About Neville Cope
History of Bissell Wood Estate - Home of Neville Cope
Neville, whose father Arthur, owned a chain of motorcycle shops in the Midlands, started at Ellesmere College, Shropshire, in 1952. By his own admission, more interested in sports than academic work, he became Captain of the House Athletics Team, until he left Ellesmere in 1956.
Apart from sports, his other passion was the Combined Cadet Force (CCF), where he reached the rank of sergeant, attended four summer camps, and finally finished as the Band’s Silver Bugler, when one of his main responsibilities was blowing the Reveille each morning and the Last Post each evening at 10pm. He left Ellesmere to take a mechanical engineering apprenticeship at the local BSA Motorcycle factory. His father’s idea was that this would be a good introduction into the family’s motorcycle business. After three months, Neville decided this was not for him, so left to do his National Service.
He received an army commission at only nineteen years old, a story in itself, and he passed out as a Second Lieutenant, and was transferred to the Royal Intelligence Corps. He was posted to Cyprus as a Customs Officer at Famagusta Docks.
After leaving the Army, it was decided that Neville should join the family business and run its hire purchase division, which he did with five staff until 1976. With HP balances of over £0.5 million, (equivalent of £40 million today), the company was eventually sold.
At a Company Board Meeting Neville was unanimously delegated, to his then disappointment, run the Company’s six Petrol Forecourts, in those days Self Service Petrol Forecourts were in their infancy.
Neville had a large new canopy erected above the forecourt, at the company’s recently rebuilt Head Office Garage in Birmingham, which had been opened by Henry Cooper, the then National Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Neville then instructed the company maintenance man to obtain several 8’ x 4’ plywood sheets and paint on them the price per gallon for petrol, 69.9p per gallon. Sales rocketed overnight and Neville has always claimed that he was the first operator in the country to display fuel prices, so easily readable from the road. He then had price signs installed at his other five sites, which put his Company on the map.
Neville’s son, Lance, joined Neville in building up the chain of petrol stations and in 1989; they opened their new flagship site in Stourbridge, which Lance managed. Other new sites followed, and Neville intended that Lance would take control of the company in due course. Unfortunately, this was not to be, as lance was killed in a car accident in South Africa in 1993, whilst holidaying there. Neville was therefore left to continue on his own, until he reached his retirement age in 2003, when he sold the company.
In 2002, June, (Neville’s late wife) and he decided to convert their 200 acre farm and woodland estate, into the Bissell Wood Equestrian Centre. It has grown to become one of the largest equestrian centres in the Midlands, with stabling available for over forty liveries, and facilities including five Cross Country Courses, a show jumping arena and two dressage arenas.
In parallel to his business achievements, Neville continued his initial sporting interests, with nineteen seasons of National Hunt and Point to Point riding, of which he rode seventeen of his stable’s thirty seven winners, and ten years of private aeroplane flying. His other interests included racing his Jaguar E-types, being Chairman of the Albrighton Woodland Hunt for fourteen years, like his father before him, and over forty years as captain and Secretary of his local Squash Club.
Neville is a man who did not let personal tragedy, with the terrible loss of his son, send him into hiding, but instead built impressive avenues of trees and obelisks at Bissell Wood as a great and lasting tribute to Lance’s memory. The continued success of Bissell Wood Equestrian Centre also plays tribute to Neville’s late wife June Cope, who sadly died in April 2014 following a short battle with bowel cancer.
Many thanks to Nick Pettingale of Ellesmere College for his help in writing this article