When Colin and Stella Powell packed up their most precious possessions, with their two children, two dogs, six vintage cars and mum Edna in tow and left Australia for England in 1978, they faced life living in a campervan, with nowhere to go during the winter of discontent.
But while things were bleak, and certainly cold, the Powell family were on a mission: to find a garage and set up home down south.
Stella said: “When I look back it seems quite mad.
“We emigrated to Australia with my parents in 1968.
“Colin and I decided to move back to England and when my dad died, my mum Edna came back with us. She had cataracts so I needed to take care of her and help put her eye drops in.
“We arrived during the worst winter on record with nowhere to go, so we hired a campervan, near Hull where I was born. The weather was so terrible down south that my mum and daughter Christine, who was about five years old, went back to Hull to stay with relations for a while.
“The rest of us lived in the campervan and looked for a garage for sale in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset or Dorset. We drove around and parked wherever we could, in lorry parks, at the side of roads and campsites, when we could find them. It was so cold and there was so much snow.”
The family persevered, and with sheer determination and a twist of fate, the Powells stumbled upon Thornford Garage in Sherborne, where they have been ever since.
“When I look back it is strange,” said Stella. “We were due to see a garage in Poole, so we stopped somewhere close to Yeovil.
“When we woke the following day, Colin realised we were not allowed to park there overnight, so he took a look around and called into an estate agent who told us about a garage at Thornford which was for sale with a bungalow attached.
“We thought it would be worth a look, so after we had looked around, we sat in the local pub for an hour before agreeing to buy it.
“Within three weeks we had moved in, and Christine came home along with a 1923 Wolsley, a 1928 Chevrolet, a 1927 Black Nose Morris, a 1925 Bull Nose Morris and a 1924 Standard, which sat in the garden.
“The strange thing is I grew up in a village called Sherburn and here we were in Sherborne.”
That was 44 years ago now, and although the pair have wanted to retire for the last 20 years, they are finally taking a back seat and will be closing the garage at the end of March.
“I was supposed to stop when I was 55 and Colin was meant to stop at 65 but we carried on. We enjoyed it”, said Stella.
“At one time we had petrol, shop, taxi service and of course the garage for MOT and servicing. But when the supermarkets started selling petrol, we stopped, eventually giving up the taxi service and shop to concentrate on the garage.
“Then we were asked to run a village bus service between Yeovil and Sherborne through Bradford Abbas and Thornford three times a week, then we were asked to run the school bus, then people asked us to do days out, then people asked us to run trips for long weekends, and then we were asked to do week-long holidays. Our coach service really took off and we only stopped running them seven years ago.”
“When I first moved to Thornford, the lady opposite us asked me if I would sell the poppies for Remembrance. I did them for 35 years and became the poppy organiser. And many years ago, I was asked to help with Sherborne Village Hall, when it was an old Nissen hut. At one point I was chairman, secretary, treasurer and cleaner. My friend Heather and I kept it running for a long time.
“We did lots of things for the community, including holding a surprise party for a 90-year-old lady who had never had a birthday party and planting thousands of daffodil bulbs in the village. My back wouldn’t stand it now.
“Colin and I have had an interesting life. Now we are in our eighties I think the time has come to stop.
“As for the garage, that is where Colin will be sent when he is in the doghouse!”