Historic Towcester - The North End Baptist Chapel
North End Baptist Chapel
Baptist Chapel as a garage
The North End Chapel building was erected by Baptists from Duncote on land owned by Thomas Ridgway the tea magnate, and was in use from 1853 to 1894. Thomas Ridgway himself was baptised there on 3rd June 1855.
In 1897 Victor James Ashby (1862 to 1938) bought the vacant building as he needed larger premises for his motor engineering firm; the former baptistry proved an ideal inspection pit in the new garage. At this time he built a car for family use, the "Jigger", making the twin cylinder engine himself.
As the Pioneer Motor Works business flourished. electricity was introduced and the first private telephone in Towcester was installed. By 1910 the old chapel had taken on a new look with added frontage and waiting area, and Victor Ashby's two children had joined the business.
His son Victor Stapleton Ashby (1892 to 1953) joined the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the First World War, serving as a Chief Engineer. On his return to Towcester he designed a new car, which came to the attention of Short Brothers, the famous aircraft firm. Manufacturing space was short at the Chapel at Towcester, so the car was produced at the Short Brother's factory, as the "Short-Ashby" first appearing at the Motor Show at White City in 1922. Unfortunately production ceased after only three years due to the general economic recession.
Victor Stapleton Ashby did not wish to continue the motor business when his father retired. The Pioneer Motor Works was eventually sold to Churchills, the machine tool makers. Later the building was used by The Plessey Company Ltd, and it is now occupied by "Go Floor It" (formerly M.J.Gowling Ltd.)
Christine Williams, February 2002.
- Much of the information on the Pioneer Motor Works was obtained from a magazine article by Nick Baldwin (source and date unknown) which also referenced the Stratford Motor Museum.
- Other information from Mary Taylor.