The first over land conveyance from Yarmouth was the carrier’s van which fetched and carried all manner of goods and people to and from Newport and the local area. In the 1830s and 40s this was run by John Legg from the town, two or three times a week carrying passengers and goods to and from Newport . Carriers from Freshwater also passed through because the roads to Newport weren’t brilliant but the road from Yarmouth to Newport was less hilly than the others. Some of the carriers were involved in moving smuggled goods.
Chambers from Freshwater was running a dedicated passenger omnibus through Yarmouth to Newport by the 1860s – it was obviously horse drawn in those days. The Barnes family from Pound Green had been carriers for generations but when Edward Barnes reached old age there was nobody to take over, so he sold his business to a neighbour George Moyce, who continued to run to Newport via Totland and Yarmouth three times a week.
When the time came for Moyce to retire, my grandfather Herbert Hall took over the business in 1904, and I guess he would have been about 32 years old then, and to start with he ran it from his home in the Avenue which had stables and fields nearby. About 1920 he moved to larger premises, Mount Lodge in Queen’s Road, which had formerly been William Urry’s stables.
I should point out at this stage there was another carrier named Hall operating from Yarmouth from the 1870s onwards, and this was James Hall, no relative of ours, and he was the goods agent for the London and South Western Railway at the quay. He had previously been a cartage agent for the railway on the other side of the water. Later, his son W R Hall, took over his business. The railway ran the ferries from Lymington to Yarmouth Pier in those days and wagons and carriages were towed across to the quay in barges, (that’s horse drawn carriages not railways carriages).
My grandfather, Herbert Hall, built up his business at Freshwater to include household removals and this side of the business became more important once motor vans were introduced in the 1920s . He loved horses and was reluctant to give them up and he continued to use them on the carrier run until on into the ‘20s.
His eldest son Hilton, was an ambitious young man and he could see there was a future in motor buses.
But first, let’s go back a few years and talk about the first bus services in the island. These started in 1905 and were run by the Isle of Wight Express Motor Syndicate Ltd which had shareholders ranging from local gentry and businessmen to city stockbrokers. They were based in Ryde and although they had good intentions to serve the West Wight, it proved impracticable, and only a few trips were run through Yarmouth, more in the nature of excursions. The company was hindered by poor management and went into voluntary liquidation after three seasons. After that, there were no more motor buses in West Wight until 1920.
Alfred Cooper was a Royal Mail contractor and ran his business from High Street in Freshwater. He was an industrious man and eventually he took over contracts to meet the Railways’ boats at Yarmouth Pier and also at Freshwater Station. He ran from Yarmouth to Totland and Alum Bays, with another service connecting Freshwater Station with Freshwater Bay, for Railway Company passengers holding through tickets. All this was done with horse drawn conveyances until 1920.
That was the year that Frederick Pink and his brother Arthur arrived in Totland from the Hampshire/Surrey borders with their 14 seater Ford motor bus which they brought with them I think, and decided to set up in competition, running over the same routes as Cooper but without the benefit of the through booked ferry passengers. This forced Alfred Cooper to wake up and within a short time motor vehicles were required to meet the unexpected competition. I think he already had one or two motor taxis but he didn’t have anything big enough to run the bus service with.
After World War II, the two businesses combined to become the West Wight Motor Bus Company Ltd and they continued to operate their bus routes until 1952 when these were taken over by Southern Vectis.
In the early 1920s a company called Yarmouth Isle of Wight Touring Company, with premises in the High Street, started running tours from Yarmouth in connection with a privately owned steamer from Lymington, but this didn’t last long. However, Elliot Brothers from Bournemouth, who owned the once famous Royal Blue coaches, built a garage in Mill Road, Yarmouth in 1922 to house their charabancs and coaches used on their Isle of Wight tours from Bournemouth. Mill Road Garage, until recently occupied the site.
However, in the early 1920s, there was still no direct motor bus link from Yarmouth to Newport, although I believe Coopers used to run on a Saturday evening to Newport for shoppers, taking advantage of the late shopping hours and low prices on Saturday nights, as the butchers and grocers sold off their perishable stock cheaply before the weekend.
The Vectis Bus Company had started a route to Yarmouth and Freshwater in 1923 but this was given up early in 1925 so they could concentrate on fending off competition on their more profitable services. That summer, 1925, Captain Joseph Brown of Carisbrooke, and his son Cecil who had recently completed any engineering apprenticeship, stepped in with services to Freshwater via Yarmouth, most via Shalfleet, and also some through Calbourne, Newbridge, and Wellow and a few journeys through Wilingham.
The following year, 1926, my uncle Hilton Hall, aged then about 22, started in competition with Brown’s on the route through Shalfleet under the name West Wight Bus Service.
He favoured the American design Dodge chassis which was fast for its time, and Brown’s little Morris 14-seaters were no match for them. However, Hilton had received backing from a third party and this proved to be his undoing when things started to go wrong.
Brown’s introduced some fast buses themselves, and much chasing for passengers took place, a common but dangerous practice something which both local and central government became increasingly concerned about. In 1931 Uncle Hilton became bankrupt and his four buses and the little tin garage in Prince’s Road.