Plus parts of the South Hams and West Devon

©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 03, 2019
Webpage updated: February 03, 2019




Plymouth - Mutley - Compton Lane End - Crownhill - Roborough

In modern times people like to move out of crowded, noisy and dirty town centres into the relatively fresh air of the suburbs.  For Plymothians in the middle of the 19th century this meant moving to Mannamead, Hartley or Peverell.  Driving into the office meant in a horse and carriage, of course, so it is perhaps not surprising that in an era of free enterprise, someone should start up an omnibus service.

Baskerville's Horse Bus from Roborough to Plymouth passing through Crownhill Village.

Baskerville's Horse Buss from Roborough passing through Crownhill Village along the road from Tavistock.
From a postcard.

 Thus it was that on Monday June 25th 1860 a Mr W Jackson started running a vehicle from Compton Lane End to the Plymouth Railway Station at Millbay.  Initially the times from Mannamead were 9.15am, 12 Noon, 1pm, 2.45pm and 6.30pm.  The return journeys from the Station were at 10.25am, 12.30pm, 1.30pm, 4.50pm and 7.20pm.  The fare to the Royal Hotel, Plymouth, was 4d and to the Station, 6d.

The local press said that the residents of Mannamead would welcome such a facility and it looks like they did, for within two weeks the timetable had been revised to give a slightly more even service.  The first bus still left Compton Lane End at 9.15am and connected with the 10.10am train to Tavistock.  It now returned from the Station at 9.50am with any passengers off the train from Exeter.  There was then a journey at 10.30am, returning at 11am, neither of which connected with the South Devon Railway Company's trains from Exeter.

At 1pm the bus again left Mannamead taking passengers for the Up train at 1.30pm, which conveyed 1st, 2nd and 3rd class passengers, after which the vehicle returned to Compton.  It left again at 2.45pm with passengers for the Up Express train at 3.15pm and then awaited the arrival of the Down Express at 4.40pm before leaving 10-minutes later for Mannamead.

Finally, the 6.30pm departure took passengers for the Up Evening Mail train at 7.10pm and then waited until the arrival of the Down train from London at 7.30pm.

The fares remained as before but a new stage was added at North Hill and 3d was charged from there to the Royal Hotel.

Agents had by this time also been appointed and 'Orders (were) received at Mutley Park Lodge; the Townsend Inn; Mr Symon's, butcher, Chester Place; Messrs Heydon & Sons, Tavistock Street; Mr Franklin's Spirit Vaults, Old Town Street; Mr Hillson's White Hart Inn, Old Town Street'.  Furthermore, 'Punctual attention given to all commands'.

In October 1861 a Notice appeared in the Western Daily Mercury to the effect that the Mannamead Omnibus would now be leaving Compton Lane End at new times, viz: 9.30am, 11am, 2.30pm, and 4.15pm. The bus returned from the Albion Hotel and Railway Station (there was as yet no station at North Road) at 10.30am, 1pm, 3pm, and 4.50pm.

Enter Mr Robert Baskerville

Robert Baskerville was christened at Ashwater, Devon, on August 19th 1836, the son of David and Ann Baskerville.  Sometime around 1863 he appears to have taken over the horse-bus service between Plymouth and Mannamead or possibly he started a new service in competition with Mr Jackson.   It is understood that at that time his vehicle was the most up-to-date in the area and was built in London.  The fare was 6d to Plymouth Station and there were three journeys a day.  (Mr Jackson as we have seen was operating four journeys each way).  The precise terminus at Mannamead is at present uncertain but it may have been at the junction of the Tavistock Road and Compton Lane, which later generations knew as Hender's Corner.

Competition on the Mannamead service

According to Walter Stephens, Mr Wyatt of the King's Arms Hotel, Briton Side, put a bus on the Mannamead route but at what times and for how long it is not known.  It must have had some effect, though, because as from May 1st 1865 the fares were reduced.  Mannamead to Derry's Clock was to cost 3d, on to Plymouth Station, 4d.  For some reason passengers travelling by rail were charged 6d, presumably to cover portage of their luggage or perhaps to discourage them from using the service.

From the same date an extra round trip was to be added, leaving Mannamead at 6.30pm and returning from the Station at 7.30pm.

Then on March 31st 1866 came the news that there was to be another competitor on the Mannamead route.  Mr Henry Doney, a livery stable proprietor on Mutley Plain, announced that as from Monday April 2nd, the Mannamead New Omnibus would be leaving Mannamead every hour from 9am until 8pm for the Clock Tower.  The timetable of the first journey was to be:-

Mannamead depart 9.00am
Headland Park, North Hill depart 9.10am
Clock Tower (Derry's) depart 9.30am
General Post Office depart 9.35am
Headland Park, North Hill depart 9.45am

and would then be ready to leave Mannamead on the hour again.   As the advert stated: 'The 'Bus will be some minutes at each end before starting' and also 'Sharp time will be kept.'

The fares were to be: Mannamead to North Hill, 2d; North Hill to Clock Tower, 2d; Mannamead to the Clock Tower, 3d inside or 2d outside.

Messages and small parcels would be sent to 2d each, payment in advance.

Walter Stephens recalled in his reminiscences that at some later date Robert Baskerville added a second bus to the route and increased the service to 12 journeys a day.  He also commented that a company was formed which also put two buses on the road to Mannamead.  Later still the fare dropped to 2d where it remained until the Plymouth tramcars came on the scene and offered the ride for 1d.

By horse bus to Knackersnowle and Derriford

By 1875 the Mannamead service had been extended to Knackersnowle (Crownhill) and Derriford Gate.  The first bus left Compton Lane End at 9am for Derriford Gate, from where it returned at 9.35am.  It then left the Tramway Terminus in Union Street at 11.30pm and returned from Derriford Gate at 12.35pm.  The last bus started from the Globe Hotel in Bedford Street at 5.30pm and returned at 6.35pm from Derriford, running right through to the Tramway Terminus.

The fares on this service were:  to Knackersnowle, 6d inside, 5d outside, 9d return; to Derriford Gate, 9d inside, 7d outside, 1s return outside, 1s 3d return inside.

Plymouth General Omnibus and Carrying Company Limited 

This Company was formed by residents of Mannamead, namely Mr William Adams Clark of Thorn Park Villa (Chairman); Mr Edward Husson of Ringmore Villa; Mr George Lake of Rougemont; Mr William Law of Dursley Villa; Mr Joseph Wainwright of Thorn Park Villa (managing director). Mr Ward West Arliss is the secretary and Mr J P Pearse is the solicitor. Capital £4,000 in 400 £10 shares but only a fourth has been called up to start the undertaking.

The first installment of their new vehicles -- two -- arrived at Devonport LSWR Station on Thursday May 12th 1881 and were built by Mr A Dobson's Omnibus Works at Camden Town, London. They are 'lofty, roomy, well-lighted, ventilated and furnished -- the furnishing including a very neat clock fixed at the head of the bus'. Interior seats 12 while the outside has room for 14, four being provided for on the box. The cushioned seats are self-acting with springs and have to be pulled down onto the framework to provide a seat. Directly the passenger rises the seat falls back into its casing. Thus even the outside seats remain dry in wet weather.

These vehicles had two hand-ladders for access to the exterior, 'besides other means' but the report does not give details. There is also a foot brake (or 'break') operated by the driver.

The company has 22 horses and have purchased the plant, etc., of Mr Wyatt 'who for some years has been running 'buses between Plymouth and Mannamead'. They also negotiated with Mr Baskerville but were unable to agree terms. Stables and 'bus-sheds are at Compton but it was intended to provide similar accommodation in Plymouth.

The route will be from Plymouth Railway Station to the Tram Terminus (Bank of England Place), then Saint Andrew's Church, Tavistock Road, North Hill, Hyde Park Mannamead and Compton Lane. Fares are 'exceedingly moderate' but gives no details.

The directors propose to run services to South Devon Place and Laira and also through North Road.

On Friday 13th May the directors and their friends took the new vehicles from Devonport Station to the Duke of Cornwall Hotel and afterwards on to Mannamead. The full service started Saturday 14th May 1881.

In 1881-82 the service was reported as starting from Compton Lane End at 9am and the Tram Terminus by Derry's Clock at 9.30am, running every half-hour until 8.30pm.  There was no Sunday service.  It would appear that the 9.30am, 1.30pm and 5.30pm services were extended to Knackersnowle (Crownhill) and returned from there at 10.45am, 2.45pm and 6.45pm.  However, it is possible that the runs to Knackersnowle were operated by a second vehicle in addition to the ones travelling to Mannamead.

By 1883-84 the service had been increased to every twenty minutes from 8.45am until 9pm, with the same three journeys to Knackersnowle.

Mr Solomon Andrews enters the route

On Monday July 18th 1887, Mr Solomon Andrews of Cardiff started four horse buses on the Mannamead road, leaving each end 5 minutes before the established operators.  As a result the frequency was increased to every ten minutes starting at 8.20am from Plymouth and 8.50am from Compton.  The last buses were at 9.40pm from Compton and 10pm from Plymouth.  There was still no service on a Sunday.   The fare was 2d single, with a penny stage to and from Mutley Plain.

But Mr Andrews's incursion did not last long and on Tuesday May 8th 1888 the Western Morning News reported:

The negotiations in progress since last July for the purchase of Messrs Andrews’s ‘buses by the company owning tramways at Portsmouth, Cardiff, and in the Three Towns have just been concluded, the Tramway Company securing the whole of Messrs Andrews and Sons’ stock-in-trade and premises, for a sum stated to be not far short of £65,000.  The transfer of the Three Towns portion of the property was effected yesterday morning, from and after which the ‘buses will be the property of and worked by the Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse Tramway Company, of which Mr Moreton is the manager.  The Stonehouse stables, nine ‘buses and 26 horses have been taken over by Mr Moreton.  There were twice this number of horses, but on examination fifty percent were considered unfit for further work, and consequently were not taken over.   No alteration is at present contemplated by Mr Moreton in the present arrangements either in the working of the tramcars or ‘buses.  The service of ‘buses will still run between Plymouth and Mannamead, and cars and ‘buses between Plymouth and Devonport in sufficient numbers, and as frequently as public requirements demand.  An opinion has prevailed that it was the intention of the Tramway Company to raise the tram fares directly they secured the monopoly of traffic.  This is not their intention.  No alteration will for the present be made in the ‘bus fares, though it is possible that eventually they may be assimilated to those of the tramcars.’

Service extended to the George Hotel

From Monday May 14th 1888 Mr Baskerville extended his service to the George Hotel.  The horse buses still left the Theatre at 9.30am, 1.30pm and 5.30pm and returned from the George Hotel at 10.45am, 2.45pm and 6.45pm.

New joint operating arrangement

'From Monday next [September 24th 1888] Mr R Baskerville and the Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport Tramway Company will between them undertake the whole of the Mannamead omnibus service, which has up to the present time been supplied from three sources, namely, the two just named, and the Plymouth General Omnibus and Carrying Company, which have each run two 'buses daily -- six in all.  As the whole of the plant of the Omnibus Company is to be disposed of by auction next week, this company's two buses will retire from the road.  In order to supply their place, an arrangement has been entered into between Mr Baskerville and Mr G H Moreton, manager of the Tramway Company, that each shall from Monday next [24 September 1888] run three instead of two 'buses on the Mannamead route.  No effort will be spared to maintain a regular ten minutes service, which shall efficiently meet the wants of the public.  The new 'buses which Mr Baskerville and Mr Moreton will introduce, and are improved public conveyances with garden seats at the top which have proved so acceptable to travellers.  Should the traffic warrant the employment of an even larger service, the present caterers will be prepared to augment it.'

Accident in Old Town Street

One of Mr H Baskerville's omnibuses was involved in an accident with Mr Robert Burnard of the firm of Burnard, Lack and Alger, in Old Town Street on Tuesday 25 September 1888.  He was standing in the road with another gentleman and failed to notice the approaching 'bus.  The side of the step struck his leg and he fell heavily to the ground on his back, striking his head on the kerb-stone, while the hoof of one of the horses crushed his foot.  The driver was not to be blamed for the accident.

Plymouth General Omnibus and Carrying Company

The end of the Plymouth General Omnibus and Carrying Company was announced by a Notice in the Western Morning News:

'AUCTIONS: THIS DAY: Messrs Woolland and Son are instructed by the liquidator to SELL by AUCTION, at the Stables in Barrack-place, Stonehouse, Plymouth, on THURSDAY September 27th, 1888, the whole of the WORKING PLANT of the Plymouth General Omnibus and Carrying Company (Limited), comprising 21 powerful horses, from 16-2 to 16 hands, staunch, well-seasoned animals, all now in constant work; 3 two-horse omnibuses, 2 one-horse omnibuses, several sets of single and double harness, stable utensils, a two-horse Otto gas engine, by Crossley Bros., shafting pulleys, and belting; oat-crusher, by Bradford and Perkins; bean crusher, by Hunt; chaff-cutter, by Stephenson Bros.; Avery's weighing machine and iron weights, 10-light dry gas meter, quantity of timber and iron, and other effects.  On view the day previous and morning of sale, which commences at Eleven o'clock.  Catalogue one week prior.  W W ARLISS, Liquidator, Westwell-street, Plymouth.'

Sunday service commences

'NOTICE: SUNDAY OMNIBUS SERVICE TO MANNAMEAD:  The Public are respectfully informed that on and after Sunday next, 19th inst., and until further notice, omnibuses will run every half-hour between the Clock Tower and Compton-Lane, as under:- Plymouth depart 1030pm, Compton-lane depart 2pm.  Last ‘Bus leaves Plymouth 9 o’clock, Compton-lane 9.30.  G H Moreton, Manager, Dated Tramway Office May 14th 1889.'

According to the “Conveyances in Devon and Cornwall” series published in the Western Morning News the following omnibus routes were in operation in August 1889:-

THEATRE ROYAL to COMPTON-LAND-END, MANNAMEAD runs at about every ten minutes starting at 8.45am from the Theatre Royal.  Last bus leaves Compton at 9.30pm and Plymouth at 10pm.  On Sundays the service starts at 1.30pm from Plymouth and continues running up to 9pm.  Fare 2d.

THEATRE ROYAL to Knackersknowle, Derriford and the George Hotel, near Roborough  Run by Mr Baskerville.  From Theatre Royal at 9.30am, 1.30pm and 5.30pm.  Fare 8d to the George Hotel.

Mr Baskerville was still operating his service to Roborough when he died in June 1908.  It is not yet clear when the last horse bus ran in Plymouth but it is thought to have been around 1912.