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Matlock Bath: Bus Services, 1912 - 1933, Tickets and Timetables
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Matlock Bath Buses
1912-33 (Part 1)

Hand's Garage

Furniss's Garage,
Crown Square

Williams' Garage, 1910


Charabancs in Matlock Bath in the 1920s

This Leyland PLSC1 bus, registration number RA 6211, was purchased by Watts Bros. of Wirksworth in 1928 and the photograph shows a very proud Mr. Watts standing beside his new acquisition. In February 1928 Wirksworth UDC discussed and approved a timetable submitted by Watts for a new bus service between Matlock and Wirksworth[1]. Their bus would have been a familiar site in Matlock Bath as it was used on the Matlock to Wirksworth route.

Watts had three vehicles in their fleet - a Ford, a Fiat and a Leyland[2] - and the three had been somewhat colourfully named Adam Bede, Dinah Morris and Seth Bede[3]. The bus here was Seth Bede but the Fiat, Dinah Morris, would also have been seen in the Matlocks. There were times when Watts would have had to use two buses on the route as there were services from both Wirksworth and Matlock at 8 p.m., for example (see timetable below), as well as throughout Sunday evenings. It must have been quite an experience going up and down Cromford Hill in a bus in those days, especially in frost and snow!

Like other small local companies, Watts Bros. was acquired by North Western in April 1932. They had renewed their Wirksworth to Matlock service (via Steeple Grange, Cromford and Matlock Bath) only two months before[4]. Seth Bede must have been a fairly reliable vehicle as North Western took it into stock and used it for three more years, though it would probably have been used on other routes after the takeover. However, in 1935 the Leyland was converted into a North Western lorry and sold on in 1947[2]. The Watts family had begun a service that was continued by North Western for many years.

S. H. Slack of Middleton-by-Wirksworth was another company running a service to Matlock after the tram had closed. They were amongst a fairly large number of people who had applied to Matlock UDC for vehicle licenses in 1928; although no further details are know about their application it was considered on 30 May 1928[2]. In late 1929 The Trent Motor Traction Company notified Matlock Council of their intention to run a through bus service from Derby to Buxton, in conjunction with North Western, that would pass through the Matlocks. The necessary permission was granted[5], so the number of bus companies with routes through Matlock Bath had expanded considerably.

slack od Middleton, ticket
Watts ticket, 1
Watts ticket, 2
Single ticket printed
for S. H. Slack, Middleton
Two single fare tickets for Watts of Wirksworth.
Their (undated) timetable, below, shows that a 4½d
would have taken you from Steeple Grange to Matlock

The rivalry between the various bus companies continued and in the late Spring of 1929 two complaints about "pirates" on the local bus routes were heard by the Matlocks Urban District Council. The first was from Hands Garages of Matlock who complained that the Alfreton Motor Transport Company were frequently pirating their Cromford bus, causing them serious financial loss. The second was by E. Williams and Co. (Spa Motor Services) of Matlock Bath who complained that Watts were picking up passengers on the Cromford route. Alfreton Motor Transport Co responded that the problem only occurred when Hands and Williams ran their buses late. It is not known if Watts made any comment. One Councillor, Mr. Cross, remarked that the Council had been discussing bus troubles for ten years! They got round the issue by deciding that all the companies must submit new time tables in time for the Council's next Highways Committee meeting[6].

Two years later Hands applied for the renewal of their services to Elton, Clay Cross, Tansley, Hackney, Oaker, Middleton, Cromford and Matlock Bank. Unfortunately for Hands, the Middleton route application was opposed by both Mr. S. H. Slack, of Middleton, and the North Western Road Car Company. Mr. A. R. Flint, who was acting for Mr. Slack, announced that a vicar and a headmaster had recommended the applicants' driver for a licence and had then recommended Mr. Slack. The Hands licence renewal on their Middleton route was refused and a decision on their other routes was deferred[7]. Hardly a satisfactory outcome for Hands, although they were not acquired by North Western until 1933[2].

Williams Spa Services, who had provided a temporary service on the new Matlock Bank to Cromford route following the tramway's closure in 1927, was taken over by North Western in March 1932, the year before Hands. They had five vehicles in their fleet, which had all been bought from other companies: one was purchased in May 1926, another in May 1930, a third in June 1930 and two in 1931[2]. Samples of their tickets and one of their timetables are shown immediately below.

More Tickets and Timetables.

Williams ticket, 1 Williams ticket, 2 Williams ticket, 3 Williams ticket, 4 Williams ticket, 5
Williams Spa Bus tickets, selection.

Spa timetable, 1930
Amended timetable for Williams Spa Service, which had commenced on 19th May 1930 only to be amended on 3rd August.

They operated two services to Ashbourne, one of which went on to the Dog and Partridge, a favoured destination for a long time.
The service began at Matlock Station's Car Park. The bus picked up passengers at Matlock Bath and Cromford but then went via either
Wirksworth or the Pig of Lead and the Via Gellia. It was the Via Gellia route that went on to the Dog and Partridge.
They seem to have abandoned their ½d tickets on this route.

Watts timetable, no date
Undated bus service details for Watts Bros, of Central Garage, Wirksworth.

It shows where they were allowed to pick up and set down passengers along the routes, their timetable
and the single and return fares they would charge.
Note that they were not scheduled to stop outside Masson Mill, opposite (the former) Matlock Bath school nor anywhere in Matlock Dale.

Photograph, tickets and timetables in the collection of, provided by and © Glynn Waite. The bus image was copied from a small photo lent to Glynn by the late Elaine Land of Cromford, who was a Watts before she married.
Written and researched by and © Ann Andrews. Intended for personal use only


[1] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 28 February 1928.

[2] Glynn Waite extracted this information from an Omnibus Society publication about North Western buses, which gave details of the vehicles the company inherited from other firms (and the dates) and what subsequently happened to them, although not all were traced.

[3] Adam Bede, Dinah Morris and Seth Bede are characters from the English classic novel "Adam Bede" by George Eliot that was set at the turn of the eighteenth century. See Picture Gallery : Derbyshire, Wirksworth, Adam Bede's Cottage elsewhere on this web site.

[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 7 March 1932.

[5] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 17 December 1929.

[6] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 18 May 1929. Council Order New Time Schedules.

[7] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 6 May 1931.