Car showroom shoehorned into a residential street

Lennox Motors in Grove Road South when first built in 1938.
Lennox Motors in Grove Road South when first built in 1938.
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Two weeks ago I published a photo of what I said was the Ford main dealer showroom in Grove Road South, Southsea.

George Milliner tells me it was actually Lennox Motors repair garage and showroom. His father, who worked at Ford at Swaythling, Southampton, used to take his car there for servicing in the 1950s and ’60s. George also used to pass the garage each day on his way to school at St John’s College.

Lennox Motors garage and showroom, Grove Road South in the 1990s.

Lennox Motors garage and showroom, Grove Road South in the 1990s.

Stephen Palmer also dropped me a line. He says: ‘The photo of the Ford car showroom brought back memories for me as I had just passed a government training course as a car mechanic and got a job at Grove Road South for a short time during the mid-1970s as a mechanic.

‘There was a small car showroom, but the large main floor space was for car repairs and servicing. There was also a paint shop.

‘Inside the top front of the building (near where the Ford sign is) was the mechanics’ tea and rest room. On a Monday we had to collect our cleaned overalls for the week, but they were always horrible and damp.

‘I recall the garage workshop was dark and cold and we also had to supply most of our own tools and tool box.’

Stephen adds: ‘I seem to recall a small overflow Ford branch in New Road which was where some new Ford cars were prepared for customers. Afterwards they were usually taken to the Ford Grove Road South garage to await customer collection.’

Jane Smith dropped me a line to say she was pleased to see the mention of the Ford showroom as its Art Deco design was ‘such a striking and unexpected feature of the north end of Grove Road South’.

Jane just happened to have a cutting from the Evening News of 1938 which featured an advert for the opening of the garage.

It read: ‘There are several features which go to make the new premises of the Lennox Motor Co. Ltd in Grove Road South, Southsea, one of the most attractive on the South Coast.

‘Faced with the necessity of expansion once again, this growing business has gone in for a thoroughly modern building and the result is that the commanding new premises have been planned to house all the requirements of the modern motorist.

‘The growth of the firm is one of the city’s business romances. Formed in 1913 the firm started in a little shed in Lennox Road. The need for expansion resulted in an extra garage being taken in Marmion Road and further growth ended in the purchase of premises in Great Southsea Street. Then the Clock Tower premises were taken over as a showroom and it might have been thought that the business site, then a fairly big one, would have remained. So great, however, has been the volume of business in recent years that an ambitious scheme of expansion had to be undertaken. Great Southsea Street offered no further scope and so Grove Road South was selected.’

The feature continued: ‘The new premises for the site, building and equipment, cost in round figures £32,000. The architects, Messrs WH Saunders and Son of Southampton, were given a free hand in the design of the building, and in conjunction with the builders, Messrs FJ Privett Ltd of Southsea, they have done their work well. The site occupies a frontage of 160ft in Grove Road South and a depth of 226ft. Folding glazed doors running the whole width of the rear part of the building open out on to The Thicket.’

The showroom survived the bombing of the Second World War, but the high-class shopping area of King’s Road and Elm Grove, where its customers came from, was badly damaged and was never the same again.

By the 1990s the canopy had gone, the building was derelict and eventually demolished in 1995.

I suspect this marked the passing of the era of the combination of the expensive-looking car showroom, with the garage and petrol station, all shoe-horned into a residential street.

The name of the approach road, Hendy Close, is now the only reminder of the Hendy Lennox empire in this part of Southsea.

In the photo I published a fortnight ago I said it was a 1970s picture, but eagle-eyed Chris Bishop tells me it was taken in the 1990s as the car second from the left is a Ford Escort Mk5 which was not produced until 1990.

Chris worked at the garage as an apprentice between 1976 and 1981 and at that time there were petrol pumps at the front of the garage.