The Stockbridge firm who
part of the Hants & Sussex group for a while
on the fast flowing River Test is the small Hampshire town of
Stockbridge. With but six hundred inhabitants today it lies
between the two great southern cathedral cities of Winchester and
Salisbury at a cross roads of east-west and north-south roads.. The
original carrier in the area was Charles Emmence of Kings Somborne (a
more substantial village by population than Stockbridge) who
went to Salisbury on Tuesday and to Winchester on Monday, Wednesday and
Alfred Motor Services
of Winchester first came to Stockbridge in 1926 along the B3049 main
road route which omitted the villges served by Emmence.
G E (Gordon Edward) Martin Cooper started to run as Empress Coaches between Stockbridge and Winchester via Kings Somborne in 1928 on Sunday only when Emmence did not operate. This increased to three days a week in 1930 and by the summer of 1932 - following the introduction of road service licensing the year before - both Martin Cooper and King Alfred were running a daily service on the Stockbridge - Kings Somborne - Winchester road. This had followed a complicated tussle whereby both Hants & Dorset and Wilts & Dorset had sought to take over the Emmence business and introduce a through route from Winchester to Salisbury via Stockbridge. Permission for this was refused by the traffic commissioner and Emmence ceased to operate his services after June 1932. After that Empress Coaches and King Alfred co-existed uneasily on the Winchester route for thirty years or so.
Martin Cooper then applied for a route from Kings Somborne to Southampton via Braishfield, Baddesley and Rownhams and this started in 1933 but was originally restricted to 14-seater vehicles. In 1935 the short route from Braishfield to Romsey was taken over from Parsons of Braishfield. His vehicles were kept in a depot at Longstock just a mile or so north of Stockbridge along the River Test. Wartime brought its own difficulties as for many other operators. Decreasing passenger numbers and elderly vehicles led to some timetable reductions. In 1947 the Southampton route was extended from Kings Somborne to Broughton but still omitting Stockbridge. Otherwise things went along much as always until 1951 when the business became a limited company and then in 1952 Basil Williams and his Hants & Sussex group of companies took control. The fleet at take over was five elderly Leyland Cubs and was soon improved by addition of a Bedford OB owned by Williams. The last of the Cubs went in 1953.
Williams was to discover that buying Empress Coaches was a serious loss making mistake and perhaps this contributed in part towards the collapse of Hants and Sussex in 1954. Storm clouds were beginning to gather for Hants & Sussex and mounting financial problems meant that their bank forced the sale of some of their subsidiary comapnies. Thus it was that in June 1954 the Empress Coaches business was sold to Hollands Tours of Oldbury near Birmingham. At the same time the Braishfield - Romsey licence expired and that route was taken over by Hants & Dorset. Amongst the Empress vehicles passing to Hollands was a 1947 Leyland PD1/Northern Counties 55-seater double-decker FOR837 which they repainted in their pale blue and cream livery. (Hollands also bought the Liss & District business in the east of the county from Hants & Sussex in December 1954 but sold it again in October 1955 to Creamline of Bordon. Why a Birmingham operator should wish to acquire two businesses in Hampshire is a bit of a mystery - or perhaps the weekend forces leave services of Empress and Liss & District were the attraction).
Shortly after in April 1955 Budden of West Tytherley took over Empress Coaches Ltd of Stockbridge from Hollands Tours and the business was renamed as A E Budden and Sons Ltd., incorporating the original Tytherley business. Budden based four vehicles at West Tytherley and four at Stockbridge. This gave Budden an even bigger operating area for excursions and private hire activities and also brought them into running weekend forces leave services for the first time from several of the army camps in and around the Winchester area. There was a need for extra vehicles and their fleet grew slowly to some twenty vehicles. In the interim Budden was assisted by vehicles from Excelsior of Bournemouth.
Taking over Empress Coaches gave Budden two additional daily bus routes, the service from Broughton to Southampton via Kings Somborne and Braishfield; and the service from Stockbridge through Kings Somborne to Winchester. The Winchester route was also covered by King Alfred route 8 three times a day (and there was still their more direct route 9 as well). To operate the ex-Empress route to Winchester Budden in turn inherited the 1947 Leyland double-decker FOR837 which they kept until April 1959. Repainted into green and cream it was the only double-decker bus ever owned by Budden. The Southampton route lasted only until October 1956 and the Winchester route until January 1961, with King Alfred expanding their operation on the Stockbridge road to compensate for Budden's withdrawal.
|June 1954 timetables from Warrens ABC Rail
and Bus timetable book (for both Empress and King Alfred services)
The road to Stockbridge via Kings Somborne from Winchester having both operators providing journeys (tables 38 and 62)
The other King Alfred 'main road' route to Stockbridge is shown in table 41