The John & Andrée East Award
The Electric Lorry
Although Timothy East, the coal merchant of Princes Risborough, was not my direct ancestor, I bear his name and am related by marriage. My interest was tickled recently via an obscure route, that being the rapidly changing world of electric vehicles and transport, which will be as profound as the invention of the steam engine in the first industrial revolution, and a subject that I have been keen on for many years. Battery Electric Vehicles have been around since 1900 in some form or another, albeit with more basic technology than today and I was excited to find that Timothy East's company had two electric Lorries in the mid 1930's. Timothy East was born in 1845, the son of Thomas East, saddler and harness maker of Monks Risborough and he was apprenticed to James Cotter a fell-monger of Princes Risborough. A fell-monger dealt in hides and skins, preparing them for tanning. Eventually Timothy acquired the premises in Church Street, Princes Risborough, and began a partnership with Daniel Chowns, a coal merchant. The partnership ended in 1878 but Timothy continued with coal and fell mongering, later to be joined by four of his nine children, Rupert, Clement, Garnet, and Basil, who became his assistants and managers. In 1903 The Great Western / Great Central Railway appointed him as cartage agent which involved the collection and delivery of goods and parcels in the Risborough area. He also handled Salt, and Fertilisers, using a fleet of a dozen horses drawing seven carts and three vans. During The Great War he was permitted to use five horse drawn carts and two Lorries, a Halford and a Martini. At his premises he kept the Risborough Horse Drawn Fire Engine, manned by himself and his sons, a new fire engine house was built in the 1960's. By 1913 East's had become a limited company, and their interests widened into Farm and Building Supplies with the coal business which now owned twenty railway wagons bringing coal from Staffordshire, and Warwickshire and anthracite from South Wales.
Timothy East died in 1916 leaving his widow and nine children. His legacy included a Volunteer Fire Service of which he was the Lieutenant Hon. Secretary and Treasurer, Trustee of the Loyal Unity Lodge of Oddfellows (Princes Risborough) and of the Aylesbury District Oddfellows. Also a patron of the Princes Risborough Literary Institute, Manager of The Council School, having previously been Trustee and Treasurer of the Old British School. Also Guardian of the Poor and a Rural District Councillor. He attended the Baptist Church in Princes Risborough and played Base Viol in a local String Band. He was involved with the Princes Risborough Gas Light Company and The Drainage and Sewage Board. After his death in 1916 the company expanded with a premises in Castle Street Aylesbury and an office in the Metropolitan / Great Central goods yard at Aylesbury Station. By the 1930's the lorry fleet consisted of Garners and Fords. In 1936 there was a Willys, a Fordson, a Dodge and a Bedford. It was then that two electric Lorries were bought. They were made by Morrisons and had a range of twenty five to thirty miles with a payload of three tons.
Originally used for parcels they were later converted for coal deliveries serving private houses and the Risborough Gas Works with return loads of Coke from the gas works. Rupert and Clement East were directors of the Gas Light and Coke Company until it was taken over by the UK Gas Company in 1939. Six to eight tons of fertiliser per month were handled plus cattle cake and salt for local farmers. The Salt and Fertiliser business gradually changed into a flourishing horticulture and seed concern developed by Clement in 1952 and later run by his son Paul East a member of EFHS.
The coal company was sold to Charles Franklin of Aylesbury and later sold again to Charringtons, the last coal sack delivered by Timothy East Limited was on the 30th September 1964. The irony is that the Electric Lorries were environmentally friendly being quiet and having no tail pipe emissions, but the electricity that powered them plus their pay load was COAL, the dirtiest fuel available. My apologies for any errors to Paul East. **********************
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