Nostalgia: The history of Robinson Brothers of Wray

Terry Robinson working in the coal yard, circa 1970s. Terry was born in 1932.
Terry Robinson working in the coal yard, circa 1970s. Terry was born in 1932.

David Kenyon looks back on the history of Robinson Brothers of Wray, haulage contractors and coal merchants.

The business started circa 1920 when Terry and Harry Robinson’s grandfather Harry purchased the local coal merchants business from Job Kenyon of Roeburnside Farm, Wray.

Buildign the enw garage at Wray, 1968-69. The old garage was kept in use for as long as possible.

Buildign the enw garage at Wray, 1968-69. The old garage was kept in use for as long as possible.

In the early years the Robinsons used horses to deliver coal but by 1930 their first motor lorry had been purchased.

During the Second World War the sale of firewood formed a large percentage of the business revenue as coal for domestic use was in short supply.

A year after the war ended, in 1946, Terry and Harry’s father William Burrow Robinson purchased the local garage from Eric Ingle. The sale included an Austin 18 motorcar to be used as a taxi and two Bedford 32 seater coaches.

Eric had previously purchased the garage from George McIntyre who ran a local taxi service. George later became a teacher at Lowgill and Leck schools.

After the war the country gradually started to get back on its feet and by the 1950s the economy was booming. Work started again on the country’s roads, many being Tarmaced for the first time. Also, in the late 1950s, work started on Britain’s first motorway, the Preston by-pass.

This was a time of opportunity for many small village haulage contractors and coal merchants and many began to expand including the Richardsons of Hornby, Pelters of Whittington, Moores of Carnforth and Robinsons of Wray.

Terry Robinson and his elder brother Harry were keen to take advantage of the booming economy. One of the jobs that brought a regular income for village haulage contractors was providing a man and wagon for the local council’s roadworks. Terry remembers with fondness the few years he had with Lunesdale Rural District Council.

Another regular income for the Robinson Brothers, as it was for many of the village haulage firms, was the provision of coach travel, mostly transporting village children to Burton-in-Lonsdale Secondary Modern School. They also provided taxi transport for children from the outlying farms to local village schools.

Harry’s wife, Dora, drove the taxi to Roeburndale for many years. The coaches were also used for trips to Blackpool and many other places of interest.

One of the hazards of haulage expansion was the threat of nationalisation by the post-war Labour Government. This took effect from January 1 1948 and was a disaster for both the country and the industry as a whole. The road transport industry was denationalised in 1951.

Following privatisation, Terry Robinson and his older brother Harry made full use of the opportunity to further expand their business. The different characteristics of the two brothers complemented each other well.

Harry was spirited and confident, while Terry was cautious and hard working, thus ensuring success.

One of the contracts that Robinson Brothers obtained was the haulage of Ingleton granite chippings for road spraying. These were among the best in the country.

A regular journey for the firm was transporting these chippings to towns on the east coast and returning with coal from collieries such as Glass Houghton at Castleford, North Yorkshire; Thoresby in North Nottinghamshire and Parkside at Newton-le-Willows.

Salt from Cheshire was also transported for many local authorities. Terry remembers taking salt as far as Glasgow. At that time a large part of the haulage business was transporting limestone and Tarmac from the quarries of Nether Kellet.

Robinson’s garage also sold petrol and diesel fuel. You filled up your tank and booked it down for later payment. If you could get to the pumps because of all the parked wagons that is.

It was not all work for the Robinson Brothers. Terry had a penchant for fast cars and was the proud owner of an E-Type Jaguar, MG Midget and many others. He also had a small zoo, after buying some animals and birds when Heysham Head closed.

Harry loved horse racing and was part owner of a race horse. Harry and his wife Dora also spent time in Portugal where they owned a holiday home.

Harry retired from the business in 1988. The wagons were disposed of and the land and garage sold for housing. Terry continued the coal business until 2000 when the coal yard was sold for housing, ending three generations of coal and haulage with the Robinson family.