The Way We Were: Rising like a phoenix

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This week’s picture shows Royal Engineers on parade during the First World War outside the premises of the Newport Pagnell Brewery.

Being his first acquaintance with the town, as a young despatch rider William James Cooper was sent on his motorcycle with messages for the Royal Engineers stationed on Bury Field. After the war he entered the agricultural implement trade and, following experience gained with two other firms, he decided to set up on his own. His father, William, had moved from Edgcott to take over Dairy Farm, Gayhurst, and he accompanied his son when he went to look over the derelict brewery buildings at the town.

Since much damage had been done by soldiers and children to the premises, which had previously been used as a mineral water factory, he queried why his son would want to use the place. Nevertheless William decided to rent and in October 1924 set up in business with one employee, a carpenter by the name of Horace Sapwell. At first they made poultry houses but then William decided to try and meet an increasing need for spare parts and repair of agricultural mechanisation. He built up a flourishing busin

ess and soon began making his own implements, opening a depot in Buckingham and building new workshops at the old canal wharf, Great Linford.

In 1927 he began dealing in tractors, the first being a Ford, and although business suffered during the Depression the firm kept going. William married in 1932 and eventually his two sons, Peter and James, would join him in the business. Consisting of ‘dull, brown lock up garages,’ in April 1957 the frontage was transformed by the completion of showrooms for WJ Cooper and Sons, Phoenix Works. The work was carried out by Messrs Henry Mason junior of the town and the subsequent story is a tale for another time.