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SNAPSHOT 35: Argyll 1906

This 10-12 hp 2-cylinder Argyll was registered early in February 1906 and one cannot help but thinking from the dress of the occupants, plus the leafless trees, that it was probably around that time of the year that the photograph was taken. Perhaps if it had been a sunny day they might have looked a little more cheerful. It was actually what today might be called a PR shot as it was used to promote the firm of Sanders, Morgan, and Company of Cheltenham who were not only agents for the Scottish Argyll, along with other makes, but also offered chauffeur-driven cars for hire.

Whether employed by companies or individuals, chauffeurs were generally anonymous, but in this case at the wheel is one William Baggs. When and how he learnt to drive is not known, but he must have been good at his job as by 1913 he was running a car-hire business of his own, using Cadillacs, from the compact garage that he had established in St Luke’s Road, Cheltenham. The premises were an existing terraced property with an entrance-way beside it that led from the narrow side-street through to a cobbled courtyard around which there had originally been stabling that was converted to a workshop and individual garaging.

Much paperwork from the business has survived and so there is evidence of a loyal clientèle who had their cars and motorcycles serviced and repaired at St Luke’s Garage. There were also regular sales of a diverse range of mainly second-hand cars, from AC and Bianchi at the beginning of the alphabet through Napier and Singer to Wolseley at the end. In addition, petrol was initially sold in cans, then from hand-operated pumps ‘across the pavement’, whilst the main replacement items were an apparently incessant supply of tyres of all makes. The car-hire side of the firm was maintained and in the 1930s Austin 20 limousines were the favoured transport.

William’s son Harry joined him in the late 1920s and after the Second World War and his father’s demise he continued running the garage until December 1996 when he died at the age of 88, having gone to work daily until the end. Today if you pass along St Luke’s Road the house is still there, a private dwelling suitably refurbished, and no evidence remains of the use to which the building was put for over 80 years.

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