Death of original Service Dealer designer

Following the death of former colleague, Peter Britton, Service Dealer founder, Chris Biddle writes in a personal capacity.


"In 1988, and after working in a dealership for over 25 years, I decided to ‘follow my dream’ and start my own industry magazine.

Armed with a huge bundle of A4 typewritten sheets, photographs, advertising copy and cuttings from various magazines I descended on a local printer, Salisbury Printing, who immediately pointed me in the direction of their Studio Manager, Peter Britton.

'Can you turn this into a magazine?' I asked. This was pre-computer, pre-internet, with everything done manually. Unfazed, Peter said, 'We'll see what we can do'. Four days later he presented me with a sheaf of galley proofs, typeset artwork for me to go home, cut up into a page layout to give back to them for final make-up.

That original magazine was 24 pages, black and white throughout with a splash of spot-colour red on the cover.  And so the embryo of today’s Service Dealer emerged.

This relationship continued for two or three years, each issue attempting to be an improvement on the last. Throughout, Peter maintained a cheerful disposition dealing with someone who had loads of ideas, but only a sketchy knowledge on how they could be translated into the world of design and magazine production.

Writing in the 10th Anniversary issue of the magazine in 1998, Peter said 'One of the biggest problems was the quality of the photographs that Chris presented to us, taken on a camera only one step up from a Kodak Box Brownie. We did our best to improve the quality, but thereafter the team at Salisbury Printing referred to any poor image we received as a Biddlograph!',

In the early 1990s, I had bought my first desk-top publishing computer and gradually took over the typesetting. Never reaching Peter’s skills, he did write that my purchase of the new system ‘was accompanied by Chris’s own peculiar brand of spelling’!

Salisbury Printing continued as our printer for a few years but by 1994 the magazine had outgrown their capability to handle four-colour printing and we moved to another local printer with enhanced colour printing capabilities.

Also in 1994, Peter left Salisbury Printing and moved to a new role with a giftware company but after a short while was made redundant. In 1996, quite by chance he spotted our advert for a sales role with the magazine and was reunited with the title.

His early experience of the workings of the magazine and many of the contacts proved invaluable and he soon made a huge impact on our advertising sales, which also coincided with our launch of Turf Professional as an additional title in 1998.

By this time, Peter was also writing features for the magazines. In 2002, to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee we decided to feature a reader’s business on the most northerly and the most southerly island in the UK. Peter and I tossed a coin to decide which direction we would head. Peter got the ‘southerly’ feature and went off to visit Andy Troliac in Guernsey, whilst I trekked north to meet up with Bobby Flett, the (then) John Deere dealer in Orkney.

Working on a turf magazine was just up Peter’s street. We shared a passion for sport, particularly cricket and golf, and we often held ‘planning meetings' when a walking the fairways of Rushmore Golf Club in Dorset, which was also to be the venue for three extremely successful charity golf days we organised between 2003-2005.

 peter britton golf sml
Peter Britton with Richard Smith and Keith Christian at the Service Dealer Charity Golf Day in 2003

Peter left us in 2006 for pastures new, taking over a similar role at Pitchcare which was starting to make its mark in the turfcare magazine sector. I like to think that the considerable skills that Peter brought to my magazine in its formative days, he would provide a similar influence with another growing title.

I sold the magazines to the present owner, Duncan Murray-Clarke a few years ago, since when they have gone from strength to strength. 

But I look back on those early, often chaotic, 'seat-of-the-pants' days when we produced issues without any of the technology available today, and will always be grateful to Peter for his support and guidance without which my dreams could well have remained unfulfilled.

Thank you Peter. RIP."  

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