R&W Febry & Sons Ltd

Individually, the Fabry’s most prominent (arm would have been that of R8W Febry of Chipping Sod bury, which at its height was operating a fleet of 150 haulage vehicles. Although in partnership with his brother, William, the firm was spearheaded by the chairman and managing director Richard (Dick) Febry.

Dick was the eldest of six sons and six daughters born to Albert and Alice Febry at Old Sod bury. He started work at the age of 12 at the Cross Hands Farm. Old Sod bury.

As a 17-year-old in 1921 Dick went to work for a local coal-merchant where he was given 10 minutes driving instructions before being dispatcher In a Model-T Ford liberally laden with coal. His initial trip landed him in the ditch after a tyre burst, but undaunted he progressed to become a very capable driver. After eight years of driving for somebody else he decided to set up on his own and bought his first lorry, a chain driven First World War Pierce Arrow, and entered one of the hardest of all haulage activities — serving quarries.

By 1939 Mr Febry was operating 13 vehicles.

However, the best were requisitioned when war broke out and had to be replaced by anything that he could get hold of. The business was kept busy during the var and by 1948 the fleet totaled 22 vehicles. These were compulsorily acquired when the road haulage industry was nationalized. His brother William had also started a haulage business which had grown to the strength of 10 vehicles and these were also taken over.

Passenger transport

Dick Febry did not confine his attention entirely to haulage and in 1938 he had three Leyland Coaches. It was, therefore, natural that when he and his brother were deprived of their lorries, that they should go in for coaching and they acquired Stream ways Coaches, later to be operated under their personal banner of Sod bury Queen. They found plenty of work for the 20 vehicles that they took over by running express services for Forces personnel from the large RAF Camp at Yatesbury, near Caine, and numerous school contracts. The area was generally prosperous and they operated a wide range of tours, including some to the continent. This burst of activity was relatively short-lived. The camp was closed, work fell off. and when denationalization gave the opportunity to return to haulage, the brothers decided to reduce their passenger work and continued to operate just three modem coaches. The goodwill of Stream ways was sold to G D, G and IN Keen of H e d d i n g t o n, near Devizes.

From 1954 the freshly established fleet of R&W F e b r y expanded rapidly. Due to a combination of good pre-nationalization performance and geographical position, the firm was able to obtain work from some of the most prominent concerns in the quarrying, smelting and similar basic industries. Most of these were enjoying good trading conditions and the corresponding demand for transport was to see the fleet peak at about 150 units with many tippers and flats. Specialized vehicles included those capable of carrying cement and similar powders in bulk, and a number of acid tankers. A batch of 23 six- wheelers tilted with mixer drums tor delivering ready mixed concrete operated In the Bristol area, carrying the orange livery of Ready Mixed Concrete Ltd. The purchase of the adjacent termer Yate Ironworks premises permitted much needed parking space. This, together with some former disused Gas Board property, provided an area large enough to enable the construction of a shed measuring 130ft x 95ft which provided storage tor bagged materials.

Although some vehicles were can contract licenses, most of the fleet operated on A- licenses derived from the ‘Special-A’ licences which came with units purchased from B R S. Many former B R S lorries were placed in service until such time as funding or the delivery position permitted their replacement. These included four examples of the Bristol eight wheeler which were overhauled, repainted, and put to work. Leyland vehicles had always been favored by the Febry family and these were to feature heavily for years to come. As far as possible a driver always had the same vehicle and was responsible for it. A staff of 12. which included body builders, painters and a sign- writer. did well to maintain such a fleet. The company workshop made many of the bodies for the fleet, including metal units for the tippers. The garage was manned all night and during the weekends. With the fleet at such a size, drivers were paid to go in on a Sunday morning to carry out basic maintenance and take the pressure off the workshop staff.

Febrys had no branch offices but had sufficient contacts to be able to arrange back loads from headquarters. There was no organized trunk working, which avoided the need for shunters or relief drivers, but in practice, certain journeys were run day after day including add from Avon mouth to WkJnes, Redhill and Barking, with cement from West Thurrock. Essex. Substantial tonnages of Imported fertilizer’s were collected loose and stored in bulk in two disused hangers. Mechanical appliances handled these and the large volume of metal ingots which were received bonded together in one ton lots. Dick steadfastly supported the family firm, taking what relaxation he allowed himself in the nineteenth hde’ of the local golf dub which he had supported generously over the years. William was to die in the 1970s and Dick in 1982, to be succeeded by their sons Robin and Derek respectively.

Leasing Mercedes

Having enjoyed something of a bonanza the firm was to suffer when the volumes of traffic fell off. Given the considerable value of the company site for redevelopment the decision was made to relocate the firm to Avon mouth, and a base was established in St Brendan’s Way. Bulk tipping and powder movement continued but a move was made away from general haulage in favors of container transport. Policy change saw a reduction in the number of owned vehicles but a large fleet of Mercedes-Benz units was leased from the Cardiff depot of Gulliver Truck Hire. Increased operating costs made a buyout offer from the massive Renwick Freight Group look attractive and for some time vehicles could be seen painted in the Renwick Yellow but still carrying details of their Febry origin. However, even Renwick’s were not Immune from financial pressures and when the company folded the remnants of the Febry fleet were sold by auction on February 3, 1990.

Whatever fate was to befall its various branches the Febry family had certainly done its share for transport in the Sod bury area, with each of the six brothers having entered the haulage business, while one of the sisters drove for R&W Febry for several years.

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