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Summary:

Originally part of the land belonging to The Bear Inn - gardens, stables and glasshouses.

In the early 1900s more became used for car parking, garages, and a roadside petrol pump.

In 1934, the land was leased for Stradlings to open a garage and filling station.

This became Hungerford Garages, and later BMW Dick Lovett.

Photo Gallery:

 

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- The Bear, c1930, showing the petrol pump

- "Bath Road, Hungerford", c1945 (Raphael Tuck & Sons, Ltd, London)

- Stradling's Garage c1950

- Staff at Stradling's Garage c1950

- Staff at Stradling's Garage c1950

- The remains of the 1930s Stradling Garage before redevelopment, Jun 2004

- Dick Lovett BMW, Jun 2010.

Timeline:

Part of the gardens and stables of The Bear Inn:

Pre 1900: Land beloning to The Bear - gardens, stables and glasshouses.

Early 1900s: Increasingly used to support the popularity of the motor car - car parking, garages, and a roadside petrol pump.

Stradlings garage (1934-c1960):

1934: Horace Arthur Cadd bought The Bear, and he granted a 42-year lease on a plot of land with a 141ft frontage, and 90 foot depth to Stradlings of Newbury for the purpose of operating a garage and filling station.

1939 Blacket's Dir: Stradlings Ltd, motor works and garage, 40 Charnham Street.
1940 (Blacket's Dir; 42 Charnham Street) Stradlings Ltd, Motor Works & Garage.

(The next section is based on Alan Staddon's history of Bearwater, derived on information from Gideon Pickering and Jack Williams:)

Jul 1 1953: Reginald Ernest and Ena Fitch bought the Bear and on 17 Mar 1954 sold the freehold of the garage site to Harry Neil Stradling, (mis-spelt Streading in the Land
Registry).

May 3 1956: Mr and Mrs Fitch disposed of a further 162ft frontage to Berkshire and Reading Fire Authority, the intention being to replace the Fire Station near Faulknor Square with a new building. The local volunteer force argued against this, however, because traffic congestion on the A4 prior to building of the motorway meant it would take too long to reach the fire scene.

Chilton Garages (c1960-1972):

c1960: Stradlings sold out to the Chilton Group, at that time principal employer of labour in Hungerford. (See Chilton Factory). The Group diversified into the selling of motor cars. A Ford dealership and Mercedes Service Agency were established, in addition to the existing petrol station, on the former Stradlings’premises.

The Chilton Group also bought the petrol station adjacent to the Sun Inn on the opposite side of Charnham Street, thereby controlling petrol sales on both sides of the Bath Road. The combined gallonage was reputedly the highest delivered between London and Bath.

By 1969 management of these two outlets was in a parlous state and Gerald Ward, who had retained an interest, called upon his former Company Accountant to come back and sort things out. His name was Jack Williams and the full story can be enjoyed by reading his book: “A Man of Hungerford”,published in 2001.

Hungerford Garages (1972-2001):

On 1 Mar 1972 a new company, incorporated by Peter Knowland, a B.M.W. dealer in Faringdon and his friend Gideon Pickering, took over the whole garage business.  With Gideon as Managing Director they opened a B.M.W. showroom on the South site, adjacent to the Bear Hotel, with a workshop behind the petrol station on the North site, opposite what is now Bearwater. The inherited showroom was of an “art deco” design comprising a bow fronted centre section with curved glass and high squared false wing walls, more reminiscent of a pre-war cinemathan a car showroom. In 1975 the false walls had to be lowered to follow the roof contours after structural engineers became concerned as to their stability. The M4 motorway between junctions 9 and 18 was opened on 22 Dec 1971 and the two filling stations immediately lost significant amounts of trade.

The North site ceased selling petrol in 1975 and, in 1981, following negotiations with local planners, a new showroom was constructed so that B.M.W. sales and service could be on one site. That same showroom now houses the Dick Lovett Mini franchise and B.M.W. service reception. The new building was opened in 1982 by the Managing Director of B.M.W. GB with an evening launch event, attended by many Hungerford Garages customers. In order to provide adequate space for guests, Carters of Reading covered the entire car park with a lined and carpeted marquee, with furnishings extending into what was then the workshop, creating a seamless space for cocktails and canapés, followed by dinner. A surprise attraction, parked inside, was a Bell Jetranger Helicopter, owned by one of Gideon Pickerings’ friends who thought B.M.W. customers might be interested in learning to fly, or chartering the aircraft. It had landed in Bennett’s yard, touching down close to where number 1 Bearwater now stands, before being wheeled across the road into the marquee. At the end of the evening a draw was held for a trip in the Helicopter over the winner’s house. It was won by Alan Holland.

The now vacant South showroom was rebranded “Hungerford Garages (Specialist Vehicles) Ltd.” and became a Suzuki dealership selling mainly, as expected in a rural area, 4 wheel drive vehicles.

Nov 1982: Hungerford Garages stopped retailing petrol on this site, when they commenced a re-development of the site to accommodate further expansion of their new and used car business (see Hungerford Garages letter to customers, 8 Nov 1982). In 1983 the canopy was removed with the pumps, to provide a larger area for car parking. After a short period concentrating on second hand sales, the Suzuki franchise was replaced, in 1992, by one of the first Chrysler Jeep dealerships in the country. Their 4 wheel drive range, coupled with the Chrysler Neon, proving an instant success in the area. A new workshop was built between the showroom and Bear Hotel to accommodate servicing needs.

Dick Lovett (2001-now):

Dick Lovett, a family owned company, founded in 1959, bought the business in Apr 2001, continuing with a B.M.W. franchise, subsequently obtaining planning permission for construction of a new showroom on the old “Specialist Vehicles” site, (including the public toilets which were demolished).

Feb 2003 Dick Lovett  announced that the Chrysler Jeep division of Dick Lovett Companies had moved out of Hungerford to its Swindon branch because of shortage of space. (See "Jeep dealership has outgrown its town premises", NWN 27 Feb 2003).

Dick Lovett redeveloped the site with the new BMW sales unit, completed in 2004, leaving the premises next to The Sun available for their Mini franchise.

See also:

- Charnham Street Photo Gallery

- The Bear, 41 Charnham Street

- 39 Charnham Street (now Bearwater)