Video: 1949 Bedford Bus retraces nostalgic trip from Newbury to Brightwalton from 55 years ago
The passage of a small brown and cream 1949 Reliance bus through the heart of the now pedestrianised town centre on Saturday was a sight that many enjoyed and photographed.
The journey was a celebration of Reliance’s former 12.15pm Newbury to Brightwalton shoppers return service and was as packed as it had been back in the day, though this time with family, former drivers and friends.
It was planned over a year ago to launch a book written by David Wilder and Barrie Hedges about the history of the bus service, but coronavirus forced postponement of the event.
The little 29-seater bus that was the focus for the day was hired from Mervyn’s Coaches of Micheldever. It spends its working life in the Reliance livery and ran on Saturday with the old company name and its original destination showing up front.
The welcome the little bus received in Newbury continued as she made her way via Donnington, Snelsmore, Winterbourne, North Heath, Leckhampstead and Chaddleworth to Brightwalton, where George Hedges started the business as a horse-drawn carrier after the First World War.
George’s grandson Barrie Hedges described the welcome as “quite incredible”.
He said: “We were all very touched by the response from people generally and in particular from those who took the trouble to come to Newbury Bus Station to tell us of their memories of Reliance and of relatives who had worked for it.
“It connected a lot of people with their past and with the days before family cars when little country buses were the lifeblood of small rural communities.”
David Wilder’s love of Reliance took him into a 50-year career across the industry, the latter years with Newbury & District bus company.
Mr Wilder said: “It was a truly magical day and my own hopes and expectations were far exceeded. The bus was turned out immaculately and it really did feel just like the 12.15 service at its busiest in 1961.
“It was a total joy to see people anticipating her arrival at Brightwalton Village Hall and to reunite so many family, drivers and indeed passengers from days gone by.”
Speakers at the reception which followed included Kirsten Lloyd, daughter of the former Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, the late Sir Philip Wroughton, who, prior to his death last November, had shared his memories of Reliance.
Ms Lloyd said of the book: “You don’t have to be a bus anorak to enjoy this book. It is full of fabulous photos and memories of life in Brightwalton and the surrounding villages. It’s a real social history of this area.”
Reliance closed in 1985, but lives on locally through the Facebook page ‘Reliance Motor Services Memories’.
Copies of the book Reliance Motor Service – the Story of a Family-Owned Independent Bus Company can be ordered from the publisher Pen & Sword at www.pen-and-sword.co.uk
Here are some more pictures of the special day with thanks to David and Marion Canning for their photographs and a video of the bus driving through Newbury.