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Article by Graham Penness, Cheshire, 2008
Calor Gas

Alternative Employment to the Footwear Trade – A brief personal history of Calor Gas in Rushden
Peter Peck, E D (Don) Peck, A (Bert) Warner, Graham Penness (Chairman of Social Club) and W J (Will) Peck in the 1960s at the
Annual Dinner of the "36 Social Club"

in the snow
One the right is the house that became a Co-op Butchery about 1960
and left the garage of David Nicholson. Later the site was Calor Gas,
then became Netto, and today is Home Bargains (2015).
The road centre now called Peck Way joins into North Street.

The Peck family had been local hauliers in and around Rushden for most of the 20th century, starting with a horse and cart. By the time, the road transport industry was nationalised in 1947, they had their main garage in Washbrook Road, opposite Spencer Park, and were carrying goods and services throughout the Country.

My own 'involvement' began during the Second World War, because whilst my father was away in the R.A.F. (Military Police); I lived with my mother in my maternal grandparents’ house at the top of Shirley Road. Across the fields was Prospect Avenue, and there, Richard and Margaret Peck lived with their parents – Frank Peck was one of the Peck dynasty, owning Blanchflowers of Kettering. Richard and I became childhood friends, age about 8 to 10, and he used to take me to his Uncle's garage/depot in Washbrook Road, to see the lorries, etc. Little did I then know that in 1958 I would join "Calor" and embark on a 36-year career!

However, back in 1947, P.X. Carriers contracted to deliver all of Calor Gas Distributing Coy. Ltd., L.P.G. (Liquid Petroleum Gas) cylinders of Butane and Propane on a national basis. Two new companies were formed: - Transport Consultants and Vehicle, Hire and Supply Co Ltd (V.H.S. Ltd) to achieve this, with V.H.S. receiving a monthly cheque from Calor for goods transported. This tie-up with Calor had culminated in the terrible winter of 1947 when the railways froze to a virtual standstill – this being the main way Calor had moved their cylinders up to then.

So by June 1947, P.X. Transport were moving all Calor cylinders from the Filling Plant at Billingham, Teesside, to Calor dealers in 11 counties in East Anglia and the East Midlands. By the end of 1949, P.X. Transport had delivered over 1.25 million cylinders and was operating 75 vehicles. Many of these vehicles were ex W.D. (War Dept) surplus obtained and maintained by the Chief Engineer, Mr Ted Herring.

Some time during the 1950's, V.H.S Ltd moved to the premises at 36 Higham Road, using the properties fronting onto Higham Road as their offices and building a large workshop on land at the rear. Here they built new cylinder trailers and bulk gas tankers of varying sizes for use in carrying Butane and Propane, all for Calor Gas, but still operating as a separate company.

My own involvement resurfaced in May 1958 when I was fortunate to obtain the job as a Cost Clerk on a wage of £9.15s.0d. (£9.75p) under the watchful eye of the Office Manager, Cliff Perkins (husband of Councillor Audrey Perkins); my hours of work were 8.30am to 12.15pm and 1.30pm to 6.00pm, Monday to Friday!

Calor's success in becoming the brand leader in the Bottled Gas market, meant that P.X. Transport also expanded and in 1957 became a full part of the Calor Group. During the 1960's "Calor" became quite a local force in the town, providing employment to skilled mechanics and office staff alike. A Social Club was formed, of which I became the Chairman, organising Car Rallies and Xmas Parties, plus the Annual 'posh' do at Overstone Solarium, Northampton - also owned by the Peck family! One annual event, was the visit to Bertram Mills Circus at Olympia every January – this was for the whole Peck family children, plus many of the employee's children also.

Sadly, all good things come to an end and on returning to work after the Xmas break 1969, the office staff were told that all office functions were being transferred to Slough, Berkshire at the end of April. By this time I was the Assistant Cost Accountant with supervision of 14 direct staff and 9 indirect staff. Only my immediate manager and myself eventually agreed to transfer to Slough where an 8 storey, glass and concrete building awaited us.

The Peck brothers, Will and Don, retired but the workshops, stores, etc. continued to flourish at the rear of 36 Higham Road until the mid 1990's, when the site was sold and became the Netto supermarket, and housing in Peck Way.

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