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  WEB NEWS 30  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a brief look at Plymouth Corporation and WHOTT's new Archive Facility.          


From the Archive - The Yellow Peril - Plymouth Corporation's First Buses - In WHOTT’s News! 29 we looked at the life and times of times of Harry Potts Stokes, the man responsible for bringing motorbuses into the Plymouth Corporation fleet. In this issue we reflect on those first buses in more detail by drawing on notes contained in Accession 438 from the WHOTT Archive.

The Western Daily Mercury for January 15th 1920 carried details of a scheme which, it said, would ‘revolutionise the whole transport service of ‘Greater Plymouth’.  H.P. Stokes had been Manager of the Plymouth Tramways for barely 3 months, when he presented his ideas for extension and expansion to the Plymouth Borough Council.  Three of the eleven main topics involved the purchase and operation of motor buses. Stokes proposed to buy 30 buses to run on 4 regular routes, and also to run some workmen’s specials.  Although not the first motor buses to operate in the area, the GWR having operated to several of the surrounding villages since 1904, it was a bold and innovative scheme, whereby Plymouth would seek powers to run its buses within a 15 mile radius of the town centre.

The town had taken in the area of Laira, to the east, at the start of the century, and one of the proposed routes was to serve that area - the others being to Ford, to Morice Town and to Durnford Street.  Initially, it was anticipated that the first 3 routes would need 6 buses each, whilst the Durnford Street one would need only 3.  However, the plans were revised, and adverts were placed for the supply of 20 motor chassis and 20 enclosed motor omnibus bodies with seating for 26 passengers. H.P. Stokes thought that the hilly terrain of Plymouth would need to be catered for in the vehicle design, and so he drew up a detailed specification.  Straker Squire, of Edmonton in London, obtained the order for the chassis - a demonstration vehicle having apparently impressed its 46 passengers as it climbed Ford Hill in second gear at 12 mph, according to the Western Daily Mercury.  The bodies, so the Tramways Committee told the Council meeting, would have to be built by a commercial firm in order to obtain delivery quickly, but in future the Milehouse workshops of the Corporation Tramways would be able to carry out such work.  The first vehicle was ready for use by early July 1920.  H.P. Stokes, together with the Chairman and another member of the Tramways Committee were in London (allegedly to see if trolleybuses would also suit Plymouth), and so it was suggested that they would return to Plymouth by travelling in the first of these new vehicles - on trade plates H-6-SS.  It is suggested that H.P. Stokes shared the driving with the ‘works’ driver’.  An overnight stop was made at Salisbury, and a further 12 hours drive the following day brought them to Plymouth.

The bus was presented for the Tramways Committee to inspect on July 12th.  It was painted primrose yellow, with the Plymouth coat of arms and motto prominently displayed, whilst inside were 34 dark green leather seats - with an extra 8 seats available in the gangway which could be used ‘for special purposes’ - and the vehicle was fitted with electric lighting.  The 55 hp engine could take the bus along at over 20 mph, but for ordinary purposes it was restricted to 12 mph. The 14ft 6in wheelbase enabled it to turn in a circle of 25 feet radius. After a tour over the proposed bus routes, the local paper reported that ‘a proof of the usefulness of the bus was given when the driver demonstrated how it could be stopped almost instantly on a steep incline, take up a passenger and restart at fast speed immediately’.

H.P. Stokes was a pioneer in his introduction of motor buses in this way, and it was said that Straker Squire had not manufactured anything like it before.  Straker Squire had promised to deliver 2 buses per week in July, rising to 3 per week after that, however by the end of July there was no sign of the remainder.  The public had been able to try out the initial bus by taking a circular tour from the Theatre Royal, for a fare of 6d - although some members of the Council disapprovingly considered these to be ‘joy rides’.  The second bus was then expected to arrive at the end of August - and by this time the Tramways Committee changed their minds on where the bus routes would be. It had already been announced that the first route would link Durnford Street in Stonehouse with Station Road in Ford and on 24th August three more routes were announced; Lockyer Street to Laira, Whimple Street to Alcester Street and George Street – Saltash Passage. 

At about this time, the residents of Crownhill had asked the Council to extend the tramway there, but this was refused, instead a feeder bus route to the Compton tram terminus was offered - albeit with through fares to the town centre.  Unfortunately, there were insufficient buses to provide the service - and the Council did not have authority to run services beyond the then borough boundary.  This led to criticism in the Council that the buses had been ordered haphazardly, without any clear plan as to their use.

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‘12’ – CO3392 – in the original livery used for Straker Squires, with ‘Plymouth Corporation Buses’ proudly emblazoned on the side. Taken in Catherine Street, the building still exists today as ‘The Treasury’ lounge bar, one of very few pre-second world war buildings still to be seen in the centre of Plymouth.   ‘4’ – CO3396 – Renumbered from No.16 in 1922, this later view shows the pneumatic tyres fitted by March 1926. Note the difference in size between the Straker Squire and Burford parked behind.
  New Archive Facility - In the last issue of WHOTT’s News! it was suggested that a move of the archive to improved facilities was anticipated in the near future. Over the weekend of 12th  - 14th April 2008 that anticipation became reality.

The Portacabin at Westpoint, home of the archive since March 2005, had reached bursting point.  Its limitations were plain for all to see and the working conditions were far from ideal.  It was clear that the time had come where we needed to move on to a better environment that provided improved security and  easier access for the Trust’s extensive and increasingly important archive.  The new premises at the Airport Business Centre, Estover, Plymouth, offers to both Friends and researchers facilities that are about as close as one can get to a professional archive repository. 

Working to a precise plan drawn up by Bob Crawley the sterling efforts of a team of twenty-five Friends and helpers, working from four different locations ensured that the move went like clockwork. The fruits of these labours are clear to see in the accompanying illustrations.  The keys were collected on Friday 11th April, and during the late afternoon the room was measured up and the floor marked out in preparation for the move. On the Saturday morning the Trust’s Transit pickup was put to good use carrying a full load of Dexion shelving from Knowstone to Estover. Amongst the contents of several estate car loads to arrive from the Portacabin was a large box of nuts and bolts for assembling the shelving. The contents of this box were patiently sorted by Colin Laskey and David Hockings, and this rather tiresome task was probably key to a successful Saturday.  No opportunity was lost in filling every car travelling to Estover, so smaller or more delicate items such as the photocopying machine, ten-drawer plan chest and loose equipment was transported this way. 

Another early start on the Sunday saw the Transit pickup arrive from Knowstone with two display cabinets and two more plan chests before returning to Westpoint to collect the first of the shelving that had been emptied earlier that morning. By the middle of the afternoon the new archive facility was beginning to take shape with additional shelving ready and waiting.  Monday morning proved to be the quiet period for the team at Estover, so an opportunity was taken to sample the wares of the onsite cafeteria, which is open daily Monday – Friday.  However much activity was going on elsewhere.  At Westpoint the remaining  shelving was loaded onto the Transit and the entire boxed contents of the portacabin, including the archive table, was loaded into a hired Luton van. At Kingsteignton a second archive table, muniments cabinet, glass top counter and drawing board were recovered from the store where they had lain for some considerable time.  The final load for the Transit was four workstation desks, chairs and other small items of surplus office furniture from Brittany Ferries. Together all this now provides an excellent facility of which we can be justly proud.


Royal Blue Run 13-15 June 2008

We already have twelve entries for this coaching event which will recreate some spectacular Royal Blue routes through North Devon and North Cornwall.  On Friday 13 those coming from the North and East will run from the former Black and White Coach Station in Cheltenham, leaving at 2.30pm.  We will stay overnight in Taunton and depart from the coach park in Castle Street at 10.30am on Saturday.  The run will take the route to Barnstaple along using the old A361 via Wiveliscombe, Bampton and South Molton.  From Barnstaple we will follow the old A39 via Fremington to Bideford, diverting through Northam to Westward Ho!.  Having rejoined the A39 we will turn off for Hartland and then rejoin the A39 as far as Stratton, then arriving at Bude for an overnight stay. 

On Sunday we plan to leave Bude at 9.30am going South to Widemouth Bay before rejoining the A39 to Wadebridge.  Subject to a final route survey, we will run into Polzeath via Trebetherick to avoid a double run and turning in the beach car park.  The Polzeath-Exeter leg will follow Route R138 via Delabole, Tintagel, Boscastle, Launceston and Okehampton along the old A30. 

WHOTT Friends are welcome to travel with us over the whole route or for any part of it.  If you wish to take advantage of this, please contact Colin Billington.  If you are planning an overnight stay in either Taunton or Bude you should book your own accommodation.  Several coaches are expected to be travelling from Exeter via Taunton after the run if you choose to leave your car there but it is essential that you make this known beforehand to ensure arrangements are made.


Meet the Trustees - Nick Craig

Albert Edward Butler - An Early Pioneer

The West Country's Favourite Bus Station?

Penzance VR Revival & Mousehole Running Day

Points of View

Royal Blue Run 13-15 June

Archive Print Service

Future Activities



The recent view from below shows the potential for development of the area underneath the St Ives Bus Station which has been an eyesore for many years.

The West Country's Favourite Bus Station? The results of the 2008 Friend's pool for their favourite West Country bus station will be published in WHOTT's News! 31. Will St. Ives be amongst the leading contenders?


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 29

Web News Index

Web News 31


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