Heritage Locations

Ramsbury Garage, Wilts


Claimed to have the oldest petrol pumps still operating in Britain.

Constructor:
Unclassified

Period of construction:
1900 - 1949

Transport Trust plaque:
No

Transport Mode:
Road

Address:
Laurel Garage, Ramsbury, Wilts, SN8 2QY

Postcode:
SN8 2QY

Nearest Town:
Marlborough

Heritage Centre:
No

Petrol was just under five shillings (25p) a gallon when the fuel pumps at a Ramsbury garage were originally installed. The pumps at Laurel Garage in Back Lane are thought to be the oldest working models in the country and they are lovingly maintained by 65-year-old mechanic Bernard White, who runs the garage with his mother, May, 86. Mr White was a teenager when his mechanic father, the late Jim White, decided to add another string to his business bow.

He said: "My father started selling petrol in the 1950s and we had two brand new pumps which were nothing but trouble so he went out and bought three secondhand from a petrol station in Great Bedwyn.

"Later he bought two more secondhand and they all worked well."

All five pumps survive but only two of them are in use nowadays, one for petrol and the other for diesel.

Because of the low useage the Whites have to charge 120p a litre, which equates to £5.53 a gallon.

Most weeks the garage has no more than 20 customers, who stop to save themselves a drive into Hungerford or to Marlborough for fuel.

Mr White and his mother have become used to tourists posing for photographs by the old petrol pumps.

Over the years they have had to fight off EC bureaucrats so that they can continue to serve fuel in gallons rather than litres from the 1950s petrol "dollies" with their glass Fina petrol tops.

Mrs White said: "Apparently they are the oldest in the country. They look better than the modern ones, there's an elegance to them. They're not vicious like those modern ones where it's hard to tell how much you've bought or whether they're actually putting any fuel in."

The family said many people probably drive past the garage without realising that pumps are still in use.

Jim White, who died in 1976, was a mechanic and a collector of anything to do with cars, trucks or motorbikes.

His forecourt and the yard behind the garage was littered with motoring memorabilia and at one stage the family had no fewer than 35 of the now rare Austin Atlantic, with its unique third headlight in the centre of its grille.

Mr White is determined to carry on with the family business. He said: "I will keep going as long as I can and as long as the pumps keep pumping."

Compare with the entry for West End Garage, Turnastone in Herefordshire.


Bibliography:

Aamo, Alv Sogstad, Petrol Station: A Visual History, Norsk Form (Norway) ISBN-10 8245200107 (1995)

Demaus, A. B., Motoring in the 20s and 30s. Batsford, ISBN 0 7134 1538 X(1979)

Flower, Michael & Wynn Jones, Raymond, One Hundred Years of Motoring, RAC, ASIN B00159N2JQ (1981)

Harmsworth, Sir Alfred, Motors and Motor Driving, Longmans, The Badminton Library, (1904)

Jakle, Prof. John, The Gas Station in America, John Hopkins University Press, ISBN-100801847230 (1994)

Pascal, Dominique, Stations Service, ETAI (France), ISBN 2-7268-8341-9 (1999)

Rolt, L. T. C., Motoring History, Dutton, ASIN B0010ZXCK4 (1964)

Russell, Tim, Fill 'er Up: The Great American Gas Station, Voyageur, ISBN-10 0760328714 (2007)

Ware, Michael, A Roadside Camera, David & Charles, ISBN 0 7153 6791 9 (1974)

Witzel, Michael, American Gas Station: History and Folklore of Gas Stations in America, MBI, ISBN-10 0760306494 (1998)



Opening Times:
Open normal daytime hours but visible at all times from the road.

How To Find:
By Road: In Back Lane, Ramsbury, which lies on a minor road between Hungerford and Marlborough.

Facilities:


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