Far-sighted business skills saw launch of motor agency

Brighouse Motor Agency Bailiffe Bridge - my collection (1)
Brighouse Motor Agency Bailiffe Bridge - my collection (1)

The Brighouse Motor Agency or ‘The BMA’ as it was known by both its customers and employees began life when vehicular transportation was very much in its infancy.

The birth of this company was due to the far-sighted business skills of two men who made a thriving business from the humble wheel and tyre in those early days of motorised transportation.

It is almost a century ago that Percy and James Firth nephews of Sir Algernon Firth, of T.F.Firth’s Carpet Manufacturing Company, who gave them their early financial backing, started the business.

Although when they first opened the business mainly sold petrol in cans, it was the earlier development of solid tyres that saw business take off.

It was through their knowledge of motor cars, no other similar businesses locally and having the facilities to fit and re-fit solid tyres that you could say they had cornered the market. It wasn’t long before expansion was a possibility.

However, it was in commercial vehicles rather than the motor vehicles where they identified and took full advantage of yet another niche in the market – commercial vehicle repairs.

Through their continued efforts and reputation they were rewarded by being given an agency from the Leyland Commercial Vehicles Company, who were expanding throughout the Yorkshire area and saw an ideal location in Bailiff Bridge along with the reputation of the Firth brothers.

The BMA Agency was one of the first garages in the area to have underground petrol storage tanks installed.

During the 1920s the only other form of transport for those unable to afford a motor vehicle would have been the tramcar.

It was the brothers’ astute observation that saw them begin the Calder Bus Service as an alternative. A service that became so successful that by the early 1930s the Bradford Corporation had bought the routes from them.

Not long after selling the bus company the two brothers decided to embark on finding larger premises. The unlikely opportunity suddenly presented itself when a significant plot of land became available from the Kirklees Hall Estate.

The business went through another boom period following a visit by two representatives from the Royal Ordnance factory at Chillwell in Nottingham and were awarded long term contracts to work on army vehicles. The BMA certainly played its part in helping to rebuild the transport system in Europe right up until the contracts were finally terminated in 1952.

The business had to now begin to diversify or it would go out of business – the call was answered with new business coming from none other than the Rolls Royce Company, who required precision engineering work.

It was this change that in 1952 saw the old name of the Brighouse Motor Agency being dropped and renamed ‘Calder Engineering’. In 1971 the company was bought out by Reed International and gradually went into a state of decline along with many other engineering companies. This saw the company finally close and the site and contents were auctioned off. This rare photograph shows the frontage before the main garage section was built.