The first part of this series looked at the origins and history of George Ewer/Grey-Green from 1895 to eventual ownership under Arriva buses. Grey-Green was one of the most successful independent coach companies of the 20th Century and for a while it even became one of London’s successful bus operators running many of the earlier tendered routes, but of course the company is no longer extant
This second post looks briefly at the classic Grey-Green route along the A12 to Norfolk. Just like the history of the company itself is very complex, the actual operations of running coach services to the East Coast resorts quite complex too. There is no complete history of these. Some services endured for many years whilst others changed like the weather.
Coupled with the many buy-outs of other companies and the many legal decisions determined by the Ministry of Transport as to where, when, how, frequencies, fares, the pick up/drop down points and so on, and the frequency with which these changed its actually quite difficult to know exactly what was going on.
Nevertheless some past users of Grey-Green insist most services had rest stops in Hatfield Peverel or Darsham. I personally find they almost always stopped at Pettistree, and occasionally at Stratford St Mary. Hatfield Peverel is a comfort stop I only ever experienced once and that was due to late running.
Ultimately it depends on what year it was, what day, whether it was summer or winter and what roster the driver was allocated to. Its also quite certain the actual comfort stop would ultimately boil down to being the driver’s discretion and in fact late running may have dictated one comfort stop over another.
The route to East Anglia
I recall using the Grey-Green services regularly, hence some experience of the primary East Anglian routes, thus some of the following information is based upon my observations. But first a little bit of history…
The first regular service to be operated by George Ewer into East Anglia was a London – Ipswich service which began in June 1928. This soon expanded into the intensive summer services to the East and South Coast resorts and also all year round services to Clacton and Yarmouth.
Nice late 1930s leaflet advertising Grey Green services.
In the early years the Yarmouth services were operated via the A11 and Newmarket. This was presumably to avoid conflict with Eclipse Motor Services. The switch to the more direct A12 was made in 1934 (when Ewer’s acquired Bee Line Coaches) and soon Felixstowe was too added. By 1936 Grey-Green’s Yarmouth services were being pooled with Eclipse Motor Coaches.
These services continued in the early years of wartime, however by June 1942 they had been stopped. They were restored in 1945.
King’s Cross Terminals
The original King’s Cross coach station during the late 1920s was in Burton Place and it was a very busy place. It had dedicated waiting rooms and stands. It seems this may have not lasted long due to its being down side streets, not something necessarily convivial.
For this reason a new coach station was opened in 1932 directly opposite King’s Cross station. This was built to resolve the issue of pop up coach stations in the area. It didn’t last long under its intended purpose mainly due to legal issues disputes. All the coach services had to move elsewhere and pop up coach stations once again became the norm at King’s Cross. These days the building is a storage warehouse.
Mid 1930’s view of Grey Green’s AEC Regal on a service to Felixstowe leaving the short lived King’s Cross coach station. Source: Flickr
The same location roughly ninety years later! The building is now used as a number of units, the main being for Access Storage. The yellow doors that are visible hide the ramp to the lower floor where the maintenance and minor repairs of coaches was undertaken.
Prior to 1948 Grey-Green had to use an unsuitably small coach station sited in Judd Street which was in use from October 1948 to December 1953. However this changed in 1954 when Ewer’s business was aided by the fact a new coach station opened at Pentonville Road, on the corner with Northdown Street.
The Ministry of Transport (as PSV Operators) were the new coach station’s owners. The opening ceremony was conducted by Mr. A. T. Lennox-Boyd, the Minister of Transport, with one of Grey-Green’s Leyland Royal Tigers (MLK 952) featured as part of the ceremonies.
Opening of the new coach station at King’s Cross 1954.
This station eventually closed in 1965 and a new one opened in Caledonian Road instead (some reports claim it was Caledonia Street but I cant find where this could have been, however I did find an OS map showing it as actually being off Caledonian Road!) again managed by PSV. This particular one was actually sited opposite the 1954 station but hemmed in by buildings. Apparently Grey-Green didnt use this particular station but instead stopped at the Britannia Airways terminal in Mabledon Place. It finally closed on March 31st 1980.
One entrance was via Omega Place whilst the other was in Northdown Street. This exit was where the modern building at 25 Northdown Street now stands.
It is said in 1980 another coach station was opened by PSV. This time it was managed by Grey-Green and sited on land between what now stands the British Library and the Francis Crick Institute.
During the later years the Suffolk/Norfolk services also began from London Victoria. Source: Flickr
One of George Ewer’s coaches on a London service at Colchester bus station, 1962. Source: Flickr
En route to Ipswich it is said Grey-Green regularly stopped at the Duke of Wellington in Hatfield Peverel. As far as I remember we only ever made one stop here. Pettistree was the main comfort stop.
Some coaches did stop at Stratford St Mary instead of Pettistree towards London. It may have been the Swan Inn which was just on the border with Essex. The stop which was used in the very early sixties was apparently to allow Grey-Green’s coaches to cool off before tackling Dedham (or Gun) Hill, easily the stiffest climb on the whole route! When the nearby A12 Dedham by pass opened in about 1964/65, any use of this stop was ceased.
The Three Tuns, now a hotel. Source: Google Streets
The Three Tuns (originally known as The Tuns according to records from 1886), at Pettistree in Suffolk was the regular comfort stop until 1976 when the nearby A12 by pass opened. Its no longer a public house, having become a hotel in 2006. This mid 19th Century coaching inn sited roughly a mile south of Wickham Market had a large parking lot to the rear plus a petrol garage and was undoubtedly Grey-Green’s favourite comfort stop. Most services would stop here and there were tea rooms ready to serve the hordes of passengers alighting from coaches.
It has been said some Grey-Greens stopped at Darsham. I don’t ever remember that happening. Thats not to say they didnt stop there. Its like the Hatfield Peverel example, it probably depended on the driver’s discretion and even the time of day etc.
Grey Green Timetable clearly showing the Three Tuns stop. Source: Flickr
Grey Green’s Ipswich depot still in use during 1982. Source: Flickr
There were two Grey Green depots in Ipswich. The main one was based in St Margaret Street and its still there although used as retail units these days. It was a major change over point for drivers, especially during the winter months. It too was a changing point for passengers requiring a passage to Felixstowe, served by a shuttle service at quieter periods.
The main depot at Ipswich now given over to a car care centre! Source: Flickr
At more busy times of the year the Felixstowe services worked through from King’s Cross. During the summer most drivers would invariably work straight through to Yarmouth or Felixstowe and some of the latter’s services were non-stop.
One of Grey Green’s Felixstowe shuttle services, probably mix sixties. Source: Flickr
Stops in Great Yarmouth
From 1937 Grey-Green used the new bus station in Wellington Road, Great Yarmouth. This state of affairs lasted until they were able to acquire the use of vacant land, which was technically a war time bombed site in Apsley Road, sometime in the late forties/early fifties.
This terminus, on the corner with Rodney Road, directly opposite what is now the Atlantis Tower, was used until sometime in the sixties. Apsley Road was very central, almost right onto the Marine Parade.
After the Apsley Road coach station closed Grey-Green used the Beach Coach station (which had evolved from the old Midland and Great Northern station, closed in 1959.) Wellington Road was instead used during the winter months.
There was a particular routing for the services to both Wellington and Apsley Road stations. Local bus services (eg from Norwich) serving the town centre and local streets always turned right at St Peter’s Road and thence down the somewhat narrow Victoria Road right to the bottom end, before turning left to reach Wellington Road bus station. Departure was straight out via St Peter’s Road.
Coaches as well as buses coming direct from the town centre used St George’s Road instead and crossed St Peter’s Road into the Wellington Road bus station. As for Apsley Road itself, it was St George’s Road again then Kent Square. Departures went out via Trafalgar Road.
The Wellington Road bus station no longer exists. I do not know when it closed however its now a housing estate.
Grey Green coach on the Marine Parade, probably 1980s. Source: Flickr
George Ewer also had the use of a garage at the corner of St Nicholas/Manby Road for cleaning and minor repairs. Ewer’s policy was that coach drivers were absolutely forbidden from conducting any sort of repairs to their vehicles so a good back-up system was necessary hence the company acquired a good number of garages to keep its fleet in prime condition.
The building on the left in Manby Road, Great Yarmouth (just of St. Nicholas Road) is likely to be George Ewer’s 1950s built maintenance depot. Source: Google Streets
Grey-Green regularly pooled services with other companies, including Eastern National on many of the East Anglia routes during the sixties and seventies. The first of these services were known as the ‘Essex Coast Express.’ Pooling means that companies share services and get a share of the profits.
Eventually George Ewer itself set up similar pools and invited other companies to join these. Ultimately it meant services were more consistently provided and vehicle use maximised whilst resources are spread out more evenly. In other words pooling means each company has more return on their investments but do not end up with too many eggs in one basket!