Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: "We grew up knowing every bus route from Birstall to Thornhill..."

Dewsbury is soon to get a new bus station when the present one is pulled down to make way for it.

Margaret Watson writes: I didn’t know we needed a new one, but someone in authority obviously thinks we do, so who are we to argue?

The present one was built to replace the old one just across the road in Asman Square which we all loved and which most of used every day of our lives.

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It was pulled down to make way for the Princess of Wales Precinct in the 1980s and with it went our beloved Bon Bon Coffee Bar.

In those days most people travelled by bus and we grew up knowing every bus route from Birstall to Thornhill and which stand where the buses stood.

But I still don’t know why Batley buses never came into the Dewsbury Bus Station but instead stopped at the top of the Market to drop off passengers travelling from Batley.

And, Dewsbury people wanting to go to Batley had to go to the Batley bus stand which stood outside The Gas Showrooms at the junction with Halifax Road and Bradford Road.

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The Bradford number “4” bus, which also went through Batley had the privilege of picking up and dropping off in Dewsbury Bus Station, but alas not the Batley “A” buses.

Two other bus routes which shared the same privilege were the “E” buses and the “25” Drighlington buses, both of which went through Batley.

The picture above is one of my favourites because it conjures up so many happy memories of the old days.

These buses were our friends because they took us wherever we wanted to go and I can never remember them not running on time.

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I remember the delight when I caught one and saw someone on board who was a friend with whom I could sit till the end of my journey.

I am not old enough to remember the trams which are shown on the picture above but I certainly do remember the red double and single decker buses, which not only had a driver but also a conductor.

It is 110 years – give a month or two –since the first petrol driven buses came into operation in Dewsbury.

This picture shows the progress of the old Yorkshire Woollen District Transport Company which was based in Savile Town, Dewsbury.

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In 1913 the company purchased four Daimler buses to link with their

Ravensthorpe tramway terminus at Bradley.

Four years later they bought two more, this time with the added luxury of an enclosed drivers’ cab!

Before they arrived, people had travelled by electric trams, horse-drawn buses and canal boats which were operating daily from Fall Lane Wharf in the 1840s.

By the 1870s a more localised ‘bus’ service was being provided by a Mr. Dutton who operated horse-buses between Dewsbury and Heckmondwike.

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These seated 20 passengers and were drawn by three horses – four on market days, probably to carry the heavy weight of heavy-laden shopping bags.

The advent of electricity brought with it new opportunities for faster and more convenient travel.

In 1901, the Yorkshire Electric Tram Company Ltd was formed in Dewsbury but the first section they covered was only two-and-a-half miles from Dewsbury to Thornhill.

Further sections were added and by April 1904, a total of 17 miles of track was being served by 58 cars.

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In 1903, the first electric tram to operate in Dewsbury was from Dewsbury Market Place, following the path previously traversed by horse-drawn transport.

Hundreds gathered in the Market Place to see the spectacle, and there was a tremendous rush by many of the townspeople for the privilege of running as far as Thornhill and back to accompany it.

Thousands of people invaded Thornhill during the afternoon and evening, but the journey was not a quick one.

Strict speed limits had been imposed by the Board of Trade, one of which was two miles an hour on the sharp curve from Brewery Lane into Lees Hall Road.

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The company had been registered in 1901 and with a change of name in 1935 to the familiar HWD Transport Company, continued to be the principal public transport operator in the district.

Double-deck buses were used for the first time in Dewsbury in 1928 when three 51-seaters were brought into the fleet.

Single-deck buses of the period rarely exceeded a seating capacity of 32 and this was significantly less than the old tramcars, which still required a crew of only two – a driver and conductor.

In 1929, the YWD’s administrative office was transferred from the original tram depot at Frost Hill, Liversedge, to new premises at Savile Town.

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In 1932 Dewsbury’s “new” bus station in Asman Square was opened and in the same year the company’s bus fleet was expanded with the delivery of 48 new vehicles, some of which were Leyland 48-seater double-deckers with the entrance located centrally.

These vehicles were ordered specifically to replace trams which finally ceased operation in 1934.

But nothing stays the same forever, and in 1973 the first major change came when the familiar maroon and gold paintwork of the buses changed to ‘poppy red’.

Not many years later, following deregulation in 1986, a new company took over from the YWD and its name became Yorkshire Buses.

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Later still there was another change – Arriva – and with the name change came the colour change to turquoise, nothing like as majestic looking as the old maroon and gold.

With the development of the motorway network in Yorkshire, the company soon had a bus fleet totalling 224, operating over nine million miles and carrying nearly 40 million passengers in a full year.

And little old Dewsbury was at the centre of all this providing jobs for hundreds of local people, and leaving thousands of old bus passengers with lots of happy memories.

Happy days!.

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