Author Topic: Groombridge's Yard  (Read 12423 times)

Stuart Cyphus

  • Possibly the most fabulous person in the universe....
  • Prolific Poster
  • *****
  • Posts: 1491
Groombridge's Yard
« on: January 24, 2009, 08:51:26 PM »
Groombridge's Yard. For those in the know, the very name echos down the annals of microcar presavation history. Yet very few folk have ever heard of it, let alone been there!   J.W. Groombridge (motorcycles) Ltd's premises in Cross in Hand & Heathfield, East Sussex was the graveyard of no less than ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE dead microcars of all types, ages & descriptions.  Many were those who attepted to persade Groombridge to let any or some of these vehicles go down the years, in some cases spent thirty years entombed in the yard as unwanted trade-ins once the glory days had ended, dieing by inches year on year.

 Then along came Alan Hitchcock in 1994. He was the man who at last persuaded Groombridge to sell where others had failed. In three short weeks he rescued what he could of the 105, before the bulldozers moved in to create the current Tescos carpark.  Now, fifteen years on from the clearance of the greatest single hourde of micros EVER seen in the UK, I have at last persuaded Alan to put pen to paper & relive the tale. That is part one of the article.

  For Part Two, he has handed me the task of finding some of these cars, a decade & half on, and charting their progress since leaving the yard of death.  I have found twelve cars so far, with a further three in the pipeline. Bonds, Isettas, Scootacars, Friskys, you name it, they were there!

 Now I call upon the micro nation. Who out there has been to the yard of Groombridge. Who has photos? Who indeed has the cars? I call upon ANYONE with any knolege, details or info, of anything to do with Groombridge's yard, no matter how slight, to make contact with me in my attempt to trace the cars of that yard. I have been making contact with those that I could find, but some still remain elusive. Nick Poll has a KR175 from the yard, my email to him remains unaswered. We found the Groombridge Bond, but where is the Groombridge Frisky Family Three and NOS bodyshell. A few cases of many, They are out there still but remain untraced.

 Those who know the details I seek, you know mine as well. Make the call.....

« Last Edit: January 24, 2009, 08:57:19 PM by Stuart Cyphus »

AndyL

  • Quite Chatty
  • ****
  • Posts: 402
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2014, 01:33:46 PM »
Sorry to unearth a five year old thread, but I have one of the Groombridge cars, a 1959 LHD 3-wheel Isetta registered RAP 792.

I visited the barn twice before picking the car up, on my second visit someone had smashed the glass on several cars, including the one I had selected.

There were many Isetta's there, most were pretty rough, but restorable, one other four wheeled RHD Isetta was recovered and restored by the late Mick West. That car was originally maroon coloured, but Mick painted it black I believe. There were at least two other four wheeled Isetta's located outside the main showroom, round the back. These were really just parts cars, as the shells were completely rusted through. Other micro's were there, but they looked past recovery to me.

John Groombridge was a strange chap and very tricky to deal with. He would not budge a penny on any of the cars, which is probably why many stayed where they were.
On leaving with the car, which we had squeezed into a transit van, we got a tug from the local plod in a unmarked police car. I thought they were going to do us for an unsafe load, but it turned out they wanted to see if the car was legally ours, as they knew where it had come from, and there had been a lot of theft from the site. Once they saw everything was above board they softened their approach and one of the coppers said "How'd you get on doing a deal with old 'Grabber-Groombridge', I got my first motorbike from him." So presumably he had a reputation for driving a hard deal.

A year or so after getting the car I got a lot of letter from the DVLA asking if I'd sold the car, or if it had been stolen. I replied back that neither of these had occurred, however I received at least three more identical letters before getting an unannounced visit from the boys in blue. They asked to see my car and seemed somewhat relieved when I was cooperative.

Having seen the car and agreed I was the rightful owner, it transpired that someone with another Isetta had applied for the registration RAP 792, and possessed the original green log book and claimed the chassis plate and reg plates had been stolen. Originally the old green log books had been kept inside the cars on site, but almost all had been taken along with engines, and other paraphanlia. However the later V5 logbooks were kept safely back at Groombridge HQ, and I had that together with one original numberplate and also the original chassis plate still attached to the car, and which was very obvious had not been touched since new. Therefore the matter went no further.

Sadly I never recovered the original logbook, so I don't know who the previous owner(s) of my car were. The police would not reveal the identity of the person who was claiming my cars number.
1959 LHD 3-wheel Isetta.

Big Al

  • Prolific Poster
  • *****
  • Posts: 4578
  • Ranttweiler, biting the breeze block of banter
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2014, 03:31:53 PM »
'Twas not I. The logbooks were only partially available for cars on payment and lived in two cardboard boxes. Who ever got those boxes probably attempted to get any numbers he could.

Which buildings are we talking about. The Cross in Hand, Heathfield or the 'farm'. Indeed he was known as 'Grabber Groombridge', even Mr Lee, a fellow trader from this period from Rushdon chimed in with that unprompted.
Messerschmitt set, Goggo Darts, Heinkel 175, Fiat Jolly, Autobianchi, Fairthorpe Electron Minor, Borgward, Isuzu Trooper
Citroen BX 17TZD & GTI 16v
Held - MG Magnette ZB & 4/44
For sale - Vellam Isetta, Bamby, AC Type 70, Velorex, Church Pod, Reliant Mk5, KR200,  Saab 96, Bellemy Trials, Citroen BXs

AndyL

  • Quite Chatty
  • ****
  • Posts: 402
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2014, 04:31:13 PM »
I'm not entirely sure. When we went there we were always driven to site by one of his employees, and it was always peeing it down so difficult to find my bearings. It was a semi open and rather dilapidated barn building, I'm pretty sure there used to be an old Buick Starliner in the same barn too, which looked rather like a cuckoo in the nest surrounded by all the smaller motors.

Must say although there were a lot of cars there, I didn't see anything close to 105 vehicles, so perhaps there were other sites? I only ever visited the main dealership and that barn.
1959 LHD 3-wheel Isetta.

Big Al

  • Prolific Poster
  • *****
  • Posts: 4578
  • Ranttweiler, biting the breeze block of banter
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2014, 11:20:13 PM »
The Barn was Heathfield. Now a site that is Tesco's car Park, I believe. The Farm was another place in the country and had better and choice stuff in it. Few people ever got there.
Messerschmitt set, Goggo Darts, Heinkel 175, Fiat Jolly, Autobianchi, Fairthorpe Electron Minor, Borgward, Isuzu Trooper
Citroen BX 17TZD & GTI 16v
Held - MG Magnette ZB & 4/44
For sale - Vellam Isetta, Bamby, AC Type 70, Velorex, Church Pod, Reliant Mk5, KR200,  Saab 96, Bellemy Trials, Citroen BXs

Stuart Cyphus

  • Possibly the most fabulous person in the universe....
  • Prolific Poster
  • *****
  • Posts: 1491
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2014, 12:27:35 AM »
 Inside the Heathfield barn; circa 1992. Is this where you went Andy? On a general note, the grey Bond Mk C seen pointing to the stars in the third picture below was 781 GPA. I point this out as it is of significance for my next post to follow hard on the heels of this one....

Stuart Cyphus

  • Possibly the most fabulous person in the universe....
  • Prolific Poster
  • *****
  • Posts: 1491
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2014, 12:50:06 AM »
 In February 2009 I visited our own Rob Dobie at home in Polegate, and the next day he took me to see the Groombridge sites as they were in 2009. The first picture below shows the site of the Heathfield barn, with Rob's old red Peugeot 206 sat more or less directly over one of the areas seen in my post above.

 As anyone who has trawled this forum, or read the trilogy in RCN will know, Rob's first car, way back in 1964 was Bond Mk C JAP 369, which by 1976 had came to rest in the rear yard of the main Cross In Hand garage. See second picture below, taken by Nick Mander in 1982, still in the exact same spot as Rob had found it in 1976.

 In July 2010, I again returned to Heathfield & Cross In Hand to perform something of a mini pilgrimage; As most of you will know, I collect old number plates and had by now ascertained that certain plates in my possession were "Groombridge" plates, from vehicles which had passed through both Heathfield & Cross In Hand.  In the last two pictures, plates 781 GPA and JAP 369 are shown returned to within yards of where they had so-long lain. The JAP plate has now gone full circle and fifty years on, is back with Rob at Polegate....
« Last Edit: August 30, 2014, 12:55:31 AM by Stuart Cyphus »

AndyL

  • Quite Chatty
  • ****
  • Posts: 402
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2014, 11:05:22 AM »
Yes that was the place. They wouldn't let me stay that long when I went, so only ever had a short window of opportunity to look around the place. My car had no front wheels, so the brakes were buried in the muck. Pretty much all the back roofs of the Isettas were stoved in like the cars in the picture. I think kids must have got in and used them as makeshift trampolines.

Back then no one seemed much interested in the cars. They were considered overpriced. Most of the machines were priced at about £250-350.

Times change.....
1959 LHD 3-wheel Isetta.

AndyL

  • Quite Chatty
  • ****
  • Posts: 402
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2014, 01:04:17 PM »
So what became of the other cars. Were they broken up for spares, or restored, sold abroad etc.?
1959 LHD 3-wheel Isetta.

Big Al

  • Prolific Poster
  • *****
  • Posts: 4578
  • Ranttweiler, biting the breeze block of banter
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2014, 02:30:26 PM »
Ooo eck! Queue Stuart.
Messerschmitt set, Goggo Darts, Heinkel 175, Fiat Jolly, Autobianchi, Fairthorpe Electron Minor, Borgward, Isuzu Trooper
Citroen BX 17TZD & GTI 16v
Held - MG Magnette ZB & 4/44
For sale - Vellam Isetta, Bamby, AC Type 70, Velorex, Church Pod, Reliant Mk5, KR200,  Saab 96, Bellemy Trials, Citroen BXs

Rob Dobie

  • Prolific Poster
  • *****
  • Posts: 753
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2014, 03:17:00 PM »
The story is told over three issues of Rumcar News, 103, 104 & 105 in 2009-10. Very interesting reading. You should be able to get copies from Jean I think.
Ain't got nuffink now except memories.

Rob Dobie

  • Prolific Poster
  • *****
  • Posts: 753
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2014, 03:34:40 PM »
As anyone who has trawled this forum, or read the trilogy in RCN will know, Rob's first car, way back in 1964 was Bond Mk C JAP 369, which by 1976 had came to rest in the rear yard of the main Cross In Hand garage. See second picture below, taken by Nick Mander in 1982, still in the exact same spot as Rob had found it in 1976.
The JAP plate has now gone full circle and fifty years on, is back with Rob at Polegate....

And here it is with the original bulkhead waiting to be cleaned up.
Ain't got nuffink now except memories.

isetta1

  • Just Starting
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2016, 01:00:09 PM »
Hello I realise this is a old thread but I found it whist looking on the net and have some useful info as the locations of the heathfield barn is incorrect as it was much further over the carpark infact adjacent to the doctors surgery ...

This is the original entrance to the site From when it was in operation as a trade in facility  back in the 60's and the same entrance / exit used when the clear-out operation was in action approx. 1993/4?



this is looking down the driveway there was two large wooden gates here that was chained up .. but looking down there this was the beginning of the wooden sheds all the way down to the left of the drive way



this shot I took in about 1992 theres a morris J van in the background and you can just see a Glimpse of a blue isetta



This is the exact same location shot From Now



heres one from the main barn where the isettas was stored



just outside a Ford popular 100E



This was taken between the two barns as there was a separate building Full of vespas lambrettas etc



one of many vespas scattered around the site



this is the location of the pictures posted of the back of the barn  the far parking bays shown is about inline with the far end of the shed



this shot was the outside area which at the time was heavily overgrown but packed with cars motorcycles




Hope this information is helpful if anyone needs to know anymore detailed info I will happily help



AndyL

  • Quite Chatty
  • ****
  • Posts: 402
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2016, 01:59:55 PM »
Do you have any more pictures of the site?
1959 LHD 3-wheel Isetta.

isetta1

  • Just Starting
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Re: Groombridge's Yard
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2016, 03:07:15 PM »
I think I have a couple more somewhere one is of a light green isetta with no front door and a aluminium repair to the front arch .. I wish I had taken more but unfortunately it was pre digital camera and I think the ones taken was from a hard disk film which took about 15 photos max !! ..

a little bit more info on the site was that it was originally called springwood nurseries and they was all potting sheds before Mr Groombridge came to the site .. at the time he owned the petrol station which was on the site of the now co-op supermarket But at the time trade ins was taken there and the only means to get them round the back of the garage was to Drive them down the side of the youth club and bump the kerb and round the back this went on for many years until a dispute with someone from the youth centre resulted in the entrance being used being fenced off ... There was Loads of cars Round there and later they pushed soil over them and levelled the land out ... And it was not until the foundations for the co-op site was dug out that they was piles of cars under the ground ...

there is a site that still exists that was a dump in 1970 and I have retrieved the remains of a isetta from as well as a couple of vespas unfortunately most of it is buried and hard to access