The Bus Up the Dale

Albert Morton
The National Road Traffic Co., Ltd

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

Albert Morton (1864-1950) came originally from Nottinghamshire, where he trained as a schoolmaster before deciding to enter the civil service. He joined the Post Office at Bawtry, where he became Postmaster in 1890, and came to Richmond as Head Postmaster in 1900. Unsurprisingly in a man of his generation, his beliefs were in many ways very Victorian : he believed in hard work, and he believed in public service.

Albert Morton moved Richmond’s Post Office into new, purpose-built premises at the bottom of King Street, and was also keen to improve the speed and efficiency of local mail deliveries. To this end, in 1903, he formed the ambitiously-titled National Road Traffic Company, using motor-vehicles to collect the post from Darlington, and also to deliver it to outlying communities around Richmond, including Swaledale. The vehicles comprised a variety of wagonettes and tonneaux, which could carry fare-paying passengers as well as mail and goods ; the fleet also included plain vans for non-passenger work.

The first trial run up Swaledale to Keld with a motor-van took place on 6th October 1903 : the journey took approximately two hours, including all stops. Commercial Motor magazine noted in July 1905 that the National Road Traffic Company’s vehicles were enabling mail to be delivered two hours earlier than had previously been possible.

Albert Morton’s Aster wagonette loading outside the then new Post Office in King Street, Richmond. This is believed to have been the third motor in his fleet. Registered as AJ 328 in June 1905, it was to be the first of three Asters acquired. We are much indebted to Geoff Lumb for passing on this photograph.

The National Road Traffic Company’s first offices were on the Market Place, at no. 52. In due course Albert Morton acquired a plot of land on the corner of Dundas Street and Queens Road, where he built a garage and car showroom. The showroom is now the town library, and the garage was latterly the sale-room of a local estate agent and auctioneer, until its demolition in May 2010—at which time, incidentally, the three underground tanks which had formerly served petrol pumps on Queens Road were revealed for what must have been the first time in many decades (these tanks have since been laboriously removed, and houses built on the site).

After the Great War, the name of Albert Morton’s business was changed to Richmondshire Garages, and later simply to Morton’s. Albert Morton himself retired from the Post Office in 1923, and after the Second World War he set his grandson up in partnership with R. A. F. veteran Ted Lloyd, who had worked for Morton’s in the 1930s : the garage (following a brief interlude of trading as Firby, Sons and Lloyd) now became Morton and Lloyd, and remained so until it closed at the end of the 1970s.

A later mail bus—note the passenger windows toward the front of what is really a van body, also the P. S. V. Licence on the offside rear door—at Muker Post Office ca 1930. The registration is EF 1042 and the vehicle is believed to be a Ford. The Postman looks like Tom Parker.
Photograph : Susan Restall.

Albert Morton’s mail buses served Swaledale until April 1936. They carried fare-paying passengers and ran to a published timetable, so for our purposes they certainly count as Swaledale buses. Indeed, under the Road Traffic Act of 1930, Albert Morton had to apply to the newly-constituted Traffic Commissioners for permission to continue operating the Swaledale motor-bus service which he had already been running for the better part of three decades !

The G. P. O. rescinded the last of Morton’s mail delivery contracts during 1936 and thereafter used motor-vans of its own (postal delivery vehicles in Swaledale have never since carried passengers). Albert Morton’s purpose-built bus depot on Gilling Road was subsequently taken over by the Percivals of Gunnerside, who were in the process of establishing an operating base in Richmond towards the end of the 1930s.

Susan Restall collection. Photograph : David Lloyd. Susan Restall collection.

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