Locally, by 1840s, the “coaching days” were over in the sense that long-distance travel by road had been superseded by the railway. But there was a constant increase in the volume of local road traffic, and coachbuilders were busier than ever before. Away from the railways the horse was supreme, and remained supreme until the first decade of the 20th century. (Beorcham, Berkhamsted Review, 1956)
In the early part of the nineteenth century William King was a local wheelwright. His son Thomas gradually built up the business until in 1871 he was employing six men and six boys. King’s was “patronised by the nobility and gentry and by the milkman and baker, too. – Almost every type of vehicle was made from start to finish. Customers were keen on the latest design; what’s more, every whim could be satisfied on the spot”. (Thomas King’s Ledgers, 1844-1870).
In 1885 Thomas retired from the business and his eldest son, Edwin, became the new proprietor. When his sons Sidney and Walter were taken on as partners, the sign above the door was changed to “E. King and Sons, motor and coachbuilders”.
During the First World War Sidney’s eldest son, Harold, joined the Inns of Court Officers Training Corps. Whilst still maintaining the reputation of the firm they had expanded into motorcars. During the war they obtained a Government contract for horse and hand vehicles for the War Office.
Sidney continued to run the business with his son Oliver (known as Polly) until they ceased trading in the 1930s, having been in business for almost 100 years. The company had moved with the times from horse drawn carriages to motorised vehicles but the market for bespoke cars had been destroyed by mass production.
Janice Boakes, Chronicle, v.XI, pp.34-37