Jim Manning visits Tressler Coachworks for the last time

One last visit for the late Jim Manning to Tressler Coachwork, the business he founded.

Colleagues, friends, and relatives, of Tressler Coachwork founder Jim Manning paid their respects yesterday as a hearse carrying his coffin paused in Uckfield on the way to his funeral.

The hearse came into the Tressler yard on the Bellbrook Estate, turned and paused as small, socially distanced, groups came forward to stand either side of it.

Then the hearse continued on its way to Clayton Wood Natural Burial Ground, near Hassocks, for a burial service. 

Farewell to Jim Manning. A hearse carrying his coffin pauses at Tressler Coachwork, the business he founded.

The spot at the foot of the Sussex Downs was chosen by Jim himself when he first discovered he was ill with leukaemia seven years ago.

It is hoped a memorial service will be held in Uckfield when larger groups of people are allowed to gather and when Jim’s daughter Helen is able to return from Australia.

Jim was 83 when he died, and leaves his wife Anne, three daughters, and grandchildren.

Jim Manning, founder of Tressler Coachwork, who died aged 83.

Jim’s life

See below information which was provided, by the Manning family, for the celebrant at yesterday’s service.

Jim was born in Hove, the son of Doug and Veronica Manning.

Doug worked for the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAFFI) and his family moved with him as the job took him around the south coast.

They spent time in Bournemouth and Devises, but were mostly in Brighton, Hove and Henfield.

For much of Jim’s early childhood they lived in a caravan built by his dad. It was around the age of 12 that they moved to Woodmancote, just outside Henfield, to a newly built house set within a rural caravan site which his parents ran. This was named Tresslers, the family name and one which Jim used for his business.

Love of adventure

Many of Jim’s stories were of life when they lived in the caravan. Stories recounted were of hours playing out, with great adventures and getting into scrapes, as well as some of the realities of living in a rural setting – one being the time a cow ate most of the clothes on the washing line.

This early experience, spending so much time outdoors either on his own or with a friend, instilled a true love of adventure: exploring, making things, being very practical, and explosions.

Jim would make his own his own fireworks. All his life he was getting into scrapes – a scar the nail of on his left-hand finger was one of those tell-tale signs. He was always sustaining the most elaborate injuries in the most unusual ways, but they never bothered him. He just got on with it.

School

Jim’s schooling was at Xaverian college, Queens Park, Brighton, a Catholic Boys School. 

His memories were, for the most part, quite fond but he was not given an easy ride by his teachers and his earlier years moving around had meant he didn’t learn to read until he was around eight to nine-years-old.

Jim trained as a civil engineer in London after leaving school. 

Cars

His offices were on Victoria Street and he would often talk of these seminal days, but it was cars that were Jim’s true passion and he decided to learn how to repair them, attending college in Worthing after a day’s work in London, to enable him to train as a panel beater. 

A photograph of Jim Manning taken in the 1960s in the early days of Tressler Coachwork. He is in his parents’ garage at Henfield.

His love of cars won out and in his late twenties he started Tressler Coachworks from his parent’s garage in Henfield. 

The business moved as it grew, finally settling in Uckfield where it is still running today and was, at one point, one of the largest employers in the town. 

Date

Jim was first married in 1966 but later divorced. In February 1975 he met Anne, the sister of his friend Liz. They were married in 1977 on January 1, a date chosen so that he would remember it.

In October of the same year, their first daughter Kate Louise was born. Helen Jane followed in June 1979 and Polly Elisabeth in August 1981. Jim’s girls were the world to him, and he the world to them. He was a wonderful dad. 

Jim never did things by halves

It didn’t matter what it was, he would put his most into it and make it the best it possibly could be.

At the age of 16 he built his first car with the help of his dad. In 1966, he built his first house in Henfield, Apple Tree Cottage.  

His hobbies and interests over the years were varied but, again, done with full gusto. 

In his early twenties, before he was first married, he became the official groupie (in modern day terms) of his friends’ trad jazz group, going with them to gigs in and around Brighton and other parts of Sussex. 

Friends

Jim met one of those friends, Gerry Geoghan, when he was 19-20 and they remained friends throughout Jim’s life.

Gerry played the banjo on the piece of music played as Jim’s coffin was brought in to the burial service.  Jim didn’t play a musical instrument but always loved trad jazz.

Jim belonged to Round Table, 41 Club, and Rotary, all of which he was actively involved in, helping to raise money for different causes. These also led to a good social life.

Sailing was a passion for many years. He sailed a catamaran until the late 1970s and was part of the support crew for the GB team for the Olympic trials in 1979. 

He got to enjoy this passion vicariously for a brief period in the mid 1980s when he would take daughter Kate to her sailing lessons at Forest Row.

Caravanning

Sailing gave way to caravanning with the family. Many happy memories come from long weekends away with friends, as well as regular holidays to Wales where the children were feral and the adults enjoyed wine and good company. There’d also be a bit of tree climbing on Jim’s part too. 

In 1993 Jim realised a long-term dream to have a house in France. He and Anne purchased an old farm labourer’s house in the Lot-et-Garonne and so began the journey of Les Curades. 

Jim rebuilt and remodelled Les Curades to make a place for him, Anne, the girls and future grandchildren to spend many happy days. 

Special time

Last summer, (2019), the family were all able to be there together. It was a very special time and Jim and Anne were able to look on as the children scampered in and out of the pool (built by Jim, of course), and said “This is what it’s all about”. 

It was in France Jim was able to take up a new hobby – beekeeping. Given the gear by the family for his 70th birthday, he went on to qualify in beekeeping and became the president of the local beekeeping group. 

When he first became ill in 2013-14, Jim decided to hang up his beekeeper’s suit, unable to tend to the bees as needed. 

Crafting

Jim liked nothing better than to potter in his shed, or rather garage. He had tools and equipment for everything and if you couldn’t find him, he’d most likely be in there fixing something or crafting something for some job or other. 

It was also in France that Jim was able to take up shooting again. This was something he had done as a youngster, along with diving and spear fishing. Every Sunday he’d go to the shooting club to fire his beloved black powder pistol. 

Gentle man with a huge heart 

He always wanted to help people and would always find a way round a problem, be it practical, technical or otherwise. 

This trait had a huge impact on so many people that he encountered in life – his willingness to help and make sure people were OK has left a positive mark for so many, as many of the long-service Tressler employees will bear testament. 

Jim wanted people to have opportunities and would do what he could to help make things happen, to help improve people’s lives. 

Swimming pool

Another good example of this was him rebuilding the school swimming pool at his children’s primary school, Rocks Park. 

He spent his weekends and the precious few hours after a hard day at work building the pool, wanting to ensure all the school’s children had a chance to learn to swim.

All of the messages received from people learning of Jim’s death have all said the same: “What a lovely man he was.”

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