Tuesday 21st April 2020
My good friend Ray Stenning has only gone and done it again.
Following last year’s publication of ‘Ribble’ by Roger Davies, Ray’s teamed up with career busman and retired engineer David Toy to publish another superb book you won’t regret buying.
This one tells the story of the much loved Maidstone & District majoring on the period from the Second World War through to the late 1960s when it passed into National Bus Company ownership.
This book isn’t a chronology nor a slavish description of vehicles, operations and bus routes during that period but a very readable, lavishly illustrated and attractively laid out (as you’d expect from Ray) story depicting the true character of this highly respected bus company.
There are hundreds of wonderful photographs, many in colour, throughout the 210 page book as well as a multitude of informative maps all drawn by Ray’s skilled cartographic hand while David has brought a wealth of information from his personal experiences growing up in his Medway Towns’ home in the 1950s and 1960s.
It’s a book you certainly don’t need to read from beginning to end to appreciate but instead can dip into the fascinating chapters in any order as they’re virtually mini-books on their own. For example there’s a section covering each of the eighteen garages ‘around the patch’ including a well researched description of the town itself and the community where each was located.
It’s interesting to see how towns on M&D’s eastern flank at Faversham, Ashford and Rye had an East Kent garage as well as an M&D one. Indeed when I worked at Ashford in the late 1970s although NBC had by then merged the management structure of both companies it was still noteworthy how some of the former M&D staff now working for East Kent still maintained their loyalty to their green liveried heritage. I remember Ashford’s Chief Inspector Bill Homewood was a great advocate of M&D having worked most of his career in the ‘green garage’ before moving ten yards into the adjacent ‘red garage’ for the few years until his retirement which coincided with my time there.
On M&D’s western flank there were close connections with Southdown particularly the long joint route 122 between Gravesend and Brighton and the infamous ‘Heathfield Pool’ as well as with London Transport with both companies having garages in Gravesend (Northfleet) and Tunbridge Wells.
The ‘Heathfield Pool’ is described with some great photographs and lovely maps showing how in that golden era between 1957 and 1971 “a masterstroke of bus scheduling” meant passengers could interchange every hour between a myriad of two-hourly bus routes crossing a wide area of rural Kent and East Sussex all connecting at Heathfield with through ticketing and buses operating in a common pool between M&D and Southdown.
A similar interworking arrangement applied on routes 119 and 122 with buses on a 14 day cycle until they returned to their home garage.
The book also contains a fascinating account by the late Alan Price when, as a BET management trainee, he spent time with the Area Superintendents for Tunbridge Wells and Medway. Alan much later went on to be managing director of the municipal owned Maidstone Boroline at Deregulation. There’s also reminiscences of David Toy’s trips by bus to see his Auntie Win in Upper Halling as well as wartime experiences as told by Keith Webb to his son Tony all of which bring a nice personal touch to the book.
For those who love vehicles there are chapters about post war purchases including the story of why particular single decks were bought and the first Leyland Atlanteans and Daimler Fleetlines. As you’d expect there’s a colourful table listing all the new vehicles purchased during the period covered by the book.
There are descriptions of routes operated and an abundance of maps including this superb network map drawn by Ray. If only such a comprehensive network continued today across rural Kent. If only a bus map continued today.
All in all it’s truly a great publication which I’ll continue to enjoy reading and salivating over the maps and photos over the next few weeks.
It’s the perfect lockdown companion.
The book ‘Maidstone & District Motor Services’ has a cover price of £39 and is available now by post from the Classic Bus online shop at a special price of £36. Don’t miss out; order your copy now. You won’t regret it.
Pity the joint “management structure of both companies” didn’t stay. After East Kent fell into Stagecoach hands, passenger numbers doubled over the next ten years in the “quiet corner” of the County, and the former more heavily populated M&D area, halved or worse!
As a matter of interest, the Southdown Enthusiasts Club produced a book recently describing in full detail the amazing intricacies of vehicle and schedule workings for the “Heathfield” scheme. It really was a scheduling work of art and makes fascinating reading.
When Maidstone Boroline re-employed Conductors after de-regulation, I happened to be their first, but it was some months before actually bumping into managing director Alan Price in the town centre Rose Yard office one Saturday lunchtime. “Ooh” he exclaimed beaming from ear to ear, “I had forgotten we had Conductors back!”. I didn’t know him in NBC days, but he was never very “hands-on” at Boroline and rarely seen.
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This looks a fine book and up to Ray’s usual standards, just jealous that my copy has yet to arrive….
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It is a wonderful book and the beautiful style and layout makes the book very attractive, even to those who might not interested in M & D – as has been said, this is a very readable book!