Williams History - by Richard Williams
First established in 1911 by Harry Williams who took the company from selling horse and carts to motor vehicles the company has been passed down the family from Clifford to Richard and now to Henry, who runs the business today. It is reassuring to know that Williams places the highest importance in delivering ultimate customer satisfaction.
Williams Automobiles has an experienced team, so customers can benefit from the added peace of mind of Williams's reputation within the motor industry.
My Grandfather Harry Williams started the automobile company in 1911 when he sold his first car a Belsize.
Prior to that he had sold fruit from the fruit market when he was a young boy, he earned enough money to buy and sell some horses and he used to catch the old Aust ferry to Wales, buy a cart, drag it back to Bristol, dismantle it and sell the parts.
The cart parts business expanded and he rented a garage in Hotwells in Bristol where he discovered mechanically propelled vehicles. He told his friends these automobile things might just catch on. They said he was mad and don’t bother to deal in them but after he sold his first one he was convinced they were the future.
After WW 1 he started selling cars from Grosvenor Street in St Pauls in Bristol but soon outgrew that and he bought an old dairy in Eastville, Bristol with the land around it. He took on Riley, Austin, Wolseley and Morris franchises followed by MG he also sold used Morgan three wheelers. By the outbreak of WW2 he was one of Bristol’s largest car dealers and he had bought one of Bristol’s most prestigious houses overlooking Clifton suspension bridge and the river Avon.
During WW2 the company’s site was requisitioned by the food ministry so he had to stop trading in cars and being bombed out of two houses in town he moved his family into the country.
After the war the company re started and dealt with army surplus vehicles (I remember some great stories I was told about them) until my father Cliff Williams took over the business in the early fifties and expanded it with BMC before it became known as British Leyland a sorry period in our motoring history.
I joined the company in the early seventies and despite having the luxury of driving new MGBs and TR7s I chose to drive a Morgan when my passion for Morgan cars started. I hill climbed and rallied them and rebuilt them from chassis up.
As Austin Rover declined the company took on Saab, then Skoda and Suzuki as well as Noble, Lotus, TVR, Subaru, Isuzu and Mazda and of course Morgan when the long standing dealer, a lovely guy and great friend called John Dangerfield retired. The company developed some high profile sites in central Bristol for these franchises.
In 2010 the pressure to sell volume in the mainstream franchises had intensified so much it was taking away the enjoyment of business so in consultation with my family we decided to sell the volume car operations to large PLCs and lease out some the properties.
My son Henry and daughter Ellie wanted however to get back to our personal family business roots and keep Morgan with Lotus after sales and re site this much smaller friendly operation in some original Cotswold Stone farm buildings in beautiful countryside on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment between Bristol and Bath just a few minutes from the M4 and M5 junctions, in fact much easier to get to than the city centre sites we had We converted them as a modern business complex in the most eco friendly way using traditional materials and heating them with a wood burning stove. With Paul Tovey on sales, Mike and Nick on service and parts, Ellie on Morgan hire and two great techies Lawrie and Tom the business was reborn.
With the use of the Internet, Sat nav and the mobile phone we think we have entered a new era of niche retailing and our customers tell us they like it.
So are we the oldest Morgan dealers? No, I think Lifes may certainly claim that but we may be the oldest automobile dealers trading in Morgans having been founded over 100 years ago however this could be disputed by Melvin who may have started up himself around the end of the 1800s.
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