One of the UK’s last remaining petrol stations that offered a pump attendant service has closed after nearly 100 years
The pumps were turned off at Bentley’s Garage in the seaside town of Exmouth, Devon, last week, with the owners blaming competition from the supermarkets and EU rules on the environment.
Betty Bentley, whose son John owns the site, said: “Petrol has ceased to be profitable for us. We’ve been serving fuel here for 92 years, and for the last four years we’ve been making a loss really.”
Betty said the forecourt had three attendants who prided themselves on the service they offered. Customers could get their oil, water and tyres checked for free while being served fuel.
Betty added: “Some of our customers were heartbroken that we were closing. One elderly lady came in before we closed and asked for her car to be filled up, adding that she’d never put petrol into a car herself before. She said a full tank would last her until Christmas and then she would be selling her car.”
When the forecourt first opened it was run by the Langdon family and delivered petrol by hand-cart to the houses of wealthier customers in the area. It remained with the Langdons until 18 years ago when it passed to the Bentley family. But the family realised a few years ago that the site, which was supplied by BWOC, could not continue in business.
Betty added: “It’s the supermarkets that finished off the business. Our fuel sales went down 80% overnight when they opened up nearby.” In addition, she said it would cost about £25,000 to bring the site up to the latest EU standards, including relining the tanks and updating the pumps.
The Bentleys will, however, continue with their other businesses – three showrooms of secondhand cars and their garage business which has five mechanics.
“So many customers have written us such lovely letters about us having to close the forecourt business, it’s a very sad day.”