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A potted history of a local public transport company whose existence spanned over 100 years

Posted on - 30th October, 2015 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - History, Locations, Nostalgia, Photos, Preston City Centre, Preston History, Transport
Bus stand in Corporation Street 1925. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Bus stand in Corporation Street 1925. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Following the closure of John Fishwick and Sons, Leyland, on 24th October, 2015, local historian, Heather Crook, looks into the history of the ubiquitous ‘green bus’ public transport company since its inception in 1907.

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The business of John Fishwick began in 1907 when John bought a steam propelled wagon from Leyland Motors.  He ran a haulage business transporting goods for local businesses.  In 1910 he acquired another vehicle, which was converted to carry passengers from Leyland to local towns.  After World War 1 the fleet was expanded and in the 1930’s the company had a fleet of eight wagons and 25 buses.  Over time the haulage side of the business declined and was ended in 1953.  The company then focused solely on their passenger business.

In more recent years, the company was known for its scheduled bus services and coach tours. Looking back over the initial 70 years of the firms existence, it was a business that remained very much a private, essentially ‘family’ concern.  John Fishwick a man with a mechanical turn of mind – frustrated with a long period of unemployment – went into transport by purchasing a steam wagon with the aid of a loan.  The first vehicle attained a speed of eight miles an hour, reducing to five miles an hour when fitted with a trailer.

J. Fishwick and Sons first vehicle. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

J. Fishwick and Sons, first vehicle. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Almost from the beginning he saw the possibilities of passenger transport in the area, particularly market day traffic, and by 1911 had obtained an old converted Leyland petrol vehicle which he used for private hire work, and on Saturday afternoons as a service bus in Leyland.

A group of Leyland Motors workers all set for an outing on what was probably the first bus trip with Fishwick's. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

A group of Leyland Motors workers all set for an outing on what was probably the first bus trip with Fishwick’s. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Before and during the first world war – a very difficult time for a small operator – John Fishwick continued hauling goods and maintaining the regular bus in Leyland, assisted by his sons William and Bernard.

Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

John Fishwick’s sons, William and Bernard. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

After the war new vehicles were gradually added, and a major step forward was marked by their acquisition of their first pneumatic tyred single deck bus.  The main reason for its purchase (on a slender budget) was to effectively combat extensive competition for passenger service that had sprung up around the district and of the small operators in competition in those days; by the mid-thirties only Fishwicks remained.  Vincent and Jack Fishwick joined the firm to assist their father, and upon John Fishwick’s death in 1934, William Fishwick was appointed General Manager/Chief Engineer and Bernard Fishwick Company Secretary.

Business continued to expand during the Second World War and services (apart from peak-hour movement of workers) had to be cut down considerably.  Nevertheless, records show that the period was a very busy one, and when hostilities ceased an even busier period ensued with fleet rebuilding.  In 1951 the haulage side of the business was sold to J Canning and Sons Limited Leyland and Fishwicks concentrated on developing their stage carriage service, works and school contract work.

Fishwick’s had been involved in the takeover of local stage carriage operators, but it was not until 1963, when they entered the field of excursions, that they acquired the coach business from Singletons (Leyland) Ltd.  Since that time they had been the sole operators of excursions and tours in Leyland.  Private Hire had also been successful, catering for all types of parties, including trips to the Continent.  Typical of their attention to detail had been their inclusion of mechanic on long continental trips, as well as two drivers, but vehicle service is such that no emergency had arisen to involve the mechanic’s service.

John Brindle's 21st Birthday Cake. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

John Brindle’s 21st Birthday Cake. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

The private limited company was formed in 1982, Managing Director’s John Brindle and Jim Hustler being great grandsons of John Fishwick, the founder of the company.  They continued the firms tradition of operating an all British-Leyland fleet, 37 in total, whose vehicles had proved most reliable and spares readily available considering the close proximity of the Manufacturer’s Works.  Extensive stage carriage service was provided between Chorley, Leyland and Preston.  Buses were subsequently one man operated and staff co-operation allowed a full service to be run during the potentially difficult holiday periods, even during staff sickness and it was not unknown for the Managing Directors to take a turn at the wheel.

Anyone who has ever visited Fishwicks headquarters at Golden Hill, could not fail to be impressed by the efficiency of the depot and the smart appearance of the dual two-tone green buses.  Drivers submitted daily reports and any faults were corrected immediately.  All buses were cleaned and washed daily and maintenance was systematic, with all vehicles checked weekly, and work being recorded.  Pressure cleaning plant had been installed on the premises.  The same thorough attention was given to the coaches, although these were separately garaged at the Chapel Brow premises, half a mile distant.

At the Company’s garage in Hastings Road, former premises of an associate company of body builders W & J Fowler, they had repair facilities for their own and customer’s vehicles.  Recently they had extended their body work section to manufacture trailers either for sale or hire.

 Pay as you enter 1967. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Pay as you enter 1967. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Fishwicks staff 1931. John Fishwick in the lower centre in the paler suit. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Fishwicks staff 1931. John Fishwick in the lower centre in the paler suit. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

1964 Leyland Cross. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

1964 Leyland Cross. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

 Coaches 1963. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Coaches 1963. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Haulage vehicle 1925. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Haulage vehicle 1925. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Fishwick Garages 1932. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Fishwick Garages 1932. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

1914 in Edinburgh. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

1914 in Edinburgh. Pic: Courtesy of John Fishwick and Sons

Up to the firm’s recent closure, Fishwick and Sons had many  long serving staff who co-operated and worked closely with management and therefore it is not difficult to comprehend its 108 year success. What does appear more difficult to understand, is how a firm with such an amazing track record can simply come to an abrupt and untimely end. Whatever the reasons, I’m sure that everyone will agree that the firm of Fishwick and Sons and its work force will always hold a place in the hearts of those who have used the services and travelled on the much loved green buses.

Did you use Fishwick and Sons ‘green bus’ services and do you have any stories? Let us know in the comments below.

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