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Palmer's Garage and Shop

Jill Muir

Most long time villagers will recall Freddie Palmer and his garage and his wife who kept the shop. They will also recall Freddie's interest in traction engines and the days when he went off to a Traction Engine Rally or Fair. The engine hooted and off it went with Freddie aboard, and many of us went outside our houses to see him go by. Recently I have been trying to discover a little more regarding Freddie's life, stirred into action by the photograph of Palmer's Garage in July's edition of KBS News, 2016.  History Society committee member Pat Dando has written an excellent book on 'The History of Alresford House', which contains much more regarding the Palmer family. Hopefully as I have taken a different slant in my research than Pat has, we don't clash too much. I do thank her for her generous help with many queries I had, which she readily answered.

Palmer's Garage, Southmoor

Palmer's Garage, Southmoor.

My discoveries found that Freddie's grandfather Corbett Palmer had been a Groom and Gardener in the village of Little Linford, near Newport Pagnall, and had been born in Daventry, Northamptonshire in 1845 and baptised in 16 May 1847 in Creaton, Northamptonshire. He married Ellen Louisa Coles 1869, at Thrapston, Northamptonshire. A girl child Augusta Mabel Jessie had been born to them on the 7th Nov 1873.

At the recording of the 1881 census Corbett is alone with his young son Frederick William Palmer aged 5 years old, who was born in Wellingbrough, Northamptonshire on 26 June 1864.  Ten years later Frederick William has left home and is living in Lambourn, Berkshire as a 15 year old Builder's apprentice. Was it just the apprenticeship that brought him to Berkshire?

A move back to Northamptonshire finds Freddie William Palmer [aged 34 years] marrying Cassandra Prudence Whitlock, [born 1878 at Woodend,Northamptonshire] at some time between October and December 1898 at Towcester, Northamptonshire. After marriage they settled down in 45 William Street, Kettering, a street of solidly built palisaded front houses, where Frederick was now employed as a Carpenter.

By the turn of the century, after a move back to Berkshire to the seven roomed Waggon and Horses public house in Longworth, Frederick William Palmer and his wife Cassandra [known as Chrissie] are the new licensed victuallers. They have been living in Longworth for over three years, and the census for April 1911 shows the couple, their nine year old daughter Violet Mable Palmer who was born in Kettering and a three year old son called Frederick Corbett Palmer - named after his father and grandfather, born in Longworth [now Southmoor] living at the Waggon and Horses. On 15 November 1915 a daughter Ivy Christine was born to this family.

In 1894, The Waggon and Horses was described as a very desirable, well-frequented, fully licensed, brick-built and tiled, road-side inn, with superior stabling (3 loose boxes) and coach house with loft over, fuel house and store house, piggeries, capital walled-in garden and convenient paddock; the house contained a small bar (with beer engine), bar parlour, tap room, capital sitting room with bay window, large stone-paved kitchen (with brick oven and close range), larder, excellent underground cellar, three first floor bedrooms and three attics.

Photograph of The Waggon and Horses, Southmoor

The Waggon and Horses, Southmoor

This change of occupation for Frederick may well have been encouraged by his mother Ellen Lousia Palmer [nee Coles] who in 1901 is landlady of the Plough Inn, Kingston Lisle. This link will show you The Plough Inn with the landlady and Freddie' mother Ellen Lousia Palmer aged 57 born Olingbury, Northampstonshire, standing outside.

The 1901 census at Plough Inn, shows Ellen's daughters [Frederick William's sisters] Maud Cecelia J.[aged 29; born Leicester Dec Qtr 1871] & Augusta Mary Jessie Palmer [aged 27; born Kettering, Northamptonshire, Sept Quarter 1873]. Augusta married Edward Crackle and she died at Gosport, Hampshire aged 90 years in June 1964.

Ivy Christine Palmer, aged 24 years in 1939 [dau of Frederick William Palmer] married Geoffrey Willis Smallwood, at Longworth Parish Church.  Geoffrey was an Outfitter and Ship's Chandler, living at Dock Entrance, Winmore Road, Thornbury, Gloucestershire on the banks of the River Severn. After marriage they moved back to Gloucestershire and three years later as Ordinary Seaman Willis Godfrey Smallwood, he was lost at sea on 17th Jan 1942 and is remembered on a family memorial in Berkeley Cemetery, Gloucestershire,and on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Hoe Promenade, Devon, which commemorates seamen of the Royal Navy who sailed from Plymouth.

In June 1944 Violet Mabel [dau of Frederick William and sister of Frederick Corbett Palmer and living with the family in 1939] married Albert Robertson, registered in Abingdon Registration district, but further details of this union have not been found.

In November 1945 Ivy married again, her new husband was Percy E Skidmore at Wantage, Berkshire and returned to live in Gloucestershire.

By 1919 the Palmer family had moved again and now resided for several years at the corner shop situate at the junction of the Faringdon/Hanney Roads, Southmoor until another move, prompted by Frederick's mechanical love and thoughts of opening another shop and garage, brought them to their last home, on the corner of Sandy Lane, and Faringdon Road, Southmoor.

The Southmoor filling station where Mr Frederick William Palmer first sold petrol in 1908 and his son Mr Frederick Corbett Palmer, with the help of his family and a young assistant continued to give a 16 hour a day petrol service, plus a cycle repair and accessory service. The adjoining general shop was opened in 1929 and was then run by Mrs Palmer with an assistant.

In December 1938 it was announced in the House of Commons that in the event of war, a National Register would be taken that listed the personal details of every civilian in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This Register was to be a critical tool in coordinating the war effort at home. It would be used to issue identity cards, organise rationing and as each individual was issued with a number on the Identity card, this became our National Health Number.

Looking through this published 1939 Register I found the Palmer family living at Southmoor Garage and Shop, Southmoor, Abingdon R.D., Berkshire, England. They had moved here after some years at the 'corner shop' and now lived in their new home 'Palmers'. Fredddie now had petrol pumps installed in his new property and was catching the passing trade of motorcar owners on their way through Kingston Bagpuize and Southmoor.

  • Frederick W Palmer
  • Cassandra P Palmer [Wife]
  • Male | Garage Proprietor
  • Violet M Palmer (later changed to Robertson, Palmer)[daughter]

In 1939 the villages of both Southmoor and Kingston Bagpuize were very different than they are today. Between Southmoor House and Palmers there were no houses on either side of the road. Several villagers recall that as children they had to collect the accumulators for their radios from Freddie Palmer’s garage.

Between Autumn of 1945 Frederick Corbett Palmer married Florence Maud Packer on the 30th November at St Giles Church, Reading, Berkshire, England and their only child, a daughter Marian was born the following December 1946.

Florence Maud Packer was born in 1905 at St Giles, Reading and was the daughter of Arthur and Alice Louisa Packer. Arthur worked for Huntley and Palmer's a biscuit manufacturer in Reading and lived in Southampton Street, Reading. Maud had two younger sisters, Violet May Packer and Alice Packer.

There are two good garages in Southmoor, one owned by Mr Palmer serving petrol from till midnight including Sundays, the other owned by Mr Cliff serving petrol from to (No Sunday Service) but with a day and night repair service. He also uses the snowplough when necessary.

There are two grocery and general stores in Southmoor, one owned and run by Mrs Palmer (the garage) and her staff, the other owned and run by Mr Yeates and his staff.

Source: History Society archives.

Freddie Palmer, Southmoor

Freddie Corbet Palmer in his workshop.

During the 1950's Freddie's mother Cassandra fell ill, and it is likely that she had gone to live with her daughter Ivy Skidmore in Gloucestershire, as on 11th June 1956 Freddie, Ivy and Violet's mother Cassandra died there. Freddie's father Frederick William died four years later in 1960 aged 88 years. Maud Palmer died aged 88 in September 1994 and Frederick Corbett Palmer died the year later, on 26th December 1995 also aged 88 years.

View of Palmers

''Palmers" with the stores on the left of photo.