The roots of Hants & Dorset Motor Services can be traced back to the 17th March 1916, when Bournemouth & District Motor Services Limited was registered.
However, because of the 1914-1918 war, suitable chassis for the fledgling Company were difficult to obtain as most were earmarked for military service. Eventually, four Straker-Squire chassis were acquired and fitted with charabanc bodies by Bayley’s of London.
They were finished in the aluminium livery of the Silver Fleet (an unofficial trading name). Each bore an individual name on the rear panel, the first four being ‘The Silver King’, ‘The Silver Queen’, ‘The Silver Prince’ and ‘The Silver Princess’.
To give the impression that the fleet was larger than it was, only even numbers were used, a practice that lasted until 1939.
In 1917, two of the charabancs were requisitioned by the War Department, leaving the Company with just two vehicles, which were themselves requisitioned later, leaving Bournemouth & District Motor Services Ltd without any motorbuses at all.
In desperation, two two-horse charabancs were pressed into service, and, for a while, became the only vehicles in the employ of the Company.
By 1918, the Company still did not have a stage carriage route on which to operate, but in that year two small concerns, who had been struggling to maintain services during the war years, seemed ready to sell out.
The Canford Cliffs Motor Omnibus Company and Eugene Poulain, were both operating between County Gates and Sandbanks, inside the Poole boundary.
In July 1918, the licences of Eugene Poulain were acquired, followed on 20th August 1918, by the licences of the Canford Cliffs Motor Omnibus Company, and Bournemouth & District Motor Services had its first stage carriage service.
On 1st January 1919, in anticipation of future success, the company moved to larger premises at the ‘Royal Mews’ in Norwich Street, Bournemouth, where ticket and enquiry offices were built.
Later in 1919, the British Automobile Traction Company (who had been a major shareholder since the company was registered) placed orders for the Leyland N and G5 type models, allocating them to subsidiaries that could place them in service immediately.
By the end of the year Bournemouth and District had five in service and had obtained a licence to operate a new service from The Square, Bournemouth, to Ringwood Station via Ferndown, as well as a service between Poole and Sandbanks (at the invitation of Poole Council).
In April 1920, the business of Trade Cars of Southampton was acquired, along with premises, three vehicles and private hire licences.
In order not to cause offence to the citizens of Southampton, buses operating from the newly acquired depot bore the fleet name Hants & Dorset, and on 27th July 1920 the company’s name was officially changed to Hants & Dorset Motor Services Ltd.
Licences to operate from Southampton to Lymington and Winchester were obtained, and assisted by the purchase of the licence of Bunce of Chandlersford; the Winchester service eventually operating nine journeys daily.
In August 1920 a service to Romsey commenced, followed shortly afterwards by another new service to Bishops Waltham, via Swaythling and Botley, being further extended to Petersfield in 1922, which became the limit of Hants & Dorset operations in this direction.
In November of that year, Portsmouth Corporation granted the necessary licences to enable the company to participate in a joint Southampton to Portsmouth service with Southdown Motor Services, travelling via Fareham.
The following year a further joint service between Portsmouth and Winchester was introduced, however, by 1924, both companies had terminated their journeys at Fareham and direct through working between Southampton and Portsmouth ceased, although through fares were available and passengers were able to continue their journey by transferring vehicles.
By the end of 1923 Hants & Dorset were operating routes from Southampton to Winchester via Chandlers Ford; Lymington via Lyndhurst; Romsey via Nursling; Winchester via Fair Oak; Romsey via Chilworth; Bishop’s Waltham via Swaythling, Fareham via Botley; Petersfield via Bishop’s Waltham; Portsmouth via Fareham and Cosham; Fareham via Titchfield, and Brook via Totton.
In 1924 an agreement was reached with Elliott Brothers, of Bournemouth (trading as ‘Royal Blue’), who had proposed the implementation of stage carriage services between Bournemouth and Lymington, Ringwood and Wimborne, whereby Elliott Brothers agreed not to operate the services in return for an agreement from Hants & Dorset that they would not operate any tours, excursions or long-distance services from Bournemouth.
As a result, a number of vehicles purchased by Elliott Brothers for the proposed services were transferred to Hants & Dorset.
When the tramway tracks in Poole became due for renewal towards the end of the 1920’s, the local council decided to replace them with motorbuses.
Although Bournemouth Corporation had been providing the tramway services, the council entered into an agreement with Hants & Dorset to provide the replacement services.
The Company had already been granted permission to operate within the Borough in 1928, when services from Alder Road to Wallisdown, via Branksome; from Newtown to Upton, via Poole; and from the George Hotel, Poole to County Gates, had commenced, with some journeys via Lower Parkstone, which brought Hants & Dorset buses into competition with Bournemouth Corporation tramcars.
The Lower Parkstone tracks were subsequently closed and Hants & Dorset began operating the service with recently acquired Leyland Titan TD1’s, enabling travel between Bournemouth and Poole on H&D buses for the first time.
The granting of running powers to the Southern Railway in 1928, enabled the railway company to run its own buses, but, like the other main-line companies, it decided to purchase shares in existing companies rather than engage in wasteful competition.
This resulted in the Southern Railway acquiring 33% of the shares in Hants & Dorset in 1929, although the travelling public were to notice little difference and there was little integration between buses and trains.
On Sunday 8th March 1931, Hants & Dorset opened a new bus station in Bournemouth, jointly with Elliott Brothers. It was a two-tier building with entrance onto Exeter Road, with Royal Blue coaches using the lower tier and Hants & Dorset buses, the upper tier.
On 23rd January 1933, a second new bus station, on a site at West Marland Terrace in Southampton, was opened.
It was around this time that Bournemouth began to review the future of the tramway system and Hants & Dorset offered to replace the whole system with company buses, but the Corporation chose to introduce trolleybuses and the Hants & Dorset offer was refused.
Poole Borough, however, owned the tramway track within their boundary and had leased it to Bournemouth Corporation. In 1935, when the lease became due for renewal, Hants & Dorset once again offered to provide replacement services within the borough.
This time an agreement was reached with the local council and H&D buses began operating stage carriage services within the Borough of Poole.
At the same time an additional agreement was entered into with Bournemouth Corporation regarding the through running of services between the two towns.
By this time Hants & Dorset had extended their operating area by acquiring many smaller businesses, including Lymington & District in 1929, along with the depot at Londesborough Yard, which provided the springboard for services to Christchurch and New Milton, acquired from Mr. Cyril Dawson, and from Wootton to New Milton and Barton-on-Sea acquired with the business of New Milton & District Motor Services.
By 1933 further routes serving Pennington, Sway and New Milton, formerly operated by Oakleigh Motor Services had been added, and the acquisition of Billie’s Bus Service provided routes through Boldre, Pilley, Portmore, Wainsford, Wootton and New Milton, all of which operated out of the Londesborough Yard depot.
The Station Garage at Swanage was purchased in 1927 along with the business and local routes of Russell Parsons.
The garage became an outstation for H&D vehicles and, although the other vehicles acquired were sold without operating for the company, a Shelvoke and Drewry freighter was retained for a further season.
The Bere Regis Motor Service of George Vacher was taken over in August 1930 along with services from Poole to Dorchester via Bere Regis, Poole to Bere Regis via Kingston, and Poole to Bere Regis via Bloxworth.
Hants & Dorset took over the garage in North Street, which became the Bere Regis depot until the advent of World War II.
The former Bere Regis terminus at Dorchester was extended by agreement with Southern National to Weymouth and this permitted a through service to be run by vehicles of both companies from Bournemouth, which was later extended from the terminus in Weymouth to Southwell on the Isle of Portland, the most southerly point ever served by H&D.
The arrangement lasted briefly and, from 1933, the Southwell section was operated exclusively by Southern National.
Hants & Dorset had reached Portsmouth in 1924, when the vehicles and services of H. W. Smith (trading as the Yellow Motor Service) and H. Tutt and Sons (trading as Enterprise) were acquired.
H&D buses now served Wickham, Swanmore, Bishops Waltham, Gosport Hard, Fareham, Titchfield, Locksheath, Warsash, Hardway, Elson and Lee-on-Solent.
Tutt’s depot in Brockhurst Road was initially used, but later a larger garage fronting Beach Street was purchased. Tutt’s main rival had been the Warsash & Fareham District Bus Service and H&D inherited the contest.
Eventually, however, the larger company won and in May 1930 they purchased their erstwhile rival along with more local routes.
The Woolston to Warsash via Burlesdon service of the Woolston, Burlesdon & District Motor Service, along with the garage at Old Netley (which became H&D’s Burlesdon depot) was acquired in 1926.
In 1935, the Elliot Brothers’ Royal Blue business was purchased by the Tilling organisation, releasing Hants & Dorset from the 1924 agreement mentioned above.
The fleet was divided between Southern and Western National and Hants & Dorset, with H&D inheriting the Pavilion Garage in Bournemouth, which became home for the newly acquired coaches, and a garage in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.
The tours and excursions side of the business was further expanded when Tourist Motor Coaches of Southampton was purchased in May 1935.
When War was declared in September 1939, all tours and excursions were suspended, and bus services were curtailed. In September 1942 the Tilling & BAT Group was formally wound up and the constituent companies divided amongst the two former partners.
Hants & Dorset became a Tilling company, and future deliveries of new vehicles became the standard Tilling vehicle on Bristol chassis with ECW bodywork.
Only 20 utility vehicles were delivered during the War, but despite this H&D had managed to maintain the fleet in good shape and it emerged into peacetime relatively unscathed.
The tours and excursions programme was restored on a small scale in 1946 and the postwar recovery led to an increase in demand for leisure activities, before the arrival of the private motorcar and the television changed peoples habits.
The antiquated Bell Punch system was replaced by the Insert Setright system, which itself was replaced by the Setright Speed system later.
When the Southern Railway was nationalised in 1948, their one-third holding in Hants & Dorset passed to the state and by the end of the following year, Tilling had decided to sell the remaining shareholding.
Thus Hants & Dorset became a nationalised bus company of the British Transport Commission.
By the start of the 1950’s the inflationary spiral had commenced, with the price of fuel rising and subsequent fares increases to cover the costs.
Some of the smaller operators were unable to counter the effects and in 1952 the Woolston to Hedge End route of Easson’s was acquired, in 1955 routes to Farley, Southampton and Winchester came from Hursley Motor Services, and in 1959, Bere Regis & District Motor Services relinquished four routes serving the Poole, Bere Regis and Dorchester area. In 1957 the two-tier bus station at Bournemouth was given a facelift.
The 1962 Transport Act formed the Transport Holding Company, and Hants & Dorset became part of the new organisation.
At the same time their general manager was also appointed general manager of Wilts & Dorset, and this was to set in motion a long suspected merger between the two companies.
In 1966 Tilling acquired Shamrock & Rambler Coaches Ltd (together with Charlie’s Cars [Bournemouth] Ltd, a subsidiary), and the firm was placed under the control of Hants & Dorset.
The Provincial Traction Co. Ltd (the parent company of Gosport & Fareham Omnibus Company) was purchased by the National Bus Company (formerly the Transport Holding Company) in 1970, and the private hire and contract work was transferred to Hants & Dorset.
Since the borough of Gosport had the right to provide bus services of its own, the Gosport & Fareham services were protected by statute and the fleet retained its identity and continued to operate the services in its own area.
The Transport Act, which created the National Bus Company also created staffing problems for a number of companies, of which Hants & Dorset was one.
A reduction in the permitted hours for drivers meant that duties normally covered by road staff on overtime and rest day workings were now uncovered.
This created an immediate staff shortage for Hants & Dorset and was not welcomed by the road staff, who found their weekly earnings dropping.
As a result many services had to be cancelled, which ultimately led to their withdrawal altogether and a general decline in the numbers of passengers carried. This in turn led to a reduction in the number of vehicles needed and a reduction in facilities needed to maintain them.
The costs of employing extra staff in the face of service reductions and falling passenger numbers contributed to H&D’s first ever deficit in 1970.
The Wilts & Dorset fleet, which had been carrying Hants & Dorset legal ownership details since 1st January 1969, was fully merged with the H&D fleet on 1st October 1972 and the Wilts & Dorset fleetname disappeared.
The combined fleets used the NBC’s poppy red livery. On 29th April 1973 H&D acquired the services and vehicles of King Alfred Motor Services of Winchester.
In 1974 the Swanage depot of Western National was transferred to Hants & Dorset, along with local services. A new bus station was opened here on 7th October 1976 on the site of the former Swanage railway station.
In 1978 a newly revised network of bus services in the Poole area involved changes in routes, numbers and times, apparently re-designed from information provided by local authority planners and local customers, and was a precursor of the MAP exercises undertaken in the 1970’s by the NBC.
The Market Analysis Project was an attempt to organise the network of services so that each area was self-sufficient, providing a reliable service to as many passengers as possible using as few vehicles as necessary.
Hants & Dorset Motor Services established separate operating areas with locally branded identities, such as Venturebus (in the Basingstoke area), Antonbus (based on Andover) and Wiltsway (based on Salisbury).
Despite this, however, and against expectations, the MAP exercise failed to resolve the problems. On the 1st April 1983 another attempt was made, this time the company was divided into four separate operating units by amalgamating the interests of the local areas established in the MAP exercise.
The Wilts & Dorset Bus Company Ltd., took over the Wiltsway and South Wessex operations (with depots at Blandford, Poole, Swanage, Lymington, Ringwood, Pewsey and Salisbury).
The Hampshire Bus Company Ltd., took over the services of Antonbus, Venturebus, Wintonline and most of South Hants (with depots at Andover, Basingstoke, Eastleigh, Southampton and Winchester), and finally the Provincial Bus Company Ltd., which took over the rest of the South Hants services along with those of the Provincial area (with depots at Hoeford and Fareham (although this was closed on the 26th March 1983, before Provincial took over).
The fourth operating unit was Shamrock & Rambler Coaches Ltd with its offices and depot in Bournemouth.
With the establishment of the new companies (all of which were later sold into private ownership), the Hants & Dorset fleetname became dormant and the company effectively ceased to exist, although it was not finally dissolved until the 24th November 1990.
This history covers the period from the formation of Bournemouth & District Motor Services Ltd. in 1916 until the break up of Hants & Dorset into three constituent companies in 1983, at which date the Hants & Dorset fleetname ceased to be used, effectively ending the existence of H&D as an individual company in its own right.
In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
Hants & Dorset – A History (Colin Morris, DTS, 1996) ;PSV Circle; Fleet Histories PK781, PK782, 1999; Buses (various editions 1975-1983). These publications also draw on material from earlier works which are acknowledged in the relevant publication.
With thanks to David Calver for his assistance in ensuring the fleet lists from 1976 onwards were accurate.