Chrishall Bus Depot was operated by Weeden's Bus Company and later, by Premier Travel of Cambridge. The following is based on "Premier Travel - A History" by Paul Carter (pub. Capital Transport)
F E Weeden began operations soon after the First World War, originally operating from Heydon under the banner "Heydon & District" and a chocolate and maroon livery.
Premier Travel operated in a blue livery and began life as the brainchild of 10 undergraduates at Cambridge University in the early 1930s and as a diversion from their studies. It flourished after The Second World War, partly through acquisition of other companies. Discussions with Weedon had commenced before the war and resumed in 1945 when a takeover was agreed in the May. (The tickets on the left are over 60 years old!). As well as the maintenance depot - suitable sites for such facilities were scarce and expensive in Cambridge - Premier acquired some 7 vehicles and of course the valuable licences to operate routes between Chrishall and Bishop's Stortford, Saffron Walden , Royston and Cambridge via Sawston. In summer, the Saffron Walden service went on to Clacton! There was also a London express service (via Clavering) to London Finsbury park.
The takeover of Drayton's Motor Services of Barley was agreed in September 1947. This company operated in a dark blue and cream livery and offered similar services to Weeden's - including another London express. This latter service started from Chrishall and went via Barley and Barkway whereas the Weeden service via Clavering started from Heydon - with the result that both services passed each other on Friday mornings going in opposite directions! Private car ownership during the 1950s was still the exception and the acquisition of Draytons established Premier as the main operator on the Royston - Chrishall- Saffron Walden axis. The Drayton family continued to own the Barley premises which they still operate as a motor garage and filling station serving the local community.
Chrishall was effectively a travel hub for these routes and after 1974 also provided maintenance facilities but its remote location had its disadvantges: in the severe winter of 1962 -63 no less than 16 buses had to be abandoned on one single day after getting stuck in snow drifts up to 6ft deep and passengers had to be led to safety on foot. (For a photo of heavy snow on Barley Road click here)
The distinctive Ribble "White Ladies" shown left were Leyland buses built to a semi-luxury standard (compared to the average double-decker) and were a big improvement on standard Guys. They were introduced secondhand in 1962 and lasted for over 10 years. They originally had art-deco style streamlining embellishment between decks but some of this was removed to permit the advertising panels shown. A similar and even more luxurious body was found on three Daimlers named County of Cambridge, County of West Suffolk and County of Essex and the combined fleet helped to establish Premier as a leading local operator.
The photo of the White Lady top left is taken from the same view as the modern housing on the General Information page, and that of the Morris Dancers. The centre photo is also taken at Premier's Chrishall Bus Depot and shows a bus ready to depart for Fowlmere while the one bottom left is of the same bus about to depart from Cambridge for Royston via Chrishall and Barley.
(Click on the images to enlarge - these photos came courtesy of Busman's web site - now apparently defunct)
|The aerial and the b&w photographs date from the 1960s. Premier gave up its workshops at Harston in 1964 and their engineers joined the Traffic Department at Chrishall. Premier finally closed the site on the 31 January 1974. It was purchased by local haulier Funston who also ran a coach operation from the site until the 1990s, before it too relocated to Royston. The panoramic view dates from this time during the 1980s. The site has since been redeveloped for housing - see Loveday Close.|
Sometime around 2000, "Exclusive First Editions" produced a nicely detailed model of a Premier Travel AEC London STL bus, reg. no. DGX 285 with "Chrishall" clearly displayed in its destination window.
The actual bus is listed in Paul Carter's book referred to at the top of this page. It was built new for London Transport in 1936 but was owned and operated by Premier Travel between March 1954 and October 1956.