Local Bus Services - Based on a talk by Edgar Shepherd
The railways played the most important role in local transport from the 1850s until after the First World War with horse and carriages provided by local firms like NELSONS for pleasure trips. Road transport was changing and the Fawcett family of Milnthorpe were quick to take advantage of the advent of the motor car in 1888.
JOHN FAWCETT known to many as ‘Happy Jack’ had been a trader and carrier for many years starting as a boy with a donkey and panniers and the family prospered very well in the late 1800s. His son also called John inherited his father’s business acumen and at the age of only 19 he established one of the first motor works in the country in 1890. In the early years, the firm built motor cars and also produced a bicycle called A GEM. Later on, besides repairing every kind of vehicle they produced specialised parts for the motor industry. John Fawcett Jnr., later took his own sons Jack, Harold and Percy into the business.
During the First World War the firm did important munitions work, the two elder Fawcett sons being exempt from war service on this account. The Fawcetts converted a couple of military vehicles into charabancs after the Great War for pleasure use. Early in 1924 the Fawcetts went to the Wembley Empire Exhibition, where they saw a new type of luxury motor bus and it gave them the idea of starting a regular service – and so the DALLAM MOTOR BUS COMPANY was born.
The first bus had a hot water system piped round the interior for the comfort of passengers but it still had solid tyres and gravity petrol feed. At first the bus made trips between Kendal, Milnthorpe and Arnside, every two hours. During a rail strike late in 1924 the bus service was regarded as a great convenience for business people and for children going to Heversham Grammar School and Kendal High School. After the toll road at Silverdale became free in 1927, a service was started between Lancaster, Carnforth, Silverdale and Arnside. Other routes took in Hincaster, Sedgwick and Natland.
After the death of John Fawcett in 1927, the sons, Jack, Harold and Percy, with their mother Jessie, ran the firm and by 1930 their fleet consisted of 16 vehicles.
In 1940 the firm expanded by acquiring the lucrative Grange to Kendal route. In 1949, Jessie Fawcett died and in 1950 the partnership was dissolved and the business sold to RIBBLE MOTOR SERVICES on 1st December 1950 for £10,000. At the time Dallam Motor Services had eight buses, plus two which had been withdrawn from service in the months prior to the sale. With no vehicle requirements at Ribble, all buses left for new homes except the two which had been withdrawn – a Vulcan VSD and a rare Vulcan Duchess bus.
The Fawcetts kept the Garage and motor business and the Duchess was simply left in a corner of the garage and amazingly remained undisturbed until 1989. She remained largely intact during this time suffering only the loss f some seats and other minor parts.
David Marquis of Freckleton bought the Fawcetts Garage in 1989 and he did restoration work on the engine and chassis but the bus remained largely unseen during this time. In 2005 the Emerton family of Nantwich in Cheshire bought The Duchess and made detailed restoration bringing it into excellent condition. Quite apart from its fine condition its rarity value sets it apart. In detail she comprises a 1929 Duchess chassis made by the Vulcan `motor and Engineering Company of Crossens, nr Southport.
Fitted with a Vulcan made body with 26 seats, the engine is a Meadows of Wolverhampton overhead valve petrol engine which was fitted in Lagonda Luxury cars of the period. She served Fawcetts well for over 20 years mainly plying the Arnside to Kendal route.
There is a picture of the Vulcan VSD taken at the Fountain on Arnside Promenade. This was new in 1925 to T.E. Smith Trading as Pilgrim Motors of Elswick, nr Preston, where it carried fleet No.1 Ribble Motors acquired the Smith business including their nine buses in 1927 and this bus became Ribble No. 350. Ribble sold it in 1929 coincidentally to Fawcetts. Whereas the Duchess remained on Fawcetts premises and was eventually restored, the Vulcan was stripped for spares and the remains sold for scrap.
Long after the Fawcetts business had been taken over by Ribble in 1950, older residents of the area would speak of the Dallam Buses, ‘The Duchess’ ‘The Bedford’ ‘Percy’s Bus’ and ‘The Old Lions’ with great nostalgia and affection. Ribble introduced their own fleet of buses to the local routes almost exclusively Leylands based at either Kendal or Lancaster.