Do you remember Ipswich cabbie ‘Whippet’ Chenery?
PUBLISHED: 12:46 17 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:46 17 February 2016
‘Whippet’ Chenery was one of the first cabbies in Ipswich, driving his horse-drawn carriage since before the First World War before being given his first motor car.
His daughter Gloria Chenery, and a member of the Ipswich Society, recalls his legacy.
In the late 19th century horse cabs for private hire stood on the Cornhill, Ipswich.
Just after the First World War the horse-drawn vehicles were replaced with motor taxi cabs and one of the earliest proprietors and drivers was William Chenery, or Whippet, as he was invariably called by fellow cab-men.
His family, however, referred to him as Will – not surprising as he had been Christened William like his father, although his father was more frequently known as ‘Blucher’. William senior was the proprietor and driver of the first horse cab business in Felixstowe, probably in the early 1880s.
His business grew with the town and before the First World War he had more than a dozen horses and half a dozen cabs.
William senior gave up his horse-drawn cab business in 1919 because it became impossible to obtain horses. The majority had been requisitioned during the First World War and in the years that followed they were replaced by tractors and other motor vehicles. The family moved to Ipswich and William bought his son a motorcar, a six-litre, six-cylinder Napier T75, a favourite amongst London taxi drivers.
Young William (Whippet) was about 20 years old when he started work from the Taxi Rank on Ipswich’s Cornhill (outside the Post Office) and he remained a taxi driver and occasional chauffeur all of his life. Whippet owned various cars during the early days of his career, a Minerva, two Buicks including a left-hand drive model, a second-hand Packard purchased from Russell Paul, of Paul’s Malt, and after the Second World War a Ford Pilot.
In 1930 Lloyds Arch was cut through the Victorian buildings across the northern side of the Cornhill and Lloyds Avenue became the town-centre taxi rank. Whippet was among the first of the taxi drivers to use the new rank. He was always keen to undertake the longer journeys that the other drivers would decline, and earned a reputation for taking passengers on holiday.
Being a sole operator he would take all the work that came along, frequently working seven days a week. One of his longest journeys was to Scotland; the lady passenger took a great deal of luggage including a bird in a cage. As ever, once he’d dropped his passenger at her chosen destination he simply turned around and drove home, Scotland and back in a single journey.
If the taxi business was slow he would work part-time for Canham Motor Engineers. He also boasted that he drove the very first motor coach to London for George Ewer, emerging from the Grey Green bus garage in St Margaret’s Street in June 1928.
One of Whippet’s regular passengers was Mr Hatfield, proprietor of Green & Hatfield in Ipswich. Cecil Green and Hugh Green both drove themselves but Mr Hatfield didn’t and whenever he needed to go anywhere he ordered a taxi, inevitably William Chenery whom he eventually asked to become his chauffeur, a job Whippet continued until his retirement.
His one great passion throughout his working life had been horses and he dreamt of operating a horse-drawn cab like his father before him. Shortly after taking up the position as chauffeur to Mr Hatfield, William saw a Landau advertised for sale in Clacton and decided to make a purchase.
He set off on his elder daughter’s bicycle, with his youngest daughter riding his mare and his eldest daughter on her boyfriend’s motorcycle carrying the harness. The landau was purchased, the horse was harnessed, the bicycle was thrown in the back and the team proceeded to trot back to Ipswich.
Retirement gave him the opportunity and in 1965 the town of Felixstowe granted him a complimentary licence to operate a horse- drawn landau along the seafront. Felixstowe Town Council remembered the old William Chenery and his horse cab business before the First World War.
Thus a new business was started, taking tourists a mile along the seafront from the Town Hall to Charlie Manning’s.
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