West Bridgford was a small community that lay to the south of Nottingham, across the River Trent.
Although Nottingham Corporation operated a tramway system it did not reach as far as West Bridgford, but stopped just short on the city side of the Trent Bridge.
As a result the town council decided to promote a Bill in Parliament, which would give them powers to operate motorbuses to connect with the Nottingham tramway system, and, after overcoming objections, the Bill was passed on 14th July 1913.
Some six months later, on the 28th January 1914, the first service commenced. Five Dennis chassis had been purchased (Nos. 1-5), with Dodson open-top 33-seat bodies, and the first vehicle was put to work connecting the Nottingham Corporation trams at Trent Bridge to Julian Road, via Radcliffe Road and Trent Boulevard.
Two days later, on the 30th January 1914, a second service between Trent Bridge and Caernarvon Road, via Musters Road and Melton Road was opened, and, on the 14th February 1914, a third service from the Three Lamps on North Road, via Loughborough Road to Trent Bridge was inaugurated.
On the 11th May 1914 a further service from the Trent Bridge to Trevelyan Road commenced, but just over one month later, the service to the Three Lamps was discontinued due to lack of patronage.
Two months later the Great War of 1914-1918 broke out and by November of that year all of West Bridgford’s chassis had been impressed by the War Department, leaving the little UDC with no bus fleet.
The Council learned that chain-driven vehicles were not being commandeered by the War Office, and so five such chassis were purchased from Alldays & Onions and fitted with the Dodson bodies and registrations that had been retained from the original Dennis chassis, becoming the new numbers 1-5.
As the vehicles arrived so the services were resumed, with the Trent Boulevard service being the first on the 8th February 1915.
In October 1915 a sixth vehicle, another Alldays & Onions chain-driven chassis was delivered, but due to a revision of routes was virtually redundant, since it took only five of the buses to work the services.
As a result the Loughborough Road route was re-introduced in December to provide work for the extra vehicle, but by 1917 had been abandoned again. This time a diversion from the Caernarvon Road route via Loughborough Road was introduced on alternate journeys.
Following the end of the War, the existing fleet was renovated and repainted but was still inadequate for the increase in passenger numbers.
An order was placed for two Straker-Squire double-deckers for delivery, but such was the demand for new buses after the War that it was not until 1920 that they were finally delivered, by which time more buses had been ordered.
By 1925 West Bridgford was under attack from private operators, including Barton Brothers, who operated a service from private land in Nottingham to West Bridgford, which circumvented the stage carriage provisions.
It did not involve a change of vehicles at Trent Bridge and was therefore more convenient for passengers.
In time the Barton service began to affect the finances of both Nottingham and West Bridgford Transport Departments, virtually forcing the two neighbouring authorities into joint running, which finally commenced on 18th March 1928 when the new joint service (No. 11) from the Greyfriar Gate terminus in Nottingham to Melton Road began.
Numbered 11 to 15, the five joint services required each authority to provide fifteen buses, thirteen for service and two spares.
West Bridgford had purchased ten vehicles in 1927-1928 in preparation, a mixture of ADC and AEC single-deck chassis, all of which sported Hall Lewis 32-seat dual entrance bodies.
During 1930 there were several changes to the joint routes; the terminus of the No. 11 service was moved to Valley Road and all the journeys via Loughborough Road were transferred to service 15, which had to be revised accordingly.
Journeys dropped from the 15 route were covered by a new service No. 24, which ran along Bridgford Road and Musters Road, terminating at the Melton Road junction.
All these service changes resulted in an increase in West Bridgford’s takings and an agreement had to be reached with Nottingham Corporation Transport about dividing the revenue.
Around this time it was found that the single-deckers purchased a few years earlier were becoming inadequate for the increase in passenger traffic and so a return to double-deckers was made and all subsequent orders (except for a solitary AEC Regal in 1947) were for double-deck vehicles, although in 1967 with passenger numbers falling, single-deckers once more made an appearance.
The first new double-deckers were two ST-type AEC Regents (Nos. 18-19) with Ransomes H27/22R bodywork, delivered in 1930 with four more Brush-bodied AEC Regents (Nos. 20-23) arriving in 1932-33.
In 1934 the first oil-engined vehicles arrived sporting Park Royal bodywork with Birmingham-style straight staircases, which became the standard for all deliveries until 1949.
With the onset of World War II in 1939, services had to be curtailed, due to shortages of staff and fuel, most initially ceasing at 9.00 pm, but by 1940 the last bus was around 10.30pm to alleviate overcrowding.
Works services introduced for the duration of the conflict included services from the LNER Station at Gedling to the Ministry of Supply at Rudlington, and to Ransomes and Marles factory at the quaintly named Bunny.
Following the end of the War, services slowly began to get back to normal, although restrictions continued until 1947 due to the demand for new buses.
By this time the West Bridgford fleet was entirely double-deck and numbered 21 vehicles, some of which were loaned to Nottingham Corporation to meet the demands of increased postwar traffic.
The first single-deck vehicle for a number of years was purchased in 1947. It was an AEC Regal (No. 26) with Brush dual-purpose 35-seat bodywork, for use on a new service (No. 1), which, in the event, turned out to be poorly used and was drastically reduced in late 1949.
Early in the 1950’s Nottingham Corporation began to build Clifton Estate on land between Ruddington, Clifton, Wilford and the River Trent in an area already served by Barton Brothers and South Notts.
Since the only suitable access was via the Trent Bridge and West Bridgford, the plans by Nottingham Corporation to run buses to serve the new estate were opposed by both existing operators and by West Bridgford UDC, through whose operating area the new route would pass.
In the end, after a lengthy battle in the Traffic Courts, Nottingham won the right to operate around 50% of the journeys with South Notts and West Bridgford 25% each.
The new estate could only be reached via a low railway bridge, necessitating the use of lowbridge double-deckers, and so West Bridgford arranged for two of the 1936 AEC Regents to be converted to lowbridge layout by Willowbrook in 1952, with a third in 1953.
In 1958 the Clifton Bridge was opened and Nottingham Corporation applied to run their share of the Clifton Estate routes over the new bridge, as did South Notts.
When the Nottingham application was granted, but the South Notts application refused, the Company produced a joint timetable with West Bridgford UDC encouraging people to travel via Trent Bridge on the joint operators vehicles.
By 1960 West Bridgford was still an avid AEC customer, ordering more AEC Regents, this time the Mark V model, bodied by East Lancashire, who were to be favoured with all the remaining orders from West Bridgford.
In 1962 a rear-engined Daimler demonstrator (7000HP) made an appearance, but the Council decided to remain loyal to the conventional front-engined double-decker.
Towards the end of the 1960’s, in common with most operators, the small undertaking was experiencing a drop in the amount of people travelling by bus and three AEC Swift single-deckers were ordered.
The intention was to operate them as one-man vehicles in order to reduce operating costs, but the Transport Department was prevented from doing so by union pressure.
In the end the Council decided to cut its losses and dispose of the undertaking, and it was eventually sold to Nottingham Corporation, the last West Bridgford UDC vehicles running on the night of Saturday 28th September 1968.
The last service (No. 21) being operated at 11.05 pm from South Parade to Alford Road by AEC Regent V No. 38, bringing to an end over 50 years of municipal operation by West Bridgford UDC.
In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
West Bridgford UDC Passenger Transport Department (Alan Oxley; Robin Hood Publishing; 2000); West Bridgford UDC by Roy Marshall (Buses No. 408, March 1989).