This blog is devoted to images and recollections of Leek and the surrounding Staffordshire Moorlands from years gone by. I hope you find it interesting. If you have anything to add, please use the comment window or you can email me on

Monday, 16 November 2009

Berresford's battled to stay on the road

One Berresford’s first buses pictured with driver Ernest Chadwick (left) with Tom Smallwood, the firm’s first conductor who went on to serve as driver for more than quarter of a century. (Photo courtesy Mrs M Berresford).

The Cheadle Road, Cheddleton depot, which Berresford’s built in 1940, pictured probably in the late Fifties. (Photo courtesy of the Old School Tea Rooms, Cheddleton).

Look carefully at the old bus depot on Cheadle Road, Cheddleton and you can just make out a rusty letter ‘B’, the last remnant of Berresford’s, a word synonymous with local bus services for more than half a century.

With vehicles that would often resemble museum pieces and a business style that typified a company battling against the odds, Berresford’s Motors nevertheless played a huge part in local lives in the days when many more folk relied on public transport.

It’s now more than twenty years since the firm closed for good, but mention the word Berresford’s and the memories still rumble out – school journeys on an ancient double decker creaking and swaying under the strain, day trips to North Wales breaking down within sight of the grey coast, and years of aggravation over the depot’s ever-growing collection of rusting hulks.

The Berresford’s story dates back to February 3, 1923, when Mr JM ‘Jim’ Berresford started operating his14-seater bus from Randles Lane, Wetley Rocks. The first route was Leek to Hanley via Cellarhead, Weston Coyney and Dividy Road. Later in the year, the route was changed to run through Werrington, creating a service which, together with Leek to Longton, would be a mainstay of the Berresford’s timetable until its closure in 1987.

The obstacles facing the fledgling bus company were many: poor road surfaces scattered with the nails from horses hooves would play havoc with tyres; overhanging hedges scratched the paintwork; droves of cattle would impede progress; and a shortage of spare parts.

But Jim Berresford was typically resourceful – take the time in 1925 when a large tree fell across the road at Cheddleton. Assisted by some of his passengers, Jim cut through the branches with a borrowed saw and the bus continued on its journey.

The family’s engineering ingenuity was apparent right from the early days. In 1926 Jim built a complete chassis from spare parts, fitted it with pioneering low pressure balloon tyres and then bolted on a 26-seater body. The re-use of old parts and the cannibalising of one vehicle to make another was to become one of the hallmarks of the fleet, especially after the founder’s son Mr J A “Jimmy” Berresford – himself a talented engineer – took over the company.

Jimmy had become a director of the firm in 1938 and a couple of years later a spacious new depot and workshops were built in Cheadle Road, Cheddleton. The years of the Second World War presented many challenges. Vehicles, parts and workers were in short supply, Jimmy was away in the forces and when his father fell ill, the Ministry of Transport appointed managers to run the business. However the company managed to play its part in the war effort, not least by carrying bus after bus load of workers to ordnance factories at Swynnerton and Radway Green.

The post–war years brought something of a boom for the business. New – or at least nearly new – vehicles were bought and were soon filled with passengers. In 1947, for example, Berresford’s buses travelled an incredible 370,000 miles and carried 679,000 passengers, including hundreds of textile workers transported every day to and from mills in Leek. At the same time, the company also built up a fleet of coaches to take local folk on popular day trips to the seaside resorts.

Engineering ingenuity coaxed decades of service from classic red and cream-painted double-deckers like these.

Workers from Berresford’s Motors and Leek-based Byrne Bros pictured at a company dinner in the early Sixties. (Photo courtesy of the Old School Tea Rooms, Cheddleton).

But the growth was hard won, as Jimmy’s widow, Mrs May Berresford, recalled. “Everyone was working long hours and we always fighting the PMT for licences for new routes. Everything we applied for they objected to,” she said.

“Because spare parts were so expensive we re-used parts from the old buses. Nothing was every thrown away and eventually there was a huge stock of them behind the garage,” said Mrs Berresford, who still lives in the family home a matter of yards from the old depot.

Other independents eventually joined the Berresford’s fold. In 1960, they took over the old-established Leek firm of Byrne Bros, well known for its immaculate dark blue and grey coaches. In later years, other acquisitions included Smith’s Tours of Waterhouses, Tatton of Leek, Mosswood Coaches of Wetley Rocks, Poole’s Coachways of Alsagers Bank and Stonier’s of Goldenhill.

But the battle with its much bigger Potteries-based competitor never diminished. Shortly after Jimmy Berresford died in April 1987, a merger with the PMT was announced and the fleet was quickly reduced.

The final day of operation at Cheddleton was September 4 1987, the last bus to return to the depot being the 23.05 from Longton, suitably decorated by its driver, Tim Machin. Amongst its passengers were several local transport enthusiasts paying tribute to one of the most memorable names on the roads of the Moorlands.

• Pictures from Berresford’s past are on show at the Old School Tea Rooms, Cheddleton, where owners Carol and Bill are building a collection of village memorabilia.

Mr Jimmy Berresford receives his chain of office as chairman of Cheadle Rural Council in 1963, from retiring chairman Coun. RL Carr (right). Also in the picture are vice chairman Coun. N Heathcote (left) and clerk Mr HW Henson. As well a keen district, parish and county councillor, Mr Berresford served as a JP, chaired the local tax commissioners and was an enthusiastic Rotarian. (Photo courtesy Mrs M Berresford).

Some of the Berresford’s fleet rusting behind its Cheadle Road depot in the early Eighties. The collection of old buses, used for spare parts over the years, attracted growing controversy amongst local residents and became a place of pilgrimage by vintage vehicle fans.

The garage as it looks today – remains of the original sign just visible above the main door. Owners John Pointon & Sons plan to turn part of the site into leisure facilities.

1 comment:

  1. Aye I've noticed the work going on at the old Berresfords site, work on the little cottage by the side is being done, is it a listed building because it doesn't look like they are tearing it down more doing it up if you get my drift?! I took some captures of some berresford buses at the recent Alf Tunstall Bus Rally in Froghall the other week, I will be putting them on my own blog of mine soon if you fancy a look please do and please feel free to comment on any part and add any info you feel relevant to any section