Monday 7 January 2013

Sidmouth Stagecoach S(C)elebration [1]

Sidmouth Doesn't Change Much!
Sidmouth in 1918 ...
... is not a lot different from Sidmouth in 2013 ...
The esplanade has been widened, the trees round the Victoria Hotel have been felled (top right) but the castellated gates remain leading to the Belmont Hotel. The town has grown inland, of course; its expansion from a small fishing village into a genteel resort being spurred on by the arrival of the railway in 1874.
Sidmouth 1900

So unchanged is central and sea-front Sidmouth that it is often used as a location for "period" dramas. Here is Bertie Wooster (Hugh Laurie), on holiday and mixed up with the theft of his Aunt's pearls ...
... returning from his early morning "constitutional" (at about 12 noon?) with an obvious Sidmouth hereditament in the background.
The gabled building is opposite the entrance to the present Victoria Hotel ...
... to which Bertie returns to observe the hue and cry at the theft of Aunt's valuable necklace.
In this episode, there are some other scenes on the beach and some juicy Wodehouse characters and lines. Barmy Fungi Phipps (a delightfully dotty Martin Clunes) has forgotten which hotel he is staying at; and in a priceless exchange Bertie announces that he will be "goin' to the lounge to do some serious thinkin'." Jeeves (Stephen Fry) replies, "Then shall I wake you at six, Sir?"

Devon General [DG] started its main road bus service from Exeter in 1921 and there was ferocious competition between it and the Sidmouth Motor Company. According to Leslie Folkard ...
... this involved a number of reciprocal dirty tricks. The home team would park their taxi to block the main stop in the town. DG responded by arranging for a "plain clothes" employee to hire the cab at the critical time and thus remove the impediment. The two warring factions soon reached a more-or-less amicable agreement and DG eventually (in 1934) took over the smaller company.

The route was numbered 9 and was joined by buses from Budleigh Salterton, numbered 10. Folkard's book fizzles out at the point at which DG was merged with Western National and route number records are unavailable to fbb. Hopefully someone will be kind enough to fill the gap via a blog comment. The present number (52) was then used for buses between Exeter, Honiton and Seaton.

For privatisation, the larger bus groups were split up and the DG bit of Western National was sold to the Transit Group (Harry Blundred's mainly minibus empire) and later to Stagecoach.
The main road Sidmouth route was now numbered 52.

On-line information about this highly transitional post privatisation period is sketchy, mainly because the area round Sidmouth and Seaton formed the boundary at the extremities of three companies; DG (from Exeter), Western National (from North Devon) and Southern National (from Dorset).

The present day service runs every half hour between Exeter, Sidmouth and Sidford ...
... whence the 52B continues hourly northward to Honiton and the 52A runs hourly eastwards to Seaton.
Service 157 is the modern version of the former route 10 from Exmouth via Budleigh Salterton.

Rolling stock on the 52 is provided by buses like this ...
... ML02 KCD being formerly with Stagecoach Manchester. At 10 years old, they are beginning to look and feel their age although the view from top deck front through the big windows is superb. That cannot be said for the comfort of fbb'a favourite perch, however. Knees up the nostrils negates nice noticing of natures splendid littoral spectacle.

But new buses are on the way - which brings us neatly to tomorrow's blog. After a brief introduction, published overnight, the chubby and ancient one is going to attempt to blog tomorrow's happening in real time.
Or maybe not?

 Next Bus Blog : Tuesday 8th January 


  1. From the May 1979 Devon timetable:
    334 Exmouth-Sidmouth (hourly)
    337 Sidmouth town service (2 journeys, Tu/Fr only)
    338 Sidmouth-Honiton rail link (4 journeys MF, 5 Sats)
    339 Exeter-Sidmouth (hourly)
    340 Sidmouth-Sidbury (ev 30 mins)
    341/342 Sidmouth-Ottery St Mary (1 per hour)
    497 Sidmouth-Seaton (WNOC, approx 2 hourly)
    499 Lyme Regis-Sidmouth (WNOC, summer only extension from Seaton supplementing 497)
    Other 'facts' in this timetable:
    -There was an enquiry office at 10 Woolbrook Road
    -Population of Sidmouth was 12080
    -Early closing day was Thursday
    -The nearest stop to the hospital was All Saints, just 50 yards away
    -The town map clearly shows All Saints Road, but not the hospital

  2. Thanks MofK : The enquiry office was at the depot, now a branch of Lidl. 339 was first used in 1975 as part of a major renumbering for the merged DG/WN. The stop on All Saints Road is still in use, near to the Hospital.

  3. From the "Devon General Society":-

    Haven't found a definite date, I'm afraid, but it was 339 in summer 1988 and 52 in summer 1989. The Merc minicoaches (as DG called them) all arrived in Nov/Dec 88, so that kind of supports my theory, as routes were generally recast when converted to the Mercs as they tended to double the frequency for starters.

    Thanks chaps!

  4. I would love to tour around Sidmouth. I think this is such a rich in historical and cultural place. Wish I could find Sidmouth Holiday Cottages that is very accessible.