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Horse Bus to Motorbus

Who would guess that the 94 bus route could have so much history behind it?  It turns out that there has been an 'omnibus' stop outside St Michaels & All Angels since the late nineteenth century. In those days, the omnibuses were horse-drawn and Bedford Park was the terminus. For those of you who think the international flavour of the area is recent, the story of the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) is illustrative. It was formed on 1 January 1859 and replaced the original joint Anglo-French company called the Compagnie Générale des Omnibus de Londres, founded in 1855! The new company began operating horse bus services in London in 1856.

The LGOC stabled horses for the buses that served Bedford Park in Stamford Brook Road, opposite the Duchess of Cambridge pub (then called the 'Queen of England'). The stables were there until 1909 when the horses began to be replaced by the petrol engine but the evidence is still there. The LGOC initials in raised stonework can still be seen above the door of 6a Stamford Brook Road, opposite the Duchess of Cambridge pub.




Sybil Pearce, a Bedford Park resident born in 1900, wrote fondly of the horse drawn buses in her wonderful memoirs:
‘Some of my favourite days were those on which my Mother decided to go ’up to town’ shopping.  We would catch a two-horse omnibus in the Bath Road outside the Tabard Inn and my great joy was to seat myself just behind the driver on the top of the ‘bus in the front seat. I remember one driver in particular – a fat, red haired man wearing green woollen mittens. I loved the way he brandished his whip and clucked his teeth at the horses.'

                              (From 'Sybil Pearce - An Edwardian Childhood in Bedford Park’ available from the Bedford Park Society here).



BusgroupThe opening of the Central London Railway (Central Line) in 1900 gave the LGOC stiff competition for the first time, and it started to experiment with a new technology: motorbuses.  First, steam buses, then combustion engines, of which the most famous was the B-Type. They quickly proved themselves as safe and reliable, and so the last horse bus ran on 25 October 1911.

This is when the London bus system we know started to be formed. Horse buses had been painted a variety of colours for different routes. But from 1907 all LGOC motorbuses were painted red with numbers differentiating routes. The Metropolitan Police also insisted that every bus clearly displayed route and destination boards front and back.

In 1921 the LGOC, later called London Regional Transport, moved its vehicle storage and maintenance to a large site opposite Gunnersbury Station.  The link with Bedford Park was broken. For many years, this was a major London bus garage, before being redeveloped as the Chiswick Park business park development, leaving just the Acton depot behind it.

Fun Fact: The Acton Depot behind it is the main site for the London Transport Museum. Click here for details of their open days and kids' events.