Discovering and tracking down information on short lived ventures can be tricky. Simpson and Bodman, the subject of my last blog, was discovered after skim reading several years of The Autocar a weekly motoring publication that started in 1895.
Luckily The Autocar’s younger counterpart The Commercial Motor, founded in 1905, has a searchable online archive where I was able to get some valuable material on the Hercules Motor Wagon Company. An apt name for a manufacturer of heavy vehicles based in and around the Atlas Works, Chapel Street in Levenshulme (pictured below). They operated from 1903 until 1907.
Hercules produced a variety of vehicles to carry up to 5 tons, including the Royal Mail delivery van pictured below. One of the selling points used by the company was their rigorous testing on the notoriously bad Lancashire roads of the early 20th century, as this note from The Commercial Motor April 1905 suggests:
“Most of this firm’s experience has been gained during the last few years by the running of their vehicles over Lancashire cobbles, which constitute the hardest school in England and the cite which, in all probability, has evolved more tried machines—not to say men—than any.”
However things clearly didn’t go according to plan for the company as their assets were auctioned off in May 1907. The auction details can be found in a Manchester Guardian advert:
“on Tuesday, May 14, 1907, at three for four o’clock… the Valuable FREEHOLD MODERN ENGINEERING WORKS, known as the Atlas Works, situated at Chapel-street, Levenshulme, Manchester, comprising 6,745 square yards of land… including new erecting shop, 119ft 9in by 73ft.; machine shop. 120ft. by 40 ft.; three-storey wagon-building shop, 120ft. by 40ft.; smithy, pattern shop, storerooms, excellent range of offices, chimney and outbuildings…The purchaser will be required to take over at a valuation… the new stores, castings, machine parts, and motor waggon fittings, and he will also have the option to acquire in the same manner the 21 Hercules motor wagons.”
Presumably the company was liquidated after going bankrupt, 21 wagons in stock would have represented a large amount of tied up capital. It unclear exactly why Hercules was liquidated but evidence provides some possibilities. A letter written to The Commercial Motor in 1910 suggests that the design of the boiler system was inferior to others:
“It had considerable difficulty in keeping steam with the first boiler, and I also had some trouble with leaky tubes. Eventually, my employers decided to try another pattern boiler, and a Leyland was fitted.”
It also seems that competition in the commercial vehicles sector was high. In April 1907, presumably shortly before Hercules was liquidated, it was one of 13 companies to tender for two motor omnibuses to be supplied to the Metropolitan Asylums Board.
On a more trivial note, there was some bad publicity in December 1904 when Frank Davenport, a driver employed by the company was charged with dangerous driving at the junction between Dickenson Road and Stockport Road in Longsight. The charge was dismissed but companies name appeared in the Manchester Guardian Report.