An Old Orwell Bus Service

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'An Old Orwell Bus Service' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'An Old Orwell Bus Service' page

The Cambridge Blue Motor Services

Not many inhabitants of Orwell may be aware that at one time we had our very own bus company. It was started in about 1927 by a member of an Orwell family, Mr John Goates whose relatives still live in the village. The first buses, 14 seater Chevrolets, were garaged for the first few years in a barn at Manor Farm. Two were running every day from Bedford to Cambridge and back and one was in reserve for emergencies or outings.

The pioneer bus drivers

One of the first drivers was Mr Ernie Matthews (later a local postman) and he was followed by Mr Frank Wilkins of Wimpole (incidentally a great entertainer in local concert parties). Another early driver was Mr Bill Rumbold, now of Barley, who supplied much of this information. He had a very strict and intensive six month course of tuition (one might almost call it an apprenticeship) under Mr Bartle of Potton who had a car and bus hire business. First Mr Rumbold was allowed to take out private hire cars, then taxis and then he progressed to Mr Bartle’s buses, Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.  At the end of the six months, Mr Bartle issued Mr Rumbold with an impressive certificate with which he moved on to become one of the leading drivers for Cambridge Blue before he was eighteen years old, (although this perhaps ought not to be mentioned!).

While the buses were still garaged in Orwell they were all taken in turn into Manor Farm yard to be washed down every Thursday when there was more time, because on that day only the two school services ran. Mr Rumbold also remembers taking the buses into Cambridge for regular testing and he took private parties out as well: one party that went from Orwell in 1928 or 29 was to the Colchester Military Tattoo.

Chevrolets and Thorneycrofts and the move to Arrington Bridge

As time went on the 14 seater Chevrolets were replaced by 20 seater Thorneycrofts and they went to their new garage at Arrington Bridge, obviously before 1931 as the time-table reproduced here shows the first service starting from there. It surely cannot have been much later than this that the green Eastern National buses took over from the Cambridge Blue and Orwell had lost its very own home-grown bus company. The Eastern National was in turn taken over by the United Counties. Incidentally, the first regular Orwell — Cambridge service was by the Ortona Company, also green, which started this run about 1921 or 22. 

Photo:An Ortona bus at Town Green Road corner

An Ortona bus at Town Green Road corner

   The Ortona was later taken over by the red Eastern Counties, about the same time as the change from Cambridge Blue to Eastern National or a little earlier.
Comments or corrections would be welcomed from older members of the community with good memories.
The Cambridge Blue time-table is reproduced by courtesy of the Cambridgeshire Collection.

This page was added by Derek Skipper on 25/10/2012.
Comments about this page

The Eastern National took over Cambridge Blue's service in August 1934, renumbering it 29A inline with it's other Cambridge-Bedford service which ran via St Neots. I believe in the late 1940s the Bedford-Biggleswade section was curtailed as it overlapped existing Eastern National buses. When United Counties took over the 'midland area' of Eastern National on 1st May 1952 this service became the 175. United Counties continued to run the 175 until August 1989 when Go-Whippet took the service over. 


By Mr John Hammond
On 21/10/2022

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.