Chapter 14


Which Way to Turn


In October 1988 I was sat at my desk mid afternoon at Darlington when I received a call from Brian Fairey in London at the Earls court show he told me that Martins had sold the business to a company called Lookers P.L.C. and that he wasn’t getting the chance to buy, he was devastated as we all were. Lookers Directors arrived on the scene at Burtree Darlington on the Monday morning after the Earls Court Show. The following two weeks were very unsettling, nerves and tempers became a little frayed, after all B.F. had built this business up and there was no way he was going to work for someone else especially a P.L.C. Quietly I couldn’t care less, I was either in or out and didn’t quite know which way to turn, I could easily go back to work for myself, the miners strike was over and the outlook was brighter, I decided to wait and find out what was on offer. Brian decided to leave and left on very bitter terms. Brian got backing from some of his contacts and set up a new company called Ebor Caravans, working out of a small depot near York. Lookers had slapped a 50 mile exclusion zone on him from Darlington and applied this to the letter of the law. All other employees accepted the status quo A New M.D. arrived on the scene he’d been a Depot Manager at one of Lookers car retail outlet garages in Yorkshire for the past few years. He was a nice man called Jarlath Bancroft. (Jarlath is an Irish name) I was invited to go to Lookers Head Office in Manchester to meet the Chairman of the P.L.C. Mr Martindale 

Prior to meeting Mr. Martindale I had received a rather strange unsolicited call from a person working in the Manchester office who said that Lookers were a great company to work for and that he had formerly worked at B.S.C. in Sheffield and that I would do very well to stay with them. At the meeting with Mr Martindale he asked me about my background and asked me if I was prepared to stay with the company. He then offered me an increase in my salary to stay and work for them. I agreed, after all I was better off than before and had nothing to lose.


I settled down to work for Lookers and it’s fair to say I helped them to make a lot of money.


Shortly after Lookers took over we bought Landieu Caravan Park Frosterley from Mr Snowdon for £215,000 I mentioned this earlier. It‘s a beautiful Park situated on the banks of the river Wear.

We were given a free lease on Crimdon Caravan Park from Easington Council and also a free lease on Allensford Park owned by Derwentside Council. This was achieved by demonstrating that we at Burtree had the expertise to manage and operate profitable caravan parks. Huge losses at Both Crimdon and Allensford were turned into profit in only one year. I felt as if I had come a long way since the meeting with Brian Fairey in 1986.


Our Faye was born 20th April 1991 we now had two lovely granddaughters.

















The caravan parks were making good profits and I was getting very good bonuses, but the depots were hardly keeping their heads above water, and it was only a matter of time before big changes would be made.  


I was on a weekend holiday with Violet in June 1992 and came back home on the Sunday night to be told, phone Jarlath Bancroft immediately at his home. I learned that Burtree Caravans main Depot at Darlington had burnt down. What a shock this was and when I went to Darlington on the Monday morning there was absolutely nothing left. Over the next few weeks the Insurance kicked in, we had everyone re-housed on a temporary basis and plans where put in place to have the depot rebuilt. Whilst the New Depot was being prepared it became widely known behind the scenes Lookers were negotiating the sale of the Darlington Depot to a Company called Dave Barron Caravans who were based at Coppull near Wigan in Lancashire. This meant that Lookers were getting rid of the whole of the Touring Caravans Sales Depots and were for the time being happy to reap the rewards from the Caravan Parks which were very profita