Home Organisation Contact Us Shop Archives Vehicle Collection


Running Day

Whott's New Whott's Happened Become a Member Press Releases Web News Members' Area Links Events & Activities

.......preserving our commercial road transport history for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations..........
  WEB NEWS 26  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a trip on an Summer Holiday and take a brief look at South Devon hauliers

  WE'RE GOING ON A SUMMER HOLIDAY - When Brian Thompson read that WHOTT’s NEWS was planning a series of articles on Friends’ favourite routes he was reminded of Southern National’s service 146 linking Exeter with Bideford in the late ’forties and responded accordingly but, as he describes below, couldn’t help adding a whole lot more.

Back in 1949 I had spent a short summer holiday in North Devon with the late David Green, then still a schoolboy and long before he became a bus-dealing vicar!  We had met while bus spotting in our home town of Weymouth at the height of Southern and Western National’s rebodying programme, and were just itching to visit Bideford’s Riverside Works where, we had gathered, all the action was taking place at the time.  Recalling the journey we made on service 146 aboard Bristol JJW 181 (ATT931) brought back so many treasured memories for me that I was moved to dig deep into my records and unearth the more interesting details of a holiday never to be forgotten.

It all started on Monday 22nd August when David and I boarded AEC Regal 1076 (JUO998) for the 9.25am departure on service 42.  This took us to Axminster where we transferred to Devon General Regal SR429 (DDV429) for the second leg to Exeter.  There we had to wait until 5pm for the most memorable ride of all, but first with sightings in the city of Royal Blue coaches 3105 (TK6402), 3141 (DR8806) and 3632 (LJ1521) and, among others, Leyland Tiger 2862 (UU1265) up from Plymouth and Bedford 424 (DDV24) from Totnes to whet the appetite.  We had heard so much about this mysterious place called Bideford where old buses went for a new lease of life.  What was it really like and what would we see?  Not surprisingly as we rode through the glorious Devon countryside the anticipation and excitement of the occasion kept us on the edge of our seats.  I shall never forget the winding River Torridge, bathed in early evening sunlight, as we completed the final stretch of our journey along the A386 from Torrington.  A discarded bus body high up on a hill was a sure reminder that this was the land of dreams….   Suddenly we were at our destination, Bideford Quay, surrounded by the most diverse assortment of public service vehicles we had ever seen.  There were TSMs 61, 68 and 72 (FJ8980, OD7780/4), a Guy double-deck 80 (GTA833), wartime Bristols 362 and 363 (FTT696/701), Leyland Titans 2848, 2906 – 2908 (DR4901, DR5197-9), Lion LT2 2975 and Tiger TS4 3584 (YC8987, TK9099) all very much in demand by long queues of intending passengers.

We had booked Bed and Breakfast in Barnstaple, but before going there a brief visit to Riverside Works was our priority.  We’d be back tomorrow in any case but just had to see this place before nightfall – if only to satisfy our curiosity.  Following directions along the bank of the same river we finally reached our goal in the most unlikely surroundings.  As expected the site was huge, with vast parking areas and big wide garage doors leading into several workshops, but the thought of all those buses from as far afield as Penzance and Trowbridge negotiating such a narrow approach between terraced cottages was unbelievable.  We couldn’t linger too long at this wondrous place because there was the 8.36pm service 101A to catch for Barnstaple.  Imagine the reaction when we found ourselves boarding AEC Regent 2905 (TK3024), with familiar Dorset registration, for the 9-mile journey.  Not only had this vehicle started life in Weymouth twenty years earlier, it had still retained its original petrol engine long after being rebodied in 1943!  We could not have wished for a better nightcap to end a perfect day.  Not that the day was over yet, for in Barnstaple at 9.02pm we made a quick dash from The Strand to the High Street on TSM 58 (FJ8977).  This later proved to be a rare opportunity for the engine in this bus was an experimental Morris Saurer unit that had been fitted five months earlier, and was removed in favour of a Gardner 4LW a few days later.  Our chosen B&B was run by the elderly Miss Isaacs who charged the princely sum of 7/6d per night (35.5p).  Each morning hot water was brought to the bedroom in a jug with matching china bowl.  Fortunately, at 13 years of age I didn’t need to shave.

Want to read the full story, then become a member and receive our quarterly newsletters.

The vehicle that was to take Brian into new territory for the first time was Bristol J/Beadle saloon 181 (ATT931) which was a regular user on the service 131 between Bideford and Exeter.  New in 1935 with a Royal Blue coach body and 6-cylinder Bristol petrol engine, it was downgraded to a bus in 1949 and fitted with an AEC 7.7 oil engine. It is seen here on layover at the Kingsley Statue, Bideford. Another of the vehicles discovered on Bideford Quay was 362 (FTT696), a wartime Bristol K that had started out with an EC oil engine in 1944 but by 1949 was powered by a Gardner 5LW unit.  The body, originally with wooden slatted seats, is of utility specification by Strachan and is seen here with the more comfortable upholstered variety. A tight squeeze in Ilfracombe’s High Street as Bedford OB 576 (HOD116) tries not to scrape the side of Bristol K5G 321 (DOD523).  Brian and David had an ear-shattering ride on this double deck bus as it climbed Mullacott Hill.  In October 1950 the Eastern Coach Works body seen here was replaced by one from Beadle, the high type radiator being retained.
  SOUTH DEVON HAULIERS - Roger Grimley has recently donated some very interesting road haulage material to the WHOTT archive, together with his reminiscences of his early days in the haulage industry in the South Hams and some superb period West Country photographs of the types of vehicle operated.

Plympton Market was busy that Monday and a customer had a dozen large bullocks to be transported home to his farm. With lorry backed into the loading bay they were encouraged up the ramp, the gates quickly closed behind them, the ramp lifted and secured. Just as we were ready to leave the customer came rushing up and said “Hang on a minute, I’ve just bought another one”. After a debate as to whether there was room for another animal it was eventually agreed to give it a go. Now the problem was to ensure that the cattle in the vehicle did not all rush out as the newcomer was loaded and with some effort, involving a lot of shouting and waving of sticks in the air, this was accomplished. It was tight but just about alright.

Joining the A38 at St Mary’s Bridge the climb up through Ridgway, the main street of Plympton, began but with a heavy load it was slow going. At the George Hotel people were waiting for the Western National bus to Ivybridge and as we passed them there was a shout. One animal, with his backside jammed against the ventilation holes in the side, was passing a considerable quantity of urine and this was giving the waiting bus passengers a rather unwelcome and unwholesome shower! It was quickly decided that with a heavy load it would be unwise to stop on the hill so a crowd of wet and rather bedraggled figures were left to shake their fists at the vanishing cattle truck.

The South Hams area of South Devon was, and still is, largely agricultural and so for the haulage industry farming was a major source of traffic and revenue. This was reflected in our work, a mixture of livestock transport and general haulage, the latter being predominantly farm produce and requisites. The work was, of course, seasonal but we had the advantage that two of our three vehicles had “A” licences allowing the carriage of anything over any distance. The third was restricted to a 25-mile radius of base but as this was on the South Devon coast half of the permitted area was sea.

There were local markets four days a week – at Plympton on Mondays, Totnes on Tuesdays, both Kingsbridge and Newton Abbot on Wednesdays and Exeter on Fridays. On Wednesdays it was a case of trying to be in two places at the same time and when a lorry was unable to cover all the work a Daimler car was used for the overflow. The carpet and tan leather seats in the back were removed leaving bare steel on which straw was scattered and with mother driving and three small children – who were all terrified of animals – on the front seat beside her calves were taken to Kingsbridge. On one occasion as she entered the market one of the animals mooed loudly at the policeman on duty outside but luckily he took no notice.

Market days brought a number of challenges as when farmers had stock to be taken to market they booked the lorry as and when they remembered – often late the night before. Some even waited until the market report on the radio at 6.45am on the day, others were influenced by the weather. Inevitably there was at least one who phoned after the lorry had left the yard and frantic phone calls had to be made to pick up points asking the driver to alter his schedule. When sheep had already been loaded on two decks at the front, cattle at the rear and the last minute order called for more sheep to be loaded the situation became “interesting”. The market normally began at 11am and delivery time was of the essence - everyone wanted their stock to be there in good time as later in the day prices tended to be lower.

PJY513 is a Morris dropside then owned by J H Stacey of Tintagel seen delivering fruit to the White Hart Hotel in Broad Street, Launceston which is still very much the same today.  Mixed reviews on travel-library.com state ‘like stepping back in time’, ‘rooms were dated’ and ‘Food was good and service super’. Another Morris, TOD907, was owned by Mannings of Dawlish for transporting livestock.  It is seen heading up the old A38 from the Dawlish roundabout near Countess Wear, another scene which hasn’t changed a great deal.


765FTT or FOD? is an Austin owned by G U Fulford Ltd of Okehampton, seen here loaded with bales of hay and secured by two ropes running front to back over the load.

Royal Blue Reflections

Bowerman Bedford Back

West Country vehicles at Wembley

Points of View

Future Activities

Carmel, Ridlers & Abbot Coach Travel at Wembley. 2244, 2267 and 2266 (623DDV, 56/55GUO) photographed by Dave Habgood in Reading on 12 October 1974 when on hire to Thames Valley.

Would you like to see the full magazine?  If so, please consider becoming a Member and we’ll send current year copies right away.  Alternatively individual back numbers can be purchased at £2 each by request.  Our Shop postal rates apply.


Web News 24 & 25

Web News Index

Web News 27


© Copyright The West Country Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust
Registered in England Company No. 3780463. Registered Charity No. 1079795