Ewell Downs Motor Services

An aerial view of Ewell Downs Motor Services taken in July 1933
An aerial view of Ewell Downs Motor Services taken in in July 1933.
John Swift (the garage owner) lived in the white house
shown in the bottom left hand corner.
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre Collection

Ewell Downs Motor Services was founded by John Swift in May 1928. It was a one-man venture, started after he had bought (for £400) a field near Ewell village, later to be given the address of 26 Reigate Road, where he began serving the fledgling motor industry. The business was floated as a private limited company in May 1929, with Swift as Chairman and Managing Director. The choice of site was an inspired one, since in 1932 the Ewell Bypass was laid out to the east of the field and a roundabout arrived just next to the services. Swift ran the business until his death in 1946. Eventually, in 1968, Ewell Downs Motor Services was sold to Exxon Corporation. It is still trading in the same location as the Esso Garage.

John Swift's daughter Hazel, who married Stuart Wynn Jones, wrote of her father: 'He moved to Epsom in 1919, when Mr. Priest - for whom he had worked in Russia in 1908 - recommended him for the post of Works Manager at a new garage which was being set up. This was the Woodcote Motor Company. I think the Chairman was Mr. Simpson and the Managing Director was his son-in-law, Captain Norman. At that time Woodcote Motors stood at the south end of the High Street, on the left, just before the beginning of South Street, where there is now a big car park next to Waterloo House. I have a faint memory of going to the workshop as a child and seeing the long frames of cars (the chassis), and the blacksmith's forge which was a vital part of the workshop. In 1928 my father left Woodcote and set up on his own in Ewell as Ewell Downs Motor Services'.

John Swift wrote an autobiography, which he called:

'Early Days in the Motor Trade'.

In an exhibition, History on Your Doorstep, at Bourne Hall Museum in September 1982, Hazel Wynn Jones displayed some photos of the old garages. There was so much interest in these that over the next six months she prepared a transcript of her father's notes. To introduce these, she wrote: 'In 1946 my father, John Swift, was very ill. He could no longer go to work (he was Managing Director of Ewell Downs Motor Services, which he had founded in 1928), and was fretting at home. I asked him to write some notes about his early life, and although he had never written anything before, apart from business letters etc., he tackled the project with great enthusiasm. He did not live to complete the project, but he was able to convey something of the excitement of a young man working in the motor trade at home and abroad (Russia and Vienna) between 1904 and 1915. My father had been very ill and in constant pain while he was writing these notes - it looks as though he wrote at most one paragraph a day, and probably for several days he would have been unable to write at all. He started them in February, and on April 19th he died of cancer. Had he had more time, his notes would have covered his life here in Epsom and Ewell. I have transcribed his handwritten notes because I enjoyed reading them so much, and hope that they will give pleasure to others'.

In order to complete the story, Hazel got in touch with Frank H. Lee, who had been Stores Manager and later Company Secretary of Ewell Downs Motor Services Ltd. In January 1984 he wrote a continuation, picking up the life of John Swift at 1916 and taking it onward to his death, with more on the running of the business from 1946 to 1968, when it was sold to Exxon. His account of

Ewell Downs Motor Services

is one of the best records we have of business enterprise in Ewell.

These two accounts have been kept at Bourne Hall Museum, which also holds early photographs of the business. The records have been made available through transcripts by Sheila Ross.

Jeremy Harte September 2012




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