W. L. Thurgood Ltd. A Brief History 1925-1967

W. L. Thurgood was founded in April 1925, using the former premises of the Phoenix Coach Works in Church Street, Ware, where Mr. Thurgood had been employed as foreman.

The first Thurgood bus body, finished in 1926, was of panelled plywood construction, built on a Morris 25-cwt chassis, which was eventually sold to an operator in Warrington.

A second bus body was built on a 14-seat Chevrolet chassis for a Northampton operator, the success of which prompted Thurgood to build a fleet of similar buses, which he began to operate himself under the fleet name of People’s Motor Service.

A controlling interest in the fleet was subsequently purchased by two former London independents (Messrs. Overington and Randall) and eventually became part of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933, when all the vehicles and services were acquired.

In the meantime Thurgood’s had established themselves as bodybuilders with a number of small firms.

Such long gone names as Essex County Coaches and Hicks of Braintree were regular customers, whose fleets included a number of Thurgood-bodied vehicles.

By now the firm had moved to larger and more spacious premises in Park Road, Ware and the average output per month was just three bodies, but each was tailored to the customers requirements. In 1937 no fewer than 43 chassis were bodied at the company’s works, but the outbreak of war in 1939 severely affected the company’s trading position.

Relying as it did on the orders from small operators, it soon became obvious that such companies would be in no position to purchase new or even reconditioned bodywork. As a result contracts for the supply of woodwork were obtained to tide the company through.

The biggest wartime setback was still to come, however, for in October 1940 a high explosive bomb hit the factory, completely demolishing it.

Five months later, due to the dedication of the employees, the factory was back at work, although the manufacture of bus bodies ceased in favour of the production of aircraft components. It was to be 1945 before Thurgood bodywork was again produced for the bus market.

Following the cessation of hostilities and the postwar lack of materials with which to construct new bus chassis, many smaller operators were forced to have elderly vehicles re-bodied as a stopgap measure.

In December 1945, the first postwar Thurgood body was constructed for Beeston, of Hadleigh in Suffolk, on a 1932 Thornycroft BC, just one of a substantial number of prewar chassis that had arrived for re-bodying.

The popular Bedford OB was a regular visitor to the works and over 100 examples of this model received Thurgood bodies.

The postwar surge in coach travel brought with it an increase in orders for the company. In 1947, 85 chassis were bodied by Thurgood, rising to a record 90 bodies in 1948. By 1951, however, body production had declined and just 28 were produced.

In 1953 a new coach works at Widbury Hill was opened, giving the company additional facilities, although an additional spray shop had to be built to accommodate highbridge double-deckers, which would not fit into the main premises.

As a sideline, Thurgood’s commenced dealing in PSV’s and in 1958 purchased a number of ex-municipal and company vehicles.

During the same period the company developed a 28-seat body, named the Forerunner, which was fitted onto a Ford 611E goods chassis and was available with either bus or coach seats.

The intention was to produce a standard Ford vehicle so that the operator could purchase spares from their local Ford dealer!

A successor to the Forerunner (aptly named the Successor) was developed for the Bedford VAS chassis, the first example being for Central Coaches of Leamington Spa, in January 1959, whilst the final example went to Elms of Kenton, Middlesex in August 1967.

Early in 1967, negotiations were started with Plaxtons (Scarborough) Ltd., for the purchase of the business, which culminated on 27th June 1967, when Thurgood’s was taken over, forming the Southern area depot.