'The Garage', 'Docking Shop' and 'Engine Shop'

When I took on the responsibility of becoming Bartons' 5th Managing Director, I spent literally months getting to know intimately the warren of buildings the company has built, bought and adapted at Chilwell over a period of a century. In order to make sense of the site almost every building and structure built since the end of the Second World War has been removed, although I'm pleased to report many materials used in their construction have been recycled.

In my childhood this whole area at the West end of Beeston was known as (and almost universally locally pronounced as) 'The Gar-idge'. A few pronounced the word differently as 'Gar-age' and the difference struck me as odd, as subtle and defining, as most likely a difference in accent as we see in Northern 'grass' and Southern 'grarse'

A decision was to start to return the names of historic buildings to their originals (such as 'Garage') when constructed, and away from the rather ugly 'Units 1-16a' and so on they had become. Many people told me of their delight about 10 years ago when the first renaming, that of the old Head Office back to being 'Barton House', was accompanied by the return of the familiar old company logo traditionally signwritten on the west elevation.

In recent years the names of 'The Garage', 'Docking Shop' and 'Engine Shop' have tripped off people's tongues in relation to ever more unusual events we have been hosting, with not a single comment to me as yet about the strangeness of these words and names.

It is only when you stop to think you notice, as I have done, their particular significance – amazingly, 'Garage' is a word for a building that has only existed in English since 1902. And yet, the first parts of 'Barton's Garage' were purpose built in 1913. I know that most people's reaction at the time was this 'motor' business was a complete fad that would soon pass, so the idea of a purpose built garage for buses must have seemed madder still.

One can now see the deep significance of the word 'garage', and for that matter quite what 'Docking Shop' means: a new motor car and bus language had to be invented because not only did people not know the influence the motor vehicles were about to have on their world, they did not have existing words to explain how these new creations would be taken care of, where they would be stored and repaired. Words were borrowed from anywhere that might help, and many come from nautical expressions rather than equine; the vehicles were not 'stabled' for food and sleep, they were 'docked' liked ships. 'Garer' in French had been used as a verb to describe 'mooring' a boat.

The point to be made is probably two-fold here.

The dual pronunciation locally was because the word was new and people quite simple did not know whether to 'Notttingham' it, or bow to the probably more correct and balanced French/American 'Gar-age' We now know which version won here.

The second point not lost on me is the lesson from history that sometimes you have to invent a name for a type of building because no-one has thought of using a building that way before.

Perhaps that is also what is going on at Chilwell, because the old garage and the buildings surrounding it seem perfectly happy as galleries, markets, theatres, concert halls, a drive in cinema, a village green, offices, houses, comedy club, shops, bar, café, whilst also sheltering vehicles.

So you might ask, what is the name for a place like that?

Welcome to Bartons.


Simon Barton
Managing Director