Can you help Ben Hawkins in his restoration of an Ernest Shentall lorry of 1914?
In 2008 Ben, from the Birmingham area, purchased a Dennis chassis from Mick Giles (another Dennis enthusiast). The chassis is stamped number 3539; revealing it was supplied to Ernest Shentall of Chesterfield for his wholesale fruit business.
The lorry – lucky survivor
Photos of the lorry on the day it left the factory are held by the Surrey History Centre but we do not have permission to reproduce them here.
Mick had purchased the chassis from Spilsy, Lincolnshire in 1997, the vendor stating the lorry had been purchased by Wallis Coal Merchants (of Spilsby) in around 1925; when the engine was worn out they converted it to a trailer. During Mick’s ownership he had found the correct gearbox and radiator and included these in the sale to Ben.
In 2010 Ben found a 1910 Aster engine, from an electrical lighting set in Scotland, to replace the original, but this would require a clutch and flywheel to make it suitable for use in a vehicle.
Ben was unable to start the restoration at that stage as he needed to build a house and garage so he would have somewhere to carry out the restoration, which started in 2015. The lorry was essentially complete in 2019, but by the time the shake down testing was over, Covid lockdowns had started.
Parts were sourced from all over the world, but as you might imagine many just did not exist. Luckily most of the Dennis drawings survive so Ben was able to manufacture the missing parts to exactly match the original specifications.
A combination of original and reproduction Ernest Shentall sacks, baskets and boxes are carried on the back.
Ernest Shentall opened his warehouse at No 2 St Mary’s Gate (now ‘The Distillery’) which he purchased in 1898, living on the premises for some years. He also had a garage on Saltergate (the ‘donut’ roundabout). Presumably the latter was his older premises before the St Mary’s Gate move. Leslie Haywood Clay would become the foreman at the garage and resided at a cottage on the site. Sir Ernest Shentall died on Christmas day 1936, the business being passed to his son Harold. Sir Ernest Shentall had been knighted in June 1918.
The firm, which was wholesale, were said to have introduced bananas to the area. It was also credited with piloting sales to door-to-door salesmen, which became a successful part of the business.
Shentall was very active in civic life, particularly on Chesterfield Corporation and as a magistrate.
The lorry was originally registered R-42 but it was not possible to reclaim the registration number as it was re-issued by Derbyshire Council in the 1960s for the sum of £5!
Can you help with the story
Information in this blog has been supplied by Ben Hawkins. We have also used Sir Ernest Shentall’s obituary from the Derbyshire Times of 1 January 1937.