Ribble buses to park up on the Flag Market as Harris exhibition launches

Posted on - 5th January, 2019 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - City Centre, History, Nostalgia, Preston City Centre, Preston News, What's On in Preston
A Ribble bus heading for Heysham Pic Ribble Enthusiasts' Club
A Ribble bus heading for Heysham Pic Ribble Enthusiasts’ Club

Iconic red buses will be parked up in Preston once again.


Founded in 1919 the Ribble buses became a mainstay of getting around in the city.

Marking 100 years since the Ribble’s first hit the city streets the new exhibition at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery.

Parking up on the Flag Market during Saturday 19 January there will be memories flooding back for those who used the Ribble’s during the 60s before they were subsumed into the National Bus Company.

The launch event is from 2pm to 4pm and marks the opening of a six-month exhibition at the Harris. It will also see the debut of Crankshaft Brewery’s commemorative Ribble 100 beer.

Read more: Harris plans underway as next step lottery bid win

Called Ribble 100 it uses artefacts, photographs and voice recordings to tell the story of the Ribble bus company.

Both the launch event and exhibition are free to attend.

A short history of Ribble buses

A Ribble bus pulls away
A Ribble bus pulls away

On 6th June 1919 a bus company was formed to take over a service started in 1910 by James Hodson, running between Gregson Lane and Preston. That company was Ribble Motor Services Limited. It grew at a rapid rate over the next 20 years to become one of the major transport operators in Britain.

Under the control of Major Harold Hickmott, Managing Director and the strong influence of Chief Engineer Captain Harold Betteridge, the organisation was run on military lines. Smaller operators were bought out and new routes were introduced to areas that had previously had no bus service. Eventually, Ribble’s bus operating area stretched from Carlisle to Liverpool, whilst its coach services and tours took the company’s vehicles to all parts of the country. Whilst many towns and cities in North West England had their own municipally owned bus operations, Ribble provided the links between most of them, in addition to serving smaller towns, villages and some very remote settlements.

Read more: 1960s buses help mark Preston Bus Stations’ reopening

All of this was controlled from the company’s headquarters in Frenchwood, Preston. An impressive office block was constructed in the 1930s, complemented by a well equipped workshop to provide overhaul facilities for buses and coaches. Ribble exerted a strong influence over coachbuilders with considerable input into design, whilst forging a very close relationship with Leyland Motors, who provided the vast majority of the chassis used by Ribble throughout its existence. During most of that period the company was part of a conglomerate known as British Electric Traction, though had a great deal of independence from its parent.

Ribble buses on a trip out
Ribble buses on a trip out

Much of that came to an end in 1969 with the nationalisation of many bus operators in an industry slowly declining in the face of ever-growing car ownership. The National Bus Company had Ribble as a subsidiary until privatisation in 1986. Split into two parts, and subsequently further divided, the name Ribble is no longer to be seen on the sides of buses in daily service.

Do you remember the Ribble buses? Let us know in the comments below

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