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Author Topic: Gray's of Chatham  (Read 24525 times)

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Offline Ajemp

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #107 on: December 07, 2015, 21:32:14 »
Well Peterchall, all I can say is well done, you've certainly covered every aspect there is re. the Grays, I never expected any one to delve so deeply into the history of the Company. My question in post no. 1 was did any one know the origins of the Grays? I bet the sons are unaware of most of uncovered knowledge we know now. I can recall my five years working for them was that the old motor bike work shops were switched to under the new show rooms on the left side of picture.

The Gray Hire section on the right was not part of the Company in the 60's. Once again Peterchall, you deserve a medal for your contribution on research.

ajemp.


Offline peterchall

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #106 on: December 07, 2015, 17:49:38 »
The following contains little, if any, new information, but is a summary of the information we already have, in chronological order.

As stated near the start of the thread, I first heard of one or both of the Gray brothers working at Sharman’s cycle and radio shop in King Street, Rochester, about 1935-1938. I next knew of one or both of them racing 500cc F3 cars at Brands Hatch.

From there the following mainly concerns the history of Nos 14 and 16 on the south side of Chatham High Street and, on the north side of the High Street, odd Nos 1 to 11 between the Sir John Hawkins Hospital and the opening leading through to the river – what I will call the West Block – and odd Nos 13 to 19, between that and the Taste of China (originally the Prince of Orange pub) – what I will call the East Block.

We know that Gray’s were not there in 1937 (Kelly’s, Reply#46). Their first known presence is in the 1939 newspaper advert (Reply#92) showing Don Gray as the proprietor of a cycle shop at No14 (also No 16?), which suggests he was the elder of the two brothers. Norman would have been 20 and below adult age (then 21) and so unable to be a business partner, although he may have been an employee. In 1937 there was a Mansford’s cycle shop opposite in West Block, but whether he was there in competition in 1939, we don’t know.

Then comes the photo (Reply#29) of No11 – at the east end of West Block (ex-Mansford’s shop) – showing what has now become Gray’s of Chatham. It is undated but I suspect it is early 1950’s with the shop at No 14 now dealing in motor bikes, hence the ‘Cycle Dept’ designation of No 11. Presumably the two men are Don and Norman Gray and, also presumably, now partners.

By 1955 they were occupying 11 to 19 – the shop in the photo and the whole of East Block – and were definitely a partnership (Kelly’s, Reply#46).

Gray’s of Chatham Ltd came into existence as a private limited company on 1st May 1956, presumably still occupying the same premises.

Ajemp worked for Gray’s from 1959 into the 1960’s

Somewhere along the line the other premises of West Block must have become available to Gray’s, and on 19th May 1965 Norman Gray Ltd was incorporated as a private limited company to deal in real estate. It probably bought the whole of West and East Blocks and supervised their rebuilding, resulting in the scene in Reply#93, with Norman Gray Ltd owning the property and renting it to Gray’s of Chatham Ltd. There seems to be cars in the showroom of East Block, at the far end of the first photo, so was this when they first became dealers in those East Asian makes? The West Block - and presumably the shops on the south side of the High Street – seems well stocked with motor-bikes and scooters

However it looks as if the firm outgrew itself as a motor-cycle dealer and by 1972 had vacated West Block, which was then rebuilt into a quick-service facility and leased to Merritt’s (Reply#22). The East Block seems to be still devoted to cars and they still have shops on the south side of the High Street devoted to motor-bikes (Reply#2). A sign indicates that it is now a Jet petrol station opposite.

Gray’s of Sittingbourne Ltd was incorporated on 7th May 1973 and, although having the same registered address, is operated independently of Gray’s of Chatham and is of no concern to this thread - so mentioned here only for completeness..

Grayhire (Medway) Ltd was incorporated on 9th July 1973, presumably as a self-drive rental concern.

Now for a personal note. In 38 years of teaching Automobile Engineering at Medway and North-West Kent Technical Colleges, and much committee work, I had contact with many of the local traders, but not so Gray’s. They didn’t mix with the mainstream motor trade and I don’t even remember if they sent students to the college. Perhaps it was because they dealt mainly in motor-cycles and such cars as they handled were regarded as ‘odd’ East Asian makes. The motor-cycle mechanic is a different animal to the motor mechanic, and the nearest college running courses for motor-cycle mechanic apprentices was somewhere in south-west London.

Anyway, upon retirement in 1992 I lost my facility for doing my own car maintenance in college workshops and had to become a ‘customer’ for my car maintenance. It coincided with me taking a Kia Pride from my middle daughter’s then partner’s driving school. Being about as basic as cars come it was an ideal driving school car - indestructible.

Thus it was that I had my first personal contact with Gray’s, who serviced my Kia. I would drop it off and collect it outside the East Block, and the paperwork for servicing, sales and parts was all dealt with at one desk in the showroom. The workshops were through that central opening, but I don’t remember if they had yet closed the motor-bike shop across the road – they probably had. Nor do I remember if they had yet opened up their present used car lot. Can anyone put a date to those two events?

By then Merritt’s quick-service set-up had been taken over by Kwik-Fit, where I had my last contact with site as a whole, about 1998-2000. The petrol station had also gone by then.

Norman Gray resigned his directorship on 1st November 1999, aged 80. Don Gray is presumably deceased.

Grayhire (Medway) Ltd became Gray’s Medway Ltd on 9th May 2001, for the purpose of trading in new and used vehicles. Since this is the same purpose as Gray’s of Chatham, one has to question the reason for keeping it going.

Since the turn of the century Kwik-Fit has gone from West Block, which has been converted to showrooms (Does anyone know when?) leased by Norman Gray Ltd to whoever – the last being Medway Hyundai, who moved to Rainham about September 2015.

At present it is occupied by Humphries and Parks Ltd of West Malling, Mitsubishi Dealers. Intriguingly, Humphries and Parks Holdings Ltd was incorporated on 28th October 2003 to administer real estate and is based in Chatham Maritime – it raises the question of whether Norman Gray Ltd still owns the West Block or could it have taken over by H&PH? If so, it finally severs Gray’s association with those premises after about 65 years.

One other factor remains: GSV dated September 2015 shows the East Block to be a Motability Centre. Does anyone know who operates that?

That seems to me to be a potted history of Gray’s presence in that part of the High Street. What have I left out or got wrong?
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #105 on: December 06, 2015, 18:39:03 »
Not particularly excited, just commenting that it’s not easy to figure out what has actually happened at Rainham. Both Medway Hyundai’s and Medway Auto's websites tell us that they are on the site opposite the end of Oak Lane, Kent-on-Line tells us that Green’s premises are empty, and Nemo’s link doesn’t give a phone number for Medway Hyundai.

Otherwise there is no problem now that we know it’s not Gray’s themselves who have moved. Medway Hyundai have vacated the premises they rented from Gray’s – probably from Norman Gray Ltd – in Chatham High Street, taking their phone number with them. Humphries and Parks Ltd have taken their place.

My scenario on that Chatham High Street site coming soon – I hope
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KeithJG

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #104 on: December 06, 2015, 15:47:59 »
I do believe you are getting excited over just simply car sales and dealers!

Hyundai Motor UK Ltd, are a limited company and it just happens that the Medway part of the company`s location is at Grays property....they rented Grays property which is in an ideal place to get attention and sell motors and also used their original phone number of 01634 408408.

When Medway Hyundai Ltd. moved to Rainham the "Gillingham" phone number is of no consequence to them as nobody know`s it and so they took the "Chatham" number with them 01634 408408 and could because it was still the Medway Exchange and so the number was exchanged with Grays of 01634 840000 in Chatham. Also it would of incurred extra expense to change advertisements and webpages to suit a new number.

When business move they nearly always transfer the phone number due to may be loss of business which they cannot afford after building it up......what happens when you buy a new mobile phone.....mostly you keep the same number.

If you phone Grays you probably will get the old building as well as the one further along which is Grays Used Car Centre which does not just sell Hyundai cars as it would have to if a dealer it sells anything Vauxhall,Citroen, Fiat ....etc. as they are all to be seen on the forecourts of both properties as now Medway Hyundai have moved so Grays is using both to display their motors.

There is nothing sinister or anything to hide as Company Check mentions nothing of Hyundai so therefore Grays have nothing to do with them as a company!....they simply rented the space to make more money and moved their own car sales further along the road.....expansion if you like?

Offline peterchall

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #103 on: December 06, 2015, 08:45:02 »
Thanks Nemo :)

I think it confirms what I suspected – that Medway Hyundai has moved from 1-19 Chatham High Street to London Road, Rainham and no longer has anything to do with Gray’s and so is outside the topic of this thread.

It’s almost as if they’re trying to hide something! London Road Rainham could mean any of about 4 ‘motor trade’ sites along that stretch and there is no phone number in your link, although there is on their own website – it is the same as the one in the Chatham High Street window. But as stated, according to my daughter what was Green’s is now a Hyundai dealer, although she couldn’t see the name. She is away for this week, so can’t re-check for me at present. Then there is that Kent-on-Line report that says what was Green’s premises is now empty!

But Medway Hyundai is not a limited company – it is what I know as either a sole tradership or a partnership, with unlimited liability.
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Offline Nemo

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #102 on: December 05, 2015, 23:13:24 »

Offline GP

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #101 on: December 05, 2015, 16:26:57 »
Another possibility regarding ownership of the High Street premised vacated by  Medway Hyundai is that Humphries and Parks Holdings Ltd, based in Chatham Maritime, have taken it over, with all connections with Grays finally severed - the end of an era of Chatham history!

My guess is that the Gray family still own the freehold of the garage. It was let to Medway Hyundai, which is connected  to Tunbridge Wells Hyundai. 

Medway Hyundai obviously considered the Rainham move to the A2, was a more prominent position.

Offline peterchall

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #100 on: December 05, 2015, 15:37:43 »
Now it seems certain that it was not a branch of Gray’s of Chatham that moved from the Chatham High Street showroom to Rainham, it puts that Rainham complex of garages off topic, and it might be worth opening a thread on those later.

So far as this thread is concerned, it is yourself and others who have provided the information - personal recollections, copies of Kelley’s, newspaper extracts, photos, maps, etc. All I have done is to collate it after a fashion, learning a lot myself in the process.

As a result I think I can now construct a scenario covering the history of that site between the Sir John Hawkings Hospital and the Taste of China while it was connected with Grays. That I hope to do within the next few days, but if anyone has any more information, please post it.
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Offline Ajemp

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #99 on: December 05, 2015, 13:10:31 »
Hi Peterchall,

Thanks for all your help and others that contributed, it's been a long haul with excellent results, so many photos bringing back so many memories and the picture on KentOnline of Mr Gray, he looks just like his father Norman.

Thanks again.

Offline peterchall

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #98 on: December 03, 2015, 17:39:15 »
http://www.kentonline.co.uk/news/kent-motors-news/mystery-over-future-of-car-showr-a48322/

My daughter and son-in-law went past there this afternoon and report that where Green’s was is now a Hyundai dealers, where the Texaco petrol station was is now an unidentified car dealers, and where the Little Chef was opposite the end of Oak Lane is still Medway Autos.

Presumably the Hyundai dealers is  Medway Hyundai, having moved from Chatham High Street.
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #97 on: December 03, 2015, 08:22:15 »
Another possibility regarding ownership of the High Street premised vacated by  Medway Hyundai is that Humphries and Parks Holdings Ltd, based in Chatham Maritime, have taken it over, with all connections with Grays finally severed - the end of an era of Chatham history!
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #96 on: December 02, 2015, 20:46:25 »
Thanks for the copies of the adverts Numanfan. It seems that Don Gray was on his own in 1939.

Back to the present and that move from the High Street showrooms to Rainham. I made the mistake of assuming that Grays occupied the showroom, but all the evidence – that 01634 408408 phone number – points to it being Medway Hyundai that moved out about September 2015 – the date of the GSV. On the other side of that central opening is a Motability centre, which seems to still be there.

It seems likely that the premises are owned by Norman Grey Ltd of Uckfield, whose activity is hiring property, and that Humphries and Parks Ltd are simply renting it. It’s even possible that all the other occupants - Gray’s of Chatham, Merrill’s, Kwik-Fit – rented it right from the start.

So what of the Rainham premises, opposite Oak Lane? Until at least May 2014 (from GSV) it was occupied by Medway Autos Ltd which, according to Companies House, is now in the process of winding-up. Hence the way is clear for Medway Hyundai to move there, taking their phone number with them, and it is nothing to do with Gray’s.

Great photos KeithJG, they fill another gap in the time-line of Gray’s history – the mid-1960’s(?), just before Smiler’s photo of 1972, showing Merritt’s in place
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Offline Ajemp

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #95 on: December 02, 2015, 18:38:40 »
Excellent photos KeithJG, takes me back to when I worked there '59. Note the Sunbeam scooter and what looks like a Vespa.

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #94 on: December 02, 2015, 18:17:06 »
I see Grays were a Shell garage, I had forgotten that, can just see the old shop front...

Offline numanfan

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Re: Gray's of Chatham
« Reply #93 on: December 02, 2015, 15:36:52 »
A couple of local newspaper adverts from 1939
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