it would be ‘best by bus’ and he delivered on his talk, and
more, about Ribble Motor Services.
He took us right back to the early 20th century and the
beginnings of bus services in this part of Lancashire.
Following the first world war there was a need for bus services
and there were plenty of ex-military men and machines to meet
the demand. It was one such man, Major Hicknott started Ribble
Motor Services in 1919. He appointed a Captain Betteridge as the
chief engineer. Ribble acquired the business of J Hodson, which
held the licence to operate the service of Gregson Lane to
It was no coincidence that Preston was chosen as Hicknott’s base
for a bus company. Preston was at a pinch point of roads in
central Lancashire. An early route map illustrated the important
services Ribble had established. Licences were required to
operate bus services and these were issued by town councils.
Town councils ran their own transport operations and, not
surprisingly, would not issue them to rival operators. Ribble,
in order to expand, had to acquire operators who held licences
in areas in which it wished to operate.
In fact, by the time of its last acquisition in 1969 Ribble had
taken over 106 operators. Ribble’s first route was Preston to
Bolton via Chorley and Westhoughton. Dave explained that rapid
expansion occurred through the decades up to 1960. By then
Ribble’s empire included parts of Westmorland, Cumberland and
across Lancashire, including express services, particularly to
Fleet strength had grown from 5 in 1919 to peaking at 1,200 in
1955. Passenger numbers peaked at over 215 million and road
miles operated at 50 million in 1956. With a long and close
association with Leyland Motors, Ribble was an innovator in bus
design and build. An example was the Leyland Atlantean, rear
engined, double deck ‘Gay Hostess’ coach in the early 1960’s.
These vehicles came complete with toilet, kitchen and ‘airline’
type hostesses to look after passengers’ needs. These hostesses
were just a small part of over 5,000 Ribble employees at that
Following several reorganisations of the national bus industry
during the 70’s and 80’s Stagecoach bought what remained of
Ribble in 1989 and the name disappeared.
Through Dave Moss and his fellow RVPT volunteers, the
preservation and restoration of Ribble company vehicles
guarantee the memories for the future.