Nostalgia by Neil Lamond and Alison Bailey
LAST Sunday, The Amersham & District Motor Bus Society celebrated the centenary of the founding of the Amersham and District Motorbus and Haulage Company.
It held its 31st annual October Running Day with 20 vintage buses travelling all over the district from a bus stop in Chesham Broadway.
The Society was delighted to welcome Derek Edward Ing, the grandson of the company’s founder, Edward Curling Miles to this historic event.
In 1919 local business entrepreneurs agreed to finance Miles’ idea of starting scheduled motor bus services in the area.
Three ex. WWI army lorry chassis were purchased, bodies manufactured and nearly £5000 invested.
The first scheduled service commenced on 26th May 1919 with three daily return journeys between Amersham and Chesham, for a 7d fare, and two that extended to High Wycombe.
The fare to High Wycombe was 2/4d! The motor buses originally operated from the rear of the Griffin Hotel, just as stagecoaches had done for hundreds of years. The first buses entered via the front archway and exited by a back route out onto Whieldon Street.
A small profit was made in the first year but unreliability thwarted the operation.
It wasn’t long before two of the buses were retired at a total loss of £1665. After this shaky start one AEC chassis bus, affectionately named “Old Dreadnought” by the public, soldiered on until 1925.
Sadly, Miles died in 1921 and did not see the later success of the company he had founded.
Charabancs offered trips to the coast under the banner “The Pride of Bucks”.
Improvements in vehicle-design moved at a rapid pace in the 1920s and A&D were constantly building up their fleet and the routes operated.
As services expanded, operating from the back of the Griffin became impractical and wooden garage sheds were erected on the opposite side of the road. A brick-built head office building supplemented the garages in 1930.
In 1933 the whole operation fell under the control of London Transport. Their task was to standardise passenger transportation within a 30-mile radius of central London.
They set about regularising both vehicles and garages.
To this end, in 1935 Amersham’s extremely smart, art-deco influenced, bus garage was built by the same firm, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, that had created the Hoover building on the Western Avenue two years earlier.
The wide span structure held in excess of fifty vehicles. Part of the bus garage was demolished in 1992 and the site subsequently developed as Tesco’s filling station. The early 1930s garages and the brick-built Head Office building were only demolished in 2017 and the site is being developed for retirement flats by McCarthy and Stone.
It is from the London Transport era that most of the vehicles running on Sunday hailed. The oldest vehicle was a 71-year old AEC Regal single decker T792 in London Transport’s green livery but there was also a rare blue and white RLH 32.
These Regent Low Height (RLH) buses were only 13 feet 4 inches to enable them to pass under lower bridges such as Blackhorse Bridge at Amersham Common. However, the vehicle that attracted the most attention was the AEC sightseeing coach RF13.
This vehicle was new to London Transport in 1951 and was one a number that were used to ferry passengers to The Festival of Britain.
It was later used on bespoke sightseeing tours as it benefitted from superb curved rooflight windows. On Sunday ticket holders enjoyed a wonderful Mystery Tour of Chiltern Villages from Chesham Broadway.
Local author Neil Lamond’s books which trace the history of the Amersham Bus Garage from 1919 to 1992 The Pride of Bucks and Next Destination were reviewed in the Bucks Free Press last year.
Nostalgia columnist Mike Dewey commented “These books will appeal not only those interested in the history of motor bus transport, but also those readers whose interest is in the social history of the area around South Buckinghamshire.”
For copies of the reviews email firstname.lastname@example.org
Neil’s second book Next Destination is available from the Amersham Museum and JPS Stationers. To join the society, visit www.amershammotorbussociety.co.uk.