The Bus Up the Dale

Isaiah Allan
Bridge Inn

Simon Coates

John Ellerton
Marrick & Reeth

Ronald Gregory
Bridge Inn

Dick Guy

Wesley Harker
Harker’s Coaches

Metcalfe Iveson

J. T. Martin

George Metcalfe

Albert Morton
National Road
Traffic Co.

Lodge Percival & Sons

Percival Brothers
(Coaches), Ltd.

fleet history

fleet history


The last Percival’s Bedford OB, KOL 193, parked on the High Row at Reeth in the Summer of 1967—R. C. Davis. Postgate’s shop front can be seen above the bonnet, and Hillary’s awning glimpsed through the saloon windows. Car buffs will spot the Ford Zephyr, the Triumph 2000, the Morris Minor, and the Mini van in the background.

Still DESPERATELY seeking someone with a current university library ticket! If you belong to a university library (click here to view a list of the relevant universities and colleges), then you have free login access to internet resources not normally available to the general public.

I have the requisite reference numbers, I just lack the all-important access to the on-line locations where they can be looked up. If you think you might be able to help here, please do get in touch! The volunteer researchers who’ve helped me with this before have found the task easy enough, but I don’t currently have anybody.

It’d be even easier if I could just “borrow” someone’s library login details, and do the actual spadework myself...

The 1949 Bedford OB, MHN 826, with Ernie Clark at the wheel, swings smartly up from Horsemarket into Galgate, Barnard Castle, with an Austin A30 behind and (wouldn’t you say?) an M.G. Magnette, or the equivalent Wolseley saloon, parked on the corner. PHOTOBUS.

So, to anyone asking, “When’s the book coming out, then?” my answer is: “Not until after I can look up the stuff I need to look up!” I have 75,000 words already drafted, and literally hundreds of photographs, but can go no further without the necessary research info: for the time being, I’m stalled at Chapter 8. There is a possibility I may be able to get at some of the records I need in the British Library at Boston Spa, and I’m looking into that right now, (UPDATE FRIDAY 13th JAN.—YES, MOST OF THEM ARE THERE, HOORAY FOR THE BRITISH LIBRARY AT BOSTON SPA! ) but otherwise, I’ll still be needing someone with access to the on-line resources I’ve alluded to.

Gleaming in the Harrogate sunshine, in the late 1960s, is Percival’s 488 DVN, a Bedford SB with coachwork by Harrington of Hove—P.M. Photography, P.O. Box 157, Camberley GU15 9GJ. Notice the Bedford Drivers’ Club badge, to the left of the Bedford emblem. The road beyond the car park is King’s Road: we’re on the site of the present-day Crowne Plaza Hotel, next to the present-day Conference Centre. Visible beyond the coach, just at the edge of the car park, is another General Motors product in the substantial shape of a 1967 Vauxhall Victor FC (or else a VX 4/90).

New in 2022 was the “Location queries” page, which may appeal to those with (?!too much) time on their hands. As you probably know, bus photographs have a sad habit of turning up with no details as to when or where they were taken. Now then, in the case of a vehicle which is visibly parked in, say, Victoria Coach Station, with a tabloid on the dash carrying a give-away headline such as SHERGAR MISSING, the task is straightforward enough; but, even after so many years, I still have a few on my hands that no-one has yet cracked.

Leyland Comet KAO 699 outside the Bay Horse at Ravensworth, on the Barnard Castle service, circa 1960. Photograph by R. C. Davis.

So if you fancy some detective work, or if you have a photographic memory for coach parks, click here, and see if you can succeed where I and my private army of informants have failed! Any help will, as always, be very gratefully received.

There’s also a mystery Edwardian car that needs identifying on the Tim Scratcherd page, so if that’s your period, do have a look and see if you can recognize it! Click on the “Tim Scratcherd, Reeth Motor Service” box, top right of this page.

Autumn 1964 and driver Billy Burrells approaches Eddy’s Bridge—or Rhubarb Corner, if you prefer—in one of Percival’s two little Mulliner-bodied Bedfords, either RHN 107 or RHN 108, on the way up from Richmond (fewer trees here since February 2022!). Photograph kindly loaned by Billy’s son-in-law and daughter, Ted and Pauline Lee.

The years 2020–2022 did prove unusually productive—by my wonky standards, at least. After so many years of being told I might feel better if I got out more, the lockdowns and the self-isolating proved beyond doubt that my equilibrium and wellbeing are best maintained by getting out LESS, thanks—thereby doing the rest of the world a favour too, no doubt.

So, here’s hoping some of this momentum can be maintained into 2023. As always, I’m full of good intentions (aren’t we all, at this time of year...?!), it’s largely a question of whether what Mr Macmillan referred to as “events, dear boy, events” get in the way of progress—which has too often been the problem in the past. It doesn’t take much to send me off-course, unfortunately: so, here’s hoping for a thoroughly empty and uneventful 2023 (speaking for myself, that is)!

Percival’s Daimler, KTC 985, at the foot of Darlington Market Place circa 1958—R. C. Davis. You can see the once-familiar “half-timbered” gable end of the Boot & Shoe behind, and a pair of K6 red telephone boxes, also now gone. To the offside is an Austin Loadstar van, to the near a Standard Ten saloon.

At present, the existing draft takes the story from Albert Morton’s pioneering post-bus service between Richmond and Keld in 1905 to the formation by Percival’s of a Limited Company in 1937, and comprises also the beginnings of a chapter on United Automobile Services, and the beginnings of a chapter on Sunter Bros and the week-end leave coaches from Catterick Camp in the 1950s.

For what I have on Sunter’s so far, click on the “Sunter Bros, Ltd: Broadway Coaches” box on the right, further up.

Circa 1927, a very young Maurice Barningham (left) and an almost-as-young Billy Burrells (right), with Tim Scratcherd’s then-new 14-seat Chevrolet, PY 7551, on the cobbles at Reeth—kindly loaned by Maurice’s daughter Marie. To the rear of the bus may be seen Langhorne House, home and surgery of Dr Speirs who practised at Reeth from 1907 to 1963; to the front Place’s grocery—later Hillary’s—latterly Overton House Café.

Over the years, I’ve been wonderfully fortunate in enjoying the assistance of locals with long memories, and present-day relations of the characters who ran the buses. Thanks to all of these people, when The Bus Up the Dale finally does appear, it will be more than just a collection of bus photographs and chassis numbers and old timetables—though there’s certainly no shortage of that kind of material! Indeed, photographs and other information are still occasionally coming in, not least from John Bennett of Loughborough and, most recently, John Mollett of Leeds, whose names will be known to transport aficionadi, but from multifarious other sources also.

Leyland Comet KXU 675 on the then Swaledale bus stand, with Johnny’s Café visible behind, in the early 1960s—the bus standage was moved round to the other side of Trinity Tower in the Summer of ’64. Photograph by R. C. Davis.

In fact, the one good thing about the hideous delay in finishing the book is that it’ll be better illustrated, and better informed, than it would have been if I’d finished it in 2006, as originally (albeit unrealistically!) envisaged. For one thing, in 2005 when I started, I had no expectation of being able to peruse the 1911 Census, nor the 1939 National Registration—and right now I’m saving up for a FindMyPast subscription so I can surf the 1921 Census.

Circa 1930, a slightly less young Maurice Barningham with Tim Scratcherd’s then-new Luton-built Chevrolet, VN 1845—kindly loaned by Maurice’s daughter Marie. And no, I do not possess magical powers, I simply asked the good David Hayward if he could identify the bus from what can be seen of it, and of course he could!

Now then, about photographs: I’ve been privileged to receive permission to use some superb photographs in the book, but not necessarily on the internet. Those who have been good enough to make photographs available to me for the book can be assured I’m being as careful as I can about this kind of thing. In fact, from a website point of view, probably too careful, in that for a long time there weren’t as many photographs as there could have been here. Many thanks, therefore, to Chris Curry, who, in January 2022, came back to remind me how to upload photographs—it was he who originally helped me to set up this site in the first place, fifteen years before.

George Milner at Reeth in the early 1930s with Percival’s 1927 Leyland Lioness, PY 6845—kindly loaned by his daughter Margaret Woodward. You can see Fremington Edge looming behind the bus, and above the nearside front wing may be glimpsed the left-hand corner of the Wesleyan Chapel.

Little did Chris Curry know, back in 2007 when he was still a schoolboy, that he’d be required to honour a lifetime technical support contract!

Chris Curry was back here again in February 2022, sorting out a glitch with the Contact us link, which we now think is working 100%—but he also devised a “Plan B” mechanism (see the red boxes on the right, further up), just in case the link still doesn’t happen to suit your machine.

Anyhow, our new plan for photographs is to watermark a few images from the archives (to prevent—or at least discourage—illicit copying), then downsize them so that, even without a watermark, the image would barely be worth stealing anyway.

Your carriage awaits: Billy Burrells on Richmond Market Place in 1964 with Percival’s Leyland Comet KXU 675—photograph kindly loaned by his daughter Pauline.

Family snaps are one thing: it’s fair to assume people will be pleased to think that other people may be interested in their forebears—though, even so, photographs from a family album are very much personal property, and deserve to be treated with respect.

Bus photographs are a whole other thing, because (you may or may not know) they change hands for money, and the Copyright-holders would not appreciate it if I were making their images freely available to every Thomas, Richard, and Henry.

On this note, if there’s a photograph on this website which you don’t think ought to be on it, then please let me know and I’ll remove it! Removing them is a lot quicker and easier than uploading them! And there are plenty more to choose from.

Percival’s XHN 49, a 1955 Perkins-engined Bedford with Duple “Vega” coachwork, heads into the centre of Reeth on 30th March 1967. To the rear of the coach may be glimpsed Robert Gill’s ironmonger’s shop, now the Copper Kettle Tea Room.

Meanwhile, I was amused in August 2022 by the security prompt below, and perhaps you will be too (or perhaps I’m just easily amused); hopefully, if you’re interested in buses at all, you will not have undue difficulty spotting the bus...

Tim Scratcherd
Motor Service

John Slack
C. B. Inn

William L. Stones

John Robert

Sunter Bros, Ltd
Broadway Coaches

Tommy Thompson
Swaledale Motor Co.


Tom Urwin
Low Row

James Herriot
Darrowby & District


Plan B “Contact us”
for emergency use

Vintage Roadscene features