Cooper’s Garage

Frank Cooper’s garage in the early 1950s.
The forecourt in the early 1970s.
Mechanics Vernon Lilley and Donald Goodall with an ex-army breakdown truck.

Frank Cooper’s garage on Aberford Road opened in July 1946. The business, which is still family owned, has been a fixture of village life ever since. It was built on the site of a worked out quarry filled in with rubble from excavations for the the site of Skelton Grange power station. 

Frank was born in 1910 at Ruspidge near Cinderford in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. His father, Phillip, came from a coal mining family which had been in the area for over a century but as the pits were becoming worked out he decided to move to Yorkshire for better prospects. In 1923 he brought his wife Mary and his younger children to live at North Lane in Oulton and went to work at Water Haigh colliery where he became active in the local branch of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association.

Young Frank also went down the pit briefly, as a pony driver, but he soon got a job as a mechanic at the Leeds showroom of Rolls-Royce dealer and coachbuilder Hoffman’s of Halifax.

In 1933 Frank married Mary Stainer, probably meeting her at Rothwell’s Empire cinema where she played the piano to accompany silent films. She was the daughter of Rothwell builder Charles Stainer and the couple lived at first at Alma Villas in Woodlesford in a house owned by his wife’s family. The first of four children, David, was born in 1934 followed by Phillip, June and Rita.

During the Second World War Frank worked as a mechanic at the Barnbow tank factory near Crossgates. Immediately afterwards he started his first garage near the site of the old pottery off Alma Street. Looking to expand he then bought the quarry on Aberford Road. Known as Midland Quarry it was owned in the 1890s by Leeds stone merchant David Hall who had worked with a partner by the name of Stead.

Frank’s two sons joined him in the business and in 1949 the family moved into a large newly built house next to the garage. 

For over 15 years they also ran a small fleet of taxis ferrying people into Leeds and sometimes as far away as seaside resorts on the Yorkshire coast. Other activities were snowploughing and gritting the roads in winter along with breakdown work with an ex-army truck. An exclusive franchise with the Austin Motor Company started in 1948 which expanded rapidly in the 1960s as more people could afford to buy a car. Initially petrol came from the Regent Oil Company depot at the end of Fleet Lane and sold for 11 and a half pence a gallon. Later the forecourt was let to Petrofina.

Frank Cooper was 75 years old when he died in 1985.

Click on the link below to listen to David Cooper talk about his father and the business he built.

Frank Cooper was an excellent engineer

George Patterson, Dennis Bagley, Jack Cooper (wearing hat), Philip Cooper and Vernon Lilley (kneeling).
Frank Cooper at the garage in April 1963 with Curly.
The Motor Agents Association annual dinner in October 1964 at the Dorchester Hotel in London. At the back are George Hollingworth from Sheffield, David Cooper, Albert Roberts M.P., Frank Cooper, and David Foster from Austin Rover.
The new forecourt on Tuesday 22 August 1967.