George Kenning was born in Clay Cross in 1880 and died a rich man in 1956 leaving a multi million pound business with branches all over the UK. George was the second son of Frank and Ann Kenning his father Frank had a mining accident in 1878 and swore never to go down the mine again. Instead he started selling pottery door to door and set up a hardware shop on King Street Clay Cross. The building was used until Sept 2016 by Minorfern.
When George was young from the age of 11 leaving School, he started working in the business helping his farther and his older brother Frank to sell pots, pans, paraffin and other household products on Chesterfield Market. Calling themselves F Keninng & Sons
In 1901 they signed a contract with Shell and BP for the sale rights of paraffin. The paraffin was delivered by rail and was delivered to customers by horse and cart.
In 1908 George lost his father and brother Frank and quickly started to expand the business along with his younger brother Herbert. George bought 60 horses and leased them out to pull the paraffin tanks.
At this time a new form of travel was starting, the motor car. A company that made soap (the same brand as George was selling) came up with a idea to run a competition, the first prize was a motor car. George was determined to win. All he had to do was send in the most wrappers from the soap. He asked customs to save the wrappers and his dream came true he won the car. And with this he could see there was a lot of business in the servicing and distribution of the car.
In 1910 George had became a distributor for BSA Royal Enfield motorcycles and over the next 6 years had become a agent for Ford. He then won the bid to become the agent for Morris cars in Derbyshire. George made his first order for 185 cars and sold 181 two seater bull nose Morris Oxfords for shell reps. He also sold the three fleets of trucks for Morris. George Kenning was a large player in the success of the Morris and Austin motor company.
Kennings Yard Clay Cross Then And Now
George was a legendary salesman he would go and collect the cars from Morris and sell them on his way home.
It wasn't just sales George also offered petrol and servicing and accessories to his customers. In 1939 he had valating equipment installed at his Sheffield and London branches. Vehicles could be completely valet in just 8 minutes. The London branch could valet 500 cars per day.
Despite the rapid growing of the business George still found time for his roots in Clay Cross. He served on the Clay Cross Urban Council and Derbyshire County Council.
In 1931 George wanted to give something to the people of Clay Cross. The gift was Kenning Park a recreation ground in the memory of his parents. George was given a knighthood in 1943 for his political and public work
On February 6th 1956 George died aged 75, 500 people attended his funeral. The miners son from Clay Cross had built one of the largest motor distributors with a turnover of 20 million and 2000 employees.
Looking Into Kennings Park Today