The Sandtoft Atkinson gathering’s back on!

Posted by Chris Graham on 11th May 2023

We report on the resurrection of the Sandtoft Atkinson Gathering, which will be taking place at Sandtoft Trolleybus Museum this July.

Sandtoft Atkinson Gathering

Sandtoft Atkinson Gathering: A 1970 Atkinson Gold Knight. This vehicle – the 20,000th Atkinson built – was new to Hansons of Wakefield, passing to Robert Maxwell in Penrith and later George Cadona in Scotland, and was used on fairgrounds. It was bought from there around 2005 by Laurence Buxton, from Wakefield.

Many will remember the Atkinson gatherings that took place in the late 1990s/early 2000s, organised by Ken and Jill Honeybun. Sites for the event varied over the years, with the Botany Bay shopping mill near Chorley, Liverpool waterfront and the Snibston Discovery Park in Leicestershire all hosting the event.

Sandtoft Atkinson Gathering

This 1974 Atkinson Borderer was new to Wilds Motors of Altrincham, eventually passing to R Griffith of Monmouth. It was bought by Steve Richardson back in 2011.

But in more recent years, the gathering hasn’t taken place, although there have been plans to resurrect the event, and the first gathering for a number of years will be taking place later this year.

Sandtoft Atkinson Gathering

This 1976 Atkinson Borderer, with Cummins 320 engine, was new to North West Freighters of Haydock. Rebuilt in 1988 by Den’s Transport of Wrexham with the third axle added, it passed to John Huddlestone of Gainsborough and then Hedger Transport where it ran with registration PJH 33D. It’s now back with its original number and in the livery of Inglenorth Contracting, and with Steve Parr’s name.

The man at the forefront of this new event is Atkinson owner and enthusiast Rob Wright. “A number of people were talking about having an Atkinson rally again,” Rob explained. “So I thought that I would try and organise something.” The result was a small gathering that took place at Sandtoft Trolleybus Museum, just south of Doncaster. It is an interesting venue to visit, with the museum being founded on its present site in 1969 to house, build and restore trolleybuses which, at the time, had almost disappeared from British streets.

Sandtoft Atkinson Gathering

A 1973 Atkinson Mk1 Australian. Built in Australia, the cab was found on top of a container in a Melbourne scrapyard. It was shipped back to the UK where it was placed on a British chassis, followed by a four-year restoration. Entered by R&L Beckett of Thurnscoe.

Now the museum houses over 50 vehicles, some of which are in the process of being restored, while others are as good as new, and travel around the museum’s running circuit, with rides available for visitors. With other small attractions including a toy museum and a bicycle workshop on site, it’s a good location. “I got in touch with director Chas Allen about having a gathering there,” Rob continued. “He couldn’t have been more helpful.”

Sandtoft Atkinson Gathering

This 1968 Mack R773ST worked on Long Island, New York, for most of its life, being brought to the UK in 2008 by Geoff Makinson of Chorley. Powered by the original two-stroke Detroit V8 engine and Fuller 13-speed ‘box, it was in good condition when bought, but was damaged when being unloaded at Liverpool docks. Repairs were finally completed in 2013.

So, in early July, around a dozen Atkinsons turned up for the inaugural two-day Sandtoft Atkinson gathering, “It’s a good site with toilets and showers available for those camping overnight,” Rob continued. One of the highlights though was the vehicles being driven alongside the operating trolleybuses, a challenge that’s not available on the UK roads today.

Sandtoft Atkinson Gathering

A 1975 Atkinson Borderer. At 45-ton specification, it pulled emergency winding gear for Mines Rescue, serving until the early 1990s at Barnsley Main. It was saved from the scrapyard by John Murphy, and passed to Kevin Dennis and was partly restored, before passing to Gary Kershaw of Wakefield who put it back on the road in 2003. Subsequently with  R&L Beckett of Doncaster, it has now passed to Dave Stretton.

Sandtoft’s development director, David Chick, was delighted with this first gathering, “It’s always great to have something different,“ he said, “We have lots of space and it was wonderful to have the vehicles visiting us.”

This 1973 Atkinson Borderer is thought to have been new to Fleet Hire Services before it passed to Stephen Wooley of Telford. It was later sold to a restorer who started work but then sadly died, so it moved on to Steve Richardson, being bought by Rob in December 2015. This Atkinson replicates an almost-identical vehicle his father used to drive for Whartons, and a few parts from that vehicle have been incorporated in the restoration.

Plans are already in the pipeline for next year, “We will probably do a road run next year,” Rob said, “And we will possibly accept a small number of other makes of vehicle as well.”

This 1969 Atkinson Mark 1 was new to Pye Transport and was used under contract to BP and ran in its colours. Subsequently turned into a breakdown, it passed to Paul Dangerfield of Stroud, and has been restored, later passing to Ambrose Wood of Bollington.

So for those interested in bringing a vehicle to this year’s event, the dates to write in your diary are July 1st and 2nd.

A 1984 Seddon Atkinson 401. It was with the US Airforce before passing to David G Davies of Glossop and used on general haulage. It passed to David Bellamy of Pontefract in 2017, then was bought by Leonard Hilton in 2020 and painted into Wards of Lepton livery. (Pic: James Dean)

For further information you can keep up with proceedings on Facebook by searching for The Annual Sandtoft Atkinson Gathering, while Rob himself can be reached by sending an email to: 

The early history of this 1961 Atkinson isn’t known at present, but it found its way on to the fairground with Irvings in Scotland during the 1970s, finally retiring during the 1990s. Bought from Irvings by Billy Brown, it passed to Lee Darley for restoration.

In the meantime, we’ve included a selection of photographs of the vehicles that were in attendance last year.

This report comes from. the latest issue of Classic & Vintage Commercials, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE


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