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

JUNE 2022

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.

APOLOGIES: Events during May overwhelmed me, so I haven’t actually managed to do this month’s update yet—try again in a few days!

Good news before Easter was that, through haulage historian Bob Tuck, I received a heap of information on Sunter Bros including some details which I’d all but given up hope of ever finding. This meant that the Sunter’s page, which had only recently been given a major overhaul, was instantaneously in need of re-editing—a good kind of problem to have, of course! So, on May Day Bank Holiday—seventy-one years and a day after their haulage fleet was Nationalized—the Sunter’s page, with the benefit of all the newly-arrived information and a glass or two of Campbell’s finest dry white, was once again revamped; due next are a few emendations to the Sunter Bros haulage fleet history, again with the benefit of the information gratefully received last month.

Unfortunately, for now I’m also bogged down in two complaints against a certain electricity company (one on my own behalf, one for somebody else): this kind of thing, as you may know, is practically a full-time occupation—and an exhausting one. If life didn’t keep getting in the way, maybe I could make more progress with the book! Now I’m even in receipt of debt collection agency letters because they think I’m 1,000+ behind. I’m not, but the pesky supplier keeps billing me for “estimated” readings which are blatantly several years ahead of the actual meter readings. It’s far from clear to me that privatizing the utilities really did the “customer” any favours, but that’s a whole other conversation.

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.

Anyway, other pages revamped so far this year (so far), or else in the process of a revamp, include—
 ➤ the Lodge Percival & Sons page,
 ➤ the Percival Brothers (Coaches) Ltd page,
 ➤ the United page, and
 ➤ the “James Herriot” page
—in fact, it’d be quicker to list the pages which haven’t had at least a minor overhaul: click on the relevant red boxes at the sides, and have a look!

And, while it would be silly to claim that the Percival’s and Sunter’s fleet histories had been “updated”—there haven’t been any additions or changes to the Percival’s fleet since 1971, obviously, and likewise none to Broadway Coaches’ since 1960—those pages have had a revamp too, in recent weeks. If you think you might be able to fill any of the gaps in the photographic archive, do get in touch!

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, and the tree on the far side of that thoroughfare is at the foot of Alexandra Road: we’re on the site of the present-day Crowne Plaza Hotel, next to the present-day Conference Centre. And just at the edge of the car park is one of those huy-yooge late ’60s Vauxhalls, like a VX 4/90 (maybe even a Viscount?), with seats for six or seven adults inside the car plus capacity for at least another couple of passengers in the boot—but don’t ask me how I know that...

New this year is the “Location queries” page, which may appeal to those with 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; 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 (or whatever), 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.

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 Scratcherd page, so if that’s your period, do have a look and see if you can recognize it!

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

Great news in January 2022 was that the excellent Darlington Centre for Local Studies first stayed open for a week longer than expected, prior to the long-awaited roofing work, and then quite soon managed to re-open—so, I’ve been able to carry on chasing up details there, for the time being. They have North Riding editions of Kelly’s Directory for 1872, 1889, 1893, 1897, 1901, 1905, 1909, 1925, 1933, and 1937, plus of course microfilms of more than a century’s worth of local newspapers such as The Northern Echo, The Northern Despatch, and The Darlington and Stockton Times, and a wealth of other resources besides, all made very readily available by the friendliest and most helpful librarians you could hope to have the pleasure of meeting: the hesitant enquirer or novice researcher can count on cordial expert guidance; if you haven’t been, go!

Probably best to check their website first, though—at the moment—just in case the pending renovation work on the building has obliged them to close.

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.

Understandably, people have given up asking when The Bus Up the Dale will be published, albeit the years 2020–2021 proved relatively productive by my wonky standards. After several decades of consistent failure to get anything done (other than passing my P.S.V. and H.G.V. driving tests—the only achievements I’ve ever actually managed for myself without massive amounts of help and support), it’s probably safe to say, by now, that I have a problem getting things done; professionals advise that this is simply part of an autism package which I never actually signed up for—and apparently there’s no exit clause.

On top of that, there’ve been health and other troubles you don’t need to hear about (if you actually enjoy tedious tales of setback and failure, grab yourself a Thomas Hardy novel); it was only because I wasn’t 100% that I had the time on my hands to start this thing in the first place, so maybe it’s not too surprising if that’s also got in the way of my completing it. C’est la guerre!

Percival’s Daimler, KTC 985, at the foot of Darlington Market Place in (approximately) the mid-1950s—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.

On the plus side, however, unlike normal people, I found Lockdown infinitely soothing and invigorating, and only wish the pandemic had happened sooner: after so many decades of being told (by normal people) that I might feel perkier if I got myself out and about a bit more, it’s now established beyond doubt that my equilibrium and wellbeing can be better maintained by getting out LESS, thanks (thereby doing the rest of the world a favour too, probably)!

Thus, the shaky momentum built up in 2020–2021 has been maintained into 2022 (so far...). And work on the book is happening right now. And, sooner or later, it’ll get finished; I just literally don’t know when.

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.

The draft of The Bus Up the Dale is currently about 75,000 words—taking 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 comprising 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. People with little or no interest in buses have kindly said it’s readable so far—and they (poor souls) have been slogging through the text without the benefit all the accompanying photographs and other illustrations which have accumulated, and which actually are still coming in, up to and including February 2022 (January’s Star of the Month, in that department, was the good John Bennett of Loughborough, whose name will be known to bus aficionadi—John has been Star of the Month many times in the past fifteen years or so, in fact).

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 only 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—now I’m waiting to see how long it’ll take for the 1921 Census to become freely available (I mean more freely available than it is so far: the present arrangement, I’m reliably informed, is completely unaffordable if you have more than just one or two individuals to chase up).

Also awaited is the re-opening of Durham County Record Office, where I have some chasing-up of details to do too.

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!

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!).

Also, I remain extremely grateful to the Swaledale Museum for their support earlier in this project, and likewise to the late David Hayward, erstwhile Deputy Editor of Vintage Roadscene magazine, whose personal assistance and encouragement were considerable and very much appreciated. Thanks to David, a few pieces on local bus and coach operations were published in 2010 and 2011—listed here for those who may wish to look them up (but, do note, more information has come in since then, so they might be a bit more accurate and more informative if I were writing them now).

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.

In more recent years, Chris Lloyd of The Northern Echo (whom I frankly suspect of being a bit of a petrolhead, on the quiet!) has also been very supportive, and has helped me to make contacts I’d never have made without him, as well as unearthing information I might not otherwise have found. If you aren’t already acquainted with his regular Memories feature, then you might like to be—it’s amazing what he comes up with—and similarly his Looking Back column in the D. & S.

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.

Now then, 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 there really haven’t been as many photographs as there could have been here, and the website has never quite lived up to its original hopes.

Many thanks, therefore, to Chris Curry, who, on 25th 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; little did Chris know, back in 2007 when he was still a schoolboy, that he’d be required to honour a lifetime technical support contract!

Percival’s XHN 49, a 1955 Perkins-engined Bedford with Duple “Vega” coachwork, heads into the centre of Reeth on 30th March 1967.

Chris Curry was back again four weeks later, on 23rd February, 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 the page), just in case the link still doesn’t happen to suit your machine.

So the plan 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!), and add them to these pages. This revamp is on-going at present. 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.

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