The Bus Up the Dale

John Robert Stubbs

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

John Robert Stubbs was a farmer and carrier based at the Arkengarthdale village of Langthwaite. The Stubbs family also kept a grocery store in the middle of the village, and you may well have seen the shop front even if you’ve never visited the Dales, because this part of Langthwaite was used in the filming of the James Herriot “All Creatures Great and Small” stories, as well as in various other productions.

Up to the beginning of the 1920s, John Robert Stubbs—like many other local carriers—was still using a horse and cart, but in May 1921 he took delivery of a Ford “Ton Truck”, which was the commercial derivative of the world-famous Model “T” motor car. This vehicle (supplied by Richmondshire Garages) carried the registration AJ 6607, and was fitted with what was known in the trade at that time as a “convertible” body. There was seating for 14 passengers, but the seats were designed to be readily folded away or removed so as to “convert” the bus into a van (and vice versa).

John Robert Stubbs and his children Willie (L.), Jake (R.), and Margaret, on the back of the “convertible” Ford, outside their shop in Langthwaite. Note the goods on the roof. Photograph: Ella Stubbs collection.

Not every carrier made the transition from horse-drawn to motorized transport, and it appears that for most of the 1920s there must have been motor-buses and carriers’ carts passing one another on the Richmond road.

Market Day in Richmond is Saturday, and John Robert Stubbs ran a regular Saturday service from Langthwaite to Richmond as well as taking Arkengarthdale children to school in the week. Doubtless he undertook various other journeys on a private hire basis, indeed he also kept a “Bullnose” Morris car for hire.

Vehicle licensing records indicate that the Ford (AJ 6607) was taken off the road in June 1931. It may have been coincidental, but this was around the time when any regular passenger-carrying service would have had to be approved by the Area Traffic Commissioners under in pursuance of the Road Traffic Act 1930. Since the Scratcherds of Reeth were now operating a daily service up Arkengarthdale, and given that the process of registering a bus service with the newly-constituted Traffic Commissioners was just about as tortuous as a modern-day planning application, it could well have seemed to John Robert Stubbs that it would not be worth his while to get tangled up in all the new bureaucracy. The Ford would have been ten years old by this time, and past its best.

John Robert’s son Jake Stubbs started running a hire car of his own after the Second World War, retiring from the road in the mid-1990s, and the Stubbs family’s shop in Langthwaite remained open until April 2000. Jake’s wife Ella, who ran the shop for over forty years, in fact came from Gunnerside and had been a conductress on Percival’s buses before she and Jake married.

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