The Duke of Kent visits Lodge's Coaches to celebrate 100 years of the firm

PUBLISHED: 10:26 21 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:26 21 February 2020

Angela Singer

Serving teas from the Routemaster. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Saffron Photo 2019

Lodge’s vehicles have appeared in The Crown (a 1963 bus) the Only Fools and Horses prequel Rock and Chips, a 1956 coach, and

will be seen in the new Keira Knightley film Misbehavior about the distruption of the Miss World competition in the 1970s.

Robert Lodge and The Duke look at a traditional bus. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTORobert Lodge and The Duke look at a traditional bus. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

A company started by a soldier returning from the First World War, who borrowed seven shillings and sixpence from his mother, received a royal visit.

On Tuesday, the Duke of Kent unveiled a plaque to celebrate 100 years of Lodge Coaches – J W Lodge and Sons Limited, which was opened in 1920. The Duke visited the firm in High Easter and its Vintage Coach Museum, which he said was an important part of transport history.. Among the historic vehicles he saw was a Ford Model T bus which has been refurbished to be just like the company’s first vehicle.

Robert Lodge showing the Duke a vintage vehicle.
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pPicture: SAFFRON PHOTORobert Lodge showing the Duke a vintage vehicle. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

The museum has motors from the firm’s first seven decades, all in working order. Many have appeared in film and on television including The Crown (a 1963 bus) and the Only Fools and Horses prequel Rock and Chips, which featured a 1956 coach from Lodge’s.

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Other vehicles will be seen in the new Keira Knightley film Misbehavior about the distruption of the Miss World competition in the 1970s and also a Disney movie next year.

The family business began with Joseph Walter Lodge who joined the British Army in 1915. He served in the Royal Horse Artillery, which had motorised transport where he learned about driving and vehicle maintenance.

Meeting staff in the museum. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTOMeeting staff in the museum.

Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

His grandson, Robert, a current director said: “He borrowed 7/6d (35 and a half new pence) from his mum and and bought a Model T Ford truck. “I believe it was ex-army and he converted it into a six-seater bus. He ran a bus between High Easter and Chelmsford Railway Station and we still run that service.”

Joseph died in 1960 and the firm was continued by his sons, Terry and Tony. It is their sons who are directors of the firm today: Robert, Andrew and Christopher. They in turn have children in their teens and 20s likely to continue the business into the fourth generation.

Today, with coaches in the same blue and cream livery, the firm has 32 staff and 40 vehicles running holidays across Europe and some 300 day trips a year.

The Duke unveils a plaque marking 100 years since the founding of J Lodge and Sons Ltd. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTOThe Duke unveils a plaque marking 100 years since the founding of J Lodge and Sons Ltd. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

It has won several awards, including an Uttlesford Business Award run by this newspaper.

The staff are long-serving and the customers are so loyal that one holiday is a reunion where the company takes over a Warners’ Hotel and people who have made friends on previous jaunts meet up for what Robert jokingly described as “A Lodge Coaches House Party.”

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