Fleet Oil Depot

The first three photos on this page were taken in 1938. The man on the left with the moustache is the depot foreman, Edward Marsh. Jim Petrie is standing next to him. Clifford Hargreaves is on the right. One of the other two is Harry Audsley. The pump was part of the fire precautions and would have been used for pumping water from the canal. It was powered by an Austin Seven engine and could be detached from the trailer and carried by two men. (Picture courtesy Edward Marsh’s daughter, Eileen Sparks.)

The fuel storage depot next to the Aire and Calder Navigation at the end of Fleet Lane opened in 1938. It was situated close to the site of the corn, oil and whiting mills at Fleet Mills which had a history going back to medieval times. 

The land on which the oil depot stood was owned by British Waterways and was originally tenanted by Texaco and then the Regent Oil Company. Petrol and oil was brought in large barges up the Navigation from the coast and then pumped into storage tanks before being distributed by road tankers.    

The first foreman was Edward Marsh, a mechanical engineer who had trained at the Merryweather & Sons fire engine factory in Clapham, London. He moved north in 1938 to open the facility and lived with his family near the Co-op on Aberford Road in Woodlesford. Initially they were to stay for a two year period, but had to stay on with the outbreak of the Second World War. His daughter Eileen remembered having to walk down Fleet Lane to the depot to deliver her father’s sandwiches.

During the war Ted Marsh was a member of the Auxilliary Fire Service made up of local men who were exempt from frontline service because of their occupations. 

After the war he went on to help open similar facilities at Immingham, and in 1952 he went back south to Canvey Island.

More recently the depot was run jointly by Bayfords and the British Fuel Company under the name Fleet Storage Ltd. They took over the lease in 1975 after the depot had been closed for a period following an alleged Customs and Excise fraud by some employees.

Bayford & Company was founded in 1919 by four survivors of the First World War who decided to pool their resources to establish a coal agents business in Leeds. Whilst searching for a suitable title for their enterprise they hit on the idea of using the name of the Hertfordshire village of Bayford where they had been demobbed at the end of the war.

In 1999 the Transport Minister, Glenda Jackson, officially opened the refurbished storage depot. Bulk fuel supplies were delivered to the depot by barge from refineries on the coast. This saved an estimated 16,000 road tanker journeys over the next five years and helped Bayford secure a Freight Facilities Grant. Total investment in the site was over £300,000.

Fleet Storage Ltd and Whitaker’s Barge Company owned Whitfleet Ltd which operated the barges carrying oil from Immingham to Fleet. Each vessel was equivalent to over 20 road tankers. 

Click on the link below to hear Dennis Jackson, son of railway clerk Frank Jackson, talk about his time as a tanker driver and clerk at the depot from after he left the army until he was made redundant in 1972.

We used to deliver within a 50 mile radius

Edward Marsh at the gate with Fleet Mills and houses in the background. The large mill building was used for the “fulling” or cleaning of cloth, chert grinding, and pottery manufacturing. It was destroyed by a fire in 1924 and stood derelict until it was demolished in 1967. A small community of workers lived in houses adjacent to the mill which have also been pulled down.
Two “Albion” tanker lorries. The Albion company’s logo was “Sure as the Sunrise” which is the casting on the radiator top with the name Albion embedded centrally in it. The registration plates indicate they were registered in London in 1938, probably at the Texaco head office.
The River Aire in flood in 1947. The building behind the pumps was the depot offices. The photo, looking towards Bowers Row and Allerton Bywater, was taken from the top of one of the petrol tanks.
Petrol storage tanks.
A barge passes underneath the Fleet Lane bridge.
Part of the original blueprint plan for the site.