End of an era with Melton’s oldest garage set to close

Ian Williamson at Wilson's Garage in Melton, which is to close in July EMN-170627-131159001
Ian Williamson at Wilson's Garage in Melton, which is to close in July EMN-170627-131159001
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Melton’s oldest garage, which dates back almost 60 years, is set to close, the owner announced this week.

Mechanics at Wilson’s Garage, in Regent Street, have repaired, serviced and MOT’d vehicles for generations of customers since 1960.

But current owner Ian Williamson has decided to retire at the age of 61 with the historic old building set for a change of use.

It is believed it was originally used as a cinema when it was built around a century ago and it then became the headquarters of the town branch of East Midlands Electricity Board.

Legendary Melton character Dick Wilson then took it over with, at one time, a dozen mechanics working there and drivers queuing up on both sides of the road waiting to have their vehicles worked on.

Mr Williamson bought the garage from Mr Wilson 25 years ago and in recent years just him and another mechanic worked there, retaining a loyal customer base.

“We are Melton’s oldest garage so you could say this is the end of an era,” said Mr Williamson, who will close the business on July 31.

“I will miss the customers because we’ve dealt with a lot of nice people over the years and I would like to thank them for their support.”

As you wander around the old garage, it is clear that some of the equipment is from a bygone age, including a ramp which dates from 1972 but which looks as sturdy as when it was new.

The roof needs replacing, with rainwater often coming in during storms and, on one occasion in the 1990s, flooding the garage.

In one corner is a piano, which used to be played by Mr Williamson’s father, Vernon, as a musical accompaniment to the work and for the enjoyment of waiting customers.

A band played there at one stage in the former paint shop, with Vernon on piano, on Wednesday evenings.

“People used to call from the Anne of Cleves pub at the back of us asking if the band would play certain tunes because they were entertaining their customers,” recalled Mr Williamson.

The industry has changed markedly over the lifetime of Wilson’s Garage, with modern day cars requiring much less attention than older vehicles.

Mr Williamson said: “In the old days we were continually carrying out welding on cars but now we get one a week at most.

“Our principles have always been to repair rather than replace.

“It has changed a lot. People can now buy a new car for the same monthly payments as a deposit and they offer them seven years servicing which we can’t compete with.”

He added: “We’ve become a very female-friendly business, where a lot of ladies have come to us, for example, just for a bulb to be changed without being charged and they are disappointed we are closing.”

Mr Williamson is now selling off car parts, equipment and furniture before he closes.

Anyone interested in any of it is welcome to visit and make him an offer.