Newbury & District Motor Services Ltd. 1932-1952

On the 26th April 1932 the coach businesses of Denham Bros., Durnford & Sons and the ‘Favourite Coaches’ (owned by Arthur Andrews) were amalgamated, by agreement, into the Newbury and District Motor Services Limited.

All three had been local operators in the Newbury area at the time of the 1930 Road Traffic Act and the increased responsibilities imposed by the Act had seen many smaller companies sell out. The merger was seen as a way of sharing the burden without compromising their businesses.

The initial fleet comprised an interesting assortment of vehicles, such as Lancia, Gilford, Talbot, Ford, Thornycroft, Tilling-Stevens and Reo, a total of 22 vehicles.

An interim arrangement was made with the Thames Valley Traction Company to house the Newbury and District fleet in that Company’s Mill Lane garage, constructed for planned services in the Newbury area, which never transpired.

Two Thames Valley vehicles were housed there, however, and part of the agreement provided for their continued garaging with Newbury and District vehicles taking up the remaining space.

At the same time it was thought desirable to consolidate the licences for tours and excursions previously held by the three individual operators which allowed for the operation of 12 vehicles. Disappointingly the new Company was only authorised to use 5 vehicles!

On 1st September 1932, two more local operators, George Hedges of Brightwalton, and John Prothero of Beedon joined the consortium. Hedges had been established since 1917 and had latterly been trading as the ‘Reliance Motor Service’.

Prothero had commenced business in 1921 and was trading under the fleetname ‘XLCR’. Both operators ran a number of routes in and around the Newbury area and both had a number of tours and excursions licences, all of which were transferred to Newbury and District.

Throughout the 1930’s Newbury and District continued to expand and many smaller operators were swallowed up, Holman of Ecchinswell and Pocock Brothers of Cold Ash in 1932, Spanswick of Thatcham in 1933, Burt of Inkpen, Joy Coaches and Cars, Brown of Wash Common, Howlett of Bucklebury, and W.J. White and Sons of Hermitage in 1934.

By the end of 1934 the Company was operating 27 routes out of Newbury and surrounding areas, and the increasing fleet size had prompted the Company to look for larger premises.

However, nothing suitable could be found and the lease on the Thames Valley garage was continued.

In July 1935 the first new vehicle was delivered to the Company, a Dennis Ace (No.63) with 20-seat King and Taylor bodywork. It proved to be the first of many and over the years Newbury and District acquired a large number of second-hand Aces.

A suitable site for the new garage, adjacent to the Mill Lane premises, was purchased during December 1936, the plans were subsequently approved by Newbury Council and building commenced in 1937.

In February 1938 an offer to purchase the Company was received from a London firm of solicitors who were acting for an unnamed client. Although the Company suggested £40,000 would be sufficient to acquire the business, nothing materialised.

With the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 many vehicles were committed to the war effort, ferrying military personnel and war workers, and as a result public bus services suffered several cutbacks.

In June 1940 the fleet stood at 50 vehicles, but at least six fell foul of the War Department and were requisitioned for troop transport. At the same time an effort was made to standardise the fleet towards larger capacity vehicles.

The current Newbury and District policy was to acquire small 20-seat vehicles, which subsequently meant that relief journeys were necessary at peak loading times. Larger vehicles avoided this and also provided savings on staff and fuel.

Leyland was the preferred manufacturer for these larger vehicles, but a number of the smaller Dennis Ace vehicles were still acquired to provide a service over restricted roads in rural areas.

Spare parts for the fleet became a problem during the war years (although Newbury and District managed to acquire chassis for cannibalisation) and the second-hand vehicle market had dried up by 1942.

The gap, however, was filled by Vauxhall Motors, who produced a wartime version of the popular Bedford OB, the OWB, which was the only new single-deck vehicle available during the war years.

Newbury and District received an allocation of five OWB’s, the first of which was delivered in 1942 (No.94), with the remainder arriving in 1943 (Nos. 95-98).

Also in 1943 an offer for the purchase of the Company was received from the Red and White United Transport Company Limited, who already controlled a substantial territory in South Wales and the Cheltenham, Gloucester and Stroud areas of England.

Although the Board of Directors of Newbury and District were seeking £75,000 for the purchase of the Company, an offer of £62,000 was eventually accepted, even though several of the directors (including Theo Denham, one of the original three operators who had formed the Newbury and District Company in 1932) were opposed to the sale.

The official date of the take-over was 1st January 1944.

Still within the war years, Newbury and District had options on a further two OWB’s, but under Red and White ownership these were changed to Guy Arab double-deckers.

Permission was also sought for the introduction of 4 more new double-deck vehicles to dispense with the necessity of running relief buses, which was the practice of Newbury and District with their fleet of small single-deck vehicles.

A further application was made to the War Department in the following months for an additional 5 new double-deckers, but, after consideration, only 7 Guy Arab double-deckers in total were sanctioned.

At the time of the take-over the fleet consisted of some 63 vehicles, many of which, under Red and White policy, were non-standard and to be withdrawn as soon as was practical.

In order to accomplish the rapid withdrawal of the 20-seaters within the Newbury and District fleet, 10 OWB’s were transferred in from the Red and White, and United Welsh fleets.

Red and White policy dictated that double-deckers were to be used on Newbury and District services where operational conditions justified their use.

Delivery of new vehicles, however, proved somewhat tardy and as a stop-gap measure some double-deck vehicles were transferred in from other fleets under the control of Red and White.

The Mill Lane garage also came under close scrutiny by Red and White during 1944 and a decision was made to rebuild and enlarge the premises. At the same time staff received new uniforms and the ticketing system was changed.

In September 1944 the first of four Guy Arabs (Nos. 99-102) arrived, followed one month later by another (103).

Elderly AEC Regal saloons, formerly with Scottish Motor Traction, were refurbished for service with Newbury and District, finally entering service in November 1944.

In June 1945 approval was given for the construction of the new garage and work continued throughout the year, although rather slowly, because of the continuing shortage of materials, and it was not completed until May of 1946.

In June 1946, several second-hand single-deckers from the fleet of Red and White began to arrive. Numbers 118-120 were three OWB’s from the main Red and White fleet.

In the postwar period, large numbers of construction workers had to be transported to the Harwell Atomic Energy Research Establishment and Newbury and District took on the responsibility.

The whole task, however, proved too great for the Company, part of the problem being the difficulty in obtaining sufficient buses during this time, and eventually a number of local firms became involved.

By Easter 1946, Newbury and District had re-commenced its excursion work, albeit in a very limited way, but the non-appearance of new coaches was disappointing and prevented a full-scale revival of tours and excursions.

However, 10 former Scottish Motor Traction AEC Regal’s, rebuilt for service at Newbury, started to arrive in June 1946. Numbered 121 to 130, they proved a welcome addition to Newbury and District’s overstretched fleet.

A further 10 new AEC Regal’s with Duple 35-seat coachwork were delivered in April 1947 (Nos. 131-140) and also provided tour and excursion cover for coaches on order, which were not expected until late in the season, although one, No.141 was delivered in August 1947.

The promised coaches finally arrived in time for the 1948 summer season. On AEC Regal chassis with Duple 35-seat coachwork and numbered 142 to 148, they became the pride of the fleet. Two further vehicles were expected but in the end were delayed, not entering service until December.

Nationalisation was the biggest postwar threat among the large bus companies and Red and White was no exception.

The Tilling Group, responsible for around 50% of the nation’s buses, had already succumbed and was now in public ownership, and in February 1950, the Red and White Group voluntarily agreed to sell its bus interests to the British Transport Commission (BTC), the body responsible for co-ordinating nationalisation.

Following the sale, the BTC decided to move the centre of operations to a more central location than the erstwhile Chepstow offices of Red and White. As a result the control of Newbury and District passed to the Thames Valley Traction Company on 1st May 1950.

The Newbury and District fleet at this time stood at over 100 vehicles and its addition to the Thames Valley fleet (around 300 vehicles) brought a substantial increase in work for the Thames Valley staff.

Although initial buses drafted into the Newbury fleet were rather aged, in August 1950 two new Thames Valley Bristol LL6B’s (558-559) were added to the Newbury allocation, followed by two more (557,560) in November, Newbury’s first 30-ft long vehicles.

In May 1951 a number of older Thames Valley buses arrived and they were re-numbered in a continuation of the Newbury and District series with No.187, a lowbridge Guy Arab of 1942, being the last of the intake, and, as it was to turn out, the last Newbury and District vehicle.

So although, initially, it appeared that Newbury and District was still being operated as a subsidiary, in the summer of 1952, the fleetname was replaced by that of Thames Valley.

Many of the vehicles continued to show Newbury and District as the legal owners for several more years, but the outwardly visible signs had disappeared and in effect, Newbury and District ceased to exist.

In producing this history reference has been made to the following source;
A History of Newbury and District Motor Services Ltd. 1932-1952 (Paul Lacey, Author 1987).

Bus Fleet List 1932-1952 |