The story of Morgan’s Carriageworks retold

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Leighton Buzzard Writers’ weekly LBO column. This week by Mike Moran...

Much has been written about the manufacture of aeroplanes at Morgan’s Carriageworks at its Canal Road factory in Linslade but what about the company itself? It appears to me that the firm is often regarded as a poor second to its most famous product, the Vimy bomber, and I believe it is time to redress the balance.

Morgan’s was established in 1795 by a Welsh carriage maker who had developed a new system of suspension for the horse-drawn carriages of the wealthy. The business, located in Long Acre, close to London’s Covent Garden, was a commercial success, its products being used by the Prince Regent and the Duke of Kent.

With such patronage the business prospered during the 19th century and looked beyond central London for larger manufacturing premises.

In 1886 Morgan’s acquired the coach building business of William King, located on the Canal Road site in Linslade.

By 1903 the Morgan’s was well-established at the Canal Road works, with offices in Bridge Street, Leighton Buzzard and at its original site in Long Acre. By this time it, like other manufacturers, had started building motor vehicles for a rich clientele until the outbreak of war in 1914.

What happened to Morgan’s after the guns fell silent after November 1918? In 1920 the company was sold to R.E. Jones Ltd for £203,000. Car production had already resumed at the Canal Road works. At some point during the late 1920s or early 1930s, however, the company ceased vehicle manufacture. According to Kelly’s Directory of 1936 Morgan’s is not listed as a business in Linslade or Leighton Buzzard. Why?

In 1920 there were more than 80 car manufacturers in Britain; by 1939 there were 20, of whom the “big six”, consisting of Austin, Morris, Ford, General Motors (through its Vauxhall subsidiary) and the Rootes Group (controlling Hillman, Humber and Sunbeam) accounted for eighty per cent of output. The vast majority of car producers in the inter-war period simply went out of business, unable to compete with the larger firms, producing low-cost vehicles using assembly-line techniques. This, I believe, was the fate of Morgan’s Carriageworks.