The history of Millard & Co Ltd can be dated back to 1887 (1908 in Guernsey). After moving over from Trowbridge with his wife Kathleen, Thomas Millard founded the Guernsey business and set up at the first premises in Bosq Lane St Peter Port.
A Brief history of the Family
Thomas Millard was born in Tetbury, Glos.. in 1870 and his wife, Kathleen, was born in Painswick, Glos. in 1872. Her family were influential in the West of England Woollen Industry. They had three sons, Lesna, Theo, Clinton and one daughter, Clarice.
In the late 1880s/1890s Thomas had two shops, one in Frome and one in Trowbridge where he also produced his own cycles called The Pacer.
In 1908 Thomas moved to Guernsey with his family and began trading. It was hoped that the eldest son Lesna, born in 1897, would eventually be in charge of the business, but he died in the 1914-1918 war.
Thomas Millard died in 1939. In his time he served the island as a deputy. He was responsible for the introduction of reflectors on the rear of cycles and yellow lines at road junctions.
Theo Millard was born in 1909 in Trowbridge Wilts, took over as Manager in 1936 with his brother, Clinton Millard, born 1903, being Chief Mechanic.
Prior to the Germans occupying the island in the Second World War Thomas's sons Theo and Clinton, moved to England with their families. Theo first worked as a draftsman at Jowett and then moved to AVRO where he worked on the development of the Lancaster bomber and with the design of the dropping mechanism of the bouncing bomb.
Before the war Clinton Millard was one of the leading motorcycle racers in the Channel Islands and at one time in the 1920's attained a record speed over a measured mile of 83mph. The timekeepers did not believe their readings until he repeated the run a second time. In 1940 he left the Island, having been trained to service their cars, he joined the Rover factory in Coventry. When the factory was bombed out the works were moved to Barnoldswick in Lancashire where Clinton worked throughout the War on aeroplane engines.
A BSA has recently (2008) been found in a barn and lovingly restored by the owner and the history of it has been traced back to the BSA that Clinton rode. - see full article here
Lesna Millard (Theo's Son) took over as Managing Director in 1963 and retired in 1997. Lesna died in 2003.
The Business continued to flourish with John Millard (Lesna's Brother) as Managing Director until his retirement in 2002. John died in November 2008.
Tim Millard, who is the grandson of Clinton Millard, joined the Firm as a junior in 1973 and is the present Managing Director working alongside his two children Clinton and Sophie.
A History of the Business
Millards in Guernsey was founded in 1908 when a workshop opened in Bosq Lane. In 1909 a branch was opened in Jersey.
B.S.A. motorcycles were first imported in early 1917.
Maxwell cars from the USA were imported in the early 1920s and sold in quantities similar to Ford cars. In the 1930s agencies were held for Clenoe., Willeys, Overland Crossley, Citroen, Fiat, Jowett and Rover. Guy trucks were sold to the Channel Islands Granite Company in Alderney.
In the 1920s the premises in Victoria Road, Guernsey were purchased as well as the Robin Hood garage in Jersey.
In the years from 1930 to 1940 used cars were imported from England and sold in quantity.
During the German Occupation of the Island in World War II forty cars were lost and damage done to the premises at 29 Victoria Road. This was the car garage which had a stove enamelling plant at the very top of the building. All the equipment in the garage was destroyed by the Germans before they left. In 9-11 Victoria Road (where we are today) there was a staging at the rear of the showroom where bikes were displayed. Under this the entire stock of car and truck tyres were hidden and remained undiscovered throughout the war, they were sold in 1946.
After the war the only agency left was Jowett Javelin but this was very expensive compared to Rover etc. This made car sales difficult, especially when premises for the "New Image" car trade were unsuitable. The shop in Jersey was sold to create capital to help the firm's recovery in Guernsey.
In 1946 Millards became a "Limited Company" and a deal involving 75 B.S.A. M20 side valve ex-war department machines was arranged to the trade, twenty-five machines to each dealer. They were sold immediately. 500 Armstrongs were imported and the new Sunbeams produced limited sales.
At this time our rival firm, Greens, were advertising Enfield motorcycles as "Built like a Bullet" - Millards advertised B.S.A. as "Built like a Motorcycle".
In the 1960's the former car garage at 29 Victoria Road was sold to the Earl of Jersey to provide capital needed for the modernisation of 9-11 Victoria Road which included the removal of a wall separating the main showroom from the rest of the building. B.S.A. sales rose from 50 to 500 a year and, eventually peaked at 800.
In 1965 the annual sale of bicycles for hire was arranged with Jackson's of Sark.
1967 Millards were awarded a plaque from BSA for 50 years service
The Guernsey Press wrote an article about it - you can view that article here
1970 saw the closure of some of our competitors: Taylors of St Martins, Domailles in the Bordage, and Greens Motorcycles and Cycles. No premises were bought but valuable stock and agencies were obtained. Suzuki and Lambretta were made available by the closure of Greens and an arrangement was made to import both of these makes for both Guernsey and Jersey. Vespa scooters were made available through the closure of Taylor's.
1971 saw the collapse of B.S.A. Puch moped were sold in large numbers for two years. This was due to the very successful "24 Hour Non-stop Reliability Trial" round the island, our stand at the "Trade Show", and the current fuel shortage.
We set out to prove the reliability of one of our top selling mopeds - by running the machine in a round-the-clock trial.
The machine, a Puch Maxi 50cc moped, began its marathon from our Showrooms in Victoria Road at 3pm. on Monday April 26th 1971.
A team of nine riders was selected to keep the machine running throughout the 24hour test on regular 22mile laps of the Island.
To ensure fair play, we enlisted the help of the R.A.C. who were present at the start and finish to check milometer readings. Throughout the day R.A.C. patrols also kept a check on the machines progress. In addition the club had arranged secret checks to be carried out during the night and early hours.
During the 24-hour run the fuel tank was topped up every two-laps.
We successfully covered 556 trouble-free miles in the 24 hours and consumed one gallon of fuel for every 125 miles!
The only incident occurred at L'Eree when one of the riders, John Millard, was struck by a Seagull!!
Riders for the event were: Mrs. Annette Millard/ Mr. Dave Garland/ Mr.Bob Wright/ Mr. Terry Taylor/ Mr. Lesna Millard/ Mr. John Millard/ Mr. Mike Clarke/ Mr. Fred Giles/ Mr.Ted Teed.
1973 Tim Millard joined the firm
1986 The CZ agency was obtained and held until 1992.
1989 Parted with Suzuki & obtained the Vespa (Piaggio) agency which is still held to the present day. Enfield were imported in this year, which brought back "Happy" memories for mechanic Charlie Pratt who may the years preserve worked on the originals at Greens before joining Millard & Co Ltd. Continued to sell Enfield's in Guernsey & Jersey until 1991.
1997 Lesna Millard retired and John Millard became managing director.
2001 John Millard retired and Tim Millard became managing director.
2000 Sophie Millard joined as a Saturday worker and continues working full time to the present day
2004 Clinton Millard joined also as a Saturday worker and continues to this date.
2008 Agencies held : Piaggio, Vespa, Gilera Motorcycles & Scooters, Raleigh & DiamondBack Cycles.
July 5th 2008: In celebration of their 100 years in Guernsey, Millards held the largest bike show in Guernsey. 200 vintage & classic machines lined Victoria road basking in the sunshine. Well over 2000 people attended the event which was proceeded by a Bike cavalcade from Bulwer avenue to Trinity square, with up to 400 motorcycles taking part. Special guests taking part in the event were Michael Rutter & John McGuiness British Super Bike Stars. Trophies were awarded to the most popular machines in various classes. For more information see our 'Centenary' Page.
To also celebrate our centennial we arranged a photo shoot for all Millards motorcycle mechanics, new and old.
2009: Aprilia agency obtained. A new cycle showroom was built upstairs retaining many features of the old building and a completely new showroom for motorcycles was constructed down stairs. The wall between the showroom and the motorcycle stores was removed to give a more open and modern feel. A new floor was laid which immediately made the area have a better feel. New lighting & Spada racking for clothing & helmets complete the new modern look.
2012: Fred Giles who had been both a mechanic and store man retires after just over 50 years of service. Fred, who is well known on the island from his contribution to the motorcycling community will be missed here at Millards. Fred, who put together a lot of the history of the business has answered the question of why we should document the history of a motorcycle shop?
"Why write a history about a Motorcycle shop?
Well this is no ordinary motorcycle shop.
How did I get involved with Millard & Co?
Well when I was fourteen all I ever wanted was to be a cabinetmaker, until I was given the chance to escape from school by becoming a motorcycle mechanic.
Why is Millard & Co so special?
Well look through our history section and see for yourself!
Millards were making the famous Pacer cycles in the UK in the 1890's. They were around at the very dawn of Motorcycling. They have survived longer than all the original British motorcycles, including the might of the BSA Empire. They were in the middle of a world war on an island occupied by the German forces. The Company suffered but survived. They have survived longer than any other motorcycle shop in the Channel Islands, and the company is still fighting fit at the start of this new millennium. Above all it has always been and still is run by members of the Millard family. But on top of all this there have been so many characters who have worked at Millards over the years, with so many tales that could be told that it is now time to put them on record or they will be lost forever.This is not a story but a collection of facts, plus tales and remembrances from some of the characters who have worked at Millards or in the bike trade over many years. Times have changed so much, but I will you give an example. On my first day at Millards at the age of fourteen and a half, I was so short I was provided with a wooden box on which to stand and reach the workbench. I spent all that first day lapping in the valves of a Sunbeam S8. The machine had come up from Alderney for a full overhaul. I spent a full week working with Alan Lowe the foreman on this machine. After it was in full mechanical order and he was satisfied that every part of the machine was in tip top condition, we spent a further day giving it a good clean and polish until it gleamed as a complimentary part of the service. We were proud of the job we had just done and what was an extra day's labour to the satisfaction of a job well done. Well in those days when I started I was paid £2 and 5s a week and my apprenticeship lasted 5 years plus two as an improver before getting full pay of £11. Yes times have changed but Millard & Co have adapted and survived."