Visiting grandad

Visiting grandad

When I was about 4 my grandparents moved from the Nottingham suburb of Mapperley to Hucknall – now the northern terminus of the Nottingham tram system, but then way outside the precincts of Nottingham City Transport. Hucknall was a mining “village” and my grandmother always referred to it disparagingly as “Mucky ’Uckna’ ”.

From our own home (a prefab just off Nuthall Road, Aspley) a trip to visit them was at first an epic journey involving 3 different buses, run by 3 different operators, with 3 different coloured liveries. Just for good measure they had 3 different ticket systems too. One thing they were all agreed on, however, was that a bus meant an AEC. You will realise that I didn’t know what a pre-selector Regent III was at the age of 4, but I knew the difference between the sound it made and that of a crash gearbox Regent II. Most of the specific detail I have gleaned since. But I can remember these journeys as clearly as yesterday. (Unfortunately I can’t remember what we had for dinner last Tuesday!)

AA Routeplanner now tells me the total journey was 5.7 miles, with an expected journey time (by car) of 14 minutes. On a good Saturday afternoon with a following wind it would take us about 45 minutes.

It began with a green NCT No.7 – invariably one of the Roberts Regent IIIs – which picked us up by the library at the corner of Melbourne Road, and proceeded along Nuthall Road (the A610). The route was soon joined at Stockhill Lane by the trolleybuses which came from the city centre through Basford – both the NCT No. 41 and the Notts & Derby Traction blue trolleys which ran all the way to Ripley until their demise in 1953. At Cinderhill Cross Roads, where the 41 terminated, our No. 7 turned right along Cinderhill Road, terminating at Bulwell Market Place – a run of about 10 minutes.

The Market Place itself was littered with terminating buses (including the frequent – i.e. every 3 minutes – No.43 trolley from Trent Bridge, which came by Radford Road and Highbury Vale). The buses made a bit of a nuisance of themselves amongst the old fashioned market stalls, and a proper bus station was eventually built for them. One point of interest here was the local service from Bulwell to Bestwood Colliery Village, operated, not by any of the dominant local companies, but by Bulwell independent Makemson’s. Their vehicle was always a lowbridge all-Leyland PD1 (or was it a PD2?) with platform doors, and wearing a smart deep maroon livery.

The next leg of our journey was by one of Trent’s red and cream buses. They did not stop in the Market Place but 100 yards north in Main Street outside a public house – officially the King William IV, but universally known as the King Billy. This next section to Hucknall Market was by route 61 (Nottingham – Mansfield) or occasionally 60 – a short working that went no farther than Hucknall. The 60 would often be one of the AEC Regal half-cab single deckers, while the 61 was invariably a Regent – sometimes full height, sometimes lowbridge. All were bodied by Willowbrook. The lowbridge variety, at least, were pre-war chassis, whose previous front entrance bodies had been replaced by Willowbrook in the late 1940s. Any of these would give me my “fix” of Regent crash gearbox music – but only for 6 or 7 minutes.

The ride took us due north along Hucknall Lane, under the soaring arches of the old Great Central Railway Bulwell viaduct. Then past the City Transport Bulwell Hall Estate trolleybus terminus at the city boundary, with its elaborately worded “Corporation Protection Point” plate. Basically, this forbade Trent from carrying passengers for journeys wholly within the Nottingham City Transport operating area. In other words, you couldn’t get off an outward bound Trent bus until the stop after the protection point, and you couldn’t get on an inward bound bus after the stop before it. (Are you confused? Well, you should have seen the fare regulations applying to the Trent No. 67 which dodged in and out of the NCT protection zone two or three times. The Berlin wall couldn’t hold a candle to this!) After passing Broomhill (Yew Tree Inn), another point quoted in the timetable, a couple more minutes brought us into Hucknall Market.

Two minutes walk took us round the corner into West Street – a singularly drafty location as I remember it. You didn’t know where the wind was coming from, but you jolly well knew where it was going! Here we awaited the last player for the journey out to Beauvale estate – perhaps a mile and a half distant. The operator was Midland General – always one of my favourites, with their handsome blue and cream buses. They used a route numbering system comprising a letter and a single digit number. In theory this would have given them 234 route numbers (excluding zero) without going beyond a 2-track display. They needn’t have bothered, however, as their portfolio of routes never got anywhere near the 100 mark. Anyway, our route was the C9 which originated at Alfreton, coming by way of Heanor, Eastwood, Moorgreen and Watnall.

The C9 was an early convert to Bristol Lodekkas, but at the time of which I am writing it was still operated by pre-selector Regent IIIs with Weymann bodywork. The interior décor, I seem to remember, always featured the advertisement line “Dogs that eat Winalot wagalot”. There were one or two unusual features about Midland General fleet. Their buses always had shapely curved tops to the seat backs. This was true of all the Regents, and when they were obliged to go over to the Bristol/ECW combination, they continued to demand them. The other non-standard feature was the rope bell (London Transport style) in the downstairs saloon. This applied to the Regent III’s, and was also later specified by the associated Notts & Derby Traction for the small fleet of 15 Bristol KSW6Gs – the only Bristol Ks ever bought by the group. It was not perpetuated on the Lodekkas – or maybe the BTC had got a tighter grip by then.

Returning to the journey, the building of the Beauvale Estate had overtaken either the bus network, or the bureaucracy involved in getting approval for a route extension. The C9 therefore turned at the end of Wood Lane, nearly half a mile short of the new housing. It was a semi-rural spot overshadowed by trees, and the road petered out into a cart track at this point. Common Lane, the new access road to the estate, sheared off to the left.

In later years, the C9 was extended via Common Lane and Beauvale Road to a terminus in the estate at Priory Road. Then an additional route the F4 was introduced, from Nottingham by way of Basford, Larkfield Estate and Watnall. Finally, Trent also muscled in on the act with their route 60B from Nottingham via Bulwell.

Nottingham City Transport used the colourful Ultimate tickets (“chikka-chikka” – remember?). Sometimes they were printed by “Oller Ltd. London” and at others by Hunt & Colleys of Nottingham. A bit of competitive tendering there I guess! At this time Trent were still using the early “Insert Setright” ticket system. The conductor carried a rack of pre-printed and numbered blank tickets for each different class – single, return or workmens. (They were printed by Williamsons of Ashton-under- Lyne). These were then validated and printed with the date, fare and stage boarded by inserting them into a slot in the front of the machine, setting the relevant fields and then winding the handle. The machine was the same in concept as the later Setright Speed, which printed the whole ticket on a continuous paper strip (although the blank rolls were still pre-printed with the company details etc.) Midland General were already Setright Speed users.

When we later moved house, the bus journey to Hucknall began at Nottingham’s Mount Street bus station, invariably using the Trent 60B. However there was no convenient 60B for the return trip, so it was necessary to revert to a blue C9. Consequently, my father would cause consternation on the outward trip by asking the conductor for “two and a half returns to Hucknall Market, and two and half singles from Hucknall Market to Beauvale Estate”. There ensued a lengthy process of inserting tickets, resetting the machine, and complicated mental arithmetic, eventually producing an impressive stack of substantial card tickets.

I was quite gratified to discover that the journey is still achievable today, with only slight variations. The present day NCT 79 takes a slightly different route from the old No.7 between Aspley to Bulwell. The Bulwell – Hucknall leg is now by tram instead of bus, and the final stretch is by Trent’s “Hucknall Connection” – a circular local service, which serves the tram terminus, and then goes on to wait for time at the infamously drafty West Street corner. All are still frequent services (in the daytime). And I suspect that the overall journey, allowing for connections, would take no longer today than it did in 1953. I may just try it out some time.

Stephen Ford



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