The Burwell & District Motor Service started life in 1922 when Mr. George Mansfield, a cycle and motor agent in the village of Burwell, purchased a 20-seat Model T Ford bus from the Royal Show at Cambridge.
He used it to commence an initial service between Burwell and Cambridge with one return journey each Monday and two on Saturdays. On Tuesday the vehicle was used on two return trips to Newmarket; on Wednesdays to Bury St. Edmunds; on Thursdays to Ely, with Fridays being reserved for maintenance.
Each of these trips coincided with local market days and proved very popular, especially in such a sparsely populated area, so much so that it was not long before additional vehicles were needed.
A larger vehicle on Garner chassis was acquired, followed by an AEC and by the late 1920’s Burwell & District Motor Services was well established.
At the time of the 1930 Road Traffic Act, which sought to regulate bus competition, there were six scheduled journeys into Cambridge daily, with additional routes into Bury St. Edmunds and Ely.
Further services were introduced from Cambridge; a Saturdays only service to Eversden via Barton, Comberton, Toft and Kingston; to Great and Little Wilbraham via Cherry Hinton and Fulbourn on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; and an extension of the Burwell to Cambridge service as far as Fordham and Wicken.
Since private hire and excursions were becoming an increasingly important source of revenue it was decided to purchase only coaches, and a study of the fleet from 1933 onwards reveals that over the next five years only one bus-bodied vehicle was purchased.
With the advent of World War II it was soon realised that coaches had their limitations, not least in their limited seating capacities, and with the increased demand for public transport it was inevitable that the double-decker would make an appearance.
The first such vehicle was an ex-London Transport all-Leyland TD1, purchased in 1941 and the double-decker subsequently became a familiar sight on stage services.
Following the cessation of hostilities private hire and excursions once again played a large part in the Company’s fortunes and three coaches were added to the fleet in 1947, an AEC Regal with Duple C35F bodywork and two Daimler CVD6’s with Plaxton and Harrington bodywork.
The Daimler’s created such an impression that over the next few years Daimler vehicles became the standard choice.
Over the following years services were expanded, including the re-introduction of a Newmarket service, which had been abandoned earlier along with some of the original services to the Wilbrahams and Cherry Hinton, and Ely, underlining the change in transport patterns.
Scheduled summer express services to Yarmouth on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, and to Felixstowe on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays (introduced in the 1920’s) provided continued employment for the Burwell & District coaches.
Contract services with the local education authority for the transport of school children latterly required up to six double-deckers during term times.
In 1962 the Cambridge to Mildenhall railway line was closed and Burwell and District introduced a new service to cover the section from Isleham to Cambridge, with Eastern Counties covering the remainder. A market day service from Soham to Bury St. Edmunds was taken over in 1974.
By 1978 the Company operated the following stage carriage services;
No. 1 Burwell – Cambridge
No. 3 Cambridge – Eversden
No. 4 Soham – Cambridge
No. 7 Burwell – Bury St. Edmunds
No. 8 Burwell – Newmarket
No. 9 Burwell – Great Yarmouth
No. 10 Burwell – Felixstowe
No. 11 Isleham – Cambridge
No. 12 Soham – Bury St. Edmunds
Early in 1978 rumours began that the partners in the firm were looking to sell the business. Although it was initially hoped that an independent buyer could be found, negotiations with each independent faltered and in May 1979 Eastern Counties made an offer, which the partners reluctantly accepted.
On Saturday 9th June 1979, Burwell & District Motor Service operated its last scheduled journey and the following day Eastern Counties Bristol’s operated all the services, the entire Burwell & District fleet having been put up for disposal by its new owners.
The brown and cream livery had disappeared from the roads of Cambridgeshire overnight and with it over 50 years of independent operation of the Burwell & District Motor Service.
In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
Burwell & District Motor Service by Sidney Rabin (Buses Illustrated No. 107, February 1964); Farewell to Burwell & District by GW Watts (Buses No. 295, October 1979); Buses (various editions).