Berresford’s was founded in 1923 by James Matthew Berresford and his wife Emily, operating from premises in Randles Lane, Wetley Rocks, near Leek in Staffordshire. These premises were rented from Mrs. Berresford’s brother, Tom Jenkins. Another garage was built on Cheadle Road, as only 2 vehicles would fit in the Randles Lane premises. Previously, vehicles had been operated from Bucknall by Harold Berresford who was James Matthew’s brother. Whether any vehicles were taken over by the Wetley Rocks concern is unknown.
Berresford’s commenced operations on 3rd February 1923, running a 14 seat bus between Leek and Hanley via Cellarhead, Weston Coyney and Dividy Lane. Later in the year the service was altered to Leek-Cellarhead-Werrington-Hanley and was to remain thus until the end in 1987. By 1924, the route was shared with the Potteries Electric Traction Company Ltd. and F.Procter, who had commenced operations a week or so before Berresford’s. This arrangement remained until the end of operations. In March 1930 the Longton-Leek route was acquired from E.F.Millward of Cobridge, who had earlier purchased it from W. Ferns of Leek. Berresford’s was formed into a limited company in 1938 when Mr J.A.Berresford was made a director.
In the early days roads were narrow and their surfaces poor. Horses and carts left large nails lying in the road which caused regular tyre damage. Overhanging trees and hedges caused damage to bodywork and as spare parts were difficult to obtain locally, this caused many problems.
Between 1923 and 1939 most vehicles were bought new; Lancia, Tilling Stevens and Dennis Lancets being the favourites. Twelve vehicles had been bought new by the outbreak of WW2, six of them being still in service at that date.
In 1936, new premises were opened at Windy Arbour in Cheddleton, which is the next village to Wetley Rocks in the direction of Leek. The site, comprising 17 acres of land plus a cottage, was bought from the Milner family. Large offices and maintenance facilities were constructed on parts of the site and these facilities were to remain in operation until the end in 1987. In the late 1950’s, the garage roof was raised to accommodate double deckers.
War time was difficult for all transport operators and Berresford’s was no exception. At the start of the conflict, 6 vehicles were being operated, but due to a large increase in the demand for transport to munitions factories built in the district, extra vehicles were required. Four vehicles were acquired in 1940 and 4 more in 1941. This was a difficult period for the company as staff were “called up” for military service and new staff had to be found and trained. Spare parts were difficult to obtain and roads were in poor condition further adding to maintenance difficulties. Maintenance staff often worked all night to ensure availability of vehicles for the next morning. 100% vehicle availability was required as there were no spare vehicles. Also during 1941 a little known aspect of the Berresford empire came into being – this being Berresford and Shenton Agricultural Contractors. This was a joint enterprise between Berresford’s and a farmer from Withystakes by the name of Dryden Shenton. As its title suggests the company sought agricultural contracts in the area. In fact the company received a International crawler tractor from one of the first shipments of Lease-Lend equipment to arrive from America in 1942. A great deal of agricultural machinery was leased to local farmers by the company. When the company ceased to operate is unknown.
During 1942 the fleet covered 260,000 miles and carried 610,000 passengers. In that same year Mr.J.A.Berresford was called up to the armed forces and this caused the company great difficulties, which were compounded by Mr.J.M.Berresford suffering from poor health. By the end of 1943, 3 buses were off the road and were standing in the field at the rear of the garage. Despite the urgent need for transport, the company could only obtain a permit for a solitary utility Bedford, which was delivered in January 1944. Two more vehicles were withdrawn during 1944, the fleet now numbering 10. Due to the reduced fleet, mileage in 1945 was down to 165,000, the number of passengers being 415,000.
Once the war was over the situation improved slightly as Mr.J.A.Berresford and some employees were discharged from the forces. Also, spare parts and fuel were easier to obtain. An extensive repair programme was put into operation and the appearance and availability of vehicles improved. This in turn led to increased demand for seaside outings and other private hires. Several special works services were also introduced.
During 1947, the vehicle situation was eased further with the delivery of 2 new vehicles, Guy Arabs which were bodied by SEAS and cost £2000 each. In 1948 a Leyland Tiger PS1/1 bodied by Willowbrook was also purchased new. The next “new vehicles” were in fact a pair of AEC Regal rebuilds, built by the company in its own workshops, from a variety of pre-war AEC components. These vehicles, which were given BML chassis numbers, were completed in 1950 and given the registration numbersTRF 990 and URE 461.
As well as these new vehicles, a wide selection of used vehicles were acquired, including the first double decker, ED 7445, which was bought for £60 and was nicknamed “The Lighthouse”, due to its large number of windows. Mr. Trevor Berresford, who joined his brother Jim as a director of the company in 1950, recalls that he passed his PSV test on this vehicle and remembers that due to its low rear axle ratio, it could climb Cheddleton bank in top gear. Trevor had left school in 1945 and had joined the Berresford and Shenton branch of the company learning engineering principles and hands on mechanical skills. He later became the maintenance engineer of the company until he left in 1966.
By the end of 1954, the company was operating a fleet of 18 vehicles (6 coaches, 8 single deckers and 4 double deckers) on a variety of school and works contracts, as well as the two main stage services. Excursion tours and private hire also played an important part in the company’s activities.
In 1960, the well respected coach company Byrne Brothers (Leek) was taken over, bringing premises near Leek town centre, as well as 6 coaches and a furniture van into the fleet.
1962 saw the start of a new venture at Cheddleton, the beginning of a haulage fleet, which ran under the Berresford and Shenton name. This came about as Trevor Berresford, who was maintaining a pair of five ton Fords for a local company, by the name of Stemming Sand, was eventually offered the vehicles and the contracts for carrying processed bricks by the owner, Mr.Butler. The vehicles were taken on and the fleet expanded with the acquisition of several contracts, one of the most notable being with Redpath Brown, for the distribution of Tembo Beams!
1962 was also notable, as James Matthew Berresford, the company’s founder, died on 16th February. His wife, Emily, died the following year.
1963 saw the acquisition of W.Tatton and Sons, Leek, and the delivery of the first new vehicle since the rebuilds of 1950. The vehicle concerned was quite revolutionary as it was a 6 wheeled Bedford VAL, with a Plaxton 52 seat coach body, registered 931 XBF. During 1963, the fleet stood at 28 vehicles plus the 6 at Byrnes, so expansion was the order of the day. By 1971 this had reduced to 25 vehicles, but Byrnes had increased to 7.
Most vehicles at this time were acquired second hand, but occasionally new coaches were still purchased, such as, 3 Albion VT 21L/Duple Fireflies in 1965/66, two for Berresford’s and one for Byrne’s. Interesting second hand purchases were 3 ex Silver Star Leyland Atlanteans in 1967, and a batch of 26 ex Stockport Leyland PD2/1 in 1968-70. In 1970 LEN 101, a Guy Wulfrunian, was purchased but saw little service due to heavy steering. This was soon retired to the field behind the garage where it stimulated a great deal of interest in the enthusiast fraternity for many years.
In the early 1970’s, the Government of the day introduced “Bus Grant”, which enabled operators to purchase vehicles at less cost, as long as they were suitable for use on stage services and completed a certain percentage of their annual mileage on this work. Like many operators, Berresford’s were quick to take advantage of this situation, acquiring 5 “grant door” Bedfords in 1972/73. Two were 45 seat YRQ models with Duple bodies, and three were 53 seat Plaxton bodied YRT models. One of the latter was allocated to the Byrne’s fleet. Due to poor reliability, all five had Leyland 401 engines and six-speed Albion gearboxes fitted by 1977
By 1975 the fleet had reduced further to 23 vehicles but Byrne’s remained steady at 7. Another new “grant” vehicle arrived in 1977, followed by another in 1978. These two were built of stronger stuff than the Bedfords being Leyland Leopard PSU3 chassis with Plaxton bodies.
From 1976 to 1978 Berresford set off on the expansionist trail again acquiring three local companies.
Although some records seem to state that W. Stonier and Sons of Goldenhill entered the Berresford group in 1978, it has come to light through ex-managment employees that it was in 1976, and there for was not only the first acquisistion in this period but the one of greater significane, as this was an old established Potteries operator who served busy urban routes in Stoke on Trent away from Berresford's traditional operating area. This take-over brought 15 further vehicles into the Berresford fold, along with premises in Goldenhill. Although Stonier's was run as a separate entity some exchange of vehicles took place. In 1978 there were two more companies added to the group, F.T.Stubbs (Coaches) Ltd. of Tunstall this brought three Ford coaches into the fleet, two R1114s(one Plaxton one Duple) and a Thames Trouper which saw brief service at Byren's and also Direct Coal and Haulage of Wetley Rocks, who traded as Mosswood Tours. Three coaches were involved in the take-0ver two AEC Reliances and a Bedford YRQ.
It is interesting to look at the fleet size from 1975 until 1982:-
Date Berresfords Bryne Stoniers
1975 23 7 -
1978 33 7 15
1980 37 4 17
1982 33 4 17
As you can see, by 1982 the Berresford group of companies was quite a large concern, running 54 vehicles over a wide area of difficult operating territory, with a fleet of vehicles, many of which were past their first flush of youth. Also, during this period, the Ministry of Transport became increasingly vigilant, leading to many instances of vehicles being taken off the road for short periods. These were difficult and unpleasant times for Berresford’s, who had always prided themselves on giving good and reliable service to their customers.
In 1987 the company received its worst news possible when Jim Berresford died suddenly. As no-one in the family wished to continue with the business, it was sold to the P.M.T. who took over the services and some vehicles. Most vehicles were sold or scrapped, many of them on site along with the vast amount of spare vehicles/engines/gearboxes acquired over the years. This sight brought a tear to many an enthusiasts eye, as all this historic material was destroyed.
However, three vehicles do survive, unless anyone knows any different. Two are now finely restored specimens and one is a kit of parts. 1013 MW is now restored in the livery of its first owners, Silver Star. NSG 869 is restored in Berresford’s livery, even though had several operators prior to joining the Berresford fleet. NSG 869 is based locally and is frequently seen in the area at local rallies, where it generates a great deal of interest. It is a credit to its owner Mr.Trevor Walters and to Berresford’s who almost scrapped it on several occasions. The third vehicle, 3655 NE is perhaps one for the future.
As a postscript, I heard on local radio earlier this year during a traffic report that there was a problem on the Leek-Cellarhead road by Berresford’s garage. Twenty-one years on and it is still known and remembered as Berresford’s.