The Twickenham Museum
Exhibitions : Road Rail and River

Commercial Vehicles
Steam traction engines first arrived in the 1850s

A Foden steam lorry and trailer with solid tyres from Fuller, Smith & Turner of Chiswick delivering to the White Hart at Hampton Wick, probably in the 1930s

In the 1890s the roads of Twickenham were described by one commentator thus: “There was little traffic in Twickenham, then - you could go down and perhaps you wouldn’t only pass from here to the town a couple of horses and carts. The only excitement we ever got down there that way at all was if a steam roller happened to be at work and the horse wouldn’t go by. They used to have a man walk in front with a red flag and a man behind with a red flag, when the steam roller was at work, you see.”

Confectionery van from 30 Heath Rd Twickenham in about 1960

In the 1850s Steam ‘traction engines’ appeared, able to haul several wagons, followed by steam lorries in the 1890s. Next came the the motor lorry with its completely open cab without doors and windscreen.

The delivery van for P English, Bakers and Confectioners, outside the premises now 111-113 Stanley Road, Teddington, which was still a bakers until very recently

After the war flat windscreens appeared on some lorries but often not to the full height of the cab roof. The plain glass used then was lethal in an accident. ‘Triplex’ safety glass came onto the market in the early 1920s but it was not widely used on commercial vehicles until later.

Prewetts Delivery Boy in Hampton Hill in about 1905

By the time of the First World War the motorcycle was reliable enough to serve as a light commercial vehicle. Later, the side car was developed and a motorcycle ‘combination’ became a popular choice for traders and artisans with the side car used to carry tools or goods. Further development of the motorcycle allowed production of light delivery vehicles, often running on three wheels. These small machines remained in widespread use into the 1940s.

Coal delivery lorry on 30 Jan 1974 at Comfort’s Coal Yard, Teddington

The 1950s had its crop of small delivery vehicles, building on the experience and technology developed during the Second World War. In the early 1960s quite a few shops and traders continued to deliver goods to the home. The traders continued to use the small car-based vans, versions of the Morris 1000 and the Mini. From the late 1950s these increasingly replaced the hand carts formerly used by chimney sweeps and the bicycles of the window cleaners, who fitted roof-racks to carry their ladders.

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