People Profile – Trevor Cook – Owner of Cooks of Cranleigh

Trevor and staff celebrate together

On 26th January this year, well-known Cranleigh resident, Trevor Cook, passed away. Trevor was perhaps best known for owning and running Cook’s of Cranleigh, a household removals and storage business, for over 40 years, with its instantly recognisable fleet of ‘big, green vans’ visible on the high street and all around the local area every day.

‘Cook’s’ was a local business through and through. It was based in the Cranleigh area from its foundation by Trevor’s father, Len, in 1945 and employed many local people over the years that it operated, and moved many more!

Trevor was born in 1944 in Guildford Hospital to parents Len and Peggy and lived at ‘East Whipley Cottage’ in Rowly on the outskirts of Cranleigh. Trevor attended the local primary school, which at that time was in the building now occupied by the Cranleigh Arts Centre.

Trevor was very close to his mother throughout his life. Peggy was naturally concerned about him on his first day at school and so went to check on him by peeking through the classroom window. This well-meaning act backfired spectacularly as he was settling in well until he saw her peering in!

Trevor went on to Glebelands school in 1956. It was clear he was a gregarious and affable character from a young age. His younger brother, Cedric, fondly recalls Trevor escaping out of his bedroom window to play over at his friend’s house when he was supposed to be doing his homework!

As young as 13, Trevor would keep a personal diary, meticulously recording events; anything from his daily paper round to ‘WENT DOWN TO HARDING’S BROOK, GOT SNAILS. WENT TO MOTORCYCLE SCRAMBLE, PLAYED TENNIS, ‘W.T.V. (watched TV) WITH DAD’ (Sunday 20th April 1958) or the following week

‘REPAIRED OLD CHICKEN HOUSE; WENT CANOEING. TOOK DOG, WENT BIRD NESTING. PEGGED DOWN WIRE: HAD BATH. W.T.V.’ These precious diaries give an insight into his pure enjoyment of life, either the mundane or adventurous.

Trevor was very practical and as a boy he built a trailer for his bike to carry the heavy bundles of newspapers on his paper round. He also crafted his own kayak during school woodwork lessons as part of his Duke of Edinburgh award and when it was finished, his father came to school to bring the kayak home in his van. A few weeks later he took Trevor to Loxwood where Trevor canoed down the river over the weekend, pitching his own tent overnight – teaching him self-reliance and independence!

East Whipley Cottage

In a candid school essay, Trevor shares his love for Cranleigh and its surroundings and shows acute self-awareness by describing his various likes and dislikes! The essay stirs up poignant reminders of a time when the local countryside was a place where children could safely venture to explore and relax. On 26th June 1960 Trevor writes:-

I like my home life and I would never move to another area unless it was really essential.
like sports and travelling and any thing mechanical.
Also I like working in my spare time to buy clothes.
I dislike gardening and painting. A bad habit I have got is my temper; another is going off to sleep again in the morning when I have been called to do my paper round.
I like nature and I enjoy fishing and shooting. I like life in the open and enjoy camping. I like photography and my father sometimes lends me his cine camera.
I do not like doing homework in the summer but I usually manage to do it. I like swimming very much and when it’s hot I go every night. I go swimming in the river above a weir at Run Common and surprisingly enough it’s very clean there. I think I am an average sort of boy.’

Throughout Trevor’s childhood, his father was establishing and growing the Cook’s business, having set up a local goods delivery company in 1945. As a ‘general carrier’ in the era before estate cars were widely available, Len would deliver furniture, groceries and packages all around the Cranleigh area. In particular he would pick up and deliver packages that arrived by train to Bramley station for delivery to Cranleigh residents. The business grew and in the 1950’s Len branched into household removals, setting the course for the business that Cook’s would ultimately become.

Meanwhile, having left school in 1960, Trevor had saved up his newspaper round earnings and, supported by his father, he became the very proud owner of a ‘Claud Butler’ racing bike which he then used when he started his first job in the Mence-Smith hardware store in Guildford – cycling from Cranleigh to Guildford and back every day.

Trevor at Junior school

Trevor then worked as an apprentice cabinet maker before joining the growing family business in 1962, aged 18. He loved delivering furniture, packages and groceries in his Bedford van and in 1964 he and his father were joined in the business by his brother, Ced. The two brothers helped to expand the business and, through their work and contact with lots of local people, became very well-known in the area.

Trevor always enjoyed spending time with friends. There weren’t many places for youngsters to meet up in the Rowly area, so when they were teenagers Trevor’s parents allowed him and Ced to build a clubhouse in their back garden. Trevor’s practical nature came to the fore. He and his friends gathered structural materials from local demolition sites in Guildford and pebbles from rivers for the concrete base and, with the help of their friends, built their very own clubhouse. The group would meet there regularly to socialise and enjoy its fully stocked bar. Trevor had extremely fond memories of ‘The Club Days’ with his friends, for the rest of his life.

Trevor and his friends must have done a good job building the clubhouse as it was still standing over 20 years later, and had by then become the headquarters of Cook’s!

Trevor had a great passion for cars and driving. In their youth, he and Ced would arrange to meet friends many miles away so they could ‘get a good drive in’ and would frequently ‘thunder’ down to Brighton for steaks and live music.

Early vehicle livery

His first car was a 1961 Ford Zephyr which he shared with Ced until they both began ‘courting’ more regularly, so they then wanted their own cars!

Around 1962 he spotted the number plate TC 28 on a Ford Consul in London, but despite chasing after the car for several miles in his Bedford van, he was unable to catch up. Wondering how he could contact the owner, Trevor asked his cousin, who was a policeman, to run a trace on the number plate to find out the identity of the registered owner! The following weekend he went to the address with Ced and thrashed out a deal for the Ford Consul and its number plate on the owner’s driveway!

In 1969, Trevor was integral in the family’s decision to establish their Cranleigh Furnishing shop in the village, selling new furniture, items from house clearances and unwanted furniture from removals. The family bought an empty shop (which used to be Rowell & Hill Drapers) that had been vacant for some time, for £10,500! Cranleigh residents will know the property today as the three shops on the corner of the High Street and St James’s Place, now occupied by Ano’s Barbers, Tiles & Bathrooms and The Salon.

In 1974, tragedy struck with the untimely death of Len, Trevor and Ced’s father. The brothers took over the running of Cook’s and began to expand it in the years that followed, purchasing another removal company, ‘Blackburns’, based in Godalming, adding vehicles, staff and storage to their business.

Trevor at the wheel

Ced left Cook’s in 1979 to run his own hotel in Devon, but Trevor continued to grow the business, and in the early 1980’s relocated Cook’s to new premises next to his home, Whitehall, where he subsequently lived and worked for 40 years, famously commuting for only a few seconds a day and returning home for breakfast once the vans had left the yard! He was very proud of his fleet of green Mercedes removal vans and used to love hearing them start up in the mornings!

Of course, there were many trials and tribulations to being a removal man, from the expectations of Surrey’s rich and famous, to dangling helplessly from a loft hatch after its ladder collapsed and needing to be rescued by his prospective customer! Ironically, in his whole lifetime, Trevor only moved three times himself and never lived outside Cranleigh, the village he loved.

Trevor was one of the first local members, and subsequently Chairman, of social group Round Table and was involved in many local social and charity events over the years. After retiring from Round Table, Trevor and his friends graduated into 41 Club which held a special place in his heart. The dinners, events and weekends away were all fondly nestled in Trevor’s memory and the life-long friends he made were all incredibly important to him and of great support to him in later life.

Whilst he loved spending time with friends, Trevor was very much a family man. He had four children: Ben, Jon, Sophie and Olivia, and later six grandchildren. Whilst he always worked hard, he really enjoyed family meals, days out and holidays. Sunday lunches prepared by his mother, Peggy, were a particular family favourite! His children remember Sunday afternoons where he’d put on his gardening gloves and, despite not liking football, would stand in goal while his sons pelted footballs at him. He would play a few games of pool, despite not winning a game for years, before toasting crumpets on the open fire as the evening drew in.

Trevor on holiday enjoying the river

By the 1990’s Trevor had built Cook’s into one of the largest family-owned removal companies in the region, operating multiple vehicles and warehouses – a far cry from the days of Trevor and Ced delivering parcels in their shared Bedford van. Cook’s “With Care” was a slogan that Trevor was extremely proud of his whole life and was very much the ethos of the company that he built, and customers returned to time after time.

Trevor retired in 2012 and sold the business. He was delighted to sell Cook’s to another family-run removals firm, Bourne’s, who had a similar customer service ethos, and who still operate the business today under their own brand.

Trevor enjoyed his retirement. He loved comedy, with the sound of his distinctive laugh regularly emanating from the sitting room where he’d be watching ‘Fawlty Towers’ or ‘Only Fools And Horses’. His impersonation of John Cleese at the ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ always had the family in fits of laughter! He loved a practical joke too, once putting his TC 28 number plate on his friend Keith Payne’s brand new Mercedes and fooling the whole family into thinking he’d just bought a top of the range sports car!

Trevor did a lot to transform Whitehall in the 40 years he lived there. To mark the new millennium, he installed a small fish pond and water feature in the front garden. With the pond finished he sat back to admire his work, only to see a heron swoop down and snatch out one of the fish that he had released just moments before! He loved music and renovated his study into a garden room, where he would listen to Dire Straits, Status Quo and his absolute favourite, Eric Clapton, who he took the family to see perform at the Royal Albert Hall several times.

Moving a customer

In his retirement he loved to spend time with family and friends over a meal or a coffee, trips away to his beloved Cornwall, days out to local gardens and enjoying the countryside. He was a country boy at heart and so always loved being outdoors – always wearing his trademark panama hat.

Sadly Trevor died on 26th January 2022, aged 77, leaving his wife, Jane, his four children and six grandchildren, all of whom continue to live locally.

As one of Trevor’s friends remarked, “We were moved many times by his wit, his kindness… and his vans”. And that sentence really encapsulates the person Trevor was – a fun, friendly and active man who loved Cranleigh and the company of his family and friends, and who will always be remembered for those big, green vans.

Trevor’s funeral took place on 17th February at St Nicolas Church in Cranleigh. The family would still welcome any donations to Parkinson’s UK via:

1 Comment
  1. Trevor was a great man. Cooks were a great business. All the staff, office and drivers were polite and friendly. I ran an HGV driving school in Loxwood not far from Cranleigh. Over the years I taught many of Cooks drivers. We had some great laughs. R.I.P. Trevor. Condolences to his family.

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