Copyright Ray Soper
Guy Arab I
Park Royal H56R rebodied Northern Coachbuilders 1954
This shot is from the Ray Soper gallery contribution titled ‘Harper Brothers of Heath Hayes’ click on the title if you would like to view his Gallery and comments to it.
The shot is shown here for indexing purposes but please feel free to make any comment regarding this vehicle either here or on the gallery.
19/05/12 – 16:40
I would like to know exactly where in Heath Hayes the Harper Brothers garage was if anyone knows it would be much appreciated.
20/05/12 – 07:36
Don’t know about the depot, but the bus was new to Sheffield in 1943, gone by 1949. It was a solo vehicle.
20/05/12 – 07:37
I remember Harpers Bros Buses and Coaches very well in my childhood days as they used to go past my old house in Erdington Road, Aldridge and after I left Aldridge with my parents and sister on Saturday 10th June 1961 to move to Lichfield. As me and my parents and sister used to use them to visit our Aunty and Uncle who used to live in Daniels Lane, off Erdington Road, Aldridge
20/05/12 – 09:09
Looking at the Gallery, the poor buses look rather battered and neglected so due for the scrapyard yet are not that old so maybe Harpers were not exactly good on maintenance. It’s a shame that these quite characterful vehicles did not have a better life let alone survive.
22/05/12 – 14:46
Hi Rod the garage lay between the Cannock Rd and the Hednesford Rd Heath Hayes approx 100yards from the 5 ways island, other than the 1st photo that was taken inside the garage the other photos were taken on ground opposite the rear of the garage on the Cannock Rd prior to Newlands Lane. I think part of the premises are now a tyre depot. They also had a garage on the Stafford Rd Cannock that housed I think 2 Vehicles, a workshop at High Green Cannock where Fleet 14 in Photo at rear of Heath Hayes Garage was re bodied and a Garage that housed a couple of coaches at Aldridge opposite Portland Rd (town end).
Hi Richard you are right in thinking some of the buses looked neglected in the photo that’s because they were indeed scrap except for Fleet 31 in the middle of the three half cabs, they were old and had come to the end of there safe working serviceable life. The vehicles that were in service were in fact very well maintained.
26/05/12 – 20:38
Many thanks Phil. I had a hunch it was down that road somewhere. My partner says that sounds about right think there are flats there now.
12/06/12 – 07:30
Heath Hayes has a Walsall post code. Could the Guy’s odd destination refer to West Bromwich Albion football ground, "The Hawthorns"?
12/06/12 – 11:42
Hi Pete. You are indeed right, the destination did in fact mean West Bromwich Albion. Harpers ran football excursion buses to all the local teams on Saturdays and any night matches. The destinations would be Albion, Villa, Wolves etc. If the Team wasn’t on the destination blind, Football would be put up and a painted or chalked destination board would be displayed in the drivers window or in a purpose made destination board holder.
13/06/12 – 09:44
Did this bus have a replacement utility body whilst in Sheffield service? Quoted as rebodied by NCB, and obviously not a Park Royal, this would seem to be quite an unusual, and interesting occurrence. If so, where did the NCB utility body come from?
21/09/12 – 06:58
I have never lived in the West Midlands, so my first-hand experience of Harpers is restricted to a visit to the depot and a ride on a what was then a relatively new Daimler Fleetline on their service from Cannock (via a rather roundabout route) into Birmingham. From these experiences, and from general comments in the enthusiast press, I would say that Harpers were considered one of the leading operators of the day – much better thought of than not only other independents, but many NBC subsidiaries, PTEs, and larger municipalities. The fact that a proportion of the fleet was secondhand did nothing to detract from the fleet’s overall presentation, they always bought quality vehicles and looked after them.
22/09/12 – 07:05
I think David Call is absolutely right. I visited the depot once and it seemed to me at the time like a very well run company both operationally and maintenance wise. I remember that on the day I went, one of the Royal Tigers with Harpers own bodywork was receiving attention in the depot. I also went on a ‘Farewell to Harpers’ tour when it was known that they were selling out to Midland Red. On that occasion I had the interesting experience of travelling on 888 DUK, the Guy Arab V with the odd looking Strachans body. I believe that by then it had a Leyland 0600 engine.
It was actually a very sad loss when they closed, a substantial operator which had been well respected. I would admit that their unusual livery perhaps didn’t suit every vehicle, but it was certainly distinctive!
23/09/12 – 06:32
Contemplate, chaps. It seems that Harper’s and Ledgard’s were soul mates. Are there any other mixed operators like this that the rest of you out there would like to nominate? Pennine? Who else?
24/09/12 – 07:22
Indeed there are David, I’ve always thought the obvious pair were South Yorkshire and South Notts. So many similarities, it’s almost uncanny. To name a few; both had similar size fleets, both operated busy inter-urban services, both had a blue livery, both were mainly stage service operators but with a modest coaching side too, all of their double deckers were lowbridge or low height, all vehicles were bought in two’s or three’s, both bought all-Leyland PD2’s, then turned to other bodybuilders for PD2’s and PD3’s, both had Atlantean PDR1/3’s with Northern Counties bodies, both later turned to the Fleetline with Leyland engine, again with NCME bodies, both ended with the Olympian. I’m sure there were other similarities but you get my drift!
15/11/12 – 11:15
I heard a guy was writing a book about Harper Bros. Anyone know if it has been completed?
15/11/12 – 15:02
The book is ‘Harpers Bus Memories in Colour’, published by Irwell Press, which was due to be available in October 2012 price £12.95. It is listed in the latest MDS Books catalogue, reference IR956.
15/11/12 – 15:53
Paul Roberts book ‘Harpers Bus Memories in Colour’ is still awaited.
23/11/12 – 08:19
The book is now on the shelf for purchase.
06/12/12 – 06:55
There is also another long awaited book being written, this is a far more in depth publication. This one will trace the actual history from day one. I would imagine it is not far away now. I will try and get in touch with the author.
21/02/13 – 17:38
The Northern Coachworks Body put on Guy Arab I HWA 714 Fleet No 3 in 1954 was a Lowbridge L27/26R. It finished service December 1963.
18/10/13 – 07:38
In addition to local football trips, Harpers ran to important away matches too – I remember going to watch Wolves in a cup match at Leeds with my grandmother some time in the 70s. Used to catch Harpers buses between Shire Oak and Brownhills, then Walsall Corporation on to Pipe Hill where footballing grandmother lived (non-footballing one at Shire Oak made a convenient stop off on Sunday when the less frequent services left me to wait in the rain ….)
ex ENOC conductor
22/03/14 – 17:15
In the fifties I grew up as neighbour to Felix Harper and to his neighbour sister Mary Harper in the large houses (286 to 280 Cannock rd) that they had built in the thirties. There was a large field next to our houses which gave access to another large field which lay behind our three houses. This was the hidden junkyard for all the old Harpers buses where a handful of those of us kids ‘in the know’ spent many a happy, forbidden and dangerous hour playing and trespassing.
Sheila James Baggaley
20/09/14 – 06:00
Harpers had a small garage at Aldridge as well along from the Avion cinema. My Dad Jack Preston was the Coop chemist in the same road. Anchor Road. From 1957 until 1965 used to go to school in Lichfield every day on a Harpers bus. In 1958 I had an accident coming home when I fell off one of the single deckers with a sliding door at the front and the back wheel of the bus went over the bottom of my leg. Still limping today. Good old Gloria deluxe.
08/10/15 – 14:54
It’s sometime since I made a comment on this post has I didn’t have much more to add, however, I don’t remember inspectors being on Harper’s buses, have I got this right?
06/01/16 – 05:37
No Jimmie, Harold Haytree was the inspector, and also at one stage Bob Finch who was ex police joined the company.
12/01/16 – 14:07
In my student days, back in 1966, I worked with the company as a conductor for about eight weeks in July / August.
Harold Haytree was the Inspector – but his duties didn’t involve any actual inspecting! He was the firm’s ‘presence’ at Cannock Bus Station, and I think he may have had a hand in compiling duty rotas.
The fleet comprised mainly ex London Transport type RT double deckers. I recall the purchase and arrival of a replacement for a crash-damaged vehicle – and the scramble for a trophy in the form of the London Transport radiator badge (replaced by a standard AEC radiator badge).
My other memory was the uniform – emerald green double-breasted dust jackets with cream facings. Very distinctive! Only, they only had one in stock when I joined: it was much MUCH too big!
Having conducted for Liverpool Corporation Passenger Transport the previous summer, I was used to having my own ticket machine (an ‘Ultimate’). At HB, we took any available ‘Setright’ from a hook in the crew room!
13/01/16 – 06:08
Here are a lot of photos of Harper’s vehicles, an amazing assortment which, had they survived, would have made a wonderful museum collection. They had a fair selection of London Transport RT/RTL’s, too. SEE: http://www.heathhayeshistory.co.uk/harpers_buses_1/
14/01/16 – 06:02
Thanks for that link to the Harper fleet, Chris- a fascinating array, even though some of the captions are a bit doubtful (e.g. Cravens RT body built in Anglesey). I am also curious about the single deck Guy Arab JVK 654 with its " back to front gearbox". Did it have one forward gear and four reverse?
14/01/16 – 06:39
I think that what would be meant by a ‘back to front’ gearbox would be that one or more gears were in a different position to what might be expected. This wasn’t at all unusual with commercial vehicles – Bedford coaches, for instance, up to and including the VAL14 (but not VAL70) had a so-called ‘Chinese’ gearbox.
14/01/16 – 10:03
A very common feature of Guy Arab gearboxes was that first and second gears were against the driver’s knee, while third and fourth were nearest to the engine. We had just one such at Ledgard’s Otley depot in the form of my beloved JUA 763. It had been new in 1943 with a dreadful Pickering utility body, but in 1950 was rebodied in the finest tradition by Charles H Roe its twin JUA 762 was at Armley depot from new until the end and was treated likewise at the same time. New recruits, fresh from perhaps a lorry driving job, were often "caught out" by the gear positions and either their errors were audibly heard for miles around or they wondered why the bus would not pull away in top gear which they thought was second !!
14/01/16 – 16:23
Most Atkinson lorries and some ERFs had the "Chinese" gearbox.
My Tilling Stevens Coach has a 6 speed Chinese box on and i leave a diagram on the dash to remind me
14/01/16 – 16:25
It’s the same effect as driving a LHD car- not only do you shunt your front seat passenger into the passing traffic, thinking you are next to open space, but 1 is by your right knee and you then move away for 3 & 4 & even 5 & 6. It don’t feel right!
Off (this) topic, Chris- do you know how/why Wallace Arnold had a depot in Royston?
14/01/16 – 17:32
I’m fairly sure that London Transport’s later deliveries of utility Guy Arabs had a conventional gearbox ‘gate’ and had to cut a couple of inches off the gear levers of one type (probably the non-standard ones) to enable their drivers to distinguish between the two types.
15/01/16 – 06:23
Certainly most, if not all, the "reversed" gearboxes had a maroon knob as a means of distinction – admittedly of little use in the dark !!
15/01/16 – 06:24
Yes, I did follow what the caption to the picture was getting at, but my tongue in cheek comment about the gearbox of Guy Arab JVK 654 arose from the fact that this vehicle was an Arab III. The wartime Arab I and earlier batches of Arab II were fitted with the old sliding mesh gearbox with ‘right to left’ upward gear selector positions introduced with the pre war Arab of 1934. Later production Arab IIs had a new design of constant mesh four speed gearbox with the conventional ‘left to right’ gear lever movement. This constant mesh box was the standard fitment to the Arab III – a few had Guy’s own preselector gearbox – so why would JVK 654 have an old crash gearbox installed in place of its original constant mesh unit? Is the caption correct? Perhaps confusion is arising with the Arab I double deckers KRE 849/850, about which no such comment is made. Also, why remark upon this feature in the Guy, but fail to comment similarly about the several Dennis Lancets in the Harper fleet. The Lancet had the Dennis ‘O’ Type gearbox, a four speed sliding mesh unit with a preselected overdrive fifth ratio, and, again, the lever positions were upward from right to left. When in fifth position, the gear stick was well away from the steering column.
15/01/16 – 14:38
I imagine some contributors will be able to date some of the photographs shown in the ‘Heath Hayes Gallery’ quite accurately, given the vehicles featured. The rear shot of two vehicles in the depot was clearly taken in Midland Red days, since the vehicle on the right is Midland Red 2181 (XUX 417K), the Ford R192/Plaxton B47F acquired by BMMO with the business of Hoggins, Wrockwardine Wood, in 1/74. It was apparently allocated to Heath Hayes depot from 9/74 to 7/75. The shot was presumably taken towards the beginning of that period, since the vehicle on the left, ex-Harper’s 60 (1294 RE),Guy Arab LUF/Burlingham, was ostensibly withdrawn in 10/74. In its brief stay with Midland Red, it would have been fleet number 2260. Did the ex-Harper vehicles not carry MR fleetnumbers, initially? http://www.heathhayeshistory.co.uk/Harpers_9_3.
15/01/16 – 15:46
The first bus I helped preserve was Burton Corporation 18 a Guy Arab 111 rebodied by Massey. It too had a Chinese box so again may have been a refit from another wartime Arab.
16/01/16 – 06:02
Joe, when John Wilson was GM of NT(SE) he was directed by NBC to accept delivery of some LHD Willowbrook Express bodied AEC Reliances for continental services: there were more accidents with these vehicles on the continent (and, perhaps not surprisingly in the UK [although I think they were only licensed for use between London and Dover]) than with RHD coaches – apparently if one is used to driving an RHD vehicle it’s easier to drive one on the continent that it is an LHD vehicle, presumably because the spatial arrangement of the controls remains the same.
16/01/16 – 11:36
Joe, I forgot to answer your question! Wallace Arnold’s Royston depot came with the purchase of G E Billham in 1942 – I think Billham was largely involved with colliery contracts. Castleford depot, acquired with M Box (Castleford) Ltd in 1946, was another depot largely confined to contract operations (although I think some tours duties might have been operated from Castleford depot after Gillards Tours, Normanton, was taken over in 1966. In 1969 the allocation at Royston depot was 22 coaches; Castleford 16 coaches, including two licenced to Gillards.
16/01/16 – 15:14
Interesting Philip. My own experience with occasional hire of LHD cars on the continent is that I just cannot estimate the clearance from the right hand kerb from a left hand driving seat, as I can the left hand kerb from a right hand driving seat. Accordingly I always tend to drive much farther out into the road than necessary.
17/01/16 – 06:31
Further to John W (13/6/12) and Phil B (21/2/13), HWA 714 was apparently acquired by Harper’s, chassis only, from Duncan of Law, then fitted with its second hand NCB body and placed in service 4/54.
The body was reputedly new c.1949 when it was used to rebody DH 9344, a 1932 Burlingham-bodied Leyland TS3 acquired with the business of Reynolds of Cannock in 6/44. However, I have to say that the body doesn’t look 1949 vintage to me, it looks like, as John W commented, a utility body.
They presumably made strong Leyland TS3s in 1932.
I am inclined to suppose that Duncan of Law was ultimately superseded by Irvine’s of Law, but I’ll stand corrected, of course. Irvine’s are still operational.
Correction – Irvine’s of Law ceased in 2012.
Adam Duncan sold out to prolific bus company purchaser Sam Anderson, who, only a year or two later, sold on the operation to William Irvine.
18/01/16 – 06:05
The comments about the body are most interesting. It has the look of a utility product but there are certain aspects of it which contradict this, the drivers windscreen and the flat front are most utility like but the side windows appear to have radiused bottom corners, the foremost upper deck side windows have rounded corners on the front upper edge which a utility body would not have had. The front upper deck windows have obviously been rebuilt at some point and appear to be pan glazed. The sliding ventilators are not utility style but NCB did produce some bodies with these on unfrozen AEC chassis earlier in the war, around 1942.
If the business of Reynolds was acquired in 6/44 and the body was produced some time after that, there would only have been a short period for it to be regarded as utility because I believe NCB were one of the first bodybuilders to produce a standard post war composite design which I understand appeared in 1945.
In addition, I don’t think they built wartime bodywork in any great numbers, perhaps this was a relaxed utility built at the very end of the war. I suppose a photograph of it when it was on the TS3 would be too much to ask for!
19/01/16 – 06:04
Thanks Philip….WA must have needed some consistent year round trade… Could never understand how such a totally Leeds company wandered so far south. Their fleet was always so up to date, smart and seemed of such quality, as they set off again for Edinburgh and the Trossachs. Then came cheap flights and all the rest.
19/01/16 – 09:14
Joe, As WA grew and grew it became anything BUT a totally Leeds company, and they had a thriving "stand alone" operation in Torquay. In view of the lovely rural roads and lanes of Devon and Cornwall some of their brand new otherwise standard coaches were built specially to the largely outdated 7’6" width. Then, at the other end of the UK (sorry Ms Sturgeon), Dicksons of Dundee were taken over, bringing some superb coaches with lovely tartan moquette seating, and a thriving customer base. Some vehicles initially operated from Leeds in Dickson’s smart maroon livery – two lovely Reliances MYJ 764/5 are fondly recalled for instance.
20/01/16 – 05:49
Apologies for pushing this thread further in the WA direction, but I’m hoping Chris Youhill will be able to answer something that puzzled me for years. I can see how, with a base in Torquay, WA’s Devon subsidiary could service a programme of extended based in the south west – but how were the programmes based in London (ex Homeland Tours), Northamptonshire (ex United Counties), Bristol (ex Hallens), and the ex-Dicksons Scottish-based tours serviced. And for that after the Glasgow-Skye express service that was taken over fro Skyways? Were coaches and drivers sent out from Leeds on rotation, or were some pick-ups "on line of route"?
21/01/16 – 06:44
I’ve just seen the comments above about "Chinese" gearboxes. I’ve read elsewhere that Guy’s right-to-left gearboxes had maroon gear lever knobs, but I believe this is an error caused by the assumption that an unusual gear arrangement warranted an unusual knob. In fact I’m pretty sure that it was the other way round – the maroon knob was introduced in 1945 to distinguish the new constant-mesh gearbox from its Chinese predecessor. I’m sure I’ve seen some quite late examples, and even UFs or LUFs.
I think there is also confusion over Bedfords. Bedford’s own 4-speed gearbox was perfectly conventional. The early Turner 5-speed unit on the VAL14 (also optional on SBs at that time) was unusual in that 1st (rarely used) was on the extreme right opposite reverse, 2nd and 3rd were over on the left, and 4th and 5th were to the right but back-to-front. However, this does not justify the "Chinese" epithet, which refers strictly to arrangements where ascending through the gears means going from right to left, like Chinese writing. The only Bedfords with that arrangement were the SB coaches with the Plaxton C-type modification, which created extra passenger space by raising the floor and pushing the driving position forward, requiring extra linkage for the gearchange. Both Bedford and Turner gear arrangements were then reversed right-to-left.
21/01/16 – 15:30
Philip – I’m afraid you’ve caught me on the hop there as I was only very briefly involved in tour coach allocation before returning to driving out of my own choice. I’m pretty sure though that Paul Haywood and Malcolm Hirst will be able to answer that aspect more fully. One driving job though that I did do, just after the Dickson’s takeover, was to travel empty to Dundee one Saturday afternoon and the next morning take a load of tour passengers for their first overnight in Bradford – so that will have been something to do with Dickson’s programme no doubt, although I’m sure that it wasn’t a regular manoeuvre. Around the same time I also had to got to Wetherby (in a company car) to relieve another Leeds driver on a southbound continental tour from Dundee to Southend Airport.
03/02/16 – 06:44
A few of you have mentioned names of a few of Harper’s Drivers, I am wondering if anybody would remember my Grandfather, Derek Holden? I’m trying to do at bit of research to surprise my dad and any leads would be fantastic. As far as I am aware he worked for the company durin the 1960’s but could have possibly been earlier than that when he started. Like I said, I have little to go on other than a rough time scale and the fact that my Grandfather was from the Bloxwich/Walsall area.
14/02/16 – 05:46
Philip Rushworth queries how the Croydon operations of WA were run. I lived in Croydon from 1960 to 1966 and the vehicles were licensed in the Metropolitan Traffic Area and ran from a base effectively on a large traffic island formed by St. James’s Road, Hogarth Crescent and Whitehorse Road.
Departures and arrivals used the car park at the Fairfield Halls in Barclay Road.
15/02/16 – 16:06
Irvine of Law have gone but Irvine (Golden Eagle) of Salsburgh are still in business although they sold their bus service to First in the 1990s. One of their Reliances (LHS 479P) famously left Loughborough with a destination blind reading AIRDIRE.
16/02/16 – 06:02
In the mid 1930s, Frank Flin operated a small coach business between London and Margate from a base in Park Lane, Croydon, and also ran a booking office in George Street. In 1936 he acquired the tour licences of another Croydon firm, Wilson’s Tours, and in 1937 set up Homeland Tours. At the outbreak of WW2 his seven coaches were commandeered for military use, and, at the cessation of hostilities only two were returned. An order was placed for a replacement fleet of Strachans C37F bodied Leyland Comet CPO2 coaches, http://www.na3t.org/road/photo/Hu02356 but securing hotel bookings in the early post war years was very difficult for small tour operators with limited bargaining power. Around this time Leeds based Wallace Arnold was seeking to strengthen its presence in the London area, and opened negotiations with Flin. In 1948 Flin passed his tour licences to Wallace Arnold, but retained his coaches. The travel agency in George Street, though still owned by Frank Flin, then became an agency for Wallace Arnold. The maroon liveried Homeland Leyland Comet coaches continued to run private hire and day excursions, though I believe that they were operated on Flin’s behalf by Wallace Arnold. I used to see them about regularly in the Croydon area of the early 1950s. These operations were sold in 1956 to Bourne and Balmer, by then a Timpson subsidiary, who had a garage and coach station in Dingwall Road. Homeland Tours then became purely a travel agency business. It is now run under the name of Wallace Arnold World Choice by the grandson of Frank Flin in premises in George Street only a short distance from the original shop site. Notwithstanding the name, which is retained with the agreement of Shearings (the current owner of the Wallace Arnold name) it is still an independent business. The site mentioned by John Kaye is in an area known locally as Spurgeon’s Bridge after the adjacent huge Spurgeon’s Tabernacle (aka West Croydon Baptist Church). The bridge itself goes over the railway line from London into West Croydon. I used to cross this junction, then just a straightforward crossroads traversed by the 654 route trolleybuses rather than the convoluted, combined, circulatory systems of today, on my walk to school at Selhurst.
16/02/16 – 08:38
This seems to be a revealing tale, Roger. The various changes and absorptions seem to have been negotiated with goodwill, and not the pac-man methods more evident today: there seems to be the idea that there could be a living for everyone. WA always seemed a decent outfit, unless others know different…
16/02/16 – 15:21
I am sure that your reading of the business relationship between Homeland Tours and Wallace Arnold is exactly correct, Joe. One imagines that the representatives of the two firms happened to meet up during tour planning/operations in the early post-war period, and saw the benefits to be accrued from joint working arrangements. That the two businesses held each other in real respect is manifest in the Wallace Arnold trading name that John Flin, the present proprietor of the Homeland Croydon agency, has adopted in the present day.
17/02/16 – 05:48
Many thanks for replying – just one more thing! WA’s Croydon site was it covered/under-cover? were there maintenance facilities??. The history of London-area coaching operations is fascinating: Tom McLachlan’s "Grey-Green and contemporaries Vol 1" (taking the story to 1960) was published in in 2007 – I’m still waiting for Vol 2. And writing of delayed publication dates, on 06.XII.12 Mick Bullock promised publication of an in depth history of Harpers – now that’s another book I’m eagerly awaiting . . .
18/02/16 – 05:51
Wallace Arnold lives on in room 136 Burlington Hotel Eastbourne Feb 2016 a little thread bear in places.
18/02/16 – 10:19
The WA’s are fairly subtle, Ken, you wouldn’t notice, if you didn’t know!
Why is it there and how did you know it was there?
18/02/16 – 10:20
Ken, an amazing discovery in the weave of the carpet – does it actually refer to the coaching giant, or is it a pure coincidence??
Also, I’m sure I recall that either a TV documentary, or possibly a bought DVD, featured Barbara Flin in her days as a courier on some of the first ambitious Continental tours, to Interlaken in particular. She eventually had a major victory against the snooty Manager of a leading hotel (still there now) in Interlaken when he "banished" her and the driver to a quiet corner of the ballroom to eat, rather than allowing them to dine in style with their passengers. Eventually she won and they were restored to their rightful place in the Dining Room. I may be wrong, time dulls the memory, but I’m sure she was eventually the wife of Francis Flin at Croydon – can anyone confirm please, or shall I "get mi ‘at."
18/02/16 – 11:56
This discovery of Wallace Arnold carpet was in the room allocated during a holiday last week at the Burlington Hotel Eastbourne (an old Wallace Arnold hotel). I was happy to see this memento of the past but it does not show the quality I expect of the Holiday Co that owns the hotel. I add the other photo of carpet.
19/02/16 – 05:41
Phillip, I am also eagerly awaiting volume 2 of Tom McLachlan’s book. I understand that, although he now has health problems , the final draft was finished some years ago and it is hoped that his son will complete the book.
19/02/16 – 05:42
Oh dear Ken – the second photo shows that it high time the carpet was chucked out – I hope that the rest of the hotel and in particular the cleanliness and the food were much fresher !!
19/02/16 – 05:43
Thanks for thinking of photographing – I might offer to take it off their hands should they ever get round to re-decorating! "Dear Manager, As a resident of Leeds you will understand my interest in acquiring certain carpets, should they become available . . . "
Latterly WA owned eight hotels: Pentire Hotel, Newquay; County Hotel, Llandudno; Trecarn Hotel, Torquay; Savoy Hotel, Bournemouth; Grand Hotel, Exmouth; Broadway Park Hotel, Sandown; The Fife Arms, Braemar; and the Burlington.
Shearings owned quite a number of hotels, more than WA, at the time of the "merge-over"
19/02/16 – 09:32
Philip – despite the similarity in names with Trecarne didn’t WA also own the Tolcarne Hotel, also I believe in Devon ??
19/02/16 – 15:26
A wonderful story, Chris, and I am sure that your identification of the redoubtable lady who challenged the preposterous social status nonsense of a certain hotel manager is entirely accurate. The spelling of the name ‘Flin’ is unusual, and the likelihood of there being another lady in the tour business with the first name of Barbara must be pretty remote. Frank Flin died in 1962, and the Homeland agency then passed to his son, Francis John Flin, whose wife is Barbara Mary Flin, now in her eighties. Both are still shown as directors of the business. Their son, John Richard Flin, currently runs the firm. (“So you can leave t’ ‘at ‘anging in t’ ‘all.” Apologies if my West Riding dialect is all wrong – my mother came from the East Riding.) Apparently the old close and rewarding relationship with Wallace Arnold was lost with the Shearings takeover, to the detriment of the travel agency business, but matters did recover to some degree subsequently. On the subject of the Wallace Arnold depot at Spurgeon’s Bridge, Croydon, I cannot personally recall much about it. However, the Commercial Motor Archive tells us that around a dozen coaches were drafted in during the summer months, though whether or not this means that the base was only used in summer, or that a smaller winter allocation was augmented for the season, is unclear. I would surmise that the facilities there were pretty basic. Apparently, the depot was closed finally in 1985, whereupon Wallace Arnold then stationed some 30 vehicles at the London Buses Norwood Garage, which was contracted to clean and refuel them. This indicates that mechanical maintenance work was undertaken elsewhere.
20/02/16 – 05:04
Mention of the Flin family in Croydon reminds me of a brief period when I worked in their office in the winter of 1964/65. At that time I worked in the WA Traffic Office in Leeds and volunteered to spend a week filling and addressing envelopes with tour brochures in the Flin/WA office.
Highlights of the week included travelling down from Leeds to London on a brown/cream Pullman (2nd class of course). For safety (being a snivelling 16 year old) my parents insisted I stay with my aunt rather than in a dubious B&B. This was fine with me as I made the daily commute on red (Central Area) and green (Country Area) RTs from Tolworth to Croydon via Epsom. Sadly, because of the time of year, most of the rides were in the dark, but I felt really grown-up being a London commuter!
A final memory is of the kindness (and tolerance) of the Flin family, one of whom gave me a publicity photo of their Homeland Tours Duplex coach JVB 908 (see www.sct61.org.uk/zzjvb908)
21/02/16 – 05:56
Roger and Paul – curiosity has just made me seek out the footage with Barbara Flyn and her account of the stuffy Interlaken Jungfrau Hotel is as I remembered it.
It was a Channel 4 programme called "The golden years of coach travel" or something similar, and is excellent throughout. The links feature Stephen Barber of WA and a fascinating Lancashire chap who was a lifelong passenger with Yelloways of Rochdale.
Paul – I never knew of your little adventure to Croydon – I would gladly have done the same and written a few envelopes to "fund" it.
21/02/16 – 15:47
I recall that programme, Chris. It was "The Golden Age Of Coach Travel". I made a DVD copy of it for a former work colleague at Peterborough, who told me about the no holds barred scramble to get away from Cheltenham when the "departure pistol" went off for all coaches to leave at the same time. Drivers who had communed jovially during the break period then jostled mercilessly to get out and away from the queue that quickly formed at the exit. The programme is still available on Youtube and I’ve just watched it again. Notwithstanding a few inconsistencies, it is a fascinating record of a time that, sadly, has totally gone.
21/02/16 – 15:48
I’ve found "The Golden Age of Coach Travel" on YouTube. It is a BBC production of 2010. There are some wonderful anecdotes about the ‘services’ the drivers’ provided, some dubious! Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrDQ9SNYwyc
22/02/16 – 06:15
Does any one remember the series on TV featuring a driver called Cannonball doing a Devon/Cornwall tour for Wallace Arnold is it still available.
22/02/16 – 09:03
‘Cannonball’ certainly appears in the above documentary, but is only one of several drivers saying their piece.
23/02/16 – 05:26
Chris Y. At the time of the brochure from which I copied the hotels list above – mid 1990s? as there were a mix of van Hool/Jonckheere/Plaxton-bodied coaches pictured – there was no mention of the Tolcarne Hotel, but I’ve done a quick Google and there was a Tolcarne Hotel in Newquay . . . "filthy and old-fashioned" according the last TripAdvisor comment in 2008. And whilst I was about that I also Googled "Barbara Flynn" [sic], who apparently has been married to a Jeremy Taylor since 1982/34y-old, so the Homeland Tours connection is looking a bit weak here! Don’t get your coat though – I’d miss your knowledgeable contributions (although I might take any further contributions about the performing arts with a pinch of salt!).
23/02/16 – 10:43
Phillip, you are looking at Barbara Flynn the actress.
She played, along with many other parts, the Milk Lady in ‘Open All Hours’, and appeared with James Bolam in the Beiderbecke Trilogy. The Barbara Flin in the Golden Age of Coaching was a different lady altogether, and was a Courier/Guide with Wallace Arnold.
23/02/16 – 10:46
It’s not Barbara Flynn, it’s Barbara Flin, Philip. This lady is now in her eighties, and, with her husband Francis, is still a director of the Wallace Arnold World Wide agency in Croydon. (Hasn’t this discussion come a long way from a wartime Guy Arab!)
13/03/16 – 14:48
I was beginning to wonder if I was on the right page here seeing as I’ve had to wade through loads of comments nothing to do with Harper Bros. The Guy JVK 654 was bought as a chassis and was fitted with a Lawton body, nothing in the Heath Hayes History caption says it was a crash box, only that it was back to front which it was. 1st & 2nd gear nearest the driver 3rd & 4th nearest the engine. Regarding the RT’s, All the Leylands were from London and the first two AEC’s with Craven Bodies built in Anglesey as caption states, Fleet No’s 2 & 12 KGK 729 & KGK 738.The other seven RTA’s were from St Helens purchased 61/2.
14/03/16 – 06:53
All Guy Arab I and the great majority of Arab II chassis were fitted with the Guy four speed sliding mesh gearbox with the ‘right to left’ upward selector positions and the double plate clutch inherited from the early 1934 Arab model. Arab IIs from late 1945 onwards had the new Guy constant mesh box which had a conventional ‘left to right’ selector gate coupled with a single plate clutch. This gearbox/clutch combination then went into the new Arab III that was available from late 1946.
14/03/16 – 06:53
The assumption that a right-to-left gearbox would be “crash” comes from the fact that the only gearbox Guy built to that pattern was the unit used in wartime Arabs, which was sliding-mesh. The most likely explanation is that the Arab III acquired a gearbox from a defunct utility double-decker later in life.
The point about the Craven bodies on the RTs is that they were built in Sheffield, not Anglesey. It was Saunders bodies that were built in Anglesey.
17/03/16 – 15:16
Of course you are right Peter, the Cravens bodies were built in Sheffield as you say, I put it down to c-nile dementia, I’m getting old lol. The Guy JVK 653 was new in 1946 but came to Harpers as just a chassis in 1954 and a Lawton body was fitted. The gear knob was maroon and of a mushroom shape rather than a ball
28/03/16 – 11:38
I’m an lifelong Villa fan and have just been given a very old bus blind (shown here framed and back lit) by a mate of mine here in New Zealand – he brings in vintage stuff from the UK to sell on in this part of the world – the cloth blind has a sloping font and 7 destinations ‘FOOTBALL’ ‘WOLVES’ ‘VILLA’ ‘ALBION’ ‘TO THE SHOW’ ‘SPECIAL’ and ‘EXCURSION’. He knew, because of the sloping font, that it came off a 40’s / 50’s bus and after hunting around the internet my guess, after reading this page and in particular the post on 12/06/12 by Phil Burton, is that it came of a Harper Bros bus. Looking at the images I can find my guess is that it came off a/the Guy Arab III with Lawton bodywork.
Vehicle reminder shot for this posting
10/04/16 – 05:24
Homeland Tours owned a booking office in Park Lane Croydon, on the corner of Park Street in the 1950s. Their fleet of Leyland coaches were kept at the Regal Garage in the Old Kent Road. The owners of the Regal Garage sold it to new owners in 1955, and Homeland Tours were asked to vacate the premises. The Homeland Tours fleet was sold to Bourne and Balmer of Croydon, a subsidiary company of Timpsons since 1953. The two Homeland Tours Leyland Tiger Cubs with underfloor engines MBY 909, MBY 910,were kept by Bourne and Balmer, but the normal control Leyland Comets were sold to dealers. Homeland Tours became an agent for Wallace Arnold, and the Park Lane office traded under the Wallace Arnold name. The building was sold some years later, and they moved around the corner to George Street. At least one of the Leyland Comets went to work for Chiltern Queens in Oxford.