W. C. Standerwick Ltd. 1911-1974

In 1904 Walter Clinton Standerwick was already operating a carriage business from a Mews Stable in Coronation Street, Blackpool.

By 1906 he had acquired the licensed horse-charabanc of R. Strickland, a former horse omnibus proprietor, and in 1907 he had the charabanc stand re-located to a position outside the Central Drive Livery Stables, which, by now, was his operating base.

Although Walter Standerwick had watched with interest the debate on the issuing of licences to motor charabancs, it was his younger brother Edward who persuaded him to purchase one.

In 1911 the first motorbus, a Karrier (FR530) was delivered and on 25th August 1911 one of the first licences to run motorised charabancs was issued to Walter Standerwick. In 1912 a second vehicle, built by the Leicester firm of Alldays and Onions, joined the fleet.

By 1919, the horse charabanc had been withdrawn and Standerwick was now operating four motor charabancs, the business being relatively untroubled by the passage of the Great War.

By the early twenties, however, Blackpool Watch Committee was becoming increasingly alarmed at the rise in the numbers of coaching businesses operating from the town’s streets.

The Committee subsequently announced that from 1921 no street stands would be permitted and that all operators would be required to use off-road sites for standing coaches.

Despite this Standerwick was able to continue to operate from two sites considered private land, which were close enough to the visiting tourists to enable them to be persuaded to board his vehicles.

The business was incorporated on the 15th May 1925 as W. C. Standerwick Ltd., with Walter and his wife holding the majority of shares. His younger brother, Edward held the balance.

By the late twenties the company was running seven-day tours to London and weekend excursions to several of the nearby Lancashire towns, such as Accrington, Blackburn, Burnley and Manchester.

There were also a number of Lancia all-weather coaches on tours to Anglesey, Harrogate, Scarborough and York. At the same time regular express services to Manchester and Liverpool were inaugurated.

However, when a joint consortium of Ribble, North Western and Lancashire United commenced a half-hourly service on these two routes in the summer of 1927, the smaller operators slowly dropped by the wayside.

Standerwick ceased running on these two routes in 1928, the same year that, following the acquisition of land on the corner of Bethesda Road and Kent Road, a new garage for the increasing coach fleet was opened, the upper floor being leased to a Working Men’s Club.

In 1929 the Company was hit by a major tragedy when Walter Standerwick died at the relatively early age of 56.

Edward Standerwick had already been responsible for the day to day running of the business and with the late Walter’s shareholding passing to his wife Elizabeth, the Company continued as before.

By 1932, however, Elizabeth indicated that she no longer wished to continue, leaving Edward Standerwick, as the minor shareholder, with little option but to agree to the sale of the business.

When news of the sale reached the ears of Ribble Motor Services executives they considered that the Standerwick concern would make an excellent acquisition.

Since coaching businesses operated on lower wage scales and the labour was largely non-union, a total take-over might mean that implementing Ribble agreed scales and union labour could remove the competitive edge.

Consequently the decision was made to operate the Standerwick concern as an ‘arms length’ subsidiary of Ribble Motor Services, although initially both the North Western Road Car Company and the Birmingham and Midland Omnibus Company took a shareholding in the concern.

At the same time there was alarm amongst the Blackpool coaching firms following the sale of Standerwick.

There were several that feared the strength of the three major companies (who had formed a combine to operate the lucrative London routes) and both Bracewells and Wood Bros. offered to sell out also.

By 1933 both companies had been purchased by the combine and were placed under Standerwick’s management, although for the time being they continued to operate under their own names.

All three of the newly acquired businesses were in need of financial assistance to update the respective fleets, with new coaches on order and with several of the coaches in need of refurbishment.

A number of duplicated routes were reduced in frequency, enabling some of the older vehicles to be withdrawn.

In 1934, it was agreed by the combine companies that the ownership of the three Blackpool operators should be vested solely in Ribble Motor Services, and by February 1935, the transfer of shareholdings had taken place.

As a result, Ribble executives were able to look at the rationalisation of the coaching businesses. It was proposed that Standerwicks should be the retained coach fleetname and that all the excursion work within Ribble territory should be placed under the Standerwick name.

In December 1935 approval was received to transfer the licences held by Bracewells and Wood Bros. to Standerwick and during 1936 the vehicles operated by both concerns were absorbed into the Standerwick fleet.

The following year another Ribble coaching subsidiary, William Salisbury and Sons, who had been trading as Pride of the North Motors, was also amalgamated with the Standerwick fleet.

The onset of World War II in 1939 brought a temporary halt to the expansion of the Standerwick business. Many coaches were requisitioned by the War Department whilst Ribble made use of a number of vehicles.

After the cessation of hostilities, however, Standerwick, which had previously maintained a degree of independence from Ribble Motor Services found its vehicle policies integrated with those of its parent company.

Future deliveries were to be parts of much larger Ribble orders, although minor differences in some specifications were to be found.

One of the first postwar deliveries was part of a Ribble order for 62 Burlingham-bodied Leyland Tiger PS1/1 coaches, of which 48 were destined for the Standerwick fleet.

Delivered over a two-year period between 1947 and 1949, they all had 31-seat coachwork and sliding sunshine roofs and were numbered 62-109.

With the onset of postwar prosperity the travelling habits of the general public changed, many more enjoyed the greater freedom provided by the private motor car and coach travel declined. Consequently it was thought necessary to rationalise the coaching operations.

In April 1955 the Fylde Coast Pool was formed consisting of Yelloway Motor Services, North Western Road Car Company, Lancashire United Transport, Ribble Motor Services and Standerwick, with each partner contributing services to the pool.

This enabled coaches to be re-routed when necessary onto other pool routes and proved to be of great financial benefit.

In 1958 Standerwick purchased the business of George Moore & Sons of Lytham St. Annes, the only licensed excursion operator in the town, although no vehicles were involved.

On the 8th October, Britain’s first stretch of motorway was opened and Standerwick was at the forefront of developments to maximise the potential of these new roads.

As a result the ‘Gay Hostess’ concept was introduced – double-deck coaches equipped with toilets and refreshment facilities providing a fast and comfortable journey on the long distance routes to London.

The prototype vehicle was Ribble No. 1251 (MCK812), a Leyland Atlantean PDR1/1 with Weymann bodywork on a MCCW shell, seating 50 passengers in comfort and was tested throughout 1959.

Motorway express services started officially in April 1960. Ten ‘Gay Hostess’ double-deck coaches were delivered to Standerwick in 1960 and a further 12 in 1961.

By 1963 all of the former Ribble double-deck coaches had been transferred from the parent company, although some went to another subsidiary Scout Motor Services of Preston, who operated the service jointly with Standerwick.

In 1968 the vehicles and licences of Scout Motor Services were absorbed into the parent company, with several vehicles and routes coming to Standerwick, a move which left them in sole control of the London express services.

A replacement vehicle for the ‘Gay Hostess’ Atlanteans appeared in 1968. Exhibited at the 1968 Commercial Motor Show, it had 60-seat ECW bodywork on a Bristol VRL/LH chassis, but unfortunately proved troublesome and was never really reliable for high-speed motorway travel.

By the early 1970’s the National Bus Company was embarking on a policy of centralisation and rationalisation of its operations.

Following the sale of the stage carriage services of the North Western Road Car Company to SELNEC PTE in 1972, it was left with just express services and excursions.

The Central Activities Group of the NBC turned its attentions to coaching operations and proposed a link up between the North Western Road Car Company and Standerwick.

Consequently on 31st December 1972, Standerwick became a subsidiary of the North Western Road Car Company.

In less than twelve months on the 1st October 1973, responsibility for express operations passed to National Travel and services were operated initially by North Western and Standerwick on contract to National Travel.

In February 1974 North Western became National Travel (North West) Ltd., and responsibility for the express services passed to the new company, which also acquired the entire Standerwick fleet.

Although vehicles continued to appear under the North Western and Standerwick names for a time, a further re-organisation brought part of National Travel (Midlands) under the control of National Travel (North West) and the name was again changed to National Travel (West).

The North Western and Standerwick trading names were dropped, effectively ending 70 years of Standerwick operations.

In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
Standerwick and Scout; (Peter and Judith A. Deegan, Venture Publications, 1994); PSV Circle Fleet History P90 (1971).

Bus Fleet List 1911-1974 |