John B Fenwick – Strathbungo Garage

First article in a series about Strathbungo’s motor garages.

Around 1915 John Booth Fenwick (1890-1958) first rented the backcourt at 724 Pollokshaws Road; a former bakery owned by the Gardner family and accessed through a pend from Pollokshaws Road. (The pend has long been blocked off and is now Otherside Records.) He set himself up as a motor car and cycle agent under the name of Strathbungo Garage. He shared the premises with a pawn shop and loan company, also owned by the Gardners.

This 1893 OS Map predates John Fenwick by 20 years. It shows the complexity of buildings in the backcourts of the Pollokshaws Road tenements, and the narrow Nithsdale Street entrance, later widened. The red outline marks the subsequent footprint of Fenwick’s. PHs = Allison Arms & Heraghty’s. Source: NLS Maps

A planning application from 1919 shows a covered garage at the rear of the backcourt. He was also leasing the ground fronting Nithsdale Street (“No 21”), which had previously been used by firms of slaters and plasterers. The garage could be accessed from either Pollokshaws Road through the pend, or from Nithsdale Street. The application was to extend the garage building in the backcourt.

Side elevation of garage and cross section showing new lean-to extension

John Fenwick’s back court garage with plans to extend it with a lean-to roof. The garage was entered through the door on the right from the pend from Pollokshaws Road. Source: Glasgow City Archives.

Then in 1923 Mr Fenwick built a much larger garage on 21 Nithsdale Street, the new building covering the entire site, shaded in pink. The existing garage to the rear was retained (marked “property leased by petitioner” on the map).

1923 planning location map. The proposed new garage covers the land at 21 Nithsdale Street, coloured pink. Source: GCA

Proposed Nithsdale Street elevation of the new enlarged garage, 1923. Source: GCA

At one point he also used 716 Pollokshaws Road – possibly so he had a shop front, on the other side of the Allison Arms. Fenwick himself lived variously at 167 Queen’s Drive, 158 Cromwell Road (now Niddrie Square), then later at 34 Carrick Crescent in Giffnock, until his death in 1958.

In 1925 JB Fenwick exhibited an AC Royal two seater for £333 at Scottish Motor Show .

The following year he took part in the London to Lands End Motor Trial in an 11.9hp Fraser Nash, securing a gold medal for completing the event .

That year he also sold a Frazer Nash Fast Tourer, reg PF 5858, to William Archibald Scott Brown, whose son overcame disability (a missing right hand) to once compete in a Formula 1 Grand Prix. This car is still in running order, currently owned by Chris Need.

Shiny silver 4-wheeler open top Fraser Nash car parked on grass

Frazer Nash Fast Tourer, reg PF 5858. Credit: H&H Auctions

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Frazer Nash works log for chassis 1097, sold 7 July 1926. Credit: Frazer Nash Archives

In August 1930 the premises were affected by a major fire caused by a dropped light, destroying eight motor cycles in the repair shop. The fire quickly spread to the main garage, a two storey structure containing nineteen cars. The building was gutted and the roof collapsed with damage estimated at £7,000. The fire alarmed those in the neighbouring tenements and businesses, including the Glasgow Corporation cleansing depot next door, but damage was contained to the site by the fire brigade .

By November he had submitted an application to rebuild the garage. The plans suggest it was the rear garage that had been destroyed in the fire.

1930 location plan for rebuilding of the rear garage after the major fire. Source: GCA

Detailed plan from 1930 application shows the garage layout, including the pend from Pollokshaws Road at the bottom, the old garage in blue, and the frontage of the main garage onto Nithsdale Street to the right. This is now the car parking outside World Foods. Source: GCA

Fenwick exhibited at the Scottish Motor Show again in 1934 .

John B. Fenwick, 21, Nithsdale Street, Glasgow.
OF particular interest to tradesmen are the handy little Sinker 5-cwt. vans to be seen on this stand. The range gives an idea of the variety of colour schemes available.
A 9 h.p. engine is employed, the bore being 60 mm. and the stroke 86 mm., whilst the gearbox provides three forward speeds and reverse, from which power is transmitted through an open propeller shaft, with HardySpicer heavy-duty flexible-disc joints, to a spiral-bevel-driven rear axle.
Incorporated in the steering gear is a new patented type of worm and nut, whilst a suitable degree of self-centring action is afforded. The equipment is ample, whilst the body provides a useful load capacity of 46 cubic ft.

JB Fenwick at the Scottish Motor Show, 16 Nov 1934. Credit: Commercial Motor Magazine Archive

Bill from 1939 - £230 for a new Vauxhall saloon

Fancy a new Vauxhall?Yours for only £230. Source: Una Hume

The Burrows Era

In 1957 the company was joined by Stevenson John (Steve) Burrows, an engineer who had spent five years at Albion Motors, then two years national service as a Motor Vehicle Technician. A new showroom was added in 1958. Fenwick died in 1958, and Burrows acquired the company in 1962, but continued to trade under the John B Fenwick name. In 1968-70 he acquired adjacent properties (up to 39 Nithsdale Street, and including the former Corporation Cleansing Depot) and set about completely rebuilding the premises, all the while remaining open for business. This redevelopment is the basis of the buildings on the site today .

The new Fenwicks garage opens. Evening Times, 14 May 1970. Source: Una Hume

The entire area was excavated to a depth of 12ft, to provide basement space for 50-60 cars, with body repair, paint shop and storage. A ramp was built to the rear to access the flat roof, providing more space for showing and storing cars. New petrol pumps and an automatic car wash were also installed (4s a go) . The redevelopment cost around £100,000.

Fenwick's forecourt

The new John B Fenwick forecourt and showroom in the 1970s. Source: Una Hume

The business of John B. Fenwick Ltd was finally wound up in 1982 . The site was subsequently used by a snooker hall at 19, a Dulux Decorator Centre at 21 Nitshdale St, and Ride-On Motorcycles, run by Carole and Alastair Hutchison, also using the address 21 Nithsdale St. Ride-On later expanded into the neighbouring premises at 27, 39 & 43 Nithsdale Street. When the Hutchisons retired the business closed and was replaced by World Foods, while the Decorator Centre was replaced, briefly, by Dubai Nights, c.2019.

Man beside motorbike, women sitting on the saddle

The Hutchisons in younger days. Source: Ride-On, Facebook

The basement car servicing area is now used by The Deep End, an arts space and social enterprise developed by Govanhill Baths Community Trust.

I have no photographs of the original Fenwicks garage, only the plans, but thanks are due to Una Hume, Steve Burrows’ daughter, who allowed me access to his scrapbook and 1970s collection of photographs. Take yourself back…

Additions and corrections are welcome.

References

1.
Hume U. Stuart Burrows Scrapbook (Personal Communication).
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Garage gamble paid off. Evening Times. 1970 May 14;
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Notices. The Edinburgh Gazette [Internet]. 1982 Dec 14 [cited 2023 Apr 24];1811. Available from: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/Edinburgh/issue/21237/page/1811/data.pdf
1.
The Scottish Show. Commercial Motor [Internet]. 1934 Nov 16 [cited 2023 Apr 24]; Available from: https://archive.commercialmotor.com/page/16th-november-1934/105
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£7000 garage fire in Glasgow. Dundee People’s Journal [Internet]. 16 Aug1930; Available from: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000698/19300816/100/0012
1.
£7000 garage fire in Glasgow. Dundee Courier [Internet]. 1930 Aug 13; Available from: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000564/19300813/201/0010
1.
£7000 garage fire. The Scotsman [Internet]. 1930 Aug 13; Available from: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000540/19300813/362/0007
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London-Land’s End Motor Trial. Birmingham Daily Post [Internet]. 1926 Apr 16; Available from: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000619/19260416/006/0006
1.
Round the stands. The Scotsman [Internet]. 1925 Nov 13; Available from: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000540/19251113/099/0012

3 Comments

  1. Stephen J Butler

    October 20, 2023 at 1:24 pm

    Lived across the road, no. 30, from Miller & Morrison and the building was one of Alexander “Greek” Thompson’s, very recently sadly demolished despite objections by the locals, as no longer safe. M & M also had a small funeral shop adjoining to their garage. Knew of the two sons of the owner Mr. Miller, David and Stuart.

  2. This is a wonderful article, Andrew – well done! I’d forgotten about Fenwick’s Garage. still there when I first came to the area, till the pictures jogged my memory. And aren’t they great – real motor trade hoopla, complete with dolly birds and an oil sheik!

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