The Bus Up the Dale

Mid-1920s advertisement from the Swaledale Museum archive.

Lodge Percival (1860–1948) was the third son of James and Mary Ann Percival of Gunnerside Mill. Mary Ann’s father, James Peacock, had been the miller at Gunnerside for several decades by the time of his death in the 1860s. Mary Ann herself was widowed in 1870 when James Percival died of typhoid fever. Local directories from the 1870s to the 1890s describe Mary Ann Percival as a grocer, miller, and farmer.

Gunnerside Mill is just about dead centre in this 1930 view, next to (naturally) the Gill—if you care to consult Colin Day’s superb map of Gunnerside , look for no. 54. Just left of centre are the pair of houses Ghyll View and Ghyll Edge (Colin Day’s nos 55 and 56), and to the left of them, further down, you can see the substantial gable end of the Literary Institute (Colin Day’s no. 53). The chapel is at the far left, and the then school near the right of the frame.

Meanwhile the Percivals had also acquired Grinton Mill. The 1871 Census has Mary Ann Percival’s brother-in-law Henry and her eldest son John as corn millers at Grinton; Kelly’s 1872 lists John Percival as proprietor of Grinton Mill. When John Percival left the Dale, he was replaced at Grinton Mill by his brother Thomas. It would seem Thomas Percival emigrated to the United States in the early 1880s, whereupon he in turn was replaced at Grinton Mill by Mary Ann’s fourth and youngest son, James Percival (1862–1942), who seems to have remained in charge of Grinton Mill until he was declared bankrupt in 1891. Grinton Mill was taken over next by the Hirds, of Arkengarthdale Corn Mill.

Grinton Mill may be seen dead centre of this circa 1910 view, with Harkerside rising behind it. Just right of centre is the rear of the Bridge Inn—with no car park, as yet—and you won’t need me to point out the church tower. The inset photograph, kindly loaned by Chris and Trish Procter, is an unusual shot of the then-derelict Grinton Mill (ca 1950) from the top of Grinton Church tower—it was on the South side of the lane which leads out of Grinton to Harkerside, behind the houses now called (unsurprisingly...) Mill House and East Mill House, and was fed by a leat coming down off Cogden Moor. On Colin Day’s equally superb map of Grinton , look for no. 27: the mill would have been just behind. Where the water went afterwards is hard to imagine—to culvert it straight down into the Swale would have entailed digging up the churchyard! Sounds unlikely. Any ideas, anybody? Sideways into Grinton Beck?

Thomas Percival, incidentally, was back in Grinton by the Summer of 1889, as landlord of the Bridge Inn, where he would remain until the mid-1890s. He afterwards relocated to Leeds, and died there in 1933.

James Percival carried on living in Grinton until shortly before his death; “He was a genial personality, and his familiar figure will be missed in the district,” reported The Darlington and Stockton Times on 29th August 1942 (p. 5, col. 7).

In this mid-1960s shot, kindly loaned by Lodge Percival’s great-granddaughter Susan, Gunnerside Gill is in the centre, with the old mill to the left and Gunnarsghyll Hall (Colin Day’s no. 41) to the right. The tin roof of the bus garage, built over the mill yard, is conspicuously catching the sun; once again, in front may be seen Ghyll View and Ghyll Edge, with the Institute below them. The chapel is half-hidden by the tree at the left, but it’s there if you look for it, and the burned-out shell of the old school is over towards the lower right of the frame (the new school, behind the chapel, would eventually be built in 1968: for some 5½ years, lessons were held in the Institute—which you won’t need to be told, if you were among those who went to school there!).

One way or another, then, it was Lodge Percival—brother no. 3—who ended up as proprietor of Gunnerside Mill, and of the family farm and shop at Gunnerside. In 1884, Lodge Percival married Elizabeth Margaret Heseltine, the daughter of a Gunnerside flour dealer, grocer, and carrier. Lodge and Elizabeth had nine children, of whom one (Hannah) died in infancy. The eight who lived to grow up were:–
 Mary Ann (1885–1951)
 William Heseltine [Willie] (1886–1945) m. Lizzie Rutter, 1916
 Margaret [Maggie] (1888–1948)
 Dorothy Jane (1891–1972) m. Albert Newman, 1921
 James [Jim, Jammie] (1893–1951) m. Elsie Bearpark, 1923
 Eleanor Grace [Nellie] (1896–1952) m. Ambrose Harker Thompson, 1930
 Elizabeth [Betty] (1898–1983) m. James Watson Pike, 1924
 John Lodge (1902–1971) m. Lena Tipping, 1952

Two very old photographs of the Percivals’ two-horse wagonette, kindly loaned by (on the left) Willie and Lizzie Percival’s granddaughter Susan Restall (née Parker) and (on the right) James and Betty Pike’s daughter-in-law Joan Pike. On the left we see an extremely well-laden wagonette in front of Lodge Percival’s shop, with a safety bicycle and a substantial trunk among the luggage on the roof; it’s thought that may be Willie Percival driving, and the youngest brother John Lodge sitting up front with him—in which case, the year may be around 1907–1911ish. If you aren’t quite clear on where this shop was, again you may wish to try looking at Colin Day’s map of Gunnerside—the former shop is now, very appropriately, called Lodge House, and is no. 48 on that map. Meanwhile, on the right, on a different day and heading up-Dale—ostensibly at Rowleth Bottoms—again the vehicle is well laden and it looks like possibly William at the reins.

Lodge Percival’s wife Elizabeth died in 1915, and his mother Mary Ann the following year at the age of 84, just a few weeks before his eldest son, William Heseltine Percival, married Lizzie Rutter of Shoregill Head. Willie and Lizzie kept a small grocery at Croft View, just across the road from the larger premises which Lodge Percival already had at the foot of High Green. These two establishments were known—not unnaturally—as the Little Shop and the Big Shop respectively.

Rescued from a bonfire in the 1960s by Gordon Anyan of Low Row, and kindly loaned by him, is this Christmas 1916 account from the Big Shop, in Lodge Percival’s handwriting. You’ll notice it goes back to 24th April 1916, and isn’t settled until 1st March 1917: that was perfectly usual, in those days. Notice also the 1–10–0 credit in respect of 30lbs of cheese (in new money, that’s 1.50 for about 13½kgs!): again, it was customary for local farmers—including evidently the Peacocks of Low Whita—to supply their home-produced cheese to grocers such as Lodge Percival by way of contra account. In among the feed cake and the hen corn, you can spot the ten-stone bags of flour every month or two, the salt, sugar, soap, and washing soda, and also, on 10th October 1916, one pig, at the no doubt very reasonable price of 2–10–0 (2.50 in new money!).

1916 was also the year in which Lodge’s second son, James Percival, joined the Yorkshire Regiment to fight in the Great War. He was to see three years’ military service abroad. The third and youngest son, John Lodge Percival, was still at school in Richmond then, but left school to come home and help keep the family business going.

The Big Shop in the 1930s—photograph kindly loaned by Joan Pike.
The man may or may not be Lodge Percival’s son-in-law James Pike; if you
recognize him, do
get in touch! Meanwhile, notice the enamel signs
advertising Capstan Navy Cut and Wills’s Gold Flake cigarettes, and the
giant Heinz soup tin silhouette in the right-hand shop door window.
The middle ad. in the left-hand door window is for Puritan soap.

New detail, October 2021—
On the County Record Office website, under ref. NRCC/CL 9/1/1573, you can see Lodge Percival in September 1916 appealed against James’s call-up, deposing that James worked 15–17 hours a day “carting flour, grain, and provisions from Richmond station to Gunnerside and onward into [Upper] Swaledale, returning with coal from Tan Hill colliery to Gunnerside and district.” The premise of the appeal was that without James there would be “great difficulty in supplying farmers and householders.”

This is an eye-opener on several counts! It gives a vivid idea of the nature of the business, and indeed of the length of a Dalesman’s working day. It also highlights the importance of Tan Hill coal, which was not terribly good coal but was of course nearer, and cheaper, than the “station coal” available from the railhead down at Richmond—and probably in greater demand, now, than in the years immediately prior to 1914, because the War had caused a national shortage of coal for domestic use (Tan Hill coal would be in high demand again during the coal strikes of 1919 and 1926).

Seasonal compliments slip from the Little Shop:
E. Percival was William’s wife Lizzie, of course;
kindly loaned by their granddaughter Susan (
née Parker) Restall.

By 1920, the Percivals of Gunnerside were already long established as local farmers, hay and livestock dealers, carters, carriers, and grocers; and, with James home again, all three of Lodge Percival’s sons were now active in the business (this is not to suggest their sisters were sitting idly by, I hasten to add!). The idea of augmenting their existing horse-drawn Richmond run with a motor vehicle is said to have been William’s, and a Ford was duly purchased in or around May 1921. Family tradition has it that this vehicle could carry 14 passengers or a ton of meal. If so, it may have been what was then known as a “convertible” model like that purchased by John Robert Stubbs of Arkengarthdale around the same time.

John Lodge Percival at the wheel of the Selden referred to below—photograph kindly loaned by Susan Restall, his great-niece.

A second motor-bus, this time a substantial Selden with a roofed charabanc body seating 20 passengers, was acquired in the Summer of 1922 (see pic. above). This new motor transport sideline presently took on an identity of its own, as William and James and John Lodge Percival began trading in the name of Percival Brothers. Many bus enthusiasts—and many former passengers—will recall the firm of Percival Brothers (Coaches), Ltd, which was established in June 1937 with its Registered Office in Richmond. But perhaps it’s worth noting that this widely remembered bus company had its beginnings in a time and place where horsepower was still provided mainly by horses.

On the left, a young Jim Percival with horse and cart; on the right, in the early 1930s, Jim’s son Geoff (with hay rake) and Willie’s son Lodge (seated on the machine)—often referred to as “Young Lodge” to differentiate him from his grandfather, “Old Lodge” Percival. Photographs kindly loaned by Geoff Percival’s son James.

In the first half of the Twentieth Century, the firm of Lodge Percival & Sons could have served you practically from cradle to grave (it wasn’t unheard-of for them to deliver a coffin to the home of the deceased, for local joiner Percy Calvert). Provisions, tobacco, and groceries could be bought at the Big Shop in Gunnerside, where it was also possible to order coal, hay, and farm supplies. Parcels and goods could be brought up from other retailers and tradesmen in Richmond, or collected from Richmond railway station, as could larger consignments, from bedsteads to building materials. Rabbits, cheese, butter, and eggs were routinely taken down to Richmond—initially by Lodge Percival’s wagonette, and later by his sons’ motor-buses—to be sold at the market or consigned to the L.N.E.R. at the station (for much of the 1920s, Percival’s also ran a through bus to Darlington on Mondays).

Market Day in Richmond, Spring/Summer 1927—Swaledale Museum archive. The old Toll Booth (between Trinity Church and the Town Hall) looms behind the Percivals’ then-new Leyland PY 6845, their Selden, and what may well be their Ford charabanc PY 1962 (new in the Summer of 1924), lined up side by side facing the High Row. To the left of the frame, on the Leyland’s offside, is an open-sided wagonette—you can just descry someone sitting at the back, on one of the longitudinal seats—which may or may not also belong to Percival’s. He has the now all-too-familiar posture of some dude on the London Underground hunched intently over his “iPad” or “tablet”, hasn’t he? But, unless he is a Time Lord, it’s unlikely that’s what he’s actually doing.

Some Gunnerside tradesmen relied on Percival’s to convey their tools and materials to jobs outside the village, and indeed to lead sand from the bed of the River Swale for use in construction. From around 1930, the Percivals also generated electricity for lighting houses in Gunnerside, using a Lister 5 h.p. engine housed at the old mill; the same engine was also used for grinding animal meal—and was notoriously past its best by the time the National Grid reached Gunnerside, at the beginning of the 1950s.

Left-hand photograph, kindly loaned by Margaret Woodward: George Milner (Margaret’s father) on the left, and Young Lodge on the right, delivering by motor-lorry in the mid-1930s; this particular wagon is thought to be VN 53, converted from a 1929 Thornycroft bus, and ultimately taken off the road at the end of 1939. Right-hand photograph, kindly loaned by Joan Pike: the bus is the 1932 Leyland Tiger, VN 3779, outside the Big Shop—in fact, just about between the Big Shop and the Little Shop on the other side of the road—but note the substantial roof rack (with something or other in it, right at the back), and the various packages deposited by the entrance: like the horse-drawn wagonette before them, Percival’s motor-buses carried goods as well as passengers. From left to right, here are Old Lodge, his son William’s elder daughter Mary with her aunt Maggie—second of Lodge’s five daughters—just behind her, then Betty Newman (Dorothy’s daughter) with her uncle John Lodge just behind her, his brother Jim (in bus conductor’s rig), their sister Dorothy Newman née Percival, and finally (if you’re still with us!) Willie Percival’s wife Lizzie née Rutter.

On paper, ownership of Gunnerside Mill passed from Lodge Percival to the newer firm, Percival Brothers, in February 1938, but Old Lodge was still often to be seen behind the counter of the Big Shop for some time after that. By this stage, the Percivals had at least half a dozen motor-buses on the road, as well as a hire car and one or two motor-lorries; they had established a bus garage at Barnard Castle in 1934 and taken over Albert Morton’s bus depôt in Richmond around 1936; and they were shortly to buy the Reeth Motor Service bus operation from Tim Scratcherd with whom the Swaledale service had been run jointly since the end of the 1920s. For those who may be interested, we have compiled a Fleet List of Percival’s buses from 1921 to 1971.

From what I’ve managed to gather so far, it must have been in the early 1940s that the Little Shop passed from Lizzie Percival to her sister and brother-in-law, Jenny and Jack Alderson—this is one of the details I have yet to pin down, but if you know more than me, please get in touch!

Old Lodge outside his shop in 1934, with granddaughter Betty Newman (later Betty Taylor).
Note advertising for Bovril, Chivers’ jellies, Zebo, Oxo, Kensitas cigarettes, and that year’s Reeth Show.
Photograph kindly loaned by Joan Pike.

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By way of a postscript, here’s a conundrum for anyone with Swaledale family links—after all, copies of the photograph below must surely have gone to each of the persons pictured, wouldn’t you say? At the front of the cart, grinning broadly, is believed to be Willie Percival, in which case—given he was born in 1886—perhaps we can say the year must be in the region of 1910–1920. However, who are the passengers, and who is the gent at the rear, and where exactly are we? Are those ladies in the cart actually ladies at all? It wouldn’t be a ladylike mode of travel, in those days, would it? And there’s an air of hilarity about their poses. Are they actually men in drag?

Do you happen to recognize this location? Does there happen to be a copy of this same photograph in YOUR family album? If you can shed any light, please get in touch!