Saturday, 11 July 2015

Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire?

London and a Frog?
Another First Bus Withdrawal
But a sale this time!

Yesterday news broke that First Bus was to sell its South Devon business to Stagecoach. This includes Plymouth, Dartmouth and Tavistock depots and 250 employees. In his letter to staff, boss Fearnley says:-

Our decision is a business driven one and does not reflect on the effort, commitment or individual performance of our colleagues in South Devon. I would like to thank them all for the commitment and loyalty they have shown us over the years. Rest assured that they will be fully supported as they transfer to their new employer.

Added to the announcements from last week about three small depot closures, I appreciate news of the sale of South Devon may cause some concern. Please be assured that our transformation plan is working - we are seeing passenger and revenue growth across First Bus. However, in order to maintain the momentum, achieve our medium term financial targets and therefore protect jobs in the long term, we simply must ensure that all our local businesses are on a solid and sustainable footing.

The sale is expected to conclude on 6th September.

Interestingly, in the early days of the Fearnley restructuring, rumours were rife that the Plymouth business would be sold, either to Western Greythound (and look what happend to them!) or Stagecoach. Eventually it turns out to be the latter.

For the record, these are the services involved.

Back to the frog!
A blog about East West Rail?
A blog about Stagecoach X5?


We start at the little village of Wootton Pillinge ...
... in Bedfordshire. It is here that this man ...
... Percy Malcolm Stewart (1872 to 1951), did his thing. His family firm was very much into bricks. The bricks were made of Oxford clay, much of it dug out of the ground in the Marston Vale in Bedfordshire although the business originated in Fletton near Peterborough on the norther fringes of Cambridgeshire. For historical reasons the business was called The London Brick Company.

A huge brickworks was developed at Wootton Pillinge ...
... where he built a "Model Village" with excellent community facilities for his workers. In 1935 the village and its tiny station were renamed Stewartby in honour of the founding family. The Bletchley to Bedford railway line effectively ran through the works ...
... which had extensive sidings to facilitate bulk transport of the "fletton" bricks.
The platforms were built at Green Lane Crossing where the keeper once sold tickets from his little hut. Nick Catford has a picture of the crossing and its keeper on his "Disused Stations" site.
The young lady in question is referred to in Nick's text.

Stewartby up platform and level crossing seen from an approaching northbound DMU in July 1985. The lady crossing keeper waits for the train to pass before reopening the gates.

It will be noted that she is none other than 18-year old Rebekah Wade, on ‘work experience’ prior to climbing to the dizzy heights of tabloid journalism. Rebekah Brooks, as she is known today, clearly couldn’t ‘hack’ being a mere BR employee. Photo by Alan Young


The barriers are now controlled remotely.

Trains are provided by London Midland running rough;ly every hour and calling at all stations.
A variety of stock has been used on the line, but nowadays either two car or one car diesels can be spotted.
The works was bought out by Hanson and is now closed; although the company still sells the ubiquitous "fletton" bricks.
And the depression in the top of a standard brick is called a "frog"!
See; it all fits together in the end. Useless fact department number 157B : a chunk of broken brick is called a "bat"; hence brickbats which are metaphorically thrown at disliked personages.

And, often, bricks were carried in specialist railway wagons; which leads us neatly (?) to tomorrow's blog.

 Next brick blog : Sunday 12th July 

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