Samuel Ledgard’s entry into the field of road passenger transport was the result of his astute business acumen.
Already operating several steam lorries on haulage work, he purchased a petrol-engined Karrier in September 1912.
With most of the haulage work being undertaken during the week he decided that, in order to make the most of his purchase, it could be fitted with a charabanc body over the weekend and used for the carriage of passengers.
Accordingly he commissioned a local coachbuilder, William Nicholson, of Otley, to construct an interchangeable 25-seat charabanc body, enabling the vehicle to be used 7 days a week.
In 1913 and 1914 three more petrol-engined lorries were purchased and these too received Nicholson interchangeable bodies. The haulage business continued in tandem with the passenger transport business until 1948, when Samuel Ledgard finally wound it up.
The onset of the First World War in 1914 curtailed any further expansion of the Ledgard fleet. In 1919, however, eight Caledon petrol-engined vehicles were purchased and all were fitted with interchangeable bodywork and Samuel Ledgard began to set about expanding the passenger carrying side of his business.
Weekly express services to Scarborough and Blackpool were resumed in 1920 (originally started just before the War and dropped because of the hostilities), and excursions to a variety of places of interest during holiday periods were operated.
In September 1924, Samuel Ledgard took over the operation of an hourly service between Horsforth and Leeds from Ward of Horsforth, along with two vehicles, a 14-seat Chevrolet and a 17-seat GMC.
The frequency was quickly increased to half-hourly and passenger numbers began to rise. In preparation for further expansion, and to supplement the two ex-Ward vehicles on the new service, two of the eight Caledon chassis were given new purpose built 26-seat bus bodies by Roe.
A licence to operate from Leeds to Calverley via Pudsey was granted on the 21st November, which necessitated additional vehicles and to meet the requirement, Samuel Ledgard purchased three all-Guy 26-seat B-type buses.
A licence to operate from Leeds to Otley via Lawnswood (jointly with Cole & Sons and George Tate) was granted in 1925, the same year that the established business of the Cream Bus Service Ltd., of Burley-in-Wharfedale, along with 9 vehicles and a garage in Burley, was purchased.
It continued to operate as a subsidiary in its own name until 1952 when it was re-named Samuel Ledgard (Ilkley) Ltd.
In January 1927, the Leeds to Ilkley via Guiseley licence of Jules Antichan, along with five buses and a depot in Ilkley was taken over following the overnight disappearance of the owner. Heavily in debt it is thought that he fled the country.
This, however, proved to be a bonus for the shrewd Samuel Ledgard, who expanded his empire for just the cost of the five buses! The following month the business of the Otley and Lawnswood Motor Bus Co., was acquired, along with their depot in Otley and a route from Otley to Leeds.
By the time of the 1930 Road Traffic Act, Samuel Ledgard was operating five stage carriage services and two express services, for which licences were granted for all but the express service to Scarborough.
1930 was also the year that double-deckers made their appearance in the Ledgard fleet in the shape of four lowbridge Leyland Titan TD1’s.
Further expansion took place in 1934 when the services and licences of the Moorfield Bus Company were purchased. This provided Samuel Ledgard with a depot in Yeadon and an additional seven buses.
Later the same year, the business of Arthur Thornton of Otley was acquired. In 1935 B & B Tours Ltd. of Bradford was purchased, bringing with it valuable licences and establishing Samuel Ledgard in Bradford.
At the time of purchase the fleet consisted of thirteen vehicles, which for a time retained the attractive red, turquoise and ivory livery, and remained a Ledgard subsidiary until it was re-named Samuel Ledgard (Bradford) Ltd. in 1952.
By 1937 Samuel Ledgard operated 79 vehicles from depots in Otley, Yeadon, Leeds, Ilkley and Bradford and had succeeded in acquiring most of the independent competition in the Armley area, along with their licences, and had built up a flourishing passenger transport business.
In 1938 Samuel Ledgard, along with the West Yorkshire Road Car Co. Ltd., jointly formed a company under the title of Otley Omnibus Station Ltd., with a view to building a permanent bus station for services terminating in Otley. The bus station was opened on 15th February 1939.
Following the declaration of war in September 1939, fuel rationing meant that some services were withdrawn and the frequencies on the remaining routes curtailed.
In 1941 the War Department requisitioned several Ledgard vehicles and although all but one were returned in 1942, they never saw further service in the Ledgard fleet.
Wartime routes serving the Avro munitions factory at Yeadon from Leeds and Otley were allocated to Samuel Ledgard and necessitated the provision of buses in camouflage livery, a stipulation that was not always adhered to.
Following the death of G. F. Tate (a joint operator on the Leeds-Otley route) in 1943, Samuel Ledgard purchased the business from his widow, further consolidating his position as the leading independent operator in the area.
The fleet consisted of two 1930 AEC Regents, a 1938 all-Leyland TD5 and three Barnaby-bodied Leylands, a 1934 LT5A, a 1935 LT7 and a 1936 LZ2, of which all but one were added to the Ledgard fleet.
Other wartime additions to the Ledgard fleet included three all-Leyland TD7’s in 1940, two Bedford OWB’s in 1942 and two Pickering-bodied Guy Arabs and another Bedford OWB in 1943.
In 1944 four Roe-bodied Daimler CWA6’s and two Duple-bodied OWB’s were delivered and finally in 1945 ten more Duple-bodied Daimler vehicles arrived, two CWD6’s and eight CWA6’s.
Following the cessation of hostilities the pre-war frequency of many of the routes was re-instated and Samuel Ledgard’s passenger traffic grew rapidly, necessitating the replacement of several of the older vehicles, some of which had struggled to survive the war years.
Six new all-Leyland PD1’s arrived in September 1946 and were immediately put into service, although it was 1948 before any further vehicles, eight Duple-bodied Leyland PS1’s, were delivered.
A request to serve the new postwar Westbourne housing estate at Otley was received in 1949 and a circular service around the estate was commenced, linked with another local service, which served Newall.
In 1950 a new route from Otley to Beckwithshaw, via Stainburn, replacing the loss making Otley to Stainburn service, was instigated to coincide with the market days at Otley in the hope of attracting more passengers.
Sadly this service did not live up to expectations and was withdrawn in May 1951, leaving the area without public transport.
Later in 1950 Ledgard re-routed their Horsforth to Otley service in Rawdon to serve a housing estate consisting of mainly elderly residents, which involved a detour from the main road via Canada Road and Batter Lane.
In October 1950 Samuel Ledgard visited the Commercial Motor Show and ordered a Foden PVSC coach, which was to carry Plaxton Envoy 37-seat coachwork.
Although not the first Foden in the Ledgard fleet (six PVSC-type vehicles had been ordered in 1949), it was to become the pride of the fleet, replacing the elderly Maudslay SF40 (CUB1) purchased in 1935.
Three new all-Leyland PD2/12’s were delivered in 1952 with their bodywork unpainted. These were painted at Armley depot since, as Samuel Ledgard had discovered, by painting them himself rather than allow Leyland to do the work, there was a saving of quite a few pounds.
Sadly, however, these were to be the last new buses ordered by Samuel Ledgard himself, for, at the age of 77, he passed away suddenly on the 4th April 1952. For a while there was uncertainty whether the Company would survive or not, due to heavy death duties.
However, the executors and trustees of his will made it clear that their intention was to continue the Company under the present management, although because of Samuel Ledgard’s great reluctance to commit anything to paper it took some time before the Company’s finances were sorted out.
In May 1952 the various transport interests were re-formed by the executors; the main Company being renamed the Executors of Samuel Ledgard Ltd, whilst the subsidiaries of Cream Bus Service and B & B Tours Ltd. became the Executors of Samuel Ledgard (Ilkley) Ltd., and the Executors of Samuel Ledgard (Bradford) Ltd., respectively.
The financial constraints imposed upon the Company through the payment of death duties meant that the management had to look at the second-hand bus market for replacement vehicles and in 1953 fourteen ex-London Transport Daimler CWA6’s were purchased and overhauled at the Armley and Otley depots, ready for service.
Following the development of a new housing estate, Ledgard’s initiated a new service to Weston Drive from Otley Bus Station in April 1953 and for the first time Ledgard vehicles began to carry external advertisements.
A further nine more ex-London Transport Daimlers were purchased in 1954, along with four ex-United Leyland TS8’s.
Experiments with Setright ticket machines also proved satisfactory and the antiquated Bell Punch system was dropped.
On the 8th March 1957 the Troydale – Pudsey – Calverley stage carriage licence of Kitchen and Son, of Pudsey, was acquired, in exchange for Ledgard’s tours and excursion licence from Pudsey Town Hall.
Four vehicles were taken over as part of the deal, two Atkinson and two Guy single-deckers. Six new AEC Regent V’s were also delivered this year, one of which, interestingly carried the reverse registration number (1949 U) of Samuel Ledgard’s first known vehicle (U 1949).
By 1958, in common with most operators, the Company was suffering from a decline in passenger numbers and a rise in operating costs and a number of routes were curtailed or shortened, although a large amount of rebuilding work was still being carried out to modernise the ageing fleet.
More second-hand vehicles arrived in 1959, including five lowbridge Bristol K6A’s of 1945 vintage, to be used on the Horsforth to Otley service, where a low bridge had precluded the use of Ledgard’s highbridge double-deck vehicles.
During the year Ledgard’s began increasing the seating on a number of double-deck vehicles by the addition of another seat in the upper saloon, increasing the seating capacity from 56 to 58.
Over the next two years the majority of the fleet was modified in this way. In December 1959, the citizens of Leeds were surprised to find that several ex-Corporation vehicles, in the shape of Brush-bodied Daimler CVD6’s of 1948, had re-appeared on the streets in Ledgard’s livery.
The ensuing outcry forced the Transport Committee to add a proviso to future sales, which prevented them from being resold to any other local operator.
Further modernisation of the fleet was made in 1960; the coaches being upgraded with the fitting of improved seating and the bus fleet fitted with saloon heaters.
More second-hand vehicles arrived later in the year including a Bedford SBO coach, which had been new in 1955 and carried Duple Super Vega 38-seat bodywork.
Major alterations to the fleet structure occurred in 1963 with 35 second-hand vehicles being added in an attempt at some form of standardisation.
This was obviously thought necessary in order to reduce the need for stocking a wide variety of spares, and the first coaches were a batch of eight Picktree-bodied Guy Arab’s, new in 1954 to Northern General.
A surprising choice of ‘standard’ bus was the selection of ex-London Transport RT’s, of which a total of over 40 were purchased in this and the following years.
In 1964, rather than purchase new coaches, Ledgard’s tried leasing a number for the summer season. Six Bedford SB5 41-seat coaches were hired, two with Duple Bella Vega coachwork and four with Plaxton Embassy III coachwork, all were returned in October of that year.
In the years that followed this became a regular practice and six vehicles were hired for each of the subsequent summer seasons.
A new weekdays only service was introduced in April 1965 between Otley and Arthington, although only two journeys per day were operated.
By the end of 1966, however, rumour was rife that Tom Ledgard was planning to sell out to West Yorkshire Road Car Co. Ltd., although the Ledgard Company continued to operate in the usual way.
Sadly, the rumours proved to be true and, although the agreement to sell the Company had been made in June 1967, it was not until August 1967 that the announcement came.
Following the transfer of licences to West Yorkshire, Ledgard’s officially ceased to exist at midnight on Saturday the 14th October 1967 and thus ended the reign of one of Yorkshire’s best loved and most sadly missed independent operators.
On the final day of operations the Ledgard fleet numbered 99 vehicles, of which, West Yorkshire subsequently used only 12.
The following day not one solitary Ledgard vehicle was operated in service, although the retained vehicles were returned to service the following Monday, in Ledgard livery, but sporting West Yorkshire fleetnames.
By the 2nd November 1967, the former Ledgard vehicles were being repainted into West Yorkshire livery.
The last vehicle to survive in Samuel Ledgard livery was AEC Regent DAW4, which was finally repainted on 20th May 1968, thus ending over 50 years of service by Yorkshire’s most famous passenger transport pioneer, Samuel Ledgard.
In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
The Ledgard Fleet (MH Lockyer, Wickens 1962); Ledgard Way (KA Jenkinson, Autobus Review 1981); PSV Circle Fleet History 2PB8 (1992).