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Alex J. Marsh Ltd
Motor Body Builders & Designers Lysons Avenue, Ash Vale

Alex J. Marsh Ltd

As VE day passed in May 1945, Alex Marsh’s wartime work making aircraft fuel tanks ceased and he was out of a job. At the same time, the Home Guard was wound up and their Ash Vale HQ at Cecil House near the Admiral Napier was put up for sale. Alex bought it and the family moved in.

Alex was a trained panel beater and sheet metal worker and was able to turn his hand to many tasks in this line. The one that quickly presented itself was the refurbishing of private cars that, due to the lack of petrol, had spent the war years stored away in garages and gardens – often propped up on piles of bricks. He began with his own Standard 8, cleaning rusty patches, beating out dents and finally spraying the bodywork using a spray gun accessory attached to the blowing end of his wife’s Goblin vacuum cleaner! Soon others who had seen the results began bringing their vehicles for repair and respray. All this took place in the Nissen huts left by the Home Guard in the back garden of Cecil House.

Before long Alex was being approached by owners of commercial vehicles with requests for similar renovation and it became apparent that new premises were needed. Lysons Avenue was designated for commercial/light industrial buildings, plans were passed and a new factory erected.


Over the years that followed, private cars were still repaired and sprayed but the main business was in larger projects involving the design and construction of commercial vehicles. Examples are mobile libraries, water tenders, vehicles for the Arab Emirates and many others for local and national companies such as Timothy Whites.

In 1966, due to ill health, the Company was wound up and the factory sold. Alex Marsh died in 1968 from lung damage probably caused by inhaling welding fumes in confined spaces during the war years.

by Margaret Gott nee Marsh

The renovation of Lord Onslow’s Stage Coach at the Vale Works

Lord Onslow's Stage Coach

The task of restoring Lord Onslow's coach was given to Alex Marsh by the National Trust. The local newspaper reported that the coach was almost black with age and disuse when it arrived at the workshops, and Mr Marsh and his assistants had difficulty in deciding what colour it had been.

After restoration the body, chassis, wheels and shafts were richly painted in dark maroon lined with red and black. The brass work of the wheel hubs, the great candle burning lamps, the insignia, door handles and buckles of the leather work, were restored with painstaking care.

Eighteen coats of paint were applied, all by brushwork. It was impossible to detect any brush marks and the panels shone like mirrors. The coats of arms on the panels of the coach took Ash Vale sign writer Mr Eddie Edwards six weeks to restore and repaint. Now it would do credit to any Royal procession.

Today the Onslow coach is in the National Trust’s Carriage Museum at Arlington Court in North Devon. It is thought that the restoration was carried out for the Coronation in 1953.

In this picture Miss Marian Marsh and Mr Jerry Gott, future husband of her sister Margaret, are polishing the restored stage coach.

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