It’s a beautiful dray!

The refurbished Thawites dray at Richard Wilkinson & Sons.
The refurbished Thawites dray at Richard Wilkinson & Sons.
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When the famous Thwaites brewery horses and dray go on parade, workers at a Ribble Valley firm can feel a lot of pride.

For the magnificent horses - a symbol of the Blackburn brewery – will be pulling a dray that has been completely refurbished and repainted by the team at Richard Wilkinson and Sons at Chatburn.

The job was an unusual one for a company that normally builds and paints new high-specification truck bodies, but company boss Tony Wilkinson was happy to take it on.

He said: “Thwaites rang and asked if I knew anyone who could do up the dray they take to shows. I told them to look no further.

“It was worse for wear and needed completely stripping down, the axles taking off and some wood replacing, but I was brought up working with wood with my grandad and I knew what to do.”

The dray also needed metal parts replacing, including obsolete Whitworth bolts, but Tony’s father-in-law, Tom Hickey, who runs the works next door, came up with the goods.

The dray was then repainted, lined out and skilfully sign written, the whole job taking five weeks.

“Now we’ve finished the dray it looks superb, and Thwaites are very pleased with it,” Tony said.

The family firm has a long history in the Ribble Valley, founded 70 years ago at Billington by Tony’s grandfather Bert Wilkinson, who was a wheelwright. It then passed to his son, Richard, who retired 15 years ago.

When the current recession hit, few companies were buying new commercial vehicles and the firm had to reduce its workforce and move out of Billington to less expensive premises, next to the railway at Chatburn Trading Estate.

Tony said: “We had to concentrate on vehicle refurbishments and repaints for a while to keep busy, but we’re getting busier again with new vehicles and we’re planning to expand.”