Family hopes to name Birstall street in honour of remarkable grandparents

A family wants to remember their remarkable grandparents who ran a garage in Birstall between the 1940s and 1960s by having a street named after them.

Monday, 16th August 2021, 12:30 pm
Carol Hartley and her family are campaigning to have a new street named after her grandparents, who used to run the garage on Field Head Lane, Birstall

The late Harry and Doris Benson ran H. Benson & Son on Fieldhead Lane when it was the only garage for miles around.

The couple lived in the first house built on Fieldhead Lane and started a garage on land at the side.

Now a plot of land next to the garage, running down to Oakwell Hall Country Park, is to become a housing estate and the Benson family want a street named after Harry and Doris.

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Harry and Doris Benson on their wedding day

Stonewater Housing Association has planning permission for 32 homes next to what is now known as Fieldhead Garage.

Kirklees Council is asking for suggestions for street names and the Benson family are hoping the council will agree to go with Benson Street.

Granddaughter Carol Hartley, 47, of Mirfield, said: “It would mean so much to the family. Benson’s Garage was an institution for so long and people still remember it.

“I recall going there as a child and it just smelled of smoke, petrol and oil. My nana always used to open up the till and give me and my sister Tracy 10p for sweets even when sweets cost more than 10p!”

Harry and Doris married in the early 1940s and had three children - Valerie, Tony and Dorothy. They bought a cricket hut which they eventually built the garage around.

Harry originally sold firewood and had an ice cream cart and started a taxi business.

They bought the first house being built on Fieldhead Lane and moved there in 1945. At the back they had pens with pigs, horses and German shepherd dogs. Harry bred the dogs and was a show judge.

In 1955 Harry started selling petrol and later while Doris ran the petrol station, Harry went into car repairs.

When Tony grew up he joined the business and eventually took it over.

Harry died in 1968 and Carol remembers Doris running the business.

“It was unheard of at the time for a woman to be running a business like this,” said Carol.

“Nana used to serve the men coffee and tea with rum in it and at break time she’d shout: ‘Teas up!’ and all these oily and mucky blokes would walk in.

“There was a coal fire and all I remember is the smell of fire, smoke, petrol and oil. I wonder if the garage still smells like that?”

Eventually the house was sold and the garage went too when Tony retired but the Bensons would love the family name to live on.

Kirklees Council routinely asks for street name suggestions for new developments but there are certain rules and guidelines.

The council says: “New roads are generally not named after people who are still alive or have lived in the recent past. Preference is often given to names with local connotations.”

The deadline for suggestions is August 18. They can be sent to [email protected] or by phone to 01484 221550.

“It would be great if people supported it,” said Carol. “It would mean so much to us.”