Here are some anecdotes compiled from my own, somewhat limited, knowledge of Park Royal Vehicles and those (undoubtedly with more knowledge) who have kindly sent me information.
By Graham Hill
Some time during 1929 my father (aged 14) was the only family member in work. The family scraped along by living on bread and cheese (smell the cheese and eat the bread was his father's message to the siblings). To increase his meagre earnings my father worked at Park Royal (then Hall Lewis) every Saturday morning. The pay was one Shilling (12 pence in pre 1971 duodecimal coinage - 5 pence today), but his return journey from Fulham was 11½ pence leaving the princely sum of an half penny (one four hundred and eightieth of a Pound) for his Saturday morning efforts!
By Graham Hill
I recall my father telling me of the problems in creating the Bridgemaster; particularly in reducing the height and keeping within the regulations specified at the time. When any prototypes were complete a Ministry of Transport assessor would arrive at PRV and review the bus for regulatory sizes, space, rails, accessibility and the like. Invariably, so my father said, the assessor was hand picked to be at least 6 foot 6 inches (2 meters), with width to match and weighing around 17 stone (238lbs or 108 kilos). So if this giant could navigate the bus without stooping or turning sideways it was probably OK. My father was about 5 foot 4 inches (1.6 meters) and had to accompany these giants who looked down on him with an overbearing opinion of their omnipotent importance. They could (and would) condemn a design back to the drawing board with one scratch of the pen! My father was always anxious when the "Man-from-the-Ministry" was due!
By Graham Hill
Before the luxury of a car, my father would travel by train (Piccadilly Line) to Park Royal Station and walk across the footpath to Coronation Road, that was in part, a footbridge over the Central Line railway situate in a cutting below. I used to accompany him on the occasions of my visits to the factory during school holidays. But what I shall never forget is the Guinness Brewery and the aroma that used to permeate the atmosphere, in particular across the bridge. The smell seemed to get trapped in the railway cutting below and enveloped the footbridge. So obnoxious was the "perfume", I recall always taking a deep breath, holding it as much as possible and running across the bridge taking my next breath at the other side to avoid the stench. Yes a stench! The brewery site is now shown as Diageo as that company now owns the Guinness brand.
The Big Clear Out: By Graham Hill
father had hoarded countless Park Royal drawings and photographs dating back to
at least the 40's if not before. In his attic, that was quite large, the variously
scaled drawings, mostly rolled up and secured with elastic bands (of which many
had perished) were squeezed together in heaps under a bench that ran the full
depth of the house, less the eves, which, at one point, was used for my
photographic dark room. One
afternoon in the mid 80's I arrived at my parents; "where's Dad" I
asked; "he's gone to the dump" my Mother replied adding "he's
having a clear out". I thought nothing of this believing it might be
another of his garden-rubbish dump runs, until I noticed the loft-ladder in the
down position. All, but a few, drawings had gone. Boxes of
photographs had gone too. I rescued the remaining folded drawings and a
couple of boxes that he hadn't noticed. All had gone in maybe three or
four trips and that was that!
Amongst the losses, that would have probably included every vehicle my father worked on (and more besides) was the Routemaster. Sadly he had thought, just a few years after PRV's closure, no one would be interested anymore. That's what he said to me; and how very wrong he was!
Kindly supplied by Stephen Jolly
I worked for Alf Hill as a junior draughtsman at Park Royal from Mar 77 to July 78. I recall him and his contemporaries being well browned off at the way they were being treated by the Leyland management.
The B15 bus (prototype name for the Titan), that all except one in the drawing office were working on, required every component to be drawn separately and then microfilmed. Thick, blunt lead pencils had to be used on plastic film and Alf hated this after a lifetime of drawing with a (reasonably) fine pencil point! At that time Alf and many of his colleagues were well into their sixties and I think they felt "used" by Leyland to get the B15 designed in extraordinary detail; even though they, and Alf, knew that previous sophisticated buses had been built without so much design effort.
When Alf was issuing instructions for new drawings; he would advise "remember, don't do the difficult bits first, because those 'b******' (expletive remark) might take the work away and give it to someone else after you've done the hard bits".
But actually, he just used to seem to get on with the job in hand anyway, and didn't follow his own advice!
By Steve Eblet
As a small child in Sheffield in the late 1960' and early 70's, I used to do most of my traveling about the city by bus. Sheffield was well known for incredibly low bus fares. I could travel the city for 2p in the early seventies.
Both the AEC Bridgemaster and the Atlantean figured a lot in my childhood. I used to bus to school and I can vividly remember waiting for the bus one day, when most of the buses seemed to be the rear entry AEC buses. I can still recall being absolutely gob-smacked when the most modern bus I had ever seen rounded the corner for me to get on.
It was a Park Royal bodied Leyland Atlantean and what particularly amazed me were the dual doors and the front bumper that made it appear to me as a small kid, to be innovative. It seemed to be a pretty unique body shape and the whole design concept was exceptionally modern for that era, considering the fact that we were still riding around in the family Ford Popular.
By David Welch (Christchurch [New Zealand] Transport Board)
Reference to the 1953 Regal IV in the AEC Non UK Market page where this text is duplicated.
I used to love the old "Mark Fours", lumbering but very comfortable to drive, I think partly because of their dependability, pre-select and the very comfortable (sitting at a table feel) body position for driving. They ran for about 25 years in Christchurch, not bad for buses that often ran 18 hours a day most days. The bodies were very heavy and solid. Sometimes I'd pat the bus when I came alongside, it used to make me think of an elephant. They had such a low torque I swear you could have driven up a hill in fourth gear and that no mud in the world would ever bog down a Mark IV. It would just complacently "chew its cud" and slowly turn over, and however slow, surely but steadily pull away. We would continue driving them even when boiling over (that was the advice) up our main hill route to the hose that was kept at the top - and boy watch out when you prized off the radiator cap!
Strange as it may seem, I specifically remember the 331 (pictured) [see AEC Non UK Market page] I used to look out for it (if I had the option of say taking a bus from the yard to do a special). For some reason the steering and acceleration on the 331 seemed a lot lighter and peppier to handle than most of the rest of the fleet! Amazing that the only one I specifically remember should be the one in the photo.
I suspect the picture was actually a UK factory publicity photo as I don't think there was ever a period when CTB provided dustcoats for drivers, always a full uniform. It is a very nostalgic image nonetheless.
By Denis Griffin
I was just 15 when I started my apprenticeship in sheet metal work at Park Royal in 1966. I spent the first year making tea and impersonating a trestle. Over the next seven years I had a most interesting education in metalwork and of life in general.
At Park Royal, most of the sheet metal work was not carried out on the production lines, but in the "Panel Shop" within which there was various metal working machinery and work benches. It was quite a contrast to the manufacturing methods of today - it was in fact a veritable "Father Christmas's workshop" - with much tapping and hammering by all. There must have been up to a hundred men working there; indeed, with the many personalities came politics and intrigue, but also lots of laughter and smiles. I’m sure I can still put names to fifty or more of the faces I worked with.
One memory is of making work for home “homers”. Which if made in your own time was just about legal, providing it wasn’t the size of a bus. You paid a few bob for the material and got a gate pass from the Forman to take the “homer” home. One worker was always taking bus looking parts home especially naff gaudy looking off cuts of Formica. On seeing him leave with another piece for home, my friend with whom I was walking with, shook his head and gave a wry smile “how do you think his house looks” I asked “like a bus,” he replied “you ring his front doorbell and the house moves off.”
As a shop floor apprentice, with the exception of the initial job interview and an annual visit to the personnel manager Mr Morrel(?), I never went into the office building. I do remember seeing
Bill Shirley's black Humber Super Snipe you mention riding in, which was quite a car in its day.
Despite just seven years, as my first job, I have many memories of people and products from that remarkable company.
By Thomas Barnes
During my apprenticeship at PRV from 1962-1967, it was procedure that you spent about a month on each part of the construction of
a vehicle until you completed the main part which was in the bodyshop.
After about a year I moved on to other departments i.e. mounting, seat making,
pipe fitting, smiths-shop, destinations, setting out and finishing. One spent so much
allotted time on each operation but if you mucked the first operation up you would do it again until you got it
right! Up until January 2011, at Stagecoach, I worked alongside Steve Churcher who worked with your father in the drawing office at
Jim Stringer (London Transport 1959 - 2001) [Resident (at PRV) inspector for London
(Jim has kindly written in on several occasions - below is a summary of his anecdotes in no particular order. Ed.)
I have some very fond memories of Park Royal vehicles when, during the late 1970'/1980's I was the resident inspector for London Transport. I had my own office overlooking what was the P.R Greyhound race track, and I was responsible for the stage and final inspection of the DMS buses then currently in production.
I recall with some amusement the build-up of completed vehicles which was becoming and embarrassment because I was not allowed to sign them off due to the fact that they had not had all their transfers fitted. I was told that the vehicles had to be complete before accepting them. The only problem was that the transfers were 'free issue' from Chiswick Works - and they were 'out of stock'. I decided that action had to be taken to break this stalemate. I 'phoned Aldenham, who, I found out, had all the transfers needed. I then asked Frank Dungate (Quality Manager) to get a car and drive me over to Aldenham, where we picked up all the transfers we needed, and much more.
The Paint Shop foreman was delighted and got to work immediately sticking all the transfers on the finished buses. Then I signed them all off and arranged delivery. It was only then that I chose to tell my office what I had done !!! (I did wonder whether there was a reason for not accepting them before - financial perhaps?)
I was there at the time when the B15 was being developed and saw and
inspected the very first one.
Yes very happy days, now sadly long gone.
On another occasion a coachtrimmer came to me and told me that he had made quite a serious error on one of the L.T. DMS's. In putting up the handrails on the lower deck he had inadvertently positioned the drilling jig round the wrong way, and drilled the fixing holes in quite the wrong place. I looked at the problem and asked him what it would mean to put it right. He sheepishly admitted that the whole ceiling panel would have to be replaced. I personally could not see the point of this and suggested that he positioned the drilling jig correctly, drill the fixing holes where they should be, attach the handrail, then put pop rivets in the wrong holes and touch them up with a spot of magnolia paint - then to come and see me again when he had finished. This he did, and to be quite honest the job looked fine to me and certainly did not warrant the replacement of a whole panel. I told him that the job looked good, and not to do it again. I doubt whether in the life of that particular bus anyone ever noticed that there was a surplus set of holes carefully disguised with pop rivets in the panel above where they were sitting.
I recall that awful red paint called 'poppy' that provincial buses were painted with in the 70's. Later, when PRV were clearing out their stock of this particular colour, I was offered a gallon tin of it. It came in very useful at home as I used it on the front and garage doors of my mother's bungalow, and also the garage doors where we lived. It was very bright, but did tend to fade in the sun. Being coach paint it covered very well, and using the 'skills' picked up from the PRV coach painter, the finish looked very professional. I also secured a gallon of surplus 'khaki' paint which also came in very useful when my son's WW2 jeep needed painting.
Once, when I was to go on leave, my boss had arranged for someone from the inspection department at L.T. Aldenham to look after things until I returned. His name was (name withheld), and I was to meet up with him at our site office. When I reached the office he was not there, so I went looking for him around the works. I found him, clipboard in hand, looking over one of the completed vehicles. I waited politely, until he paused, when I introduced myself. Eventually he stopped what he was doing and, looking straight at me, he said, "I don't know who the **** you are but you can **** off back to Acton" (meaning L.T.'s Chiswick Works. Ed.). I did not need telling twice and immediately 'phoned my manager to relate what had occurred. (name withheld) was only there for that one day!!! Later, upon speaking to some of the PRV employees, it would seem that (name withheld) had been there before and had caused so much trouble that he was asked to leave. (The subject's name has been redacted as otherwise the Editor might feel obliged to offer the person concerned, or his descendents, the opportunity to respond to the accusation that this evident troublemaker had such an appalling approach to camaraderie; and I don't wish to feel so obliged! Ed.)
Ron Stringer (BREL at Derby C&W works - Electrician & Finished Work
A 103 trailer [PRV Railbus] arrived in the Diesel test shop with a damaged heater ducting. The duct was removed and sent for repair & re-lagging which took a few days (trailer cars generally arrived in the test shop one day and went to traffic the next). Unfortunately, this car spent almost a week standing in the shop until the new duct was fitted. A shunter Class 03 arrived, coupled up the repaired 103 trailer and made a swift departure from the shed. A series of loud bangs followed and I went to investigate. I found the newly repaired ducting lying beside the trailer. Whilst the shunter was coupling up a skip lorry had arrived and placed a skip too close to the track. The shunter had struck the skip causing the skip to spin round and destroy the new ducting. The trailer returned for another few days wait.
I also worked on the 103 sets and once went to Chester to carry out repairs on a 103 set that had failed on arrival ex works. I also worked on one of a pair of Railbuses that had been returned to the Midland region for use around Buxton. It had arrived with two W&M railbuses and stood for a time in sidings alongside U shop in Litchurch Lane works. It was moved to the diesel bay in U-shop and the body was lifted off the U/frame and some work was carried out. The work was stopped before completion and the body was returned to the U/frame but I do not think it had the services reconnected. it was taken out of the U-shop and I know not of its fate.
Glen Mountney (PRV Drawing Office: 1965-1972 & LT 1972-1973)
I have many excellent recollections of the PRV Drawing Office, but one in particular comes to mind and that is Bert Butler's daily ritual. After selling newspapers at an underground station on his way to work, he would begin the working day in the Drawing Office by staring out of the window, his flat right hand above his eyes uttering the words "I see no ships; only hardships!".
Memories of Bill Pearson: Bill was quite a character in the Drawing Office. I worked with him for various periods of time at PRV especially on the development of a new luxury coach (what was it called; was it an Albion?). Bill was usually quite a serious person but could also allow himself a bit of a laugh at times. In that way he was quite unlike his brother Dave who also worked in the PRV office as a buyer. Dave was always in for a prank and really loved taking the mickey. The amazing thing about Bill was his ability to draw in the most artistic way despite his shaking hands. He was able to control his hand movement to the extent that all the lines and text were still shaky but with a certain uniformity; amazing and a pure piece of art. I never dared ask him if he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, but youngsters didn’t do that in those days (or at least I didn’t). God bless you, Bill.
Memories of Bill Rees: Bill was the youngest of the “golden oldies” in the Drawing Office and was always a kind of father figure to the youngsters. He was usually very cheerful (although sometimes quite introvert), patient, in for a chat and often lent a considerate ear to the youngster’s problems. He showed them the utmost respect mixed with a healthy dose of advice. I’ll always remember the few times I visited him and Hertha in Mortlake, stories of his wartime experiences (as a Desert Rat in the tank division), him arriving at work on his motorbike with sidecar (later in his Allegro and lastly in his favourite Mini) and also the unbelievable amount of PG Tips picture cards he always saved for me from the tea supply he bought for the Drawing Office Print Room. I had hundreds of them (no idea where they are now). We all certainly did our best to consume as much tea as possible during the Saturday morning overtime whilst listening to the Kenny Everett radio show! My thoughts and best wishes go out to Bill during this difficult period of time in the Care Home in Downham Market. My respect is for Hertha and her endless wealth of kindness and care.
By John Walker (ex Glasgow Corporation) - [See John's explanation of the Dundee Daimler CVG6 number 205].
from John's explanation of the Dundee
Daimler CVG6 number 205 he writes: Dundonians' affectionately call
Dundee "Peh City"; that simply means "Pie City"! Dundonians' pronounce all
"ie" sounds as "eh"; e.g, "Eh fell doon the Wellgate steps and mah peh went skeh
heh", is translated as, "I fell down the Wellgate (Dundee shopping centre)
steps and my pie went sky high."
In Scotland we have a bad habit of eating round Scotch meat pies whilst walking along the street, and such accidents as described above are commonplace. Thus, as Dundonians are particularly fond of Scotch pies the manner in which they pronounce the word "pie" gives rise to the title "Peh City".
We used to visit family & friends in Dundee and I travelled on a lot of old Dundee buses, maybe even on number 205. But I also travelled on many lowbridge PRV bodied PD2s operated by the former S.M.T. (later Eastern Scottish). For a good few years they were the mainstay of that company's operations on local services on the east side of Glasgow. They appeared to have been very solidly built, and lasted about twenty years under very arduous operating conditions.
Glad I discovered your site and I'll enjoy browsing through the rest of it. I've never really been a dyed in the wool enthusiast, but do look back on the old days with affection."
Malcolm Harrison (PRV Works): 1965-1979)
I recall, one Monday morning, we found a managers' car smashed into the building under the stadium; we think he was drunk but never found out the truth; though I believe it might have been *******'s (name supplied but redacted by Ed.) as I recall he liked a drink. I remember Fred Cootes who drove an old Hillman Minx - one day it was running rough so he took the spark plugs out and with a long bit of wire poked about to feel the valve seats; 'not sure if he found what he was looking for. He always had the car loaded with stuff so that it sat very low down at the back. Fred Conway rings a bell! Did he work on buses for export and go abroad to help with the assembly of them? I also remember the FRM prototype as I would sneak in to have a look.
Dennis H Sear
My father, Harold G.V. Sear worked in the paint shop at Park Royal Coachworks before and throughout WW2; where he remembered a colleague, the then amateur musician, Jack Byfield. Harold was a skilled painter and I remember him pointing out to me one of the Smith’s Crisps vans that he would have worked on, applying gold leaf to the lettering he had drawn on the famous, blue coachwork. I also remember being taken to see the works via a train journey from Feltham to Richmond and then on another line until we reached Willesden and on to Acton.
Dad made this trip daily and once had to walk part of the way home during a dense fog that had stopped the traffic; although there may have been bomb damage involved. Sgt. Sear was also in the Middlesex Home Guard, mainly guarding the Prince of Wales pub; or so it seemed to Mum at the time.
Air raids and bomb damage to Feltham lasted from 1940 to early ‘44, with a few V1 and V2 weapons paying us a visit, probably trying to put out of action the nearby second largest marshalling yard in the country. We survived although a piece of shrapnel pierced Dad’s blanket roll whilst en route to the shelters one night. Dad yelled, “something is burning Doris!” But we didn’t find out what until we got inside the shelter – a close call that!!!
There is good evidence that the musician Jack Byfield once worked at Park Royal. Dennis Sear's father, Harold's, recollections (see above) about Jack give credence. Jack was clearly extremely talented and was a household name in the 1950's regularly broadcasting on BBC radio through his association with the violinist Max Jaffa, the programme "Grand Hotel", and with his own orchestra. As both an arranger & composer, Jack also wrote themes for BBC radio and TV.
Jack was born at Croyden on 28th November 1902, to French Polisher/Cabinet Maker, Herbert Harold Byfield & Jane (née Frost). He had two surviving elder siblings who it seems did not show musical leanings. However Jack's evident prodigious talent enabled him to enroll as a student at the Royal Academy of Music in the early 1920's. He was clearly a very talented pianist and, whilst at Park Royal, was persuaded by his colleagues to "go professional". By 1934, he was making recordings as part of a trio with Albert Sandler (violin) and cellists Joachim Samehtini (1889-1942) & Reginald Kilbey. Albert Sandler formed the Palm Court Orchestra in 1943 of which the trio members became part, but after Sandler's untimely death in 1948, Jack, along with Reg. Kilbey, began a long association with the violinist Max Jaffa. Though the trio's association with the then BBC's Grand Hotel (Palm Court Orchestra), the programme was to continue newly under the baton of virtuoso violinist and Yorkshire-man Tom Jenkins (with whom they travelled widely whilst also making recordings for HMV). Jack was later to have his own orchestra with which he made many recordings and arrangements for the BBC. Jack had married Rose Edith Bagnall (aka Jeannie) at Croyden in 1925 and the couple had a daughter in 1928. Jack died at Eastbourne in 1977 aged 74.
By ascertaining some of his earliest recordings we can date his time at Park Royal as being about pre-1934. There is a recording of the Venezuelan born French composer Reynaldo Hahn's "'L'heure exquise" (The Exquisite Hour) dated July 1934 with Albert Sandler (violin), Joachim Samehtini (cello) & Jack Byfield (piano). This piece is one of Hahn's many refined and beautiful songs with the soprano part transcribed for violin. This song has been transcribed for various voices & instruments; but try this version, as I believe it was originally intended, by the mezzo-soprano Susan Graham:
BTW Reynaldo Hahn's considerable opus is mainly concentrated on voice, chamber & piano works, There is little specifically orchestral except for a violin concerto and a relatively short but brilliant & challenging piano concerto. Here it is in a 1937 recording with its dedicatee Magda Tagliaferro playing, with Hahn conducting: (If you like this, there is a stunning modern recording on the Hyperion label coupled with Hahn's teacher, Massenet's, concerto; with pianist Stephen Coombs. I only mention this to take the opportunity of promoting the largely forgotten Reynaldo Hahn.)
Also in 1934, Jack accompanied Albert Sandler and the cellist Reginald Kilbey on recordings of Listz's Liebesträume #3 "O Lieb, so lang", Massenet's "Meditation from Thais" and, in 1935, an arrangement of Max Bruch's Opus 47 "Kol Nidre".
But not forgetting Jack Byfield's own compositions, here is a delightful piece entitled "Aeolian Minuet" transcribed from an orchestral suite composed in his student days: (pianist Phillip Sear - no relation to Dennis & Harold above)
Here is Max Jaffa playing the Italian composer, Vittorio Monti's most famous work "Czardas" accompanied by Jack Byfield.
The German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) published two books of preludes & fugues, specifically for the purpose of study, that became known as "The Well Tempered Clavier". The French composer Charles Gounod (1818-1893) improvised a melody to overlay Bach's first Prelude in C, from Book No. 1, and hence the "Ave Maria", published in 1853 has become one of the most widely known and played compositions of all time. Here is a shortened arrangement for violin, viola & piano played by Max Jaffa, Reginald Kilbey & Jack Byfield; recorded in 1959. Click the play button to play in your browser. Enjoy; Ed.
What a giveaway - now everyone knows one of the editor's other major interests. So what has classical music got to do with buses and Park Royal et al.? Well nothing, and I care not! I trust readers enjoy the links! If not - no worries! And if I could find any excuse to pepper this website with dissertations on serious music, I would.
I started work at Park Royal Coachworks in January 1946 in the Composite Body shop aged fourteen. I can well remember the many times we were on strike (from half a day to fifteen weeks) and my strike pay, due to my age, was just ten shillings (fifty pence) per week. I stayed there until they started laying off staff leading up to the closure. I can still remember, although I am 82, the various vehicles I worked on; Civil Defence Vans, Merryweather Fire Engines, Macbraynes Coaches, East Kent, Southdown just to mention a few. Very happy memories of my time there.
I remember my father, John Rose (aka Jack) saying that he remembers being involved in the production of the GWR Railcars and when I was young, around 1960, I went on these quite regularly in their custard and cream colours. They ran from Uxbridge Vine Street station, that was closed under the Beeching Axe, to West Drayton on the Western Region main line. One still exists at Didcot Railway Centre.
By Bella, "Clippie" on RM1's inaugural run Wednesday 8th February 1956
by Bella's son Dave to whom I am grateful for several of the links on the RM
Links page) [Full names withheld by request]
I worked for several years, in the 1950s, at Cricklewood Garage as a "Clippie" - my Badge No. was N51183.
I worked on several Routes over the years but when the new Routemater Bus came into the garage I happened to be working the No. 2 Route. On the day that the RM1 went into service [Wednesday 8th February 1956, Ed.], I was not aware that it was a special run - just that it was a new type of bus being used on Route 2. Yes, it was exciting to have the new bus for my duty but that was all. The journey from Golders Green to Crystal Palace was uneventful - we just picked up the normal complement of passengers - but my one lasting memory of that day was on the return journey when we got to Herne Hill. The crowd waiting to see the Bus was phenomenal - it seemed everyone wanted to get on the Bus - I just wondered what was happening, but had to turn many away as the bus was full. At the end of my shift, my Driver Reg. [Full name withheld by request] and I returned to Cricklewood garage when I was told that the event had been filmed. I was not aware we had been filmed as I was too busy collecting fares etc.. I have never seen this film, nor do I know who might have filmed it; but I would certainly like to see it, if indeed RM1 was filmed that day.
It was not for some time, a couple of years or more, that I realised the significance of the journey - to me it was just a normal rostered duty run and, apart from Inspectors at the terminuses, I do not remember having any officials around on what we now know was a very special occasion.
Eventually more RMs came into the garage and I ended my service conducting Route 260 from Cricklewood to Waterloo extending to Surrey Docks in the rush hours.
[I think we'd all like to see the movie of RM1's first official run in 1956! Do you know about this movie or can you add anymore detail to this great occasion? Please let me know. (Ed)]
Bella does have other interesting stories with her time on the buses; mainly the Film & TV celebrities that would get on her bus. The most famous was Charlton Heston who was here at the time his big film (Ben Hur) was on release [1959 Ed.]. Bella gave him a guided tour on the journey pointing out various landmarks for which he was very grateful. But even more amazing for Bella's family is that her grandson is named John Carter (Charlton Heston's real name), and her American daughter-in-law's mother was a close friend of Charlton Heston.
Rod Swalling (see also Rod
I worked at PRV in the Office from mid 1974 to October 1975 as a Bonus Clerk. Bill Shirley was the Plant Director back then.
At the time the workers in the factory were not happy because their wages of £55-65 per week was made up of a basic wage of about £25 and a bonus of between 120 & 160%. Needless to say they wanted a higher basic wage of about £50-60 with a bonus element of between 5 & 10%. Things were worse in the office! The average wage at PRV was £20 less than the equivalent jobs at Rolls Royce and this was because some 20 years earlier staff had accepted a £1 wage increase if they opted out of the Union.
Still, despite the difficulties, there were some good people there.
I joined PRV in its Apprenticeship Programme and the year we started a new course was set up at Willesden College. We spent our first year there "full time" except school holiday’s (when we were back in the factory). The course included all the trade’s; painting, panel beating, body work etc. along with technical drawing. The course was intended to train us for potential moves into management and/or teaching at a later date. It was a great first year because we learned a lot and had excellent instructors who were themselves tradesmen. Other Apprentices were from Vanden Plas and Duple’s.
John Doyle's Apprenticeship
Other employees I can remember (apart from those mentioned in the Football Teams) are Andy Barnes, Ernie Stanbury, Billy White & Arthur French; I wish I could remember more but I hope this jogs a few memories and would like to hear from anyone.
I emigrated to New Zealand in 1975 but remember that PRV was a great place to work and I am very proud to have done so!
One of my better nick names was Pyrex Pete due to the thick safety glasses lenses I wore.
I remember the Summer of 1976 being unbearable as temperatures on the top decks went into the
90/100 deg's. Fahrenheit. We all had to be issued with salt tablets by the nurse.
It's a long time ago, but I think we internally roofed an entire bus in 2hrs 15
minutes so as to get out to some fresh air soonest.
Unfortunately I remember very few names, even then they were not full names. For example, there was 'Big Dennis', also in the roof gang. A terrible tragedy I recall was one of the glaziers going head-first off the gantry following his tool box.
PRV built six buses for New York and many buses for Baghdad whilst I was employed there.
Mick Carolan (including a comment on his father James Patrick
Obituary by Angela Williams (daughter)
Dermot John (aka. Mick) Carolan: born 3rd February 1926 in Longford, Ireland, died 16th May 2018 in London, UK.
I am his eldest daughter and would like to offer some information on our Dad who worked at the PRV Abbey Road site between 1948 and 1980.
Dad died this year at the age of 92. His name was Dermot John Carolan but because he was Irish he was always known as Mick Carolan at work.
Dad came to the UK from Ireland at the age of 22 to join his own father, James Patrick Carolan, who was already employed at PRV at the time. They both lived in digs in Harlesden for a while.
Dad worked on the factory floor building buses to start with but sometime in the late 1950s he moved to a clerical role. Mum's explanation for this was that he made the switch in order to gain better pay to support their growing family; but office work didn't appeal to him much and I'm pretty sure the change was undertaken with some reluctance.
I don't remember him being in the drawing office (see note[mc1] below) but I will try and check this if I can - I worked in a couple of drawing offices myself at various times so this struck me as unexpected. What I do know is that he eventually became Commercial Manager and fulfilled this role for a number of years. I know he was directly involved in the sale of buses to Baghdad and with some MOD work as well. When the factory closed down in 1980 our Dad and one other person had the task of carrying out the final clearance of the offices. I don't know the person's name but think the period which the two of them spent disposing of the historic Leyland paperwork in an otherwise empty building was one of the worst times of his life. (see note[mc2] below)
Dad was a talented photographer and his skills were often in demand as part of his day job so it's possible some of the pictures in your archive were taken by him. He definitely photographed a visit by Prince Philip to the factory and as Commercial Manager he was photographed himself at the wheel of the new Routemaster for one of the newspapers.
Dad was immensely proud of the work carried out at PRV and of British manufacturing history in general. He was practical to the core - he especially loved working with wood and took immense care over everything he tackled. He never lost his connection with the shop floor - he knew a great deal about paint and at one point the cast iron guttering and downpipes on our 1930s house were all done in Country Bus Green!
Less happily, a legacy from his time in the factory was hearing loss due to the noise of the riveting machines - he lost the ability to hear high pitched sounds at a fairly young age and towards the end of his life he was very deaf.
There's a photo of our Dad on your site - he is in the back row standing on the wall to the right of the door; a tall white-haired man in a dark suit and tie. (see here Ed.)
Thank you for all the work you've [Graham] put into your website, it's a great tribute to your father [Alf] and I was so pleased to find it when I began searching for info. on Dad's working life. I hope this message is useful - if I'm able to find out any more I will let you know. (Thank you for those kind words Angela, I'll be pleased to add any other comments about your father should you wish. Ed.)
Note[mc1]: I was advised by a reader that Mick Carolan might have been in the drawing office at one time; hence Angela's comment. Ed.
Note[mc2]: This was probably John English - please see John's article of the history beyond the closure of PRV. Ed.
The Atlantean Drawings: By Graham Hill
Hill (my Dad) was a really quiet man; he might not have been so with mates in the
PRV Drawing Office or on the shop-floor, but at home he never discussed with my
mother or I the cares of the day; except one day.......
To say the least, he was visibly irritated; "they've given all my Atlantean drawings to Weymann" he said. He'd been called into a meeting with management who tasked him with organising it.
I expect that PRV must have gotten something from such a deal; though I can also imagine that Leyland, being at the time only interested in supplying chassis and not caring who the body builder was, may have pressurised the situation for some reason. Production delays perhaps being most likely, or maybe an opportunity to punish the ACV Group, given Leyland's continued bitterness resulting from the Routemaster debacle when AEC blocked Leyland from supplying Routemaster running units for London Transport Routemasters. In any case Leyland could use the Atlantean to dilute AEC's hold over LT's purchasing agreements on chassis/running unit supply.
Dad was even more annoyed when sometime later (probably at the next Commercial Motor Show) Weymann declared it had designed the Atlantean bus bodywork in just six weeks; Dad knew how, and why!
I think Dad usually just towed the line and got on with the job, but this occasion sticks in my mind; I guess it was probably about 1959.
Postscript: In early 1960 five Atlanteans (PDR1/1) with PRV body numbers B43942-6, destined for Trent Corporation, were actually built by Weymann. At that time, other PRV numbered Atlanteans for Western Welsh, East Midland & Potteries were never built. It would not be until March/April '64 that PRV would fulfill an initial order from Stockton Corporation for seven Atlanteans. So it would appear that Dad's design work on the Atlantean was shelved except for the Weymann built versions.
(I know, I have seen somewhere, someone suggesting that the early PRV Atlantean looked like a copy of the Weymann Atlantean - it's rather the other way around.)
By Mark Webber
I have to admit that I am a regular visitor to
this most excellent and informative website which is where I first found the lovely photo's of
Plymouth City Transport #230
(JJY 630G) kindly supplied by Catherine Norman of Forest Miniatures. I felt sure that
it would be of interest to know that the bus was up for sale once again and I have to
comment that it is in very good condition for its age.
I was born and bred in Plymouth and knew #230 and her sister vehicle #9 very well. I also spent a number of years in South Yorkshire and was fortunate to be able to enjoy the Sheffield versions as well.
I well remember #221 (JJY 221G) being delivered after the 1968 Commercial Motor Show and went to ride on it the day that she entered service on route 22 to Merafield Rise.
Imagine my joy when the Park Royal demonstrator MTF 665G came to Plymouth and was put into service on the 12/13 routes, which at the time I used to go to and from school. Riding on this 'special bus' is a lasting memory of mine, much to the envy of my school friends at the time! It was lovely to see some shots of this bus moving around the works as well as other Plymouth and Sheffield examples in the video "Memories of Trams, Buses and Trolleybuses" now available on this website.
Sadly the cost of shipping #230 from Australia back to the UK will probably dash any hopes of her being preserved back here. I hope that a suitable home will be found for her in Australia, possibly the Sydney Bus Museum, where she will live on to be enjoyed for many years to come.
behalf of Donald Matthews
By Marion Gowler (daughter)
When my father Don became Technical Sales Assistant to the Commercial Director, the job involved supplying spare parts mainly for vehicles involved in accidents. I remember him coming home from what must have been one of his first days in the new job and telling us, all over dinner, about one of his first jobs in the new role. He was asked to send all of the spare parts for a bus which had tried, but failed, to go under a low bridge. The customer sent in a photo of the double-decker bus, minus its upper deck saying "please send appropriate spare parts as soon as possible."
By Mike Potter
During my short time at PRV
in 1964 (due to a career change) I recall the Bristol Car aluminum bodies being lined up alongside the side of the body shop as they were
completed in their all aluminum shining state, maybe three at a time. I was
tasked with making up 'cabs' over timber frames on 'jigs' and then mount them on AEC truck
chassis delivered from nearby Southall. This was about the time, or just after, that 'Buses for Cuba' were
completed and were sunk in the Thames estuary aboard the export ship.
Routemasters were everywhere!!!
By Stella Shipway
I honestly cannot remember the years I was at PRV, it was a long time ago now, but during the early 1950's I was Mr Endersby's Secretary who was then the Personnel Manager for PRV. Our offices (three of them) were on the left just inside the main gate. However, one day I remember very well, was when I saw Chris Chataway come in to the 'yard' while he was being shown around - you could not mistake that red hair! On a personal note, purely by association, it was Chris Chataway (along with Chris Brasher) who helped pace fellow athlete, Roger Bannister, to achieve his famous first sub-four-minute mile on May 6th 1954. My husband and Roger had been friends as small boys living in the same road at Harrow on the Hill, and my husband used to go and play with Roger's trains!
knew Tommy Strong quite well; he worked in the drawing office and went out with a friend of mine.
Tommy is pictured here in 1954 (front row - fourth from the left). But there is an entry in the PRV Drawing Office image taken in circa 1940 that says one of the people in the photo was Tom Strong. This could not have been 'my' Tommy Strong as he would have been VERY young then!
(Unquestionably true; so unless there were two Tom Strongs' who is the person in the 1940's picture of the DO? Ed. Anyone know?)
I am pretty sure that
I can date two of the Dinner Dance photos to 1954 (above) & 1955 - I am in
In this photo, taken in 1955, I am the blonde one 5th from the left in the front and my fiancé John is the 6th one. We were married in 1955 and I left PRV soon after. We then moved from Ruislip to Bourne End and eventually emigrated to New Zealand. After my husband died I joined my daughter and her husband in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
By Richard Mann [March 2021]
I began at PRV in the MOD Drawing Office in about 1968, shortly after being made redundant after a ten year tenure at British Thompson Houston in Willesden.
There was a union paper circulating at the time (Data News?) which carried an advertisement for a draughtsman at PRV. I applied and was interviewed by Cyril Risbridger & Sid Collett. Whilst Cyril was interviewing me, Sid was looking at my drawings and asked me when could I start? The following Monday was agreed and this suited me just fine as I lived at the other end of Twyford Abbey Road.
In the MOD
Drawing office my draughting station was in front of Dennis Busby. There were three more stations, Barry ?, Mike Morgan and
Don Mathews. Being in the MOD DO, housed in the Experimental Shop, at the opposite end of the site, I had little contact with the main
commercial drawing office. I left PRV in early 1974 to join coachbuilders H.J.
Mulliner Park Ward at High Road Willesden. That plant was closed in
1980 and operations transferred to Hythe Road, Willesden, which also eventually
closed in 1991. I was there until
1993; the 1992/3 year being spent at Crewe where the finishing work was
completed (see also [Park
Ward] and [H.J.
Mulliner & Co.]).
Not long after leaving PRV I met up with Don Mathews who told me he was then working as a management assistant (actually the Technical Sales Assistant to the Commercial Director Ed.). Don told me that PRV's MOD contact was a Major Clubb and the Major told Sid Collett that the MOD wanted to give him an award. Apparently Sid replied "thank you old boy, give it to Cyril"; and that is how Don told me verbatim.
[This was ostensibly how Cyril Risbridger came to be awarded his MBE. No doubt well deserved but also very magnanimous of Sid Collett it has to be said. Ed.].
one evening I was looking on Ebay and came across a PRV cast
body plate for sale which I bought.
I was then interested as to which "buses" the plates were fitted to. From
research using Google it seems that these "obsolete plates" were fitted to the
Green Goddess's (emergency pumps) bodied by
[I've been keen to find out to which vehicles these plates were affixed it may have been some GGs but many GGs had old PRC roundels attached - does anyone know for certain? Ed.].
Page last updated 18th March 2021