Henry Leverett

"Leverett's Annual Outing." It was taken at the rear of the then Leicester Railway Inn, now the Nightingale, in Nightingale Road, Hitchin. Date? Late twenties, I think.
Hitchin Historic society

Extract from Albert Sheldrick’s book: ‘A Different World’

The village owes its first bus service to a London hat manufacturer. Cockney Henry Leverett, wearing a cloth cap and neckerchief, bought the strange white house on Ashwell Street at the top of Bear Lane, which has been used as a factory of various kinds for some years now. I believe it was built as a retirement home for Fred Bailey, founder of the Ashwell firm of F.J. Bailey & Co., Builders, timber merchants, lime burners and undertakers.

When Henry Leverett moved in, in the late twenties, there were the usual village rumours. Something mysterious was going on; two fierce chow dogs patrolled the house and grounds day and night. But after a time, Henry made himself known to the regulars at the Rose & Crown and following a few rounds of drinks, he didn’t seem a bad sort of chap; in fact he made it known that he was building a bus! In due course, the strange vehicle emerged – a mixture of polished aluminium and red paint. A sign above the windscreen stated Ye Olde Tin Can. The bus was fitted out with about fourteen red wickerwork seats, with red leather cushions.

A board on the slaughterhouse of T.D. Dennis in High Street and a notice in chalk informed Ashwell that ‘Ye Olde Tin Can’ would leave at 5.30 p.m. on Sundays bound for Bedford, Henlow and Hitchin, returning about 10.30 p.m.

This was soon followed by a service to London every Friday. The next step was the purchase of two Dennis coaches, which were used for seaside outings, exhibitions, shows, etc. Henry drove one coach and Bob Cole, his brother-in-law, the other. Spurred on by the success of the coach business, Henry then considered a daily bus service from Hitchin to Cambridge via Letchworth, Baldock, Ashwell, the Mordens, Royston and all the villages to Cambridge, with early morning buses for workers and a late night bus from Hitchin on Saturdays for cinemagoers. All of this came to pass.

There were very few cars in those days, so it really put sleepy old Ashwell on the map. With more buses, it was necessary to build garages and a workshop. F.J. Bailey & Co did the building work and were able to make use of a range of large window frames which had been removed during the alterations at Ashwell Bury. With extra buses, extra drivers and a mechanic were needed. To house them, two cottages were built at West End by Baileys and another pair in Back Street by W.F. Rand, another Ashwell builder.

It was not very long before one of the big bus companies cast their greedy eyes on our bus service. They threatened to run Henry off the road; he was compelled to sell out, and Ashwell lost its Cockney hat manufacturer-cum-bus proprietor.

Comments about this page

  • Hi great reading the two comments after my one. I would love to have copies of any photos you may have of my grand and great grandparents. Did Henry and Aunt Doll live in a big bungalow in South Woodford. I’m almost sure I can remember going round there with my grandad. How can I get in contact with you for any copies of photos. This is amazing.

    By Steve Milne (18/09/2023)
  • With reference to Steve Milne text l may have some pics of your nan and grandad . Or Alb and Bet as they were known .

    By David Humphrey (18/09/2023)
  • Just an update re Henry. I am David one of Dolls sons, Doll being Dolley one of Henrys daughters. He was quite estranged from his daughters in the end because of family history he also owned a lot of land in Clacton of which he sold to Billy Butlin. His grave has been desecrated by the church St Peters in the forest and the last time l visited there was a sign post where his grave was.

    By David Humphrey (17/09/2023)
  • My grandad was Albert Edward Leverett and Henry was Grandads father. And Henry was my Mums (Janet Beatrice Leverett) Grandad. My grandad was my hero so if any one knows more please let me know

    By Steve Milne (27/06/2023)
  • That very interesting Michael Leverett. Is there anyway you would be prepared to consider conversing with me?

    By Katelyn Childs (23/08/2022)
  • Thanks for this information which gives us more of a picture Henry as a person.

    By Peter Greener (15/08/2022)
  • I am Michael Leverett, the last Grandson living of “Henry”, with the Leverett name. Henry Leverett had 3 hat factories in Goswell Road London, making mainly Bowler hats. With my Grandmother they had 9 children and he bought each one a house as a wedding present. Before he moved to Ashwell he lived at 19 Downs Road Clapton and we lived at no. 17. After leaving Ashwell he lived with my Uncle Harrry and his wife Carrie in Raglan Road Whipps Cross, where I used to visit him. He is buried in St Peters graveyard Woodford New Road.

    By Michael Leverett (13/08/2022)
  • Wow what a amazing story, Henry Leverett was my nans father.

    By Claire childs (24/05/2013)
  • The Rand houses built in Back Street were built in 1932, just for the record. I live in one of them! Can we have some dates in this text for other things? Trevor

    By Trevor James (17/03/2010)

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