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Changing Times | The Southdown Motor Services Ltd – Part two

Although Southdown Motor Services began with a heavy focus on the geographical areas of Worthing, Brighton and London, the company soon started to take over a series of other local businesses, creating one large company that ran a number of services along the South Coast.


In 1906, the Chichester and Selsey Motor Omnibus Co Ltd began life, but sadly folded after just 3 years. It was restored by Southdown Motor Services in 1920, and an office opened in Chichester in 1921. This service between Chichester and Selsey became so popular due to its reliability that the ‘Hundred of Manhood & Selsey Railway’ became obsolete in 1935.


The route to West Wittering was added after the acquisition of a local garage at Birdham owned by Alfred Trickey in June, 1923. This route had first been driven by motorised car by George Theobold on November 5, 1919, to the accompaniment of fireworks thrown beneath its wheels by supporters of the village horse bus. Trickey was then placed in Portsmouth and worked for Southdown Motor Services for over 40 years.


In 1923, the Summersdale Motor Services, which ran a route between Chichester and East Dean, was purchased from W. G. Dowle, along with a small office at the Dolphin Hotel in Chichester. Dowle continued to work as a manager until his retirement in 1948. Southdown Motor Services was at this time well-known for its efficient and reliable service, and this was seen through many actions, none more so than its response to a fire in 1923. On July 9 of that year, the garage they owned in Bognor Regis burned down, destroying 14 buses. Vehicles were immediately brought in from other depots to run the services and all journeys ran as scheduled.


During the 1930s and 1940s, the Southdown Motor Services began making improvements, and in September, 1934, a new bus and coach station was opened in Bognor Regis which was kitted out with modern facilities. Chichester at this time, however, was not so lucky. The company had owned a garage in Northgate and an office in the Dolphin Hotel, West Street, since 1923, but by 1938 the constant presence of six to eight buses at a time next to the cathedral became a subject of contention among local councillors. During the early years of the Second World War, there were significantly fewer cars on the road due to fuel rationing and a new bus station was nearly opened on the roadside on West Street, but this did not happen.


The Second World War and the Blitz had a marked effect on people and businesses in Britain, and Southdown Motor Services was no different, although damage to actual premises seemed relatively light. Out of 2,500 staff members, 987 had joined the armed services, 31 had been killed and 16 were taken prisoner. The majority of the remaining staff had assisted the Southern Railway network which had suffered serious damage in the war and were left with large gaps in the line. Southdown Motor Services staff had driven 88,717 passengers during this period.


Although the company was set up to run a reliable and efficient bus service, in the 1980s the company realised the value of their coach excursion service. The Sussex Motor Road Car Co Ltd ran popular journeys to places like the Ascot races in 1908, and the Southdown Motor Services sought to capitalise on this popularity. The company had offered excursions throughout its history, and in 1981 they started the Southdown Excursion Club.


Sadly, the end of Southdown Motor Services began with the Transport Act of 1980 and a government push to de-nationalise the bus companies for increased local accountability. In 1985, the company was split into four geographical divisions, each managed semi-independently but with one general manager who at the time was Michael Sedgley.


On December 31, 1985, Southdown Motor Services was officially divided. In 1989 it was bought by Stagecoach, and in 1992 its name was formally changed to Sussex Coastline Buses Ltd.


However, at the same time, a different division was given the name South Coast Buses Ltd, which covered the Eastbourne and East Sussex operations and meant that both had the shorted name of SCB. Due to this, Sussex Coastline Buses Ltd was officially named Stagecoach in 1993.


Written by Portia Tremlett, museum assistant at the Novium Museum

Posted in Lifestyle.