On the buses: 100 years of services

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Cheeky bus drivers who ‘borrowed’ a vehicle and picked up passengers in Wellingborough on Sundays helped lay the foundations for a service which is celebrating its centenary this year.

The story of the creation of the town’s bus service in 1913 certainly sounds like the plot from an episode of TV comedy favourite On the Buses.

Caroline Cleaveley, who has written three books on the history of United Counties buses, told the Telegraph about the birth of the United Counties bus service in Wellingborough.

She said: “One hundred years ago London General Omnibus started a bus service in Bedford that ran from Monday to Saturday.

“[A couple of] bus drivers had the idea to start a bus service in Wellingborough, so they would pinch a bus on the Sunday and run a service through the town.”

Mrs Cleaveley said the manager at the company found out about the shenanigans, but after hearing about the success the cheeky bus drivers enjoyed on Sundays in the town, he decided to set up a new service in Wellingborough.

She said: “And that’s how the Wellingborough Company started back in 1913.”

To celebrate United Counties buses hitting the 100-year mark in the town there will be a number of celebratory events on Saturday, March 16, and Sunday, March 17.

On the Saturday morning a Leyland bus will leave Wellingborough Museum and travel through Finedon, Irthlingborough, Higham Ferrers, Rushden, and Irchester.

It will be followed by a bus parade through the town, with a bus from each decade travelling through Wellingborough from 2pm.

All the buses will be outside the museum on the Saturday, with people getting the chance to have a look inside some of the buses and talk with the owners, with museum bosses promising a great weekend.

Museum archeologist Ian Nunney said: “From the amount of inquires we’ve had at it looks like it is going to be a very good weekend, with a lot of people asking when the buses will be arriving and what buses we have coming, so it should be a good turnout.

“It should be good for anybody with any interest in vintage buses.

“It will be a really good weekend with buses arriving from every period of the past 100 years, with the oldest bus from 1913. There will be a display and exhibition inside the museum, with photos throughout the years.”

Mrs Cleaveley said that United Counties buses, particularly in Wellingborough, have a rich history which is very interesting, so she is urging people to come along to the event.

She said: “I have spoken to more than 200 former staff to produce my three books and have heard some really interesting stories, some of which I can’t repeat!

“People would join the company and stay their for a lifetime, it’s not just a job.”

Mrs Cleaveley, who was born in Northampton, is now a bus driver herself and worked for United Counties for a number of years before moving to Gloucester.

The 56-year-old said she was fascinated by buses as a child, and as a youngster she helped out bus conductors while travelling on her way to school.

From 10am on the Sunday, free bus rides on original routes will be in operation from the museum.

All the events are free and there will be a ‘bouncy bus’ for children on the Sunday.

For more information on the parade route and the buses on show contact the museum on 01933 276838.