How a workplace accident led to 70 years of car hires

Stephen and Alison Marshall.
Stephen and Alison Marshall.

The story of Lancaster car hire firm Marshalls had an unusual beginning.

In the early 1940s, Sidney Marshall moved to the city from Brighouse in Yorkshire with his wife Ada and young son Jeffery.

The family moved to Lancaster because Sid’s mother had a bed and breakfast on Westminster Road in Morecambe. He used to visit and liked the area, and after moving got a job at Nelson’s engineering firm as part of the war effort.

Sid, Ada and Jeffery set up home at 32 St George’s Quay where they sold rags and firewood.

Whilst at Nelson’s, Sid was injured in an accident. He later received compensation.With the money, he bought a car to resell. When it didn’t sell, he decided to hire it out. This was in 1945 and was the first vehicle to be hired out by what would become Marshalls Self-Drive.

When Jeffery returned from his national service he met and married his wife Elsie who had also joined the family firm, where she did several jobs including chopping firewood.

Elsie had worked at Douglas Clift solicitors in Lancaster and had knowledge of shorthand and typing, which was useful in the formative years of the new business.

In the early 1960s Sid and Ada’s son Terrence joined the business, which at that point was called S Marshall & Sons.

In December 1971, Sid Marshall passed away aged 65.

Now with Jeff and Terry at the helm, Marshalls later began to expand, buying an old slipper factory off Morris and Lowe, and increasing the vehicle fleet to include minibuses.

Ada Marshall passed away in 1977 and by the late 1970s, when Sid’s grandson Stephen Marshall became the third generation of the family to join the business, the firm became Marshalls Self-Drive. Jeff retired in 2000 and the business moved to St George’s Works. In 2005, Terry retired and after St George’s Works got a compulsory purchase order, Marshalls was forced to move onto the Lune Industrial Estate.

Then in 2010 the firm moved to Lancaster Leisure Park, its current home, where it continues to operate its fleet of cars, vans and minibuses, this year marking its 70th birthday.

By this time Stephen had married Alison, so today another S & A Marshall run the company, just like Sid and Ada all those years earlier.