A History of YALDING, Kent, England

MONCKTON'S TRANSPORT (Article repeated from Chronicles 1935 with additional photo.)

This haulage company was a familiarsight in our village throughout the second quarter of the last century, by using a yard by the side of the now discontinued Two Brewers public house in The Square.

Tucks sieves and pecks are just a few of the technical names encountered within the wholesale fruit trade and play an important part in the transportation of the latter from grower to market as told in the insuing tale of a Kentish haulier who built his business on the demand for such services.

Yalding is a small, quiet, picturesque Kentish village lying well off' the beaten track halfway up the Medway valley. Its main claim to fame is that for many years it has held the somewhat notorious reputation of being the English parish producing the largest crop of hops and is, indeed, at the very centre of the Kentish hop growing area. It is therefore hardly surprising to learn that when Wally and Harry Monckton decided to set up there as haulage contractors the movement of hops would become a very important part of their activities.

Using their demobilisation Army gratuities the brothers set up shop in 1919, having both served in the Armed Forces during the First World War, and with apprenticeships completed at Tilling-Stevens Limited in nearby Maidstone both were suitably qualified vehicle engineers as well. Their first lorry was an ex army surplus Dearborn of American manufacture, but as business from local farmers and fruit growers grew so the fleet expanded with the acquisition of further surplus military vehicles, many of Dennis manufacture. Initially most were standard subsidy types, even down to their

bodywork, but with ever increasing demand for larger and heavier loads, `trailing axles' were often added and many hauliers supplemented this further by using drawbar trailers, thereby increasing payload by yet another 4 or 5 tons, a practice that W & F Monckton likewise were far from slow to adopt.

The fleet continued to grow and by the early 1930’s it  was realised that the company’s long distance work necessitated a vehicle of more substantial construction than those currently used. Thus it was decided to invest in AEC's and a number of these were soon to he seen sporting the W & H Monckton name on their headboards. For more local work, lighter types such as Guys and Thornycrofts were used, joined by Albions and Bedfords by the end of the decade. So by 1939 the fleet numbered some dozen vehicles, the mainstay  being AEC's. Much of the work was of course agricultural, with hops playing the most important role, particularly every Autumn.

Most hop producers prior to the mid-20s tended to grow and sell very much on an individual basis which, of course was uneconomic and led to constant over production from year to year. It was this tendency that brought about the formation of the Hop Marketing Board in 1934, setting a standard price for the different grades of hop and administering allocation of the later, at the same time imposing tariffs on imported types. As hoped, this action stabilised the hop growing industry and provided a far more efficient means of hop production throughout the British Isles­.

It wasn't easy working in road transport between the wars as many an old hand will testify and one didn't usually see home from one week's end to another, so far as driving was concerned. Bill Pearson joined the business at the age of 16 way back in 1927 as a driver's mate, when lorries were run literally day and night. He  well remembers how one always respected one's driver as the boss when out on the road. An example of this was when, on frequent occasions, the oil burning sidelights would blow out and a nudge from the driver would indicate to Bill that these needed re-lighting. Now this little exercise would be performed while the lorry was in motion (traveling at approximately 12 mph), requiring Bill to clamber reluctantly out of the cab and balance precariously on the front mudguard in order to re-light the wick by engulfing the lamp in his overcoat. This used to happen regularly every 3 of 4 miles on windy nights. It was while performing the other duties involved in mating that young Bill suddenly realised how it was that his driver always knew when the lamp was out. Bill look great pride in polishing the brass oil pipes, lamps and radiator when he suddenly realised that through polishing the back of the radiator his driver could see the lamps’ reflection in the brasswork.  Needless to say, after this revelation the back of the radiator never received the same attention again.

It was just a matter of months before Wally Monckton confronted Bill about his age. Wally reckoned he must now be 17 (the legal age to drive a motor vehicle), and despite his protestations that he was still only 16 Bill found himself issued with a driving license and undertaking his first run to London when a regular driver fell sick. This was on the old six-wheeled Dennis with front `pump-up,' tyres (as pneumatics were then known) carrying a full load of apple tubs for Champions of Covent Garden from their fruit farm at Yalding.                                                                                                                                                   Next