In October of this year it will 45 years since the last Samuel Ledgard bus turned into the depot and ended an era.
The company was missed by many for quite a while afterwards, and by a significant few for the whole 45 years. There can be few other long defunct independent bus operators who have their own society, holding get-togethers and events to keep the memory alive as do the Samuel Ledgard Society.
My own first real recollection of Samuel Ledgard's buses, was back in 1957 when at the age of nearly six I accompanied my father and auntie to Leeds to see her off from Leeds Central Station on a train to London. We travelled from our homes at Stump Cross near Halifax by Yorkshire Woollen District's route 23 (Halifax to Leeds Direct) on an HD 85xx registered Roe-bodied PD2/3 - stalwarts of YWD's Halifax routes for years - alighting opposite the Station. After what seemed like ages to me standing around in the depressing gloom of Central Station, auntie's train finally departed - hauled by the first green locomotive I had ever seen, and the first with a nameplate. My father suggested that we should catch the train back to Halifax, but I protested, being on the one hand totally fascinated by steam trains when at a safe distance, whilst on the other utterly terrified by them close up.
So we wandered out into Wellington Street, and having taken in the many and varied passing buses, and observed the comings and goings from the Coach Station, I caught a glimpse of a double decker further along the street, distinctive in blue, with a cream band and green roof, and asked which company it belonged to. My father was not a bus enthusiast, but knew a thing or two about them nontheless, and he said it looked like one of Samuel Ledgard's. Until then all the bus companies I had encountered were named after places, so the notion of one being named after some bloke seemed like it needed further investigation.
I nagged him into walking round into King Street to have a closer look. It was a brand new AEC, to me resembling the ones recently delivered to Hebble and making the same impressive noises, and I did note the unusual registration number - 1950 U. Despite since being told that this batch normally worked the Leeds-Ilkley service, it was on this occasion working Leeds-Bradford, and so my father suggested that we should go home via Bradford, and I was on that bus like Jack Flash! I was only a young kid, but I still remember the experience - the sound effects and the smell of newness. I already adored the new roaring, whining Hebble Mk. V's, and sampling this Ledgard version must I'm sure have further reinforced what became a lifelong love of the type.
Later, on being presented with a copy of Ian Allan's 'British Bus Fleets No. 9 - Yorkshire Company Operators' I then learnt what a fascinating fleet Legard's was. Still quite young and green, I learned the company was called 'The Executors of Samuel Ledgard', and I suspect like many others was aghast at the the thought that poor old Samuel had been executed, and the evil perpetrators had taken over his bus company!
I joined the local bus enthusists' club in 1965, becoming its youngest member, and the first organised depot visit I went on took in various depots of Bradford City Transport, West Yorkshire Road Car and Ledgard's at Armley. The Depot was very dark and gloomy and photographs were not possible, but then we were ushered round some back streets and into the open yard which was actually upon the roof. Here there were many and varied buses nosed in herringbone fashion, some of which were reversed out for us, but unfortunately my father's previously trusty 1940's bakelite Purma Special camera was playing up, and the shots all came back double-exposed.
To my surprise I was asked by one of the staff there if I would like to try out the cab of one of the buses (No Health & Safety rules then - no high-vis vests or sticking to yellow hatched walkways). Of course I did, and actually tried out quite a few under someone's watchful eye. I remember being very disappointed in the Leylands - they seemed very uncomfortable, old fashioned and spartan with an enormous steering wheel. I liked the Daimler CVG6, but decided there and then that the AEC Regent was by far the most superior, especially the RT - sitting up higher on that big comfortable seat with everything to hand and good all-round visibility. I was now even more an AEC man.
Towards the end of its existance I did manage a few rides on their buses as a fully fledged enthusiast on my bus spotting rambles, usually from Bradford to Leeds, and always a great experience.
At the end, an enthusiasts' group organised a farewell tour of the depots using Ledgard's UUA 794 - a Leyland Tiger Cub with Burlingham Seagull coach body. Needless to say I was there, having been bought my own very first camera just for the occasion, having previously been only allowed to shoot the odd few shots on my father's. Here I present the photos I took then, plus a couple of others taken a bit later................
Seen in the dismal surroundings of Armley Depot, MCY 408 had only been acquired the previous year, along with three other similar buses. These had the AEC AV470 engine and very lightweight bodies, and were amongst the earliest Mk. V's built.
One of two buses acquired in 1962 from the highly respected Doncaster area independent Felix of Hatfield. Felix was best known for its immaculately maintained and well turned out AEC's, but there had been a number of Leylands in the past including a TD7, and two PD2's.
There were two of these Devon General Regents. Looking more like Daimlers to the uninitiated, they had the so called 'New Look' style 'tin front' - originally introduced by Crossley to the requirements of Birmingham City Transport, then adopted by Daimler and Guy on their chassis for the same operator, and then for most of their own output for everyone else. AEC then fitted them to Regent III's for Devon General, Rhondda, Bradford and Hull, before introducing their own more familiar design for the Mk. V (though a batch of Mk. III's for Sheffield had them also). Though having the rather plain Orion lightweight body, the chassis had the 9.6 litre engine and synchromesh gearbox, and I remember riding on this particular machine from Bradford to Leeds and being blown away (almost literally) by its powerful, boomy exhaust, and incredible performance. A marvellous bus!
Seen at Yeadon Depot. One of a pair of much rebuilt PD1's, Not only did Ribble have them rebodied with 8ft. wide bodies upon their 7ft. 6in. chassis (turning them from PD1A's to PD1/3's) they replaced the E181 engines with 0600's, and the constant-mesh gearboxes with (partial) synchromesh ones (effectively making them PD2/3's !) Right up until the end of the company, many locals referred to Ledgard's Yeadon-based operations as 'The Moorfield', after a company that had been taken over way back in 1934 ! Yeadon's allocation of vehicles always had the reputation of being by far the best turned out of all the Ledgard fleet, and this one was in particularly fine fettle, though it has to be conceded that it had only been acquired the year before, and was not actually a regular Yeadon bus. Legend has it that following the last day of operation, Yeadon Depot staff gave all their returning buses a full clean and washdown, even though they were aware that most of them would probably never run again. So I was told anyway. Whether this is true or not, I'm sure someone will let me know!
The other ex-Felix bus. Four-bay bodies were quite a rarity from the smaller bodybuilders at the time, being largely the preserve of Park Royal and Weymann. This was a lovely bus, with its 9.6 litre engine and preselector gearbox - a combination that Ledgard had really taken to during the early- to mid-1960's, - and with a very traditional, well finished interior.
Another fine Yeadon bus - again 9.6 litres and preselector - being one of four of London Transport's RLH class purchased. LT had a comparatively small requirement for lowbridge double deckers, and had considered a lowbridge version of the standard RT, but then saw sense and instead the BTC diverted to them twenty of these totally provincial-style buses that had been ordered by Midland General. All four Ledgard examples were from this original diverted batch. LT then went on to order further similar buses themselves,and one of these others has since been preserved and repainted in Ledgard livery, and can be seen elsewhere on this site. As a diehard provincial myself, and not greatly fond of The Capital, these were needless to say my favourite LT class, and they looked really well in Ledgard livery too.
Otley Depot, and what a fine line-up ! What would I (and most of you, I suspect) give now to wander along it, mouths wide open in awe ? It is not possible to make out the identity of the farthest ones, but no doubt A Certain Person will still be able to recognize them for us anyway ! PD1's, PD2's, Regent III's (Provincial and LT) and a distant highly distinctive Picktree-bodied Arab LUF coach.
The frontage of Otley Depot, and does this view not sum up Ledgard in a nutshell ? Austin van, Land Rover, venerable old Leyland double decker in the current bus livery, still smart classic Seagull in coach livery, old tin-shed depot with traditional signboard, modern (well, modern for 1967) office building with modern signage, notice boards, stone buildings, ......and rain. Perhaps all that is missing to totally complete this Ledgard scene is Chris Youhill, though I suspect he probably was around there somewhere.
Ilkley Depot, with tour coach UUA 794 in the background, and still a bit grim. Ledgard had bought six PD1's from the Bristol Omnibus Co in 1960/61. Three had Bristol's own-built B.B.W. bodies of rather unprepossing and very tall appearance. The other three had E.C.W. bodies like this one, being an adaptation of the body used on the Bristol K-type. They made all the right PD1 noises though.
The 31st March, 1968, six months after the end of Ledgard, and Don Bate's now preserved PS2 coach is seen on the car and coach park at Gynn Square, Blackpool, on the occasion of the Blackpool Coach Rally. Beside it is a former Ledgard Seagull coach, now with Victoria Coaches. Neither were of course entered in the rally, having brought enthusiasts over for the day, but in retrospect both were far finer than most of the new, shiny, chrome-laden entrants. The enthusiasts' group that I was with had gone along in a Huddersfield Corporation Guy-bodied Guy Arab UF service bus - a nice looking bus, and newly overhauled and repainted, but not a bus to travel so far in. What would we all have given to have returned on either of these two after a long, and freezing cold day out?
The 3rd June, 1968. All the Ledgard buses that survived to the end (with the exception of KUP 949) passed to West Yorkshire, and although the Mk. V's and two CVG6's were retained for a while for service (and even repainted), most were withdrawn and stored at various WYRCC locations for quite a long time before being sold off. Here we see BCK 441, an unidentified Leyland and an RT with fleetnames painted out, presenting a sad spectacle dumped awaiting their fate at Hammerton Street Depot in Bradford, as a Lodekka shows them its backside from inside the doorway.
I do hope you enjoyed viewing my Samuel Ledgard gallery.
Much of the information for this article was provided by the excellent book "Samuel Ledgard - Beer and Blue Buses" by Don Bate (Regent Transport Publications), 2005.
Oh yes, and Chris Youhill - Keep on telling us about life at Ledgard's (and elsewhere) - I'ts Really Entertaining!
30/06/12 - 11:30
My word, John, what a superb piece of nostalgia. I'm envious of you having colour film at this time, and well done for capturing such a fine cross-section of Sammy's fleet at that time. Although I have similar memories and experiences as yourself, I will stand back to let Chris Y wax lyrical about his beloved firm. However, one abiding memory of the Armley roof top location was the intense smell of what I always thought was Marmite from a nearby factory. Ring any nasal bells? Your mention of the "direct" YWD service from Halifax reminds me of the good old days when inter-urban passengers had a fast service at their disposal, instead of today's experience of having to (literally) go round the houses at every road end. Finally, and perhaps reflecting my own bias, why no mention of the trams outside Central station? Surely a Halifax lad must have been slightly curious?
01/07/12 - 08:35
A fascination collection of photos. - Chris Youhill will salivate madly when he sees them. As red LTE RLH's ran around my way (although RLH2 was a green one, I was always fond of them, very much out of the LTE mould. I always liked the Leyland PD1A/ECW ex- Bristol vehicles, too, looking so different with Leyland radiators. It was intriguing to see the little Austin A30/35 and you could see quite a few of these with bus operators of the time.
01/07/12 - 08:36
Ah yes Paul, I'd forgotten the strange aroma that pervaded Armley Depot - I do remember it now you mention it.
I did myself wonder when writing the introduction to the photos why Leeds trams were not part of these memories, but I have a feeling that they might have stopped running along Wellington Street by 1957. Maybe someone with more knowledge of the system could confirm this or otherwise.
01/07/12 - 08:39
John, superb gallery and text. As a young south(yorkshire)erner, Ledgard wasn't on my radar apart from entries in BBF. Two things which I do agree with you about, though - the excellence of AEC and Chris Youhill.
01/07/12 - 08:44
A real toast is due to John for this superb presentation - the photographs are a great selection, and the captions comprehensive and well composed. The vehicles in the line beyond BCK 422 are :-
ARN 393 Leyland PD1 ex Preston.
??? ??? unidentifiable Leyland PD
PNW 91 Leyland PD/12 bought new in 1952
DCN 8** 831 had been regular at Otley built was possibly withdrawn and it may be one of the other seven of the batch.
The PD1/ECW just showing at the end is most likely to have been LAE 12, but just could have been KHY 395
Just one tiny correction if I may make it John, and that is that even KUP 949 was taken over by WYRCC and was bought by Don from them. I have sent Peter a couple of views of the bus being collected by Don and I from the Harrogate depot of West Yorkshire on a miserable Winter day which matched our sentiments at the passing of the our old Firm. Another similar sale concerned AEC Reliance/Burlingham UUA 791 which was bought by Tony Edwards, Tony Jewson and Eric Waller and with them immediately founded Independent Coachways of Horsforth - this coach was also collected from Harrogate Depot and I drove it on its first ever private hire outing shortly afterwards on an evening trip to Hebden near Grassington.
Paul's "custom detection" of the 24/7 odour surrounding Armley depot was uncannily accurate and whilst it wasn't actually quite Marmite - yet - it soon would be as the factory concerned manufactured yeast !!
01/07/12 - 09:46
Yes, John - you will be correct in not seeing any trams in 1957. The last service trams passed Central Station in July 1956 (Tong Road routes), but the link to Kirkstall Road works remained until November 1957, so it was highly unlikely you would have seen a tram at that time. Sorry - not only for my error, but for you not seeing them! Glad you have got a response from Chris Y. He deserves his own website.
01/07/12 - 15:11
Excellent site and great article on Samuel Ledgard - 45 years on by John Stringer. The Samuel Ledgard Society (mentioned, thank you!) will be celebrating 100 years since the arrival of Sam Ledgard's first charabanc in a special event on Saturday 13th October 2012 at Pudsey Civic Hall. More information can be obtained at The Samuel Ledgard Society Website
02/07/12 - 07:35
Thanks to everyone for your kind comments about the gallery. I only wish I'd been able to take more photos on that day.
28/08/12 - 08:28
I don't think it is correct to say that when Ribble re-bodied and re-engined 22 of its batch of 38 1947 Brush-bodied Leyland PD1As they also changed the gearbox. I have never heard this before, and I happened to drive ex-Ribble 2509 (BCK 452) on several occasions when it was in service with Laycock's of Barnoldswick - it definitely retained a constant-mesh gearbox.
The Marmite smell mentioned by a number of contributors pervading the area around the Armley depot was a by product of Phillips Yeast Poducts who used Ledgards old brewing premises to brew their yeasty products. This combined with the smell form Blakeys foundry made Armley an aromatic place in the fifties and sixties! The last trams in service on Wellington Street in Leeds ran in 1956.
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Old Bus Photos from 11:53 Saturday 25th April 2009 to 04:00 Sunday 19th May 2013