History: The story behind Brook Street’s popular Hensmans garage
PUBLISHED: 12:29 09 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:29 09 October 2019
Historian and vice-president of the Brentwood Writer’s Circle Sylvia Kent this week discusses what once was a famous part of Brook Street.
As motorists driving along the A1023 (once known as the Essex Great Road) approach Brentwood, they will see the rather smart office block on the left known at 1 Brook Street, Academy Place, built around 1990.
A century earlier, this part of Brook Street housed the famous garage belonging to a young motor engineer Jean Pierre Hensmans who in 1910 set up his motor car business.
Up until that time, Brook Street was a tiny hamlet and a quiet area of South Weald, but the motor car transformed the hamlet.
Hensmans, known to all as JPH bought several pieces of land, one was opposite the ancient Golden Fleece Inn (which is now the Golden Fleece Harvester Restaurant).
JPH built an agricultural motor body shop with a sale-room attached.
Farmers and owners of Ford vehicles crammed into the building and during the First World War, JPH looked after vehicles used in the war effort.
This entrepreneur had grown up in Luxembourg and knew much about the farming industry.
He loved the brand new cars coming onto the market for those who could afford them; also the new Fordson tractors, so admired by local farmers.
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Much later, he bought a piece of land on the corner of Spital Lane, once Dingle Farmland and built a large commercial garage.
His premises consisted of a sizeable brick structure with reinforced pitched crossed-beams, the roof clad in corrugated iron panels.
A second showroom was constructed alongside this garage, dedicated to Ford motor vehicles as they arrived from the Manchester-based Trafford Park factory.
He proudly displayed the early Model-T on the front of his showroom and after 1930, the first vehicles arriving from the Ford assembly-line at Dagenham.
His firm grew and prospered and he took much interest in the town of Brentwood.
Hensmans was a successful businessman holding one of the first Ford main franchise dealerships in Essex.
He was also one of Brentwood's largest employers during the 1950s, training dozens of motoring apprentices.
Hensmans was a popular employer for over 50 years, with a large carefully trained staff.
Eventually, retirement loomed and he bought a farm at Ingatestone, but endeavoured to take a lively interest in Brentwood and his new town.
The Hensmans firm remained in Brook Street under new management until 1974, after which the garages were demolished and modern offices were constructed on the site, but older residents still fondly remember the popularity of the old Hensmans Garage.
A full article and illustrations appear in my new book BRENTWOOD IN 50 BUILDINGS published by AMBERLEY BOOKS OF STROUD, available in all good bookshops £14.99.