A Trip Over The Essex/Suffolk Border

A Trip Over The Essex/Suffolk Border

In August 1969, I took a trip around Colchester and Sudbury, a region then particularly noted for its independent operators. These are some photos from that day.

Roger Cox


Colchester Corporation

Colchester ran its first trams in 1904, but the all conquering motor bus began to take over from 1928. The last tram ran in December 1929. The first bus deliveries were from Dennis, but AECs became the preferred choice from 1930 up to the outbreak of WW2. Bristol and Guy utilities appeared in the fleet during wartime, but a mixture of AEC, Crossley and Daimler machines came in the years up to 1952, after which Southall again became the supplier of buses to the Corporation. In 1960, the choice swung to Leyland for double deck orders, but AEC remained as the single decker suppler until the Bristol RE came on the open market and into the Colchester fleet. As with most municipal undertakings, Colchester became an "arms length company" from 1986, and disappeared forever when sold off in 1993. A detailed history of the undertaking and a full fleet list may be found here:- www.petergould.co.uk/colchester1.htm The traditional Colchester livery was tuscan red and cream as worn by the buses in these pictures. After experimenting in 1974, the livery was sadly changed in 1975 to crimson and cream on the highly dubious pretext that tuscan red paint was too expensive.

Leyland Titan PD2A/31 Massey H33/28R MWC 130 No.30 of 1963, withdrawn 1977. Regent V No.14 follows behind.

AEC Regent V D3RV/Massey H33/28R 680 HEV No.14 of 1956, withdrawn 1971.

Another AEC Regent V D3RV/Massey H33/28R 682 HEV No.16 of 1956, likewise withdrawn in 1971.

Eastern National

Here are two pictures of Eastern National buses in service in Colchester.

Bristol RELL6G ECW B53F EPU 187G, ENOC 1506, new July 1969.

Bristol FLF6B ECW H38/32F 993 KOO, ENOC 2780, new October 1963, sold February 1978, scrapped October 1990.

Chambers of Bures

In 1877 H. Chambers commenced a horse drawn bus business in Bures, and, up to the time of its takeover by Go-Ahead, the firm laid claim to being the oldest bus company still in business. Norfolk of Nayland previously claimed that accolade until it ceased to operate in 1991. In 1918 the first motor bus was purchased to operate a twice weekly service between Sudbury and Colchester. By the late 1930s routes had reached Halstead and Haverhill. The Chambers family were Quakers, and, for many years, right up to the mid 1960s it seems, the company refused to undertake any operations on a Sunday. In June 2012 Chambers was sold to the Go-Ahead Group with 27 buses. The depot was not included in the sale. Operations continue to use the Chambers name, but are now based at the fellow Go-Ahead company Hedingham Omnibuses in Sudbury. www.bures-online.co.uk/chambers

Guy Arab IV(6LW) Roe L59R KCF 711 is seen here in two shots as it leaves Sudbury for Colchester. It was new to Chambers in 1956.

On its way out of Colchester is Guy Arab III(5LW) Crossley L27/28R ECF 756, which was new to Chambers in 1952, and sold in 1971.

Negotiating the town centre of Sudbury is ex Red and White Guy Arab III(6LW) Duple L27/26RD HWO 339. This bus was new to Red & White in 1950, who sold it in 1967.

Bedford SB5 Yeates Pegasus DP44F UTL 78 is entering Sudbury Bus Station. No one could ever accuse Yeates bodywork of understatement. This vehicle, new to Delaine of Bourne in April 1962, was sold to Chambers March 1969. Chambers in turn sold it on to Rules of Boxford.

Osborne's of Tollesbury

This was an old established family firm that became a fan of AEC products in the 1960s when ex London Transport RTs and RFs came on to the secondhand market. Latterly, its fleet included two Bridgemasters and one Renown, all three being ex demonstrators. The Osborne business was taken over by Hedingham in 1997. http://molotron.com/osbornes

Osborne's ex demonstrator AEC Bridgemaster 80 WMH in Colchester Bus Station.
Osborne also had ex demonstrators Bridgemaster 2211 MK, and also Renown 8071 ML which originally operated on loan to London Transport as RX1.
The vehicle behind appears to be one of the firm's Bedford YRQ Willowbrook buses.

Theobald's of Long Melford

Theobald's operated in the the area bounded by Haverhill, Bury St Edmunds, Long Melford and Halstead. Part of its network was inherited from the liquidators of Corona Coaches of Acton which Harry Stanhope Theobald took over when that business (which then had John Hibbs as a director) failed in August 1959. Theobald's continued to operate until the early 1990s when the main service to Sudbury passed to its current operator, Beestons (Constable Coaches) of Hadleigh. Many pictures of Theobald's vehicles here:- www.flickriver.com/

Seen in Sudbury Bus Station, Theobald's AEC Regent III 9612A Park Royal L26/26R OFC 379 of 1950 was ex City of Oxford No.159. Chambers Arab III ECF 756 and Hedingham LS5G PHN 853 keep it company..

Just before the Theobald's Regent arrived, the left hand stand was taken by Eastern Counties Bristol RELL6G ECW B53F RAH 679F, ECOC No. RL 679 new July 1968. The second shot of this bus leaving on its way to Ipswich shows that inconsiderate parking is not a new phenomenon.

Norfolk's of Nayland

This highly respected operator was based in Mill Street, Nayland, from its formation in 1868, when stabling for six horses was provided right up to 1928. At one time, a room in the adjoining house was used as a passenger waiting facility when several services connected in the village. The Norfolk's business was sold off to the Hedingham Bus Company in 1991. www.sct61.org.uk/


A.H. Wells of Hatfield Peverel

Albert Henry Wells was a coach operator serving the Maldon, Chelmsford, Witham and Colchester area. This flikr link shows a fleet list as at January 1970, and clicking the images in the bottom right hand corner gives fleet details for a number of other small operators of the region. I do not know when the business ceased to operate, but Mr Wells died in January 1999. www.flickr.com/

Norfolk's AEC Regent III TWL 928/Park Royal H30/26R of 1953 was ex City of Oxford No.H928, who sold it in 1966. Kept by Norfolk's until 1972, it was then sold to Reading Garages and bought privately in 1974. It has since been restored to COMS livery. It is seen here in Colchester Bus Station. Alongside are Wells Coaches Ford Thames 570E/Duple Trooper C41F FGJ 301C, and Eastern National Bristol LD5G/ECW H33/27R 433FEV, ENOC 2454, new January 1956 and scrapped May 1975.

Vines of Great Bromley

This small operator served the villages east of Colchester. The fleet name did not incorporate an apostrophe. It fell into the hands of Hedingham in 1973.

Vines TPT 450 Leyland Tiger Cub PSUC1/1, Burlingham B44F of 1955 is in Colchester Bus Station. This bus was ex Wilkinson of Sedgefield, who sold it in 1966.

Hedingham & District Omnibuses

Aubrey Letch, began trading under his own name in 1921 with a coach hire company, and then expanded into bus services to Braintree and Sudbury on their market days of Wednesday and Thursday respectively. In March 1935 Letch purchased the business of P.W. Finch of Castle Hedingham, with its Monday to Saturday workers' service to Braintree. In the 1950s, he added routes to Gestingthorpe, Pebmarsh and Halstead. In 1961, Mr Letch retired due to ill health and sold the company to Donald MacGregor, who renamed it Hedingham & District Omnibuses. All vehicles were numbered consecutively with an 'L' prefix in acknowledgment to its founder, Mr Letch.
Expansion was very much an objective under MacGregor, and second hand vehicles were acquired in order to fulfil his ambitions. The original livery of Hedingham Omnibuses was blue and white, but red and cream appeared from the late 1960s. The takeovers began in 1965 with the acquisition of Blackwell's Coaches of Earls Colne, the purchase of which included a Halstead to Colchester route. Vine's Luxury Coaches' Colchester to Great Bromley route was then taken over when that firm ceased trading in 1973. 1982 saw C&R Coaches (Copeman) of Little Tey being bought together with its base, which is still Hedingham's Little Tey outstation. Jennings Coach Services of Ashen came in 1984. Norfolk & Sons of Nayland, bought out in 1991 added to Hedingham's development as the area's leading operator. The Norfolk of Nayland services continued operating under the two tone green colour scheme for several years after the takeover. Then Partridge of Hadleigh succumbed in 1994 while Wents of Boxford near Colchester and Freemans Coaches of Fordham were taken over in 1997. In that year another well known family concern, Osborne of Tollesbury, was added to the Hedingham fold. The former Osborne garage at Tollesbury remains in use as another of Hedingham's bases.
In March 2012 Hedingham & District Omnibuses was sold to the Go-Ahead Group, which then transferred its later acquisition, the Chambers operations, to Hedingham control. There are plenty of pictures on the internet of modern and relatively recent Hedingham vehicles, but few relevant to the period of interest to we discerning OBP aficionados.

AEC Regent V MD3RV Weymann L56RD MCY 419 new 1955 to South Wales Transport as No.1198.

PHN 853 Bristol LS5G ECW B45F ex United Automobile No.BU24 new 1953, bought, with four others of the same type, by Hedingham in 1968.

25/01/14 - 14:49

A brilliant set of photos from Roger Cox, and I could probably spend all next week commenting on them as I have been haunting the bus termini of Sudbury and Colchester for nigh on 50 years.
To get the nitpicking out of the way first, the bus behind Osborne's 80 WMH couldn't have been a Bedford YRQ as they hadn't been introduced in 1969. I am open to correction by my elders and betters, but I think it is a Strachan bodied vehicle, either XEV 186F (Bedford VAM5) or ex demonstrator WNO 431F (Ford R192, dual door).
One survivor from those photographed is Chambers' KCF 711 which was sold for preservation in the mid 1970s, then completely disappeared from view after a couple of years until recently when I found that it had been dry stored all that time and is still in reasonable condition albeit not roadworthy.

Nigel Turner

25/01/14 - 15:31

Thanks for the correction on the Osborne Bedford, Nigel. I trawled through all the possible references to establish its identity, without success, hence my rather evasive description.

Roger Cox

26/01/14 - 17:50

This is an area I visited only rarely until the 1990s so Roger's gallery is a very welcome addition to my knowledge and adds to my belief, coming from a conurbation where they were a rarity, that independents are a fascinating area of study.

Phil Blinkhorn

27/01/14 - 08:11

Although Roger captured the larger operators who ran into Sudbury, I think it is worth giving the full list of those serving the town at the time of his visit-

William George Amos t/a J. Amos & Son, Belchamp St. Paul (retired 31.12.2002 after 100 years of service).

Hubert Stanley Springett t/a Jennings Coaches (previously Barnabus Kingston Jennings) sold to Hedingham 1984.

Nicholls(Clare) limited, Haverhill controlled by (and later absorbed by) Burton, Haverhill. Now Stephensons of Essex Limited.

H. S. Theobald & Son, Long Melford Business to Beestons, Hadleigh circa 1991.

F. Goldsmith (Sicklesmere) Limited Licences revoked but company still in existence.

Rules Coaches Limited, Boxford (previously Newton Secker Rule) Ceased circa 2000, but Barrie Rule operates Barrie Rule Limited with one midibus and is also Transport Manager for Beestons, Hadleigh.

Mulleys Motorways Limited t/a Corona Coaches (previously Corona Coaches Ltd) Sudbury part of business passed to Beestons who are owned by the brother of the current owner of Mulleys.

Eastern Counties Omnibus Company Limited Renamed First Eastern Counties Buses Limited and are still in business.

L. F. & S. W. Norfolk t/a W. Norfolk & Sons, Nayland Bus operations to Hedingham 1991 but W. Norfolk & Sons Limited still in existence.

H. C. Chambers & Son Limited, Bures St. Mary Acquired by Go-Ahead 2012.

Blackwells Motor Services Limited t/a Hedingham & District (previously S. Blackwells & Sons, Earls Colne) Controlled by D. R. & M. M. MacGregor. Later renamed Hedingham & District Omnibuses Limited. Acquired by Go-Ahead 2012.

Eastern National Omnibus Company Limited Ceased at deregulation, business to new company, now First Essex Buses Limited.

D. R. & M. M. MacGregor t/a Hedingham & District Omnibuses, Sible Hedingham Business acquired by Hedingham & District Omnibuses Limited in 1978.

And if you are wondering whether anybody took the trouble to ride on the vehicles of every single one of those operators, the answer is Yes!

Nigel Turner

02/02/14 - 15:12

I too spent my formative years as a bus enthusiast in Sudbury enjoying travelling on Chambers' buses. KCF 711 was my all time favourite. Some years after I corresponded with the Eastern National Preservation Group who bought it for preservation in 1973 and it was their intention for it to become an exhibition bus. They say they changed the engine when the block cracked and I took some cramped photos of it in store at Canvey Island. Later I was told it was stored on a farm with their overflow vehicles. I'd assumed by now it was scrapped. Amazing news if it has survived. I've also just seen a slide on ebay of it in active preservation which must have been a short period. There are tell tale signs like the red wheel nut ring and it looks better than the late in service condition so some more red paint had probably been applied, although it had a lower deck repaint (and adverts) towards the end when Arlingtons of Sudbury also replaced its engine. Pretty certain it was a 5LW though.

Andrew Smith

29/03/15 - 07:42

I found this wonderful page because you had linked to a flickr photo of mine and someone had actually clicked the link
This is also a period I remember well, late 69 into the early 70s in Essex and Suffolk although I never had a camera at that time.
I was particularly pleased to see a photo of Albert Wells' Ford Trooper FGJ. I'm not sure why it would reside in the bus station - perhaps a spare vehicle for a coastal express service?
To answer the question, Albert sold out to Ford's of Althorne in 1984. I had lost interest in coaches in that period but I am aware that several of the coaches transferred to Althorne. I think Albert must have retired and I don't think he had anyone to follow him into the business. His fleet was always varied and interesting, all owned by himself, never a limited company although I think there was a period in the 60s when his wife Maisie was a co-owner. Prior to that it was a partnership with a Mr Sorrell. An unusual vehicle operated in the 60s was an Albion Aberdonian underfloor engined Plaxton coach. Those were the days when even a one-person business could afford a brand new lightweight Bedford or Ford.



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