 1915 he held several bicycle agencies including BSA, New Hudson, Premier and Sparkbrook, and could build cycles ‘to Customer’s own specification from £3. 3s. 0d; second-hand cycles from £1’. But he was already dealing in and repairing motorcycles and cars. At some time he gained the Ford franchise.
An advertisement for 1925 showed the same building as seen in our Snapshot, but with different wording and without the second bay to the left that can be seen here. Cycles were still a major part of the business, with the ‘Assembling Shop’ showing a bicycle wheel being spoked and balanced – but the advert also showed no less than three Model Ts and proudly listed agencies for motorcycles as well as cycles. By 1930 Frost was offering ‘Cars for hire, open or closed. Also Ten-seater Bus.’ He was clearly a fine entrepreneur. By 1975 the buildings looked very different, but the business was still being run by Charles Frost’s sons.
Despite the rather grainy image we have here, there are still some delightful details to be seen: signs for Raleigh and New Hudson bicycles; the ‘Authorised Service’ sign for Ford and Fordson cars, trucks and tractors; the Shell and National Benzole petrol pumps; and yet more signs for Hallite seals and possibly, but partly obscured, for Elswick cycles. And, given that this was a publicity picture from a man with a fine sense of promotion, that simply has to be Charles Frost standing in the doorway of his garage.
Picture courtesy of James Loveridge. We are grateful to the Mulbarton History website for the additional information.