Two halves to Aldridge, please…

Arriva livery replaces MRN livery, Cannock 2000

In the late 1990s, Midland Red ran the 156 using beautiful Eastern Coachworks double deckers with huge upstairs front windows and a big, warm heat in front. I remember them well. Sadly, they soon disappeared when Arriva took over around 2000. Image from Walsall1955’s Flickr photo stream.

Following on from the interest in Tony Martin’s picture of the early seventies Harpers bus at Aldridge, Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler found the following timetable from 1965 in the newspaper archive.

This run has taken many forms over the years – from the 995 and 156 to just the 56, many operators have run it and apart from being truncated at Brownhills in recent years, the route continues.

Travelling to Birmingham on the 56 (or it’s past equivalent) is a rite of passage, as is travelling back home again after a night on the town whilst dying for a pee. I think most Brownhills kids have been there.

Cheers, as ever, to Pedro for the spot.


From the Lichfield Mercury, Friday 27th August 1965. This service is now, I believe, the 56. Click for a larger version.

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8 Responses to Two halves to Aldridge, please…

  1. Pingback: We’m gooin ta Brum, yow coming? | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  2. Pingback: The black gold… put to good effect | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  3. Phil Burton ( ex Harpers Driver) says:

    Harpers started using route numbers from when the new Leyland PD3 Northern Counties Buses arrived in 1968 with the new style blinds with route number incorporated. The routes were as follows :- No 1 Cannock – Aldridge via Leacroft, also some journeys served Redhouse Industrial Estate, No 2 Cannock to Kingstanding via Cross Keys, No 11 Cannock – Birmingham via Leacroft, No 12 Cannock – Birmingham via Cross Keys, X55 Cannock – Birmingham via Cross Keys Limited Stop and Joint Service with Walsall Corporation 944 Boney Hay – Birmingham

  4. Phil Burton ( ex Harpers Driver) says:

    Amendment to my post. Route Numbers were agreed with the Traffic Commissionaires in 1966 but the only bus to have route numbers fitted then was ex Guy demonstrator 888 DUK Fleet No 11 fondly known by crews as The Old Grey Mare, so it wasn’t until 1968 when the PD3’s came with the new style blinds that route numbers were more widely used. The Cannock – Birmingham via Cross Keys was route number 22 not X55. These numbers stayed with Harpers until the Midland Red Buy Out in 1974

    • David Holden says:

      Hi Phil
      I Just wondered if you or anyone on this site would remember my dad Derek Holden i have been trying to gather any information i can on his service with harpers.Me and my dad where close in some ways but we never really talked about his work sadly he passed away a few years ago and its only know in my later years that i wished i had asked more questions.I know he enjoyed his time with harpers as he loved driving. I have only one picture of him driving a coach which was in service with this company N0 56 DRE 523E which i believe to be a Bedford.Its hard to tell as the photo his in very poor condition i believe it had just returned from a School run and was taken at the back of harpers garage. I can remember going on pit runs with him picking up and dropping off the miners at the end of there shifts lea hall mainly i think. All so a christmas party with i believe Albert Harper playing father Christmas.
      He always said it was one of the saddest days when harpers finished and what a great loss it was to Heath Hayes and the area


      • philcburton says:

        Hi David,
        Yes I worked with your dad Derek on many occasions. When I started first with Harpers in 1964, I was a part time conductor so we were very often teamed together. He like many of the Harpers drivers was a great mate to work with and was always pleasant, always laughing. Being part time I worked a lot of afternoon shifts and more often than not used to pick up the Lea Hall Colliery Bus at around 3pm. I always hoped it would be Derek or Bob Derry driving as when we had finished dropping the miners off around Norton, Brownhills, Walsall Wood and Aldridge, we would do a Aldridge Circular, go for a cuppa at Jeans in Aldridge then run private into Birmingham to do the 5 .07 relief back to Heath Hayes, Derek or Bob would always let me drive the Bus into Brum, I got plenty unofficial driving practice. The coach you are on about No 56 DRE 523E was a Bedford chassis with a Leyland engine and fitted with a Plaxton 45 seat body. It was a nice coach I did a Scottish Tour with it. Derek like nearly all the drivers drove all the vehicles in the fleet so we were all very versatile with single decker’s, double decker’s, crash box, synchromesh box and semi auto boxes to contend with. If my memory serves me correct your dad left Harpers at one time for a while and went to Walsall Corporation for a few months but came back to Harpers. The pits we covered were Mid Cannock, West Cannock 5’s and Lea Hall. Albert made a good Father Christmas, I remember as a kid going to the social club Christmas party. It was the end of an era when Harpers went, they were a big loss to the passengers that they had served for years, we was one big happy family. Let me know if there is anything else I can tell you, If I know the answer David I will tell you.


        • David Holden says:

          Hi Phil

          Many thanks for your reply.I was pleased to read your memories of dad.I know so little about his days with harpers,only really my childhood memories of trips to the seaside when spare seats where available. You are quite correct he did leave harpers for a while to work with Walsall Corporation but he didn’t like it much he missed the atmosphere you only get from a family run buissiness.Thinking about it most of harpers coach fleet at sometime had been parked outside our house at Abbott’s Street.We loved it as kids when dad had returned from a coach trip,its amazing how much small change used to get lost down those coach seats me and my brother got to be quite expert at lifting seats he would take one side of the coach i the other.I also remember him coming home in what i think was a dark green morris minor van with the HB logo on the side but have never seen a picture of it anywhere.
          Looking back on it we really where lucky most of our friends rarely went to the seaside.
          I have been reading with great sadness the article about saving the harpers two what a great shame to see the condition these lovely coaches where in.
          I see they have been rescued by Aston Manor, i do hope they can be saved it would be great to see them restored to their former glory.I should imagine though an awfull lot of money,time,and hard work will be required to complete their restoration.I just recently acquired a copy of Harpers Bus Memories by a former collegue of yours Paul Roberts a lovely book with lots of great Photographs.
          I have convinced myself that the driver of Daimler Fleetline TRE 949L,on the front cover is my dad although his face is not clearly shown.
          Thank you again Phil for taking the time to reply its amazing the affection people still have for harpers as a company.I know dad was proud to be part of it.


  5. Pingback: Save the Harpers Two! | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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