E.A. Major & Sons business started in the early years of the 20th century at 11, Newtown Road, Highbridge, when Edward Arthur Major took over the carting business of a Mr. L. Channon, (his uncle). Initially work was of a local nature – materials for Council road works and cheese haulage from farm to auction, or to railways for despatch to distant points. Work continued along these lines with Edward’s sons Harry and Reginald joining their father as they became old enough. Harry still a teenager running the business during the latter years of the First World War when Edward was in the army.
The first lorry came in 1925, an ex W.D. chain drive Albion which Harry drove, followed later by a second-hand A.E.C. which Reg. drove. The first new vehicle was a 3 – 4 ton Leyland in 1928. All these vehicles were on solid tyres. Edward was able to handle the heaviest horse and cart but had no inclination to handle these new fangled vehicles, never having learnt to drive. Many new customers were acquired over the ensuing years. Grain was collected from Avonmouth for milling at Harold Brown’s corn store in Church Street; cattle food from the same point was collected for Willett & Son and delivered to many local farms. Timber from John Blands yard was delivered over a wide area. Tinned milk from the Wilts United Dairies at Bason Bridge was carried country wide – Rowntrees of York being a regular trip. The Highbridge Bacon Co. employed the Company to collect pigs from surrounding farms and to deliver sides of bacon.
To these customers must be added the needs of Colthurst Symons brick and tile yards. Furniture removals were also included together with many smaller customers; obviously there was never a shortage of work throughout the thirties.
The first diesel engine – a Crossley vehicle – came in 1934, followed by Albions in 1936-7-8 these being the preferred marque from then on. One of these vehicles is owned by a North Country enthusiast and is still on the road having been preserved.
At the outset of WW2, two Company vehicles were put under the control of the Ministry of War Transport and one compulsorily taken over by the Military. The remaining vehicles hauling for existing customers, plus any wartime requirements, one of which was collecting Prisoners of War from a camp at Goathurst and taking them to work on local farms and then returning them at night.
On the cessation of hostilities, normality returned to the transport industry. Harry’s son Jack and Rex joined the Company, Jack initially as a driver and subsequently was put in charge of the workshop and Rex on the office staff. In 1949 the depot at 11 Newton Road became a B.R.S. Depot under the Governments nationalization policy.
This lasted for some 4 ½ years until a change of Government saw free enterprise return to the industry, and E.A. Major & Sons (Transport) Ltd., was formed. Trade flourished in the booming post-war years, many new customers came along, the most important being the Somerset Wire Co. at Bridgwater. Unfortunately, the brick and tile trade was wound down and was almost completely ended by the mid 70’s.
Many of the drivers had a long association with the Company. Philip Stark started pre-war and after he finished driving, lived at 11 Newtown Road and became the caretaker. Jack Chedzoy and Gordon Blake were also with Majors pre-war, Jack being chiefly concerned with the sand pit and the delivery of sand to the many local brick yards, while Gordon, after returning from war service, was engaged on long distance trips. Jack Gamblin made the change from agriculture to road transport and joined the firm in the late 1950’s, he continued until its closure in 1988. His knowledge of things agricultural earned him the nickname of “Farmer Jim”! Stanley Crandon joined the Company as a driver on completion of his National Service, but in later years became a member of the workshop staff until the Company’s closure.
Jack’s wife Ruby took over the accounts in the early 1970’s and Harry took a less active part in the Company, finally retiring in 1978. Reg had died in 1974. During the next ten years Jack and Rex with Ruby’s assistance ran the Company, but with the biggest customer leaving the area and with ever increasing difficulties in trading conditions the Company closed in 1988 and sold part of the premises for development. At this point Jack bought a lorry and operated from the remaining part of the premises as a sole trader; Rex did similarly with a Transit van. In 1997 the remaining part of the premises were sold and the Major family’s association with transport and Highbridge came to an end after almost 100 years
(Information supplied by Jack and Rex Major).