Alfred Charles Hill (1915-1992)

My father became the most senior designer draughtsman at Park Royal Vehicles.  He was responsible for designing the bodywork for many of the PRV versions of AEC's and other  manufacturers' chassis.  He designed countless vehicles, amongst which were the famous Routemaster and Bridgemaster (a lower height version of the Routemaster); he also designed FRM1 (the prototype Front Entrance Routmaster - of which there should have been three but only one was built).  Also the PRV Leyland Atlantean, the AEC Renown, the B15 (renamed the Titan), B45 (renamed the Olympian) and many other vehicles for BEA, Tehran, Auckland etc. including the bodywork for the first diesel London taxi.  Of course, my father was the little known back-room technician who did all the work and received little pay and little glory.  He wouldn't have wanted the glory anyway!

A short history, as I know it, was that my father was born Alfred Charles Hill at 9 Avalon Road, Fulham 9th February 1915, the youngest of a family of fourteen.  In 1929, at the age of 14, he joined Hall Lewis & Co Ltd., Park Royal Vehicles' predecessor, starting in the "setting out" (this is where the tools and materials are laid out ready for the craftsmen).  Having learned much from his father Claude, who was a coachbuilder/engineer and a cabinet maker, he quickly showed his abilities and became a fine carpenter.  However, in 1935 I think, there was an opportunity to transfer to the drawing office and become a member of staff.   As he was an already accomplished draughtsman, his application was successful and he remained in the drawing office for the rest of his career; except for a short break at the end of the War (1947-1949) when he set up a coachbuilding company with some colleagues.  Called H.B.H (Hayward, Biggs & Hill) they designed and built caravans and modified Riley and Citroen cars into "Shooting Brakes".   After less than two years the company failed due to lack of parts and affordable premises and my father rejoined Park Royal Vehicles, retiring the year that it was "wound up" in 1980.   He died 14th September 1992 aged 77.

I knew my father as being very cautious, and therefore uncharacteristically, with a wife, a house, a mortgage and a nine-month-old son, leaving the security of Park Royal for pastures anew and setting up H.B.H was a very personally challenging and courageous thing for my father to do.  However, although H.B.H failed, he had clearly made some money as in 1948 we holidayed in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex (this was our first and only holiday outside of Bognor Regis where he later housed two of the remaining caravans from the H.B.H liquidation).  The H.B.H period however had a very damaging effect on his finances later, as although his tenure at Park Royal spanned 54 years (minus 2 for the H.B.H venture), his pension rights were, of course, based on his tenure from the date of his return in January 1949, just 31 years.  Losing his rights up to 1947 cost him dearly!  Apart from this, he became 65 (forced retirement age at the time) in the February of 1980 (the year that PRV was deemed to close) so, unlike most of his similarly aged colleagues, he received no redundancy pay as the plant didn't shut its doors until June!  My father's misfortune in not being awarded redundancy (that was worth many thousands of pounds) was a fact that one of his colleagues, who was to retire later in the year, gloated over; the selfish attitude of which my father never forgave him for. (I know who it was but I shall not mention here.)

My father married in September 1939 and enjoyed 53 happy years with my mother Lily (my mother passed away February 12th 1999 aged 86) and during the War he was refused the "call up" due to his expertise in designing vehicles; so he was asked to work on the design of armoured vehicles and tanks (the Deacon was one).  I know little of this period except that he later joined the Home Guard and became a Corporal.   I was born in 1946 and, as a child, spent many an enjoyable visit to both AEC and Park Royal where I saw numerous buses and other vehicles in production including the hand-beaten alloy bodywork for the British bodied Bristol car.

I am naturally proud of my father's achievements, being a mostly self taught man, and I guess I would like there to be something to mark his work; hence these pages.   I always look at the Routemaster and Atlantean buses with some pride, especially knowing that he created his own method of geometrical development from which he was able to calculate the precise shape of the flat section of material that would (by panel beating) form the upper corners of the bodywork.  Easy by computing today, but in those days no one understood his method; only that it worked!

It saddens me that my father is not here to answer and help with PRV history.  He knew so much but kept such a low profile that no one ever asked him anything (including myself), so no one knew of his achievements!

I know very little but you are most welcome to contact me if there's anything I can help shed some light on.

Well that's it! Thanks for reading. I hope I haven't bored you too much!

Graham Hill