Local Transport

By Dennis Ford

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The following is not intended to be a chronological account and probably contains many mistakes and omissions for which I apologise in advance.

The whole thing probably started with the Chapman’s of Upper Wharfedale , who at the turn of the century, were operating the “Royal Mail” from Skipton to the wilds of Kettlewell and beyond. They developed from wagonettes to charabancs, and eventually in the early 20’s to a regular passenger bus service from Skipton to Upper Wharfedale. They operated from the setts outside the Town Hall, and were soon joined by the Wharfedale buses operated by the Nelson brothers, Arthur and Eddie. Both these services were eventually taken over by the West Yorkshire Road Car Company, for whom Arthur Nelson became Manager of the Skipton depot.

All the routes operating from Skipton started in the early 1920’s, most of them by men I know personally. There was Bill Wiseman with “Old Bill Motors, running to Embsay, Bolton Abbey and Lower Wharfedale. When Bill put up his garage in Broughton Road, it is said that he deliberately did not put any doors on it in order to avoid paying rates, but he paid a night-watchman and gave the motorists of Skipton a 24 hour petrol service., which must have been a better investment than paying rates, although in those days, ratepayers got good value for their money.

Incidentally the first self service petrol station was operated in Skipton about 1929 by Mawson’s Garages, who at their High Street premises (next door to the Black Horse) had a shilling in the slot pump which gave one gallon for every shilling.

Another stalwart was John T. Hay from Carleton with the Silver Star buses and coaches. I believe there is still a Silver Star garage where John used to keep his buses. Silver Star’s Skipton station was in Caroline Square, outside Fattorini’s shop.

Also running at that time were Ezra Laycock’s big Maudsley buses to Cowling and Barnoldswick. This part of High Street was also the terminus for the Premier and Castle Motors, which served the Keighley and Cononley and Bradley areas. These two services eventually merged with the Keighley Corporation buses to become Keighley – West Yorkshire Road Car Co.

This company operated a rather unique bus – the Tilling Stevens Petrol Electric. This made it impossible to exceed a pre-determined speed, a simple governor which cut out the engine if an impatient driver tried to go too fast, and under some circumstances was so efficient as to act as an anchor and deposit unfortunate passengers on the floor.

Further up the High Street was the departure point for Ilkley and Otley, served by S. Ledgard, no relation to Ledgard and Wynns, outside whose Pawn Shop he stood.

I have left the Gargrave – Settle – Ingleton route until last, simply because this was the route with which I was to some extent personally involved.

Just after the 1914 – 1918 war, a six foot six inch man accompanied by his somewhat smaller, but equally cheerful wife, took up residence at Holme Bridge, Gargrave. They were Arthur and Freda Hull. Arthur from somewhere (it was rumoured that he picked it up in a field) acquired an old Model T chassis to which he added a flat body and started a light haulage concern, including carrying coal from Gargrave station and delivering it door to door in the village. He then developed a regular market day (Mon – Wed – Sat) parcel service to and from Skipton.

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Round about 1922 he had a brilliant idea. He cleaned up the wagon, put a canvas cover on a frame over the back, some padded boxes for seats and a pair of household steps, et voila, a bus which ran very successfully between Gargrave and Skipton on Saturdays. This was so successful that Arthur soon acquired another Model T, but with a proper body with tram type slatted seats for the passengers. This vehicle was known to the locals as the “Orange Box” because that was what it looked like. The Hull fleet was increased very soon (1923) by the addition of a properly built fourteen seat bus known as “It’ll Be Reet” and it was on this vehicle, still a Model T, that Arthur taught me to drive at the age of fourteen. Also, incidentally, Freda was a regular driver of this bus and was probably the first woman Public Service Vehicle driver.

Things were now working well and the Hulls moved to what is now Kirk Syke in Gargrave High Street and installed an ex RAF hangar in the grounds as a bus garage, at the same time adding to the fleet another fourteen seater and a twenty six seater Guildford. This was really luxurious. It had padded seats and interior electric lighting. The next and last addition was an E-type Dennis thirty- two seater with the drivers cab situated forward alongside the engine. Then tragedy struck. Freda died and Arthur lost heart. He sold out to the Pennine Motor Co (1927) and quietly went away.

About the same time that Arthur Hull arrived, two brothers were developing a bicycle and motor cycle business in Albion Yard, Skipton. They were Arthur and Victor Simpson who very soon saw the possibilities of buses , and with their brother-in-law Jim Windle, started the Pennine Bus Co. (1925)

Unlike most of the others they did not start with the Model T but invested in fourteen seater Overlands made by the Wyliss Knight Company and started operating between Skipton and Settle. They soon expanded their fleet by the acquisition of a six cylinder Star twenty seater and then on to a succession of Leylands, starting with a Cub, two Lionesses, two or three Lions and on through the Leyland menagerie of big cats to their fleet as it stands today.

Along with their fleet expansion came the acquisition of Brindles Garage at Gargrave As headquarters and the extension of the route to Lancaster – a market day service to Rathmell and Wigglesworth – a local Skipton service round the newly built Burnside Estate and a battle with the Ribble Motor Co, who having acquired the County Motor Services from Lancaster, now tried to run Pennine off the road, but cheap fares etc were to no avail. The canny Dales folk wanted nowt to do with “off-comed-uns” and a agreement was reached which left Pennine in possession.

All the other pioneers have now been bought out, absorbed or otherwise acquired by the big two, Ribble and West Yorkshire but Pennine remain having taken over the Carleton service along with the East Marton and Barnoldswick run from Ezra Laycocks .

Webmasters comment
Much water has passed under the bridge since Denis wrote this article, Ribble and West Yorkshire have both succumbed to take overs and bus de-regulation has seen many route changes. New services have come and gone, Even Pennine have now gone.