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  WEB NEWS 29  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a brief look at Harry Potts Stokes, Berts Prans of nostalgia and Marigold Motor Services.


Harry Potts Stokes "The Committee having heard the Chief Constable's report with reference to the proceedings recently taken against the late Tramways Manager  Resolved that no further action be taken" - so reads the minutes of the Plymouth City Tramways and Transport Committee, dated 26th July 1930 (minute 3836).  R C Sambourne, in Plymouth 100 Years of Street Travel says (page 44) that "In 1929 Mr H P Stokes was succeeded as general manager by Mr C Jackson ...  "The minutes seem to imply that there is 'more to this' than the normal change of manager that the book might suggest.  So the question arises - who was H P Stokes - and what were the ‘proceedings’ taken against him? 

Harry Potts Stokes was born in the early part of 1883 to Ebenezer and Emma Stokes, in Burton on Trent.  By 1891, the family are living at 15 Wellington Street in Burton, where Ebenezer (aged 40) is an ironfounder’s blacksmith.  Also there were Harry’s sister Elizabeth (born in Peterborough), an upholsterer’s apprentice, Rosina (14), Mabel (9) and Bessie (6)  and brothers John (13)and  Herbert (11) - the last 5 also born in Burton.  Ten years later, and the family have moved to 3 Victoria Street, where Ebenezer is described as an ‘engineer’s smith’, John has become a steam engine fitter, and Harry is an 18 year old ‘school board clerk’.

Harry’s parents, however, did not come from the Burton area, although had been there for some time - in 1881 being listed as a blacksmith at 16 Waterloo Street - with Emma’s sister, Betsy (a dressmaker) living with them too. But Ebenezer Stokes had married Emma Potts in 1871, back in Huntingdonshire.  He had been born in Fletton, and she in Ramsey, both in that county.  Ebenezer - born in 1850 - was the son of William and Ann Stokes - a blacksmith and a dressmaker.  William was also from Fletton, but Ann had come from Edinburgh.  Emma - born in 1849 or 1850 - was the daughter of John and Jane Potts - he a turf merchant - and both from Ramsey.

In Burton-on-Trent, the 6 2/3 mile tramways system opened on 3rd August 1903, with Percival Pringle as the manager, and H P Stokes became the assistant engineer and manager.  But it seems Harry was a man with ambition, for in 1905 he moved to the Derbyshire town of Ilkeston, to become the manager of the tramways there.  This was a smaller system - just 3 ¾ miles long, and only 13 4-wheel cars, which had opened on 16th May 1903.  In a list of ‘Officers of the Corporation’ in 1912, he is listed as ‘Borough Electrical Engineer and Tramways Manager’, at Park Road.  The telegraphic address for the tramways department was “Stokes, Tramways, Ilkeston” -- the telephone also being connected there (phone number 26).  He was by then married and living at 20 Park Avenue in Ilkeston.  His wife was Mary (or Marie) Elizabeth Gresham Yates, and they were married in the summer of 1908 - on the edge of Liverpool.  Mary’s family lived thereabouts, but how she and Harry came to meet is a mystery ! She had been born in 1880 - on 19th January - and was the daughter of John and Mary Yates, who lived at Hale, in Lancashire.  He was a farmer, from Wavertree, and she came from Sparston in Cheshire.  John was the son of Frederick and Clarissa Yates, who had married in early 1849 (again, in the outskirts of Liverpool), and had been born in 1850.  Clarissa’s sister was Mary Elizabeth Gresham, and their father Johanna Gresham ( born about 1797) had come from Demarara (although was a ‘British Subject’), and was described as a widower, and a ‘fund holder’.  Clearly, there was no ‘history’ of running a transport business on either side of the family, but their ‘roots’ were widely spread, and maybe his father’s trade as a blacksmith raised his awareness of ‘things mechanical’.

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No. 22 was one of six Shelvoke and Drewry small-wheelers used on Service E Cattedown - West Hoe and became appropriately nick-named ‘the caterpillars’ by the public.  The first three (22-24) had Hickman 20-seat bodies.  Power was provided by a transverse-mounted four cylinder 2.2 litre petrol engine.  Control was by two tram-type controllers, the right-hand one for steering and the left-hand one for transmission and brakes.  The model name was Freighter and of over 2,500 built, fewer than 50 were buses.  H P Stokes’s details can be seen below the fleet number.   Plymouth Corporation Buses No. 3, a Straker Squire, one of the first batch of 20 motor buses introduced in 1920.  They were 24-seaters running on solid tyres derisorily nick-named ‘yellow perils’.

Pangs of nostalgia ... as Bert looks back - In WHOTT’s News 25, we dipped into an old note book, that helped answer the question “Why did they buy that”?  That notebook also gives clues to the reasons for vehicle purchasing from 1930 – 1934, and so we can now continue looking at the factors that influenced the buying policies of operators in the south-west. 

Since John Rackham, designer of the Leyland Titan, had left that company to join AEC, the new Regent had become a direct challenge to the Leyland product.  It had many similar features and Rackham quickly gave the Regent things which the Titan lacked, except that AEC had no body building facility of their own.  Here Leyland had room to manoeuvre when quoting a complete vehicle price.  In March 1930 Mr Jackson, the recently appointed General Manager of Plymouth Corporation, discovered that his predecessor, in building a new depot, had not allowed enough height to accommodate double-decks.  Whilst Leyland found this disappointing in their quest for Titan sales, they nevertheless realised that AEC would gain nothing there either!  About this time Plymouth were also contemplating trolley buses which would definitely have needed more headroom.  However Jackson soon appointed the former engineer of Sheffield Corporation, a very strong Leyland man, as rolling stock superintendent and within a very short space of time building alterations were made, the trolley bus idea quashed and Plymouth became a notable user of Leyland double-deck products!

Other reasons could influence a change in buying policy and, as predicted in WHOTT’s News 25, South Devon Garages turned down Leyland in favour of six special type AECs after they had been acquired by Messrs Timpsons.  About the same time a Commer 50cwt lorry was bought by Baker Bros of Plymouth who found the cost of a Leyland Badger too high.  In June 1930 a Guy 26-seat coach was purchased by A E Good of Seaton Devon.  Interestingly Mr Good had been toying with the idea of buying a Leyland Tiger but, to clinch the deal, Guy took back, for £600, an older 20-seat model that had originally cost only £100 more than that.  This was on the understanding that Mr Good would purchase a special show model for £1900.  The coach in question had been earmarked for another customer who had forfeited a deposit of £300, which amount was allowed off the price to Mr Good who got his new coach for just £1000.  One can sense that some strong bartering went on here!  In November 1930 Devon General was seeking to replace ten Dennis 45hp saloons with a similar number of 4-cylinder Leyland Lions and was offered £70 each on just two of the Dennis chassis.  The contract was instead won by AEC which supplied Regals with Park Royal sun saloon bodies, taking all the Dennis in part exchange.  AEC also supplied another Regal to Exeter Corporation, this time with a Northern Counties body, to replace a troublesome Commer Invader which was less than twelve months old and taken back for £640.  Both the Commer and its replacement carried fleet number 15.  The following August Exeter Corporation changed its mind over an order for some tram replacement double-decks.  Instead of them being Leyland Titan, the successful bidder was AEC who supplied six Regent chassis which were bodied and delivered in January 1931.  Several months later when further tram replacement orders were being considered the Transport Committee could not make up its mind.  Possibly swayed in the knowledge that Plymouth Corporation had recently placed orders for Leyland Titans, an equitable solution was preferred by splitting the remainder of Exeter’s double-deck order almost equally between AEC and Leyland.  Another nineteen vehicles came in August but the Brush bodies fitted to the Titans turned out to be of much better quality than the Ransome bodied Regents.  Leyland were somewhat frustrated in that Exeter insisted on straight staircases, a layout their own body could not provide, so less overall bargaining could be used on just the chassis.  A question of  “You pays your money and takes your choice”. 

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Exeter 15, the 1930 Commer Invader replaced with an AEC Regal the next year.  One can’t help speculating that ‘troublesome’ may not have been the only reason for replacement of this attractive 20-seater with a much larger 31-seat AEC.   After stiff competition from Leyland and AEC, it was to Dennis Dunn’s Services turned for a new Lance double-deck bus in 1932.  This had been exhibited at the 1931 Olympia Show and subsequently demonstrated to a number of prospective customers.  Six months later its cost had dropped sufficiently for Eli Dunn to purchase this Duple bodied example with unusual nearside straight staircase for use on the service between Taunton and Wellington.  Registered YD3862 it passed to Western National in 1933.
  Marigold: The Orange Buses of Cornwall - As a postscript to the articles’ The memories of a small boy – Western National’s Camborne depot in the early 1950’s’. To provide a flavour of the ‘competition’, with the kind permission of Roger Grimley we are able to reproduce his historical summary of the bus and coach services of Marigold , Lanner originally  published in ‘Travelling to Truro – Part III’.
This interesting booklet, together with Parts I and II is available from WHOTT, 7 Temeraire Road, Manadon Park, Plymouth PL53UA  for £5 each + £1 postage and packing.
In 1926 Newton Trewren, a carpenter working at Falmouth Docks, saw a need for transport of workers from the Redruth area. The firm of Silley Cox started as shipbuilders at Famouth after the Packet Trade was lost to Southampton in the 1840’s and between the two World Wars they employed over 1,000 workers at Falmouth. Many of the 2,600 men out of work in the Redruth/Camborne area found employment in the docks and needed transport each day. Leaving his job Newton Trewren bought a 20-seater Thornycroft which he named “Marigold” and began operating a workman’s service between Redruth, Lanner and Falmouth Docks six days a week.
In addition the “Marigold” maintained a half hourly service between Lanner and Redruth on Saturdays, competing with the Great Western Railway, later Western National, buses on their Redruth – Falmouth service, also with the frequent service between Truro , St.Day, Lanner and Redruth. From 1934 Trewren’s bus ran a similar Lanner – Redruth shuttle service on Fridays, Redruth Market Day.
From 1929 the business expanded and a small network of routes was developed. One shadowed the Western National Redruth – Helston route as far as Four Lanes, a road also served by Dick Jewell, Carleen and W.J.Bowden of Constantine. Traffic on the “Marigold” service, which ran on Saturdays only was light and it was withdrawn in 1932. A second Saturday route served the villages of Carnkie and Piece, whose inhabitants also enjoyed a Wednesday and Friday service provided by Fred Berriman of Troon.
Another service linked Redruth and Truro on Saturdays. This was a roundabout route through Lanner, then up through Carharrack and past Sunny Corner to Frogpool. It continued up Coombe Lane, turned left to double run to Twelveheads, then on to Bissoe, Balhu,Hugus Threemilestone and into Truro. Six through journeys were operated in each direction.
These services all ran to a regular timetable but pleasure trips were also run on a more informal basis. There were excursions to Plymouth (fare 7s.6d) and to the Fairs at Penzance, Summercourt and Helston. Mystery trips were also popular and in high summer the beaches on the North Cornwall coast attracted family parties. Excursions to Perranporth were operated occasionally but the beach at Porthtowan was neared and warranted a regular service on Thursdays and Sundays throughout July, August and September. This served the mining villages of Lanner, Carharrack and Scorrier with morning and lunchtime departures from Lanner and two return journeys in the late afternoon.
In about 1930 Newton Trewren took a brave step with the inauguration of a service between Redruth, Camborne Hayle and Penzance, this competing with Western National and Cornish Buses. However it had a relatively short life, being withdrawn when it was realised that under the national system of licencing bus routes to be introduced during 1931 it was unlikely that it would be allowed to continue.
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CJY301 – 1946 Leyland PD1/Roe bodywork, originally Plymouth Corporation ‘91’, renumbered ‘191’ in 1957, before being sold to W H Stephens in 1960.  With the destination blind set for Porthtowan, is this on the summer service to the North Cornwall beach?  This must have been a wonderful sight meandering around Cornwall in the bright Orange livery.  It was withdrawn in 1964.  In the background is GCV 657 a 1943 Bedford OWB/Duple that came from Noel Coaches, Redruth in 1955.   MAF589 – New to Newton Trewren in 1949, this Austin CXB with Plaxton bodywork is seen parked in Truro, possibly on the Saturday service from Redruth.

Meet the Trustees - K Pankhurst

Website Query Corner

WHOTT's on eBay - Part 4

Just the Ticket - 12

WHOTT in colour

South Western Coachbuilders - 2

Points of View


Western National Bristol SUS4A 600 (672COD) rests by Mousehole harbour on 14 September 1999, its first trip to the picturesque Cornish village since leaving Western National service in 1972.  It is planned to recreate this scene on Sunday 27 April this year when WHOTT is organising a Penzance VR Revival and Mousehole Running Day.


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