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.

There are two things I’m really hoping someone out there can help me with. One is: I know where I can go and look at old editions of the Traffic Commissioners’ “Notices & Proceedings” when I need to, but can anyone tell me where old editions of “Applications & Decisions” may be found? For the Northern Traffic Area specifically, and most urgently for the years 1953 to 1956, though I wouldn’t mind being able to look at the 1930s as well. If you have any suggestions, please get in touch.

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.

Secondly, and more urgently: I need a university student, or in fact anyone with current, valid membership of a university library. Do you happen to know such an individual? Perhaps you are that individual!

A valid university library ticket will give you access to on-line resources (apparently some sixth form colleges also have the same access) which I lack: so, I either need to borrow someone’s university (or sixth form college) library login details, or else a volunteer researcher who can use his or her library ticket to log in, get what I need, and e-mail it to me; I have the necessary 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.

There are reportedly some 2¾ million higher education students in the U.K., yet everyone I know claims never to have come across any of them! It’s maddening. But somebody out there must know somebody... Click here to view a list of universities and colleges, and see if you know anyone who’s attending—or indeed teaching at—any of them.

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 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, 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.

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

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!

So, when will The Bus Up the Dale actually be published? Well, although the years 2020–2022 have so far proved quite 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. The professionals say this is part of an autism package which I never actually signed up for; and, apparently, there’s no exit clause.

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.

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

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.

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!

The draft of the book 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 (and this is where I’m stuck, for the time being, until some help is forthcoming with the appeals further up the page...). 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 occasionally coming in, not least from the good John Bennett of Loughborough, whose name will be known to bus aficionadi, but from multifarious other sources also.

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.

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.

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.

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 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, 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!

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!

Chris Curry was back again four weeks later, in 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), 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Meanwhile, I was amused on 6th 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