Four generations of Hardwicks in 1967.
Back row, left to right: John R Hardwick Senior, John W Hardwick Junior and John W Hardwick Senior.
Front: John R Hardwick Junior. Image source: The Epsom Herald.
The Hardwick family firm broadly did most things involving heavy vehicles and we will come to the details shortly. Their yard in Cox Lane, West Ewell was purchased in 1931 and they built a house there called Glenair (demolished in 2000). Unfortunately, after John W Hardwick Junior died in 1988 there was no one to carry on the business and everything was sold. However, the family tradition lives on: his grandson, Darren Clark, without whom I could not have written this story at all, currently owns a firm based in Gatwick, which carries out heavy vehicle recovery.
John Wallace Hardwick Senior (known as Jack Senior, 1890-1970)) was born in Tolworth and in the 1911 census he worked as a fish hawker. Darren tells me that he was a real-life 'Del Boy' and would deal in anything to make a bob or two. It was this Jack who started dealing in horses and carts and buying up old steam engines for their scrap value; he set up 'shop' at an old coaching yard in Alpha Road, Surbiton.
John Wallace Junior (Jack Junior) was born in 1918 and there were four other children - George, Billy, Chris and Ivy. When Jack Junior was thirteen Jack Senior sold the Surbiton site and bought the west side of a yard in Cox Lane, West Ewell. The east side of the yard belonged to a farming family named Turner and in 1937 Jack Junior married their daughter Edith. Darren describes Jack Junior as a giant of a man, at 6 feet 5 inches and 22 stone, and it is very obvious from the way he talks about his grandfather that he means it in much more than just the physical sense.
Vehicles and business
As mentioned, Jack Senior had dabbled in buying up steam engines for scrap, but after the Second World War he and Jack Junior took this up in a big way: however, when they acquired an important specimen they would restore and exhibit it (or 'rally' it, to use the correct term). One such specimen was the 'Lord Lascelles' (a Burrell Showman's Road Locomotive, Number 3886, built in 1921), which the Hardwicks bought in 1951 (and re-named Tulyar after the 1952 Derby winner). This beautiful engine, still exhibited regularly today, is so renowned that Corgi made a limited edition model of it.
Although the showman's engine might be the 'glamour puss' in the above photo, the Foden Company also made steam vehicles and some of their earlier models are just as beautiful and treasured as 'Success'. (And, incidentally, in the newspaper photo at the beginning of this piece the four generations of Hardwicks are standing in front of a 1914 Foden steam wagon.)
In addition to their other activities, during the 1950s and 1960s the Hardwicks had one of the largest crane hire fleets in the country and imported the world's biggest lorry-mounted crane from the United States.
Darren Clark is the son of Jack Junior's youngest daughter, Carol. When Jack became ill in the mid-1980s Darren moved in with him, but was too young to take over the business when his grandfather died in 1988. So the decision was taken to sell off everything and these next pictures show the Cox Lane yard after the firm had vacated it.
The Cox Lane yard. Images courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum
With grateful thanks to Darren Clark. There are many more pictures of the Hardwicks, their premises and vehicles on Darren's flickr photostream and Facebook.