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Former Dennis Bros Employees Reminisce About The Old Days

Published on: 18 Oct, 2013
Updated on: 18 Oct, 2013

More than 50 men and women who once worked for Guildford-based specialist vehicle makers Dennis Bros (later Hestair Dennis) met up once again on Tuesday for lunch and plenty of chat about the old days.

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Former Dennis employees at their reunion: John Rogers, John Hillia, Doug Handby, John Dennis and Roger Paice.

The fifth such reunion took place at the Stoke Hotel in Guildford. On show were plenty of old photos of the once famous factory at Woodbridge, its staff and vehicles. A slide show of classic photos was also shown as everyone gathered and chatted before they all sat down to lunch.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS went along and took some pictures and spoke to some of the former Dennis workers including John Dennis. He is the grandson of John Cawsey Dennis, who with his brother Raymond, founded the firm at the end of the 19th century.

From humble beginnings and its third premises in Onslow Street (now the Rodboro Buildings), a large factory was built at Woodbridge. During the 20th century, Dennis became world famous for its fire engines, dustcarts, buses and all kinds of lorries and other specialist vehicles.

At it height during the Second World War, Dennis Bros was  employing more than 3,000 people. For the war effort Dennis assembled Churchill tanks, trailer pumps for fire engines, trucks, other military vehicles and even munitions.

The firm became Hestair Dennis in the 1970s and in the 1980s there was a management buy-out. It then relocated to a new factory at Slyfield when it is today, under the Alexander Dennis name. Here chassis for vehicles such as buses are assembled that, once completed in Scotland, are exported around the world.

With a group of others, John Dennis formed his own John Dennis Coachbuilders, also in Slyfield, and this firm continues to be a market leades in the design, manufacture and supply of fire engine bodies and crew cabs for fire engines.

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test 4 Responses to Former Dennis Bros Employees Reminisce About The Old Days

  1. Tim Page Reply

    June 30, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    As a committee member of the Godalming Social Dance Club (GSDC) I am interested in finding out when the GSDC was started.

    From our searches it appears that the GSDC was born out of a Dennis Group Dance Club at Guildford and is expected to be nearing a 30th year anniversary.

    As we would like to celebrate this we would like to establish the exact start date. If anyone has any memories/records on this could they please let me know by response to this comment.

    Many thanks.

  2. Geoffrey Scott Reply

    September 30, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    I was apprenticed as a toolmaker at the Guildford site between 1965-1970 along with two others of my friends. The toolroom was extensive, as I remember it, with most workers over the age of 65 some over 80.

    At the time one of the main production lines was the Paxit 4 dustcart.

    The experience served me well and I remember all those that shaped me at the time with great respect. Some years later I came across a book with beautiful pictures of the company and its employees taken prior to the 2nd World War.

  3. Eileen West Reply

    February 25, 2016 at 8:02 am

    My dad Norman West worked at Hestair Dennis until 1985 when he was made redundant, with many other employees.

    He then worked at St Luke’s Hospital in Guildford until he retired.

    Sadly in 2002 he passed away at the Royal Surrey County hospital having suffered cancer of the kidney. He didn’t survive an operation.

  4. Phil Charles Reply

    July 19, 2016 at 6:44 am

    I can remember Eileen’s dad. Sorry to hear the sad news about him passing away.

    I would like to say hi to anybody who knows me or can remember me. My name is Phil Charles better known as Bendy.

    I was at Dennis from 1976-1985 I worked mainly in body shop under Bill Gunner then moved to trim shop under Ray Uwnis. I spent most of my time in the Dennis Club House. Is there a regular get together? I’m really keen to find out and meet up.

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