At Blackshaws we are proud of our heritage. There has been a family-owned Blackshaws business in Alnwick, Northumberland for almost 100 years. Here is the story of how our company was first established and how it has grown and developed over the years.
Shortly after the end of the First World War and back in the days when the horse and carriage was still the most common form of transport, Blackshaws was one of the first places in Northumberland where you could go to buy an 'automobile' (a vehicle that moved itself rather than being pushed or pulled by an animal or other vehicle). Brothers John Charles and Edward Warren Blackshaw were quick to seize on the opportunity afforded by the early mass produced cars and established their car sales business in Tower Lane, Alnwick.
Six years later the business moved to Bondgate Without in Alnwick where it remained for almost 80 years until 2004. It was reported in the Alnwick and County Gazette on December 12th 1925 that:
“Messrs JC and EW Blackshaw have opened their commodious and up to date garage in Bondgate Without adjacent to the new Playhouse. It occupies a spacious area of level ground and the interior has quite an imposing appearance when viewed from the doors. It has accommodation for 60 cars and contains 20 lock ups. The engineering department has been planned for dealing with repairs and body building on an extensive scale. Messrs Blackshaw hold several important agencies including those for Riley, Clyno and Leyland Trojan cars and Norton, AJS Ariel, New Imperial and Royal Enfield motor cycles.”
1930s and 1940s
In the 1930s John Charles and Edward Warren continued to build the business and acquired a reputation in the area for high quality workmanship. As the County Gazette reported in the late 1930s:
"An extensive and fully-trained staff, up-to-date breakdown equipment, service that is unrivalled and thoroughly modern plant enable Messrs Blackshaw to carry out work in such a way that any motorist's car which in in for repair is off the road for only the minimum time. This service is particularly valuable to those who use their cars for business purposes - and is no less appreciated by those who though perhaps on pleasure bent, unfortunately sustain mechanic mishap whilst on the road."
John Charles and Edward Warren remained in partnership until 1946 when Edward Warren bought out John Charles for the sum of £1000. Sadly John Charles died prematurely in 1951 but by this time his son William Dixon Blackshaw had joined the family business following the end of his military service in World War Two.
1950s – Edward Warren died suddenly in 1952 at the age of 60 and his surviving wife Margaret immediately promoted William Dixon to Manager on a salary of £12 per week. Over the next few years William Dixon bought out his cousins Harry (a race horse trainer) and Hedley (a butcher) who had no interest in the family business and gradually expanded the Blackshaws' site. His concerns over the narrow 8ft entrance in a lane next to the Playhouse were resolved when the Methodist Church in front of the garage was knocked down. William Dixon promptly bought the land and converted it into a Cleveland petrol station. The adjacent building to the right of the garage was also purchased and over subsequent years was used for various purposes including a car showroom, hairdressers, an insurance office and as a flat.
1960s and 1970s
In 1964 William Dixon’s eldest son Stuart joined the family business which by now was a British Leyland (Rover) franchise dealership. Stuart worked in the sales department following an apprenticeship with Murray and Charlton, a car wholesaler in Newcastle. Six years later he was followed by younger brother David who completed his City & Guilds with distinction before starting his career in the aftersales side of the business.
Tragically William Dixon died in 1977 after a short illness leaving the business to his still relatively young sons Stuart and David and the adjoining petrol station which was now well established to youngest son Richard.
After several years running the business the Blackshaw brothers decided to change the long-standing franchise from Rover to Datsun (now Nissan) in the 1980s. Although Blackshaws had a long heritage with the changing face of the British Leyland Motor Corporation as it had evolved from Austin Morris to MG Rover Triumph and finally to Rover, there were increasing worries about the quality and reliability of the vehicles plus many problems associated with Rover’s poor industrial relations and frequent strike action. By comparison the new Japanese built cars offered instant access to a range of high quality vehicles and Blackshaws long association with Nissan began.
The early 1990s saw the formation of a new partnership for Blackshaws when Japanese manufacturer Suzuki was added as a second franchise and with a collection of reliable and affordable cars the Suzuki range proved to be an instant success with customers.
During the last decade of the twentieth century there was also a major change in the company ownership of Blackshaws. After 25 years brothers Stuart and David decided to dissolve their partnership with Stuart leaving to set up a Used Car business in Belford, Northumberland. Outright ownership of the business then moved to David and wife Diane.
The approach of the new millennium marked the start of a new era for Blackshaws. It was in this year that a new dealership in Berwick was first established. Although Blackshaws Alnwick had been responsible for Suzuki and Nissan sales in the Berwick area for some time the 35 mile distance made it difficult to offer the appropriate levels of customer service. Therefore the decision was taken to set up a new site in Berwick and a satellite Suzuki dealership was established on 31st October 1999.
The new decade saw the fourth generation of the Blackshaw family join the business when David and Diane’s 16 year old son William started as an apprentice in the Alnwick workshop followed by daughter Jill in the accounts department. They were followed soon afterwards by David’s brother Richard who by then had sold the petrol site in Alnwick and joined the Berwick branch to help develop the new dealership.
A further major milestone in Blackshaws’ development came in 2004 when the Alnwick business relocated to Lionheart Enterprise Park on the outskirts of the town. For almost 80 years the company had operated from Bondgate Without close to the town centre, but access difficulties, lack of parking, the closure of the Esso filling station and the condition of the building meant that it was time for a move. The land was sold to a Housing Association and all the money was invested into a brand new purpose built facility with a state-of-the-art workshop, spacious showroom and offices.
Two years later an equally significant development took place at the Berwick dealership when Blackshaws built a major extension to accommodate the new Vauxhall franchise. A three quarter of a million investment into a new building with increased floor space, improved workshop and an extended showroom meant the business was now a fully compliant dealership for both Vauxhall and Suzuki.
After four years of successful trading in the upgraded Berwick dealership Blackshaws was approached early in 2010 by a Vauxhall Dealer Group with an offer to buy the Berwick site. Although it was an incredibly hard decision to make after spending 11 years building up the business, Blackshaws Berwick was sold as a going concern in July of 2010. Blackshaws still has many friends and customers in the Berwick area and continues to develop business in north Northumberland and the Scottish Borders by offering car sales and servicing from its dealership in Alnwick.
Three years later David Blackshaw handed over the reins to his son William and daughter Jill to take the family business forward into the next stage of the company's development.
Following several years of very buoyant trading as a single site dealership, Blackshaws was ready for further expansion by 2016. This time the business looked to the south of its sales territory to the busy market town of Morpeth. A new site was acquired in the Coopies Lane commercial area of the town and in March 2016 Blackshaws opened a new Mitsubishi dealership with a spacious 5 car showroom, service desk, parts counter, offices and workshop.
After almost 100 years we feel proud that we are still able to provide cars and motoring services to so many people in the north Northumberland area. Although our business has grown and developed significantly over the years and our industry has changed beyond all recognition, we are still very much a family company and our aim is to continue to offer a professional yet very friendly and personalised service to all our customers.
Thank you so much for all your support over the years and we hope to see you again soon.