His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent visited Leyland today, Wednesday 5th June, to see the results of the recent £2.4m transformation of the British Commercial Vehicle Museum, and to hear all about the inspirational work of the Leyland veteran’s Café.
At the British Commercial Vehicle Museum, The Duke was met by Trustees and staff from the museum, alongside local officials including Mayor of South Ribble Councillor Harry Hancock.
His Royal Highness toured the museum, inspecting some of the heritage vehicles on display including two vehicles from a pivotal point in commercial vehicle heritage – a 1922 Foden Steam Lorry and the first ever diesel waggon built by ERF Ltd in 1933 – which represent the move from steam to diesel engines. The Duke heard about the advanced engineering involved in the very latest hybrid and electric vehicles. His Royal Highness also saw a brief snapshot of the extensive archives held by the museum, which include technical documents and many thousands of photographs.
The museum was recently completely transformed thanks to a £2.4m refurbishment, made possible by a £1.8m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The major works programme was completed in January 2019 and has helped to secure the future of the museum, meaning that the important story of Britain’s rich commercial vehicle heritage will be told for generations to come.
Keith Moyes, manager of the British Commercial Vehicle Museum, said “We are honoured to have welcomed His Royal Highness to the Museum today. He showed great interest in the work of the museum, our volunteers and the many exhibits we have on display. We hope both enthusiasts and families will follow in The Duke’s footsteps, enjoying a day out at the British Commercial Vehicle Museum.”
His Royal Highness departed the museum in style, boarding a beautifully preserved 1927 Leyland Lioness Charabanc – a vehicle with its own Royal connections. The coach was originally owned by King George V – The Duke of Kent’s Grandfather - and was used to transport staff and luggage from Buckingham Palace to various Royal estates. The Duke took a much shorter journey in the eye-catching Lioness, just ½ a mile from the British Commercial Vehicle Museum to Brothers of Charity Services’ Roccoco Coffee Shop, the venue of the Leyland Veterans’ Café.
Leyland Veterans’ Café Founder, Phil Burton, met The Duke in front of an impressive L118 Howitzer Light Gun on loan from The Royal Artillery TA Regiment, and welcomed him to the Veteran’s Café. Inside, His Royal Highness met veterans who have benefitted from the work of the café, along with representatives from the many organisations who provide support to veterans referred from the café including Blind Veterans, SSAFA, Royal British Legion, NHS, Job Centre Plus and many others.
The Leyland Veterans’ Café was established in 2017, in partnership with Brothers of Charity Services, after Phil Burton successfully approached South Ribble Borough Council for funding from the Borough’s Armed Forces Covenant. Phil had identified a gap in support for veterans and he was determined to do something about it. His vision was to create a drop-in style, café environment that would enable veterans to meet in a ‘military family’ environment, and a place where they could also get help and support from a vast array of organisations, that can often be difficult for Veterans to navigate.
Phil explained, “Military camaraderie is really important to many veterans – it is often an important coping mechanism. Following the closure of Leyland’s Royal British Legion Club, I realised there was nowhere specifically for veterans to meet, share stories and seek support. It took a huge amount of time, effort and support – most notably from South Ribble Borough Council, BAE Systems and Brothers of Charity Services – to get the café from being an idea in my head to a reality that is changing lives.
“Two years after opening our doors, I am delighted to say that we are welcoming around 70 veterans to each café session, they travel from near and far to join us. We’ve had so many success stories already, of people who were at the end of their tether, not knowing where to turn. We offered them friendship and support; and made sure they got access to the services they needed. It’s amazing what can be achieved over a cup of tea and a bacon butty!”
The Veterans Café meets on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 10.00 – 13.00 in Roccoco Coffee Shop, a social enterprise run by Brothers of Charity Services to provide support and employment opportunities to adults with learning disabilities. They have been a key partner in delivery of the Leyland Veterans’ Café from day one.
Commenting after the visit, Mayor of South Ribble, Councillor Harry Hancock said, “It was a tremendous honour to welcome His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent to South Ribble today at the British Commercial Vehicle Museum and the Veteran’s Café.
“We have such a rich cultural offer here in South Ribble and I am delighted that His Royal Highness was able to visit the Museum which holds such treasured elements of the country’s transport history. In relation to the Veteran’s Café, as a borough we are dedicated to providing help, support and kinship to our veterans and as a former member of the Royal Horse Guards, I am immensely proud that our wonderful Veteran’s Café has been recognised in this way.
“It’s a privilege for me to stand today alongside my fellow representatives of the borough. I am pleased His Royal Highness was able to today see the fantastic work taking place and I truly hope His Royal Highness enjoyed his visit.”