Eighty years of bikes, donkeys, cars and preparing for D-Day

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Every town is home to an old familiar business which has become as much a part of the community as its schools and churches.

They tend to be family run, with each generation of townsfolk remembering a different man or woman at the helm.

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Dinnages, in Haywards Heath, is one such business.

Founded by James ‘Jim’ Dinnage in 1935 as a motorcycle dealer, it was based in the grounds of ‘Big Pennies’, a cottage in Wivelsfield Road which dated from 1600.

Heavily expanded over the past eight decades, Dinnages still stands on the same spot.

Shortly after 1935, Jim added motorcars to his stock, selling and repairing such great names as Humber, Hillman, Sunbeam, Talbot and Commer. It was soon acting as a retail dealership for Ford.

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The outbreak of the Second World War saw the Dinnage’s site requisitioned for the war effort.

The workshop buildings were used for supplies while the storage and maintenance of military vehicles was carried out on site.

Perhaps one of the most important consignment of vehicles under Dinnages’ care were those used by Canadian troops in the D-Day landings.

It was during the war years that Dinnages really became an integral part of the Haywards Heath community, operating a bicycle shop, toy shop, petrol station, pub and farm as well as the garage.

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By 1955, the firm had taken on a young sales manager called Michael Broyd, who is now chairman. Michael oversaw the rebuild of Dinnages in 1980.

Dinnages’ community links weren’t solely focussed on retail.

In 1951, Jim rescued an over-worked donkey - soon followed by almost 200 others which were headed for the slaughterhouse - and set up a donkey sanctuary.

With his wife Susan at his side, Jim’s life became a delightful mixture of things with two wheels, four wheels and four legs.

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Things changed in 1954 when the couple’s son, Peter, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The child died two years later at the age of 13.

Having endured the stress of caring for a seriously ill child, Susan and Jim founded a holiday centre for disabled children and adults. It was named St Peter’s after her son - and money raised from donkey races was used to fund the cause.

Jim died in 1963 and, by 1975, St Peter’s had become St Peter and St James. Today, it the St Peter & St James Hospice & Continuing Care Centre and one of the patrons is Dame Vera Lynn.

As for Dinnages, the company is currently run by the Broyd family.

MD Daniel Broyd said: ““We are exceptionally proud of our heritage established many years ago by Jim Dinnage and in particular our long history serving customers across Sussex.

“Eighty years on, we are pleased to continue to carry the Dinnages name above our doors, supported by generations of new and returning customers.

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“I look forward to be able to celebrate our centenary in 20 years time, a local business with Sussex people at its core.”

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