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The two families of the Tidball's and the Thomases decided in 1920 that there was likely to be strength in union and jointly formed The Witheridge Transport Company, a limited liability company with an authorised capital of £8,000, of which £4,630 was issued. The Directors bring listed as Arthur and Lambert Thomas, Walter and Fred Tidball, Charlie and Bill Maire. The Maires were Millers and Shopkeepers in Witheridge, and they contributed capital, and their Foden Steam Wagon. This capital helped the new firm to buy a new Dennis "char-a-banc" (T9795), a Ford 14 seater bus and Burford bus (T 9795). The "char-a-banc" had an open body, with a canvas hood which could be pulled forward in bad weather, stretched on wooden hoops. These wooden hoops are today in 2002 hung on the wall in the old Tidball premises. These vehicles proved popular, even though Chapel beliefs prevented their use on Sundays.

In the twenties there were regular return runs to Tiverton, South Molton, Barnstaple and Exeter. Special excursions were made to fairs, carnivals, shows and as early as 1921 there was a special trip to the Bath and West Show at Bristol. At that time the drivers, Arthur, Bill, Lambert, Walter and Fred not only drove but at the end of each day cleared out and washed the buses. In the early twenties cans of petrol were used to top up the tanks, but soon a hand-operated pump and tank were installed. The pump remains today.

Some of the early vehicles were versatile in the sense that they could have their seats removed and be used as lorries or furniture vans. Every opportunity was taken to cram in goods, and a ladder fixed to the back, allowed goods including timber to be carried on the roof, covered with a tarpaulin. In 1926 a Witheridge Transport bus took the place of the horse-drawn van used to bring in school children from the Creacombe area. By the end of the twenties the fleet had been increased by another Dennis, and several small buses (Reos, Chevrelets). The adverts for these ran: "32, 20, 18, seater Pneumatic-tyred Motor Coaches for hire, also 18 seater Deluxe Coach for long journeys".

With the thirties came disagreement within the Company about the future. Fred Tidball was keen to expand, but Lambert Thomas preferred to keep to the level of operation as it had been. The result was that in 1932 control of Witheridge Transport passed to Greenslade Brothers of Exeter, which the following year became Greenslades Tours Ltd. Fred Tidball managed the Witheridge branch of the firm, which was still referred to as Witheridge Transport. Under Fred the coach hire business expanded and the transport of livestock began. Greenslades had not bought the North Street premises, so they acquired a field in Fore Street opposite The Firs and built a new garage there. This was closed and knocked down in 2000, and is now houses.

There was a considerable business in parcels. Arthur Buckingham remembered parking his bus in The Square in South Molton with the door open. When he came back, parcels would have been left with the money,- three pence or sixpence, on top. Nothing ever went missing. Newspapers also were delivered, and a skilled driver could throw a newspaper out of his window onto a doorstep without stopping or even slowing down. In 1936 daily return buses ran for pupils attending schools in Tiverton. In 1934 the older boys from Cruwys Morchard School were brought to Witheridge. In 1937 senior pupils from Meshaw were similarly transported. In 1935 Greenslades lent their big garage for the celebrations on the occasion of King George the Fifth's Silver Jubilee; here the children had their tea and got their Jubilee Cups and Saucers.

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In May 1939 a special bus service took a Witheridge Platoon of 20 Territorial's in to South Molton for regular training. In 1939/40 Canadian troops were ferried about, and in 1940 when invasion was feared drivers slept by their buses in case they were needed in an emergency. Evacuees doubled the populations of the two Witheridge Schools, and extra buses became necessary. In 1942/43 Fred Tidball and his wife suffered tragedy, when their twin sons, Len and Roy, were killed in separate incidents while serving with the R A F Volunteer Reserve with Bomber Command. They were in their early twenties.

With peace in 1945 the bus business boomed. Tiverton, Witheridge and South Molton were linked four times a day. Greenslade coach hire and touring business expanded, but before long local services became less attractive to the firm. In 1947 Devon General bought the Witheridge services, the goodwill, one bus and spares. Greenslades retained the garage and the private hire business. No one bothered to tell the drivers of the 4 Devon General buses of this arrangement so they continued to park them in Greenslades garage. They ended up being parked in The Square.

In 1949 the Witheridge to Chulmleigh School run began, and Greenslades sold their business to Douglas Venner, a local Thatcher from Drayford. Venners continued the Witheridge business and in 1966 bought Scarlet Coaches of Minehead. The business was sold in 1973 to Powell's of Lapford. Devon General in the early fifties had introduced double-decker buses to the Witheridge-Tiverton, and Witheridge- Exeter routes, but car ownership increased and the bus office in The Square closed in 1955. During the seventies services were drastically reduced and in November 1980 buses ceased to be parked in The Square, and the Witheridge Transport era came to an end.

Routes and Outings: Routes in the 1920's for the Witheridge Transport Co. included those to Tiverton and S. Molton direct, to Exeter via Sandford, to Exeter via Morchard Bishop, Tiverton via Rackenford and South Molton via Rackenford. One of the favourite outings was to the pantomime in Exeter, including shopping in the afternoon followed by tea and then the pantomime in the theatre. (Mrs Thomas's father remembered the fire that burned the old theatre down.)

No hiring was done on Sundays except perhaps a car for hospital visiting. Once Arthur Thomas made a mistake and took a booking for a Sunday Trip for the "Karrier" for a party of people from Stoodleigh. He was so worried that "he slunk all the way there by the back roads so as not to be seen." At times the Witheridge Transport Co. were so busy that they hired extra charabancs for the day from Terraneau's. Some of the buses made a noise all their own, in particular the Ford Tonneau 'sang' in its gears and could be recognised at a distance.

Employees of Witheridge Transport Company: In the 1920's Mr Albert Knight (father of Mr J. Knight) was engaged as mechanic and from time to time as a spare driver. In the early days, Mr Charlie Bryant was always in the garages as a schoolboy, and was taught to drive eventually.

The two fields at Prospect were in the 1920s owned by the Witheridge Transport Company, and had been used previously by the carriers for corn, roots and hay for their horses.

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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