1913 The Wellingborough

The Collection’s exhibit

The Wellingborough Leyland ST is one of only three surviving second generation double-decker buses, which operated outside London (the others being London General “B” types, of which 4 or 5 remain). It is completely unique.

This bus was ordered by the New Central Omnibus Co. but the order was cancelled on takeover of that company by London General OC in January 1913. Ben Richardson, a former horse bus operator and later Manager of London Central Motor Omnibus Co. moved to Wellingborough and took delivery of some of the buses from the cancelled order. He formed the Wellingborough Motor Omnibus Co. to commence operations in Northamptonshire, which led directly to the formation of the United Counties Omnibus Co., itself later a member of the Tilling Group, more recently part of the Stagecoach Group.

Importance of this vehicle:

  • A rare survivor of a “second generation” bus which is not an LGOC “B” type.
  • The earliest remaining example of a Tilling Group bus, this large group being nationalised in 1948.
  • Birch Bros, the builders of the body, were an old established firm (over 150 years), with an important and interesting local history in Bedfordshire.

Interesting features:

  • The lightweight construction – many comparisons can be drawn between this and the earlier “First Generation” double-deckers.
  • Wider bodywork (4 inches wider than the earlier bus bodies)
  • Continued use of “rocker” panels with downstairs seats facing inwards.
  • Gas lamps (acetylene), with gas lanterns and “bullseyes” on the bulkheads
  • Oil (paraffin) side and tail lamps
  • Solid rubber tyres on spoked cast steel wheels (an early use of cast steel).
  • Open backed spiral staircase
  • Later type worm driven axle in single casing (again using cast steel)
  • S3 engine with forced lubrication and “L”- head engine, with two blocks of two cylinders
  • Interior ceiling boards very wide, possibly made of Baywood.

Discovery & Restoration:

The derelict remains of this bus were found in the grounds of Wellingborough Sewage Works, being used as a store shed. It was rescued in 1979 and restored to original condition by Mike Sutcliffe MBE, after he found the correct mechanical parts to complete the restoration. Mike is well known for the high standard of his early motorbus restorations, going to great lengths to ensure that every detail is absolutely authentic, in fact, in 2004 he was honoured by the Queen for “Services to Motor Heritage”.

The bus was acquired by The Shuttleworth Collection in 2015, made possible with substantial funds from the SVAS and a “living legacy” from Mike, thereby ensuring its future for the public to see and enjoy for many years to come. It is also good to see it in the company of “The Charabus” as they worked together in the Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire area.

The “Wellingborough” has taken part in and won many events, e.g. London to Brighton Run and has featured in films with Peter O’Toole, Helen Bonham-Carter, etc. It is a light little bus, quite fast and very easy to drive.