Reg Bainbridge & The Steamroller

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‘The Tar Babies’ in front of York's third Aveling steam roller in 1929 near the Beeswing public house on Hull Road. Derek Rayner collection, York Press

Charles “Reg” Bainbridge was born in the village of Newton on Ouse, North Yorkshire, to parents John Henry Bainbridge of Tollerton and Adelaide Edgar of York. The first of five children, Reg arrived in 1915 shortly before his father’s departure for WWI service with the Royal Ambulance Corp. His mother was left to raise a new born and run the grocery store in her husband’s absence.

In 1929, the fourteen year old Reg had a desire for mobility, to escape the village, but lacked access to a motor car. Not to be daunted Reg passed his driving test on a steam roller borrowed from his neighbour, similar if not the same one as pictured above.

Charles Reginald Bainbridge, circa 1939
Charles Reginald Bainbridge, circa 1939

License in hand, Reg procured himself a BSA motorcycle, and proudly recounted his adventures to an enthralled grandson many years later. The only issue was how to take his best friend, Lance, and their respective dates into York for a night out. Apparently four young people could ride on one motorcycle. Reg steered while sat on the petrol tank, his date balanced on the handlebars, while Lance and his date squeezed onto the seat.

Probable motorcycle Reg Bainbridge was riding in 1929: BSA 1922 4 1/4 hp Single, BSA 1922 Range

With the introduction of the compulsory driving licenses and changing age limits, Reg had to return his license, losing his freedom for six months, until he turned eighteen. The years and laws for driving licenses in England do not align with Reg’s account but the Bainbridge’s are not a family to let truth get in the way of a good story.

Reg left the village aged sixteen to find employment as the family grocery store could not support an additional paid employee. In 1931 Reg joined a grocery business, William Thompson of York, in Goodramgate and thereafter found lodgings around the corner on College Street with a co-worker and her husband.

William Thompson of York, Grocers, was located at 30-32 Goodramgate, York, on the corner of College Terrace. Ordnance Survey, OS 25 inch England and Wales, 1841-1952
William Thompson of York, Grocers, 30-32 Goodramgate, York, circa 1940. York Press Photo Archive

Reg’s address at 10 College Street was listed on the September 1939 Register of UK residents in the build up to WWII and also on the death certificate of his father, John Henry BAINBRIDGE, in June 1940.

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15 Responses

  1. Great story how Dad used his initiative to travel from the village, but I cannot imagine a more uncomfortable ride through to York !
    Memo to any of the younger generation reading this short story, please do not try this nowadays.

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