|WEB NEWS 51|
In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a brief at A Force to be reckoned with and vehicle update.
A Force to be reckoned with - Part
One - With its
headquarters, at the time situated in London, Western National’s
chiefs would have been close to murmurings at the top of the
industry. The Cambrian company, referred to, had sold its bus
operations in London to the London General Omnibus Company in 1926
and its owner, Mr Athole Murray Kemp-Gee, reinvested a considerable
sum in new coaches which were used mainly on services into Kent,
establishing depots at Deal, Dover and Folkestone. His rapid
expansion was worrying to the principle operator, East Kent Road Car
Company. In May 1929 Kemp-Gee announced that he was launching
another new company called London & Southern Counties Motor Services
Ltd that would absorb existing operators from Kent to Torquay. He
was relying on finance from the British Motor Trust Co Ltd but these
grandiose ideas over-stretched his wallet and by October 1929 they
forced him into liquidation and his fleet of coaches passed to East
Kent. Having regard to his earlier claims, there was justification
in Western National’s anxiety. We can only speculate if Kemp-Gee had
actually formed some working arrangement with H B Buses, or if it
was wishful thinking aloud on his part. His backers had pulled the
plug before purchasing Modern Travel or Grey Cars – at that time
part of Timpsons.
So who were H B Buses? The initials are that of Hopper and Berryman, a partnership that had set up at St Mary’s Garage, Plympton, running three Lancia vehicles into Plymouth, painted in a Prussian blue livery. They had not been in existence very long, yet attracted the attention of Clarence Mumford, Managing Director of the Plymouth motor distributors W Mumford Ltd. By the mid-twenties the Mumford business had become well established with several franchises for both cars and commercial vehicles. They were based at Salisbury Road, in the St Judes area where a large garage had been constructed in the orchard of Mr Mumford’s house and a body construction works established at Billacombe. As business people in the city, the Mumford family were well connected and dabbled in other activities unconnected with transport, but they had started a charabanc business of their own, running trips under the Purple Cars name. During 1928 Mumford had not been slow to realise the impact that might arise if the railway companies bought into the bus industry, so when the announcement came that the fusion had taken place, Mumfords decided it was time to challenge the new set-up. They were in a strong position in that, having an agency agreement with Associated Equipment Company (AEC), they could supply chassis of that make and Daimler or Associated Daimler too. However, it wasn’t for them to actually run the buses, but to offer terms suitable to anyone who wished to, and to supply them with the vehicles to do it. From the early ‘twenties W Mumford Ltd had supplied the chassis of various makes and built the bodywork for many commercial and passenger operators throughout the west country and well beyond. While none of these customers were particularly large undertakings there were, nevertheless, plenty of them, and Mumford’s name and reputation for good quality products spread. They therefore had a sound customer base and the news of the National and Great Western Railway creating a new Western National must have been the realisation of their worst fears. The new company would very likely continue to purchase its vehicles from already established suppliers, quite often direct with the manufacturers rather than through an agency. Mumford needed to act quickly to ensure that their business interests, built up over a decade, were not badly affected.
The new Western National company’s territory was distinctly split in two, one part of it covering areas of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset and the rest in Cornwall and south-west Devon. It was the latter territory that most concerned Mumford and research has uncovered intense activity in their camp. Round about this time they entered into agreements with a number of individuals, the first being with Mr Hendra of Totnes on, or about, the 8th March 1929, for on that day a hastily written letter was written by Hendra, offering the whole of his Totnesia business to Clarence Mumford for the sum of £14,000. This included nine charsabanc, one bus and three hire cars, plus freehold premises in Fore Street and Ticklemore Street. This was immediately accepted and the business passed to Mumford. This was an important acquisition, enabling Mumford / Hopper & Berryman to connect with Paignton and Buckfastleigh, as well as other places. It remained for a little negotiation to reach Torquay and they managed to do so ahead of Western National who had a boundary agreement with Devon General. Very late in the negotiations between the GWR and National, the former had gone ahead and purchased Ashcrofts business at Paignton. Its services crossed the boundary established between the new Western National and Devon General so its assets had to be divided evenly between those two companies. Ashcrofts had a service to Plymouth and subsequently the Torquay – Plymouth service used special joint tickets printed as ‘Devon National Limited Stop Service’.
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- After a long period awaiting parts, VR 937 took to the road with
a full filling of fuel in its newly suspended tanks. First job was
to provide a free bus service around Tiverton on 13th July in
conjunction with the very colourful Balloon Festival. It had been
arranged to terminate in the car park of Petroc School, behind which
the event was being staged but, at the last minute, health and
safety insisted that we could not use this turning area, specially
designed for school buses. Instead 937 ran from the pedestrian area
of the market place where there was no proper turning area, but with
marshalls aboard it presented no problem. We must thank Stuart
Andrews for taking the wheel just in case we had more than eight
passengers aboard. Since then 937 has attended the Plymouth rally,
after which it took up temporary residence in the premises of the
Plymouth Bus Preservation Group. This saved a lot of time and money
taking 937 all the way back to Knowstone before its next event at
Helston later in August (see dates for your diary).
On 14th July the insurance for all the vehicles was renewed en bloc with the Autohome recovery being provided as well in case of breakdown. Again, we are with Equity Red Star through Towergate Risk Solutions acting as broker. As with many insurance companies, there is an upper age limit of 70 and it is fast approaching when many of our drivers will have reached that milestone. It is therefore necessary to encourage some younger people to take up driving, providing that they hold the
Meanwhile, back in the workshop, work has been progressing well on two pre-war vehicles. It is good to see Terry Damerel back again, concentrating on the Bedford panelling that is now virtually complete. Alan Ellis has laid in new flooring towards the front and Roy Gould has tackled filling and sanding down. There is now a splash of colour appearing where the beading goes.
The Maudslay is also progressing well with all the seats now finished apart from grab handles that have just been recast in aluminium. The offside seats have been bolted in place first so that the fuel tank on that side can be reinstalled before work starts on the nearside. The safest place to store the new destination blind was back where it belongs and our picture shows our youngest helper, William Knight, who could not resist turning that handle before getting on with stripping old paint from the road wheels.
On closer examination it was found that the differential on the Maudslay was very badly worn but very fortunately the bus came with a spare that is in good condition. It now remains for Brian Phillips to swap them over and replenish with the correct oil. As we go to print the sign writing and lining out is about to commence now that all the exterior has been painted by
The coaching reunion - 9th May 2013
Just the ticket - 21
Cascading into Cornwall.....
Actions from the minutes
Photo Print Service
Left - appropriately carrying a sticker ON HIRE TO ROYAL BLUE, Hamilton Gray used HIG 1485 to convey the Devon contingent to Bournemouth
Right - Happy Faces - Eric Sinnett (Royal Blue driver and Inspector for both Royal Blue and National Express, Exeter) in foregourn and L to R behind is Trevor Groves (former Yelloways and National Express, Plymouth), Barry Wilcocks (Western National, Plymouth), and Les Bailes (Western National and National Express, Plymoth).
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