The Bus Up the Dale

George Metcalfe

—to be featured in Chapter II of The Bus Up the Dale.

Born in Gunnerside at the end of the 1860s, George Metcalfe began his working life away from Swaledale, first on the North Eastern Railway and then in the rapidly expanding cycle and motor trade. This evidently afforded him a useful grounding in things mechanical and automotive.

George Metcalfe returned to his native valley in 1917, settling in Reeth where he had spent part of his youth. He was by this time married with three children. He seems to have set himself up in the first instance as a garage proprietor, with a motor-car for hire. By 1919 he was running a regular motor-bus service between Reeth and Richmond, using a Mercedes charabanc. His daughter Norah was an enthusiastic motorist, and drove both the hire car and the charabanc. Another of George Metcalfe’s drivers in the early 1920s was Tom Sunter of Gunnerside—as noted by Tony Eaton in his Sunter’s—High, Wide and Mighty (published 2001).

George Metcalfe’s Mercedes charabanc on Richmond Market Place. Photograph : Jean Henderson.

George Metcalfe died at the end of 1924 and the business passed to his son (also called George). Meanwhile Norah had married, and towards the end of the 1920s the family built the semi-detached houses at Dolly Garth on the Arkengarthdale road out of Reeth. From the Cleveland Car Company at Darlington they bought a capacious wooden garage which was erected below Dolly Garth. It is not known how long the bus service lasted, but by the mid-1920s anyone running a bus between Reeth and Richmond would have been would have been up against stiff competition from the Scratcherds at the Black Bull and the Percivals of Gunnerside.

Of course there would still have been a market for the Metcalfes’ hire car, and for the services of a repairing garage. The business was finally wound up around 1930, following the death of George Metcalfe’s widow ; their son, the younger George, went to London to work as a mechanic. The wooden building below Dolly Garth was sold—in situ—to Tim Scratcherd, and subsequently passed to the Percivals when the Scratcherds sold up in 1938.

The November 2005 edition of the Reeth and District Gazette included a fascinating article on this previously forgotten motor proprietor.

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