The 108 Bus

Travelling to and from Cambridge

By Chris Duguid & Terry Dash

Photo:This photo is of 1964 Bristol Lodekka, when nearly new, leaving Royston Bus Station. The vehicle is AAH 173B, fleet number LFS 73. When the bus was withdrawn from ECOC  service and became a playbus in Bury St Edmunds.

This photo is of 1964 Bristol Lodekka, when nearly new, leaving Royston Bus Station. The vehicle is AAH 173B, fleet number LFS 73. When the bus was withdrawn from ECOC service and became a playbus in Bury St Edmunds.

Thanks to Patrick Burnside for the information

The bus route probably originated in the early 1900's and would have been operated by the Ortona Motor Services of Cambridge as service number 8.

In 1931 the Eastern Counties Omnibus bus company took over the route and the 108  bus travelled between Royston and Cambridge.

In the 1950's and 1960's, the bus came through Meldreth every two hours.

Do you have memories of travelling on the bus either for school or work?

Photo:Ida Rosendale, 108 bus conductress ~1950

Ida Rosendale, 108 bus conductress ~1950

Colin Matthews

Photo:Les Lake - Driver

Les Lake - Driver

Ann Handscombe

Dennis Watson, who lived in Meldreth High Street, was one of the regular drivers. Other drivers and conductors included Jo Varney, Jack Varney, Bob Norman, Pete Norman, Laddie Holland, Arthur Waldock, David Herne, Les Lake, John Fallon, Alex Collins, Tom Freeman, Bruce Hales, Bill Chapman, Beryl Smith, Ida Rossendale, Reg Townsend.

Photo:Janice Catley, Pearl King and Sally Dodkin waiting for the 108 bus in Cambridge during the 1960s.  Photograph taken by Lorraine Bradley.

Janice Catley, Pearl King and Sally Dodkin waiting for the 108 bus in Cambridge during the 1960s. Photograph taken by Lorraine Bradley.

Sally Wright (nee Dodkin)

Photo:Bus Driver and Conductor's badges from the 108 Bus.

Bus Driver and Conductor's badges from the 108 Bus.

Photo by Tim Gane, courtesy of Joan Fallon. Joan's husband, John, worked on the 108 bus.

The Royston crow reported an incident on the 108 bus in 1951

Many passengers on the bus between Royston & Cambridge were entertained by a gossiping dame who spoke very strongly to her fellow passengers about rising prices in general and a possible scarcity of salt coupled with a rise in the price of domestic salt. The identity of the loquacious commentator was not known to her audience. Pepper, she said  in the course of her remarks, was very scarce and costly and it was rumoured that salt might follow and fearing this she had purchased in Royston four lots of salt to place in her store cupboard in case the rumour of a shortage and increase in price should prove to be true.

The rumour had been heard and repeated many times during the past week and its origin was possibly a paragraph in a national newspaper last weekend which told of Britain sending six thousand tons of salt to Korea in response to an  urgent request from U.N.O. The Koreans it appears use a great deal of salt in the preparation of their favourite dish and their normal supply was in the hands of the North Koreans.

It has however been stated that that there will be no shortage of salt in Britain but nothing has been stated officially about increase prices

Royston Crow 9th February 1951

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to hear a recording of Ann Handscombe talking about her memories of riding into Cambridge on the 108 bus.


Photo:Timetable from 1942

Timetable from 1942

Patrick Burnside

Photo:Timetable from 1932

Timetable from 1932

Patrick Burnside

 

The stories and memories below were gathered from people who attended a coffee morning in April 2014 organised by Meldreth Local History Group.

I travelled to Cambridge Tech College on the 108 bus and on cold mornings we’d light a fire on the top deck to keep warm!

I also remember the cigarette stubbers on the back of the seats which we would unscrew. I think I may still have one!
Ray Ellis

The pushchairs were put in a cubby hole at the bottom of the stairs on the bus. One day I was on the bus with my young daughter and at Trumpington and we heard this clatter and someone said there was a pushchair running down the road! I looked out the window and it was mine. The driver stopped the bus and the conductor ran after the pushchair and retrieved it.
Mrs Chapman

I remember the day the 108 bus “fell over” in the snow at cow slip corner. I also remember a day when we were all tipped off the bus by Tom Freeman for being rowdy. We all had to walk home.
Sally Wright

The 108 bus drivers would wait for the “Bingo” ladies in Drummer Street bus station to make sure they all got on the last bus and safely home.
Joan Fallon

I remember working at the old Post Office and around about 8 am every morning I would go outside and pretend to sweep the footpath just to watch the girls go by on the bus!
John Smith

Roy Cooper  travelled on the bus to the Cambridge Grammar School for Boys. He brought maggots on the bus to scare the girls.
Ann Rogers

I used to go to ballet classes at Melbourn Village college on a Saturday morning, catch the 108 bus from Foxton to Melbourn then get the bus home from opposite Melbourn church. One Saturday I missed the bus and decided to walk home. The only route I knew was the route the bus took through Barrington. So that was the way I walked!
Mandy Handscombe

In the 1930's Jo and Jack Varney, father and son were the driver and the conductor. In those days the bus used to only go along the A10 not through the villages. On the front of the bus it said Cambridge to Royston via Shepreth mill. They all thought it was very funny and odd.

Another conductor during the war was Tom Freeman and he always war a ribbon on his uniform. I  thought that it was to let people know he had been in the army before being discharged.

If Ida Rossendale was in a good mood she would shout the stops. At Harston she would shout Old English then pause before shouting Gentleman.

During the war Dudley Welch's wife from Welch's garage use to got to Cambridge reguarly and the bus conductors would always make her walk from the stop at the station, never drop her at the garage if they were passing. Dudley rang the bus company to ask if they could drop her off, they said no the buses cannot stop there.

During the war everyone needed a torch, particuarly number 8 torch batteries, No one could get any except Dudley. One day a bus pulled up outside the garage and the driver rushed in asking for some number 8 batteries. Dudley didn't respond and the driver explained he was in a hurry as he had a bus load of people waiting outside. Dudley said no that can't be right, no buses are allowed to stop outside here!
Don Challis

I remember the parcels and even car tyres that were delivered via the bus. My father ran the garage in Meldreth High Street and often had tyres delivered this way. Same day delivery. A very efficient service.

I travelled on the bus to the Grammar School for Girls in Cambridge. I took the ingredients for the cookery lesson in a biscuit tin. One day after a cookery lesson I had a large lump of lard left over. There was a boy from the boys school who I found very irritating and so I smeared the lard in his hair and on his blazer. I was nearly expelled from school because of this incident!
Chris Duguid

If you went to the pictures in Cambridge you had  to miss the end of the film to catch the last bus home. You could not wait until the end because you couldn't leave during the playing of the National Anthem.

When the last bus went through Shepreth level crossing the crossing keeper David Smith would close the gates for the night.
Ann Handscombe 

 

Ann Handscombe remembers back to her trips on the 108 bus

An excerpt from an interview with Ann by Terry Dash recorded in February 2011

Transcript for 'Ann Handscombe remembers back to her trips on the 108 bus':

Doreen and I were great friends and we used to travel on the Eastern Counties 108 bus – the famous one!  It used to be very noisy.  Pam Spiller used to be another one from the Sailor’s Return and Doreen from Kneesworth Road, as it was then, West Way as it is now. Myself, Jack Farnham and there used to be a Mr Trewan from Melbourn – we used to call him “Boots” ‘cos he worked in Boots.  There was quite a gang of us and we used to sit upstairs.  One of the conductors Les Lake, who Doreen was engaged to, she married him.  Dennis Watson was another bus conductor, Tom Freeman, Ida Rosendale and there was Bob but I can’t remember his surname.  They were all the regulars and we hated it when Tom Freeman was on because he was such a miserable so and so, but anyway, (Anne was asked if it used to come through Meldreth every other hour).  Yes, it used to come through here at 8 o’clock in the morning and then it used to get to Cambridge well before nine but it doesn’t now.  I picked it up outside what was Leveringtons and we came home on the quarter past five, something like that. I had a weekly ticket which cost 7/6d (37.5p) and they used to punch it in the morning and night.  Of course, if you didn’t come home in the evening you could still come home free as long as you only travelled twice a day, and I think a return ticket during the day was 1/9d (8p) something like that. The bus used to be absolutely full.

 

Of course, if Gordon and I went to the pictures by bus, the pictures used to finish about twenty past ten or twenty five and of course everyone stood up and sang the National Anthem then after the end of the film and it was a case of could you sing the National Anthem and then get your coat on, your shoes or whatever (Course  I always took my shoes off, they were usually three rows down by the time I got them) and we used to run for the bus, the half past ten bus and then we used to come over Meldreth level crossing and I think it was Mr Kidd, he only had one arm, he lost an arm in the War and he lived in the Station House there and he used to come out and lock the gates so if you came down that road at night well everybody just knew the gates would be locked and you’d have to turn round and go to Shepreth and along the main road and back into Melbourn.   (Ann is asked which year and replies “1952/1953”).  If somebody knew him and they were going to be a bit late they’d say to him “Don’t lock the gates tonight mate because I’ll be coming through, you know, half past eleven.  If he knew them well enough he’d say “OK mate” and he wouldn’t go to bed quite so early. He’d stay up and leave the gates until his friend had gone through.

This page was added by Chris Duguid on 18/01/2011.
Comments about this page

I remember travelling on the bus in the 1940's when the return fare between Meldreth and Royston was 6d. (approx 2.5 pence today)

By Enid Martin
On 06/02/2011

Eric remembers the following drivers on the 108: Joe Varney, Laddie Holland, Arthur Waldock and David Herne. David lived in a caravan behind the Flint Cross restaurant in the late sixties and early seventies.

By Tim Gane on behalf of Eric Walbey
On 09/03/2011

I used to travel on the 108 bus in the 1950's. Bus conductors that I remember then were Ida Rosendale, Bob Norman, Tom Freeman, Les Lake and Dennis Watson. I had a weekly ticket which cost 7 shillings and sixpence (37 1/2p).  A return fare was one shilling and nine pence (10p).

By Ann Handscombe
On 15/03/2011

Ida Rosendale, a well known conductor, had a continual run-in with Ralph Mead from Melbourn. Ralph liked a drink and became very troublesome, usually on the late night bus from Cambridge. One night when the bus stopped at Harston, Ida shouted out "Melbourn Cross".  Ralph leapt out of the bus only to find he was in Harston, not Melbourn, and the bus left without him!

By Terry Dash
On 21/03/2011

I travelled to the County Girls school on the 108 bus. There were two buses in the morning, one which went straight into town for people going to work and one which went up Long Road stopping at the various schools i.e. The County Girls (now Long Road Sixth Form College), The County Boys (now Hills Road Sixth Form College), the Perse Girls and Boys and finally The Central (Parkside). As we were a rowdy bunch, two of the conductors used to separate the boys from the girls! Ida separated us with the boys downstairs and the girls upstairs and Tom put the boys upstairs and the girls downstairs which seemed to work as it was definitely quieter. The buses had no doors then and were very draughty and cold. When I first started at the school I was always feeling travel sick so the conductors used to let me stand on the platform to get some fresh air. No health and safety then!

By Gloria Willers
On 04/04/2011

Melbourn History Book records that this was called "the Bedlam Bus" because of the rowdy behaviour of the children and especially the banter between Meldreth and Melbourn kids! There were endless complaints but the solution written by Gloria Willers seems to have been one attempt to restore order.

By Colin Limming
On 04/04/2011

I travelled on that bus when I went to parties of school friends who lived in the villages. My mum used to put me on the bus along Melbourn Road in Royston and the conductor would tell me when to get off. Imagine allowing a little girl on a public bus alone these days! I should add that the friend's father would drive me home after the party (no car at our home until I was 14).

By Elinor Hagger
On 05/04/2011

Joyce remembers that Ida Rosendale would stop the bus, full of passengers, at Cam Cottages and collect her tray of seedlings from Joyce's garden. And no one would complain.

By Terry Dash on behalf of Joyce Yates
On 13/04/2011

I met my husband on the 108 bus in 1959 when he was a conductor.  His driver was Alex Collins and when John was a driver his conductor was Cliff ?.  There was also Bruce Hales from Barley.

By Joan Fallon
On 14/04/2011

One Friday in April 1964 I was getting ready for my first date with Colin Watson. My good friend Wendy Braid came over and did my hair for me in a big beehive style. My Aunt Jean drove me to Melbourn to catch the 108 to Cambridge. Colin took me to the Regal Cinema and we caught the last bus home. I said my goodbyes and thanked him for a lovely evening. As Colin lived in Royston I expected him to stay on the bus. I left my seat to walk down the steps and as I turned round he was following me. I asked him where he was going. He said, "I am going to walk you home". I reminded him this was the last bus and he replied, "What toe rags have you been going out with that will not walk you home?" With that Colin got off the bus and walked me back to my house on Whitecroft Road. My older brother Bob was at home and I introduced Colin to him. I explained to Bob that Colin lived in Royston. Colin was going to phone for a taxi, but Bob offered to drive him home. From that first date the 108 bus played a big part in our courtship, with daily journeys to see each other. Eventually, Colin passed his driving test and from then on there was no more waiting in all weathers for the 108 bus!

By Terry Dash on behalf of Angela Watson (nee Webb)
On 25/04/2011

I remember Tom Freeman as being very strict. The boys and girls were kept separate. Ida was less strict and Dennis was friendly and always had a smile. We were not segregated when he was the conductor. I also remember wishing my name label on my school beret wasn't printed CHRISTINE F. HART! Needless to say the boys would try and cross out the H! I cannot recall the main culprits.

By Terry Dash on behalf of Christine Packer (nee Hart)
On 26/04/2011

In the early forties my grandmother and I would walk from Shepreth to Royston every Wednesday because it was market day. We would catch the 108 bus back to Shepreth and Rosie (Ida) Rosendale would say to my grandmother, "put him in the corner, keep him quiet and I will not charge you".

By Terry Dash on behalf of Will Flack
On 02/05/2011

Eileen Tassell remembers Ida Rosendale and her sister Elsie living in a cottage at the Causeway, Bassingbourn. Ida would cycle every day to Royston to pick up the 108 bus. Another conductor on the 108 was Beryl Smith.

By Terry Dash
On 23/05/2011

I am in the process of tracing some family history and am very keen to find out more about David Herne who has been mentioned on this page as a driver on the 108 bus between Royston and Cambridge. I know he lived at Flint Cross during some of this time, as also mentioned. I would also be interested to see some pictures of David and his family.

By Natalie Kemp
On 30/05/2011

Philip 'Laddie' Holland joined Eastern Counties in 1936 as a conductor, based at Royston. The buses were kept in a yard behind the Green Man pub. He became a driver in 1937 and his first conductor was Reg Townsend, whose parents kept the Green Man. During the war they took on women as conductors and this is when Ida Rosendale from Bassingbourn joined Eastern Counties. She was known as a 'Knight of the road'. Ida continued to work from Royston until the late 60's, latterly with driver Bill Chapman. Laddie Holland died in May 2004 aged 92.

This information comes from the Super Prestige Collection of Transport History Albums from Venture Publications Limited. (Number Seven)

By Terry Dash
On 03/07/2011

Eric Walbey worked with David Herne at the Atlas Stone Company before the second World War. After the war David worked for Don Weatherhead as a lorry driver. David's wife was Doris.

By Terry Dash
On 01/08/2011

Hi, Been trawling the web and came across your site, and saw the picture of the 2 PSV Badges. I have a new web site called www.psvbadges.org.uk and am trying to build up pictures of badges, and was wondering if I could use the images of your badges on it. I will of course give credit, and protect them with a watermark. Thanks for your time and trouble in advance. All the best, Stephen.

By Stephen Howarth
On 07/08/2011

No problem Stephen, you're very welcome to use the image. Thanks for asking.

By Tim Gane
On 08/08/2011

I remember riding the bus home from riding lessons in Cambridge. I also remember the bus would stop outside our home. My bedroom was on the second floor and so I was on the same level to look out at the people on the upper deck.

By Bob Harper
On 10/10/2011

I travelled on the 108 bus from Meldreth to Cambridge from 1950, leaving at 8am and arriving home at 7pm. My weekly bus ticket cost 6 shillings and 9 pence. I remember all the drivers and conductors mentioned here. If we were late and running for the bus in the morning they would wait for us.

By Judy Murray Nee Cox
On 11/02/2013

In the winter of 1967/8 there was a heavy fall of snow. I think it may have been January 1968, I know it was a Friday. I was working at the G.P.O in Cambridge and when I finished work, I caught the 108 bus from Drummer Street going to Meldreth where my boyfriend lived. It would have been the 5.15pm or the 6.15pm.  I   remember it was a single decker which was unusual for that time of the evening. I don't know if that was because of the weather that they put a single on. It was very slow going all along the A10, but when we passed Foxton station and then passed what was the Welch's garage, the bus ran off the road into a ditch.

There were only about six of us on the bus as I remember. We were sitting there for ages and it was freezing cold. One man tried to get out of the passengers door and went up to his waist in snow. Eventually the driver told us told us there would be another bus coming along, but we would have to get on it as it went slowly by as it wasn't going to actually stop. We all climbed out of the driver's door or the emergency exit,I can't remember which, and the double decker came slowly along the road and we all got on it. The conductor helped us on then told us it was going straight to Royston and not through Meldreth, which was where I was going. He said it would slow right down at Melbourn Cross so we could get off (hopefully without falling and breaking something). I got off at Melbourn with someone else, and I have no idea who it was, but she said she would ring her Dad from the phonebox and he would come to get us. Her Dad picked us up and he dropped me at the end of Howard Road, in Elin Way. I walked up Howard Road and it wasn't until I got indoors that I saw I had lost a shoe. My feet were so cold I hadn't noticed. I got in about 11.00pm.

My boyfriend hadn't been worried about me as he assumed I had got off at Foxton, where I lived with my Mum and Dad, and my Mum wasn't worried because she thought I was in Meldreth!

The thing that always puzzled me afterwards, was how did the driver get in touch with the depot to tell them we were stuck, and how did he know another bus was on its way?

By Ann Rogers
On 14/05/2014

As mentioned in previous comments, there was a lot of rivalry between the girls and boys on the school bus. This was probably partly due to the fact that there were separate schools for boys and girls so the bus was the only time that we all came together.  

When I started at the County school, part of the uniform consisted of a mac which had a hood with strings to tie under the chin. On the way home one day the boys behind me thought it would be hilarious to tie the hood strings to the rail on top of the seat behind me. As I was chatting to my friend I was completely unaware of this and so when I reached my stop at Bell Close and tried to get up I couldn't move. By the time I'd untied myself we were halfway to Melbourn and I had to walk all the way back. I was not happy!

By Gloria Willers
On 05/06/2014

Good to read all the many memories of the 108 bus! I have linked this page from my Eastern Counties website, which those interested in the Company in general can visit if they so wish. The address is http://easterncountiesomnibusco.com

By Patrick Burnside
On 26/03/2015

Thank you for adding my comment to your excellent page. Visitors may be interested to know that the single decker bus following LFS 73 out of Royston's Barkway Street bus station in the photograph above is LM 459 (9459 AH), a 1959 Bristol MW5G, with an Eastern Coach Works of Lowestoft 45 seat body. It was about to embark upon the scenic route to Cambridge via Kneesworth, Bassingbourn, Orwell, Wimpole and the Eversdens. 

I own and have restored the only surviving example of this type, namely LM 452 (3014 AH) which was based at March depot for most of its service life with Eastern Counties. The Company had a fleet strength of 105 such vehicles by the end of 1966. 

The Lodekka (LFS 73) also carries Eastern Coach Works bodywork and was one of a class of 120 Bristol FS5G buses delivered between 1960 and 1965. LFS 125 (GNG 125C) is the only fully restored member of this type, having been preserved in National Bus Company poppy red and white livery by the Ipswich Transport Museum.  LFS 54 (54 CPW), once a Cambridge based bus also survives in preservation and is currently undergoing restoration with a private owner in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Further details of known surviving Eastern Counties vehicles, plus a host of other interesting information on the Company and its predecessors can be found on my Eastern Counties website.

By Patrick Burnside
On 28/03/2015

I remember fondly my first "solo" trip on the 108 from Melbourn to Cambridge. I was 14 years old and it was 1960 and I was off to the big city for the first time "on my own". It was a cold winter's day and after buying a record and a hot drink in Lyons Corner House I returned home on the 108. The sound of the diesel engine and the smell of the bus (clean) will always be a memory.

By john bakewell
On 02/10/2016

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