Southend Corporation Transport
Early Buses 1914-16
This page has been adapted from Richard Delahoy's book, Southend Corporation Transport, Trams, Trackless and Buses. Copyright Richard Delahoy 1986.
This short history is split into five parts, Trams 1900-42, Early Buses 1914-16,
Trolleybuses 1925-54, Buses 1932-1953 and Co-Ordination 1954-55
T he first known appearance of motor buses in Southend occurred in April 1906 when the Southend on Sea and District Motor Omnibus Company Ltd operated 3 Dennis double deckers from Southend to Hadleigh, Rochford and Shoebury/Wakering. This venture was short lived but it did serve to arouse interest in this new form of transport. By 1912 the reliability of motor buses was beginning to improve and the Council decided to apply for the necessary powers to enable them to operate buses. The intention was to use buses as feeders to the tramway, in streets where it was impractical to lay tram tracks. In particular Pier Hill was too steep for tram operation, but the Council wanted to serve this part of the town, and the traders at the lower end of the High Street were also keen to see a public transport link with Westcliff. Plans for tramways through Westcliff, south of the existing London Road line, had been suggested a number of times but had met with fierce local opposition.
I nitially two routes were proposed; from the Kursaal via Pier Hill and through Westcliff to Chalkwell Avenue; and from Sutton Road/Southchurch Road via Sutton Road, Prittlewell and Westborough to the Leigh tram terminus, the latter acting as a sort of 'outer circle', feeding into the tramway at four points (Southchurch, the Blue Boar, Chalkwell Park and Leigh Church). The proposed bus routes were not entirely welcome either, particularly with the residents of Kings Road. Eventually it was decided to settle for a single route which could be operated on a 10 minute headway by six buses, and this duly commenced running at 1 pm on Thursday June 25th, 1914 between Kursaal, Pier Hill, Alexandra Street or Clifftown Road, Cambridge Road, Station Road, Hamlet Court Road, Wenham Drive and Westborough Road, to the junction with Eastwood Lane.
T he next day a service started over a small part of the 'outer circle' - Westborough Road to Prittlewell Station, operating in the peak hours only, at the suggestion of the Great Eastern Railway. This second route was not a success and on July 9th the Council resolved to discontinue it forthwith.
B efore ordering any buses the Corporation examined two demonstrators in February and March 1913 - a Tilling Stevens and a Daimler. In August tenders were invited for seven buses and these materialised as 3 Tilling Stevens with petrol electric transmission, 3 Straker Squires and an Edison battery bus (believed to have been the first of its type in PSV service). The single deck bodies were built by Brush - not surprisingly as Brush were the dominant supplier of Southend's trams - and seated 22. The livery was deep coach red and grey.
S outhend Council issued its first vehicle registrations in 1914, being allocated the mark HJ; when that mark had been exhausted in 1930, JN was issued. When the buses arrived, HJ 28-30 were allocated to the Tilling Stevens, HJ 31-33 to the Straker Squires and the Edison was HJ 34.
T he service did not prove to be the money spinner that the Council had anticipated, and from October 12th it was curtailed to run from the Royal Hotel (Pier Hill top) to the north end of Hamlet Court Road; two weeks later it was cut back further, to the junction of Hamlet Court Road and Leigh Road East (now London Road). Meanwhile on October 15th the chassis of the three Straker Squires were impressed for war service; the bodies were placed in store and tenders invited for the supply of replacement chassis, but due to war-time shortages none could be obtained.
O ther minor reroutings took place and in 1915, at Easter and during the summer, a service was provided from the Kursaal along the Western Esplanade to Chalkwell Avenue. This was normally operated by the Edison, which had an electrical booster box on the pavement at the Kursaal so that its batteries could be recharged between trips! Due to staff shortages as the war progressed, women were employed as bus conductors in April 1915. They must have proved acceptable, as women appeared as conductors on the trams as well that September, while in March 1917 the first woman tram driver took to the tracks.
M ounting losses and the unreliability of the buses forced the Council to abandon this initial experience with motor buses after operations on Saturday March 18th, 1916. The Tilling Stevens were sold back to the manufacturers, and the three bodies removed from the Straker Squires were eventually sold to the National Steam Car Co (Eastern National's predecessor) in 1917, being placed on a variety of AEC and Dennis chassis and on the last Clarkson steam bus to be built. The Edison ended up with the electrical engineers' department as a coal lorry.
I t is ironic to note that the route from the Royal Hotel to Westcliff was to be resurrected by the Westcliff-on-Sea Motor Char-a-banc Company (later Westcliff Sea Motor Services) on July 19th, 1920; initially it was numbered 1, then 5 and finally 6, the designation still used today for this route. It proved to be a very successful service and helped Westcliff to develop into the powerful operator that was to give SCT so much trouble in later years.

Continue with Part 3, Trolleybuses 1925-54

Click for full size photo Many thanks to Richard Delahoy for his kind permission to include textual extracts from his book in this site.

©1986-2007 Richard Delahoy and ©1961-2007 SCT61 Pages. All Rights Reserved.

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