Bus companies and bus services through Bowburn

The Bowburn LHS Meeting on 18th October 2012 enjoyed presentations given by:

(1) Tom Spresser, about Trimdon Motor Services, and

(2) Gordon Wigham, about all bus companies that ran services through Bowburn or ran trips from here.

The following notes were taken at the meeting. We are most grateful to both Tom and Gordon, with whose permission these notes are published below. We are also grateful to Gordon for the photographs.

Thanks too to John Baker, great grandson of John Joseph Baker, and to John Seaton, son of Jake Seaton, for further information about their families, which was added after they contacted Bowburn LHS about this page.

Bus companies

• TMS was the largest local company, with about 50 buses.

Photo thanks to Gordon Wigham

• G&B had 26 buses.

• Scarlet Band had 12 to 15.

• Cheesey, of Brandon, had about 10 buses, all on contract work (no service buses). They provided most of the works buses for Tursdale Workshops.

• Grierson


• Talbot

Photo of Talbots bus thanks to Gordon Wigham, from K. Allick’s collection

• United

• Jewitt, of Spennymoor

• Pearson (County Bus Service Partnership Dlongo Pearson & Wallace Johnson & Son)

• ABC (Aaron, Binks & Coulson)

• Express

• Northern


There were four Gillett brothers, though only two owned the company. These were Arthur and Albert. Matty used to work at the pit and then worked for G&B. The other brother was William.

Gillett Brothers’ garage at Quarrington Hill

Photo thanks to Gordon Wigham

Gillett Brothers’ very first bus was sold to Talbot’s of Coxhoe. (This was possibly Talbot’s first bus.)

John Joseph Baker owned Baker’s. He died in 1933 and was succeeded by his son, John Henwood Baker, who died in 1956. The latter’s son Martin also worked for the family business for some years as a mechanic and a driver.

Bakers were the first bus operators in this area.

They combined with Gilletts so the two of them together had enough buses to run services to Bishop Auckland (which needed four vehicles) and Durham (three): a total of seven buses originally.

Photo thanks to Gordon Wigham

The photograph below shows six buses, each 32-seaters, lined up in Ramsay Street, Tursdale, for a school trip. [It was commented at the meeting that this suggested a large school roll for such a small village.]

Photo thanks to Gordon Wigham

Gilletts and Bakers ran children down from Cassop and Quarrington Hill to Bowburn Modern School, after this opened in 1958.

Bakers sold out to Gilletts in 1959.

Gilletts’ colours were black roof, cream band and brown body.

G&B’s GKA 278 was given to Father Bill Armstrong / the church, after it finished in G&B service. It ran as Samson [the first]. G&B maintained it subsequently.

Two photographs showed buses commissioned by Crowtrees WMC for a trip in 1963. These included some hired by G&B from TMS. [The photos are reproduced below, under “Trips”.]

A photograph showed a G&B bus coming north from the new motorway intersection. [Although not clear, it looked as if Park Hill farmhouse was still standing. If so, this will have been before it was demolished, following damage by running sand during the construction of the northbound slip road. The motorway north of Bowburn opened in July 1969. The photograph was probably taken, therefore, in about 1968.]

Photo thanks to Gordon Wigham

Gilletts’ bus colours were cream, with brown band.

Jim Wigham was shown driving a G&B bus.

Gordon Wigham organised trips from the Homeside Centre, when he lived in Marlene Avenue with his parents.

Some of the smarter G&B buses were used as service buses into Durham on Sundays, when they wouldn’t get “hammered”, in order to build up the mileage they were required to use on service routes. Otherwise they were used for coach trips.

United’s no. 20 route was previously G&B’s.

G&B drivers included Tommy Wiley, Bobby Robinson, Jake Seaton*…

(*Jake Seaton’s name added thanks to Guest Book message from his son, John Seaton)

Scarlet Band

Photo thanks to Gordon Wigham

SB started in 1921. It ran buses to Ferryhill and Durham but their licence to run services into Durham was curtailed so that they had to stop at Bowburn. [Various reasons have been suggested for this, including possible licence infringements, or perhaps an accident.]

In the early 1950s, the Bowburn service at one time terminated at Margaret Court, reversing into it from Prince Charles Avenue and returning towards Coxhoe. Later it did a loop round Horton Crescent.

SB bus reversing into Margaret Court

Photo thanks to Gordon Wigham

Scarlet Band never ran service buses into Durham except on Big Meeting Day. Then Sid Blenkinsop would apply for a special licence. A photograph showed him driving one of these buses himself, because it was one of his best ones. Jean was his “duck” / “duckie” / [conductress].

Scarlet Band’s colours were maroon roof and red sides with cream band. They changed their colour scheme to cream, red and yellow and then mainly cream with dark and lighter red stripes.

(An LHS member recalled that Scarlet Band buses were noted for the little green light they had on the front, to distinguish them from other services, at a distance.)

Double Deckers & Duplicates

Not many double deckers were used in County Durham, because of the number of low railway bridges. That was why there were so many duplicates – i.e. two buses following each other, from the same company, on the same service runs.

Miners’ Gala Day

A very large number of service buses, run by all the bus companies, ran to and from Durham on Gala Day.

Gilletts were normally hired by Kelloe (East Hetton) miners lodge, for officials and banner etc. Gilletts used buses with a rear emergency door so the banner could be laid easily down the centre isle.

Football buses (SAFC)

Three companies ran buses to Roker: Jewitts, Scarlet Band and Gilletts.

Jewitts bus (left) and Gillett Bros bus (right), at the bus parking area for Roker Park, in about 1958

Photos thanks to Gordon Wigham


Gordon Wigham organised trips from the Homeside Centre in Marlene Avenue. He always used G&B.

Jimmy Griffiths organised trips (e.g. in about 1974, as in one of the photographs shown to the meeting). He always used Scarlet Band.

Photos thanks to Gordon Wigham

Crowtrees WMC’s trips always went to South Shields, Whitley Bay or Redcar [according to Jan Blakey – whose family are shown in the above photos].

(An LHS member recalled that Harry Wilson, the Club Chairman, used to organise buses to Sunderland AFC’s matches at Roker Park – see above. Harry also organised trips to Blackpool illuminations, hiring coaches from Jewitts, and week-long holidays at Blackpool during the Colliery’s annual summer shut down. During those two weeks, the pit ponies were brought to the surface and allowed to graze opposite the Community Centre.)

Service Routes

The 56 route was bought from Pearsons’, of West Cornforth. It was later taken over by United.

TMS’s 235 ran from Horden to Durham.

One of TMS’s new 1966 buses, going through Bowburn

Photo thanks to Gordon Wigham

The 38 ran [from Durham?] to [Middlesbrough?] via Fishburn. This was in addition to the 55, which didn’t go via Fishburn.

The 55 ran from Newcastle to Middlesbrough. It was run jointly by United and Northern.

The 55 was replaced by the X1, run by United and Northern initially.

The X1 going through Bowburn

Photo thanks to Gordon Wigham


ABC (Aaron, Binks & Coulson’s), of Ferryhill, ran services through Bowburn, from Darlington to Sunderland. After their routes were taken over by DDS (Durham District Services), those routes were still known locally as “ABC”.

Photo thanks to Gordon Wigham

When other services (Darlington Triumph, ABC and Express Durham) were taken over [nationalised?], in 1950, DDS (Durham District Services) was formed rather than direct control passing to United – although it appears DDS reported to United. This was for political reasons [i.e. terms of nationalisation?]

Aaron’s started in 1947 [?]. Its colours were mainly green, with cream windows and red flash.

ABC vehicles were re-painted in DDS’s green, with cream band, when DDS was formed in 1950 from (1) Darlington Triumph [?] Services (under Mr. Todd); (2) ABC (though Coulson had already sold out), and (3) Express (which ran Durham City services).

DDS always had very old vehicles. It was into the 1960s before it could bring in new ones. One of these was built by Raines, of Spennymoor.

Photo thanks to Gordon Wigham

Its coach colours were maroon wing and band, with the rest in cream. These coaches went in large numbers to Blackpool (for instance). About 20 duplicates would go there on a single service. [I.e. these were not contract buses but licensed services.]

Tom Spresser and Gordon Wigham were thanked warmly for their presentations.