A safe pair of hands

A portrait of Reg Bradley in his Naval uniform at the end of World War 1.

Many readers will be familiar with the name R.J. Bradley (and sons Ltd) from the long-standing advert within these pages or as a customer. However, since the garage closed for business after just shy of 100 years of successful trading, most people will have no idea of the man behind the name.

Reginald Jason Bradley was born on January 2nd 1898, the sixth of seven children born in Radford, near Enstone. The family moved to the Wychwoods in about 1903 and as a young man, Reg, or RJ, was the telegraph boy. He was then apprenticed to Wally Rawlins at his garage in Milton, proving to be very able and a good, quick learner. So much so that, as the first war raged, Wally wrote a letter to the war office to implore them to excuse Reg from active service as his engineering talents were needed for the war effort at home.  However, RJ ‘did his bit’ joining the Royal Naval Air Reserve working on their aircraft.

After the war, he married Harriet Shephard, daughter of the head quarryman from the Quarry Hill site just outside Milton and was able to start his own garage business on Station Road in Shipton. General motor repairs, fuel sales, a taxi service and the all-important wireless battery collection and recharging service were all undertaken.

Just before the Second World War, Central Garage was built on the site of the now ‘Bradley’s’ housing development close to Shipton church.  This large workshop was commandeered by the Americans for the duration of the war as a storage depot, but after the war it was returned to RJ who continued to run the garage and eventually brought his two sons, Mike and Bob, into the business. He trained them well making them into excellent engineers with a huge enthusiasm for their chosen profession.

And it was not only cars they attended to. Many, many customers over the decades came to them or called them to all manner of problems – combine harvesters, tractors, lawn mowers or even table lamps, knowing that prompt, courteous and totally honest attention would be given.  In 1955 when Ian and Anne Matthews were to be married, Ian’s Vauxhall broke down so he was taken to the church in his best man’s farm van. Reg repaired the car and delivered it to the Cotswold Gateway Hotel in time for them to go on honeymoon. 

Following RJ’s retirement, Mike and Bob continued (with the assistance of many other able mechanics and apprentices) until Mike’s untimely death from cancer in 1972.  Bob continued, and then son Andrew joined the family tradition of engineering excellence. Towards the turn of the century, the Central Garage building was showing its age and developers had been itching to buy the site. However, finding a new home for the garage was not so easy. The brownfield site of the old railway yard seemed ideal but surprisingly local planners felt differently and made the move difficult and very costly, insisting on a stone build, with stone slate roof and even mullioned windows!

The project was completed in 2001. Sadly, Bob did not see the new garage as he died whilst competing in a motor sport accident in 2000, so Andrew took on the new premises, running it with the expected Bradley economy of words but excellent, honest and reliable service. 

However, time moves on and cars are not what they were. Repairing nowadays seems almost impossible; it’s often just a case of fitting new parts or scrapping perfectly good vehicles as things can no longer actually be mended. Insurance and increasing technology make economical repair almost a thing of the past and of course the march of the electric and hydrogen car means that the small independent garage could soon be consigned to the history books. With no child to hand the garage on to and the uncertain future of general car repair, Andrew put the garage on the market expecting a long wait but was surprised when it sold quickly, allowing him to seek a retirement home with a little workshop where he can pursue his new interest of woodworking: just swapping lathes.

Andrew, Mark and Adam and the Bradley family would like to extend warmest wishes to all of our wonderfully loyal customers for their patronage, some for many decades.

Thank you.

Kim Bradley

April-May 2021