Including Old Devonport UK  and Old East Stonehouse UK and beyond.

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 21, 2019
Webpage updated: November 14, 2021



Including Old Devonport UK and Old East Stonehouse UK and beyond.

The earliest known operator of a motor bus service in Plymouth was the Plymouth Motor Company.   In 1900 they were running a service from Salisbury Road to the Plymouth Market but it did not survive very long.

During 1904 the Great Western Railway Company Limited entered the local motor omnibus scene with road motor services between Plymouth Station, at Millbay, and Modbury via Yealmpton, and to Crownhill and Roborough, this latter service being mainly for the benefit of the soldiers from Crownhill Barracks and Crownhill Fort.  Across the river Tamar, the Company also started a road motor service from Saltash Station to Callington and Albaston in connection with the new suburban rail motor service.

When Mr William Mumford died in March 1959 it was stated that he had started the first motor bus service to Crownhill in 1908, using a De Dion Bouton vehicle.

Then in October 1909 the Peverell Road Car Company started a service from Tor Lane, Peverell, to Fore Street at Devonport, in direct competition with the tramways. 

While the outbreak of the Great War interrupted any further growth of motor bus services, it also provided a catalyst for the massive expansion of services once the War had ended.  Many demobilised troops returned home to find that their jobs had been taken over by women.  They had to find new employment opportunities. 

When the military services sold off their redundant lorries, many old soldiers bought them and started their own carrier businesses.  From this evolved the country bus service, where wooden benches were placed in the backs of the lorries and passengers as well as goods carried to the nearest town.  It would appear that this was how the motor bus service run by Mr C H Took from Tamerton Foliot started.  It is not clear whether Messrs Sharpe and Company, whose Sanfairyann Bus Service ran from Plymouth to Crownhill and Roborough, or Mr A E Peachey, who ran from Honicknowle into Plymouth, were also one of these enterprises.

One independent operator who does not appear to have started in that way but dates from either 1914 or just after the end of the Great War was the Pioneer Saloon Buses of Mr Ambrose Facey at Tamerton Foliot.

Plymouth Corporation Tramways Department started to run motor buses in 1920.  They quickly expanded their services as they purchased more vehicles.

Next on the scene was the Devon Motor Transport Company Limited.  In April 1922 their motor bus service from Okehampton to Tavistock was extended through to Plymouth.  As from April 20th 1922 the GWRC motor bus services were placed in their own Road Motor Department at Swindon, under Mr F C A Coventry as Superintendent of Road Transport. 

At around the same time Palace Motors started running motor buses from Plymouth to Plymstock, Oreston and Hooe, and the Plymouth and District Motor Company started a service to Totnes, which was later extended to Torquay.  The folks of Plympton were not to be left out and Messrs Goad Brothers, who owned a garage at Saint Mary Bridge, started a service to Plymouth and later to Cornwood.  And down on the coast, at Wembury, Mr J W Newton used an old lorry to start carrying passengers to the market in Plymouth: the business later became the Star Motor Services.

By 1925 the Devon Motor Transport Company was running services to Ivybridge, Ermington, Wembury, Totnes, Bigbury-on-Sea, Ugborough, Cornwood, Dousland and Walkhampton, and Noss Mayo.  But the main road to Exeter was very attractive to other operators and in 1926 a newcomer, HB Buses, started running to Ivybridge.  On January 1st 1928 the the Devon Motor Transport Company Limited was taken over by the National Omnibus and Transport Company Limited.

An express service to and from London was started in 1928 by Highways, of London.  This was to be the forerunner of the Royal Blue, Trathen's Rapide and National Express services.

On August 3rd 1928 the Royal Assent was given to the Great Western Railway (Road Transport) Act 1928, which allowed the Great Western Railway Company Limited to take a share in motor bus companies operating within their territory.  As a result, on Thursday February 28th 1929 the GWR and the National Omnibus and Transport Company Limited jointly formed the Western National Omnibus Company Limited.  In time they in turn took over the Plymstock and Hooe services previously operated by Palace Saloons.

During the 1930s, after giving thought to running trolley buses, Plymouth Corporation finally decided to start a tramway replacement programme.   The programme would have been complete by the end of the decade had not the declaration of War in September 1939 stopped the closure of the final stretch of tramway from the Centre to Peverell Corner.  Plymouth's last tram ran in September 1945.

The destruction of vehicles, lack of manpower and need to conserve fuel brought about discussions on co-operation between the Corporation and Western National, who were the only other major operator in the area by then.  Those discussions resulted in the Plymouth Joint Services Agreement being signed in October 1942.

Plymouth's last totally independent bus operator, the Heybrook Bay Motor Services Company Limited, was sold to the Western National Omnibus Company Limited in December 1958 and from January 1st 1959 their services were integrated into the Plymouth Joint Services

Thus from 1960 onwards motor bus services in Plymouth were provided by either Plymouth Corporation Transport Department and Western National as partners in the Plymouth Joint Services or by Western National independently in the case of some country routes.  A few services or journeys were operated by Southern National Omnibus Company Limited and Devon General Omnibus and Touring Company Limited.

The Transport Act 1985, which received the Royal Assent on October 3rd 1985, required Plymouth City Council to establish its motor bus operation as a private limited company and thus on October 26th 1986 Plymouth Citybus was formed.  This in effect ended the Plymouth Joint Services Agreement and brought Western National Omnibus Company Limited into competition rather than co-operation with the Council.  In November 2009 it was revealed that the Council's motor bus services had been sold to the GoAhead Group and thus privatized.