Louis Russell started a cycle repair shop at 7 Station Road Lower (now London Road) in 1896 and described himself as an electrical engineer. In about 1909 he built his own workshop premises further up the road, at 97 Station Road.
During the First World War after horses had been requisitioned he modified a motor tractor to pull the town’s Merryweather fire engine and provided a lorry to act as a water tender. In 1921 he fitted a motor pump to the tender and created a fire engine christened ‘Diana’ after the then Countess de la Warr. He also built the town’s first motorised ambulance which, with its successors, was based in the garage until 1961.
Petrol pumps were added to the showroom and workshop buildings in the 1920s. After the Second World War Arthur and Alan Russell were the Managing Directors followed by Alan and his son.
In the 1920s they were agents for Arral Johnson, Arral Asta, Napier, Minerva, Star, Benz and Armstrong Siddeley before concentrating on Renault in the 1950s.
97 Station Road became 47 London Road in the 1930s and at its peak employed more than 30 people.
After 112 years trading, Russell’s in Bexhill closed in August 2008 having become part of Lifestyle Europe Ltd based in Tunbridge Wells. The Bexhill site was deemed too small and business transferred to Eastbourne.
The site is now used by the Hastings Furniture Service.
The media gallery above shows the following images:-
RU-001 – Early view of Louis Russell’s London Road workshop and vehicles c1896.
RU-002 – Combined images from a publication by Russell’s of late 1970s showing the newly completed workshops, showrooms and forecourt at 47 London Road; Bexhill ambulance with bodywork by Russell’s; early advertisement for Russell’s original shop, Town Hall Square; Bexhill fire engine ‘Diana’.
RU-003 – Appearance by Stirling Moss at Russell’s with a driving challenge in a Renault car.
RU-004 – John Russell being awarded with a presentation clock by Renault, in celebration for being a Renault dealer 30 years.
RU-005 – View of Russell’s workshop showing Arral Johnson cars among others, 1950s.
RU-006 – Louis Russell’s specially adapted motor car with caterpillar tracks to rear to allow local invalided shooting enthusiast Capt F S Dunn to pursue his hobby. Captain Dunn had been struck down with rheumatic fever in 1932 and had become a cripple.
RU-007 – In 1936 Louis Russell provided another ‘one-off’ vehicle for Capt Dunn. Based on an imported Pontiac Sedan car, right-hand drive car, from the United States it was purchased by Captain and Mrs Dunn of Bexhill, in 1936. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the Dunn’s requested that Russell & Co., convert the car into a coach-built motor caravan. It wasn’t because of any love of caravanning but, purely, because of their decision to evacuate Bexhill and the South! Using the rear of a contemporary caravan, Russell’s produced a luxurious motor home with cooking facilities, beds, washing facilities plus with room for a wheelchair next to the driver. The conversion was completed in 1940 and the Dunns drove the Pontiac to South Wales where they toured, searching for a suitable new home. Having found one, they garaged the vehicle in the stable and, then, appear to have forgotten about – it, finally, came to light in 1991. When found, the last licence was dated June 30th 1940; the Captain had died in 1946. The vehicle had, probably, never been driven since the last licence. The vehicle was restored by Andy Saunders of Poole, Dorset, in 1991.
RU-008 – Russell’s Dunn motor home interior back bed.
RU-009 – Russell’s Dunn motor home interior washing facilities.
RU-010 – Russell’s Dunn motor home interior; Chef’s facilities to the left & array of storage units to the right.
RU-011 – Russell’s Dunn motor home interior front view with a wheelchair next to the driver.
In 1940 the Dunn’s evacuated to Wales and the vehicle was laid-up. Capt Dunn died in 1946 and the vehicle was found in its garage
RU-012 – Line-up of ancient and modern Renault vehicles in matching colours, seen at Filching Manor, near Polegate in the 1990s. John Russell stands third from the left.
RU-012 – Louis Russell was a great supporter of both the fire and ambulance services in Bexhill. He built and maintained both the ambulances seen here with members of the St John’s Ambulance Service. The relationship and support ended in 1961 on formation of East Sussex Ambulance Service.
RU-013 – Known as ‘Bexhill’s father of the Fire Brigade’, Louis Russell created this fire engine from a lorry chassis in 1925. It was named ‘Diana’ after the Countess De la Warr. Here the Earl and Countess de La Warr test drive the vehicle outside the Town Hall with the Mayor, Cllr Sewell.
RU-014 Installation of new fuel tanks in Russell’s London Road forecourt, late 50s/early 60s. They were Rootes dealers at this time stocking Regent petrol.
RU-015 – Russell built ambulances with the St John’s group
RU-016 – Russell & Company’s advertisement in 1962