1900–1919Stroud actually came very close to having its own road-based tram system and the proposals alone were enough for the Great Western Railway (GWR) to introduce an improved local rail service. However, it was not till 1904 that the GWR announced it would introduce motor omnibuses, the first service being to Painswick, in 1905. GWR’s was not the only application, however, and neither were the necessary licenses a foregone conclusion. In spite of the numbers travelling by GWR omnibus and the importance of the service to both Painswick and Stroud, the existing Stroud – Painswick horse bus operator continued and even flourished at this time, against all local predictions. The GWR was joined by others, all of whom were local in nature. One of the most important was Arnold, with a service between the towns of Nailsworth and Stroud and, later, to Avening. More convenient than the local Nailsworth rail service, some of Arnold’s journeys connected with GWR trains.1920sA unique set of circumstances enabled the National Steam Car Co Ltd to establish its first outpost in the west—at Stroud—in December 1919. It was soon to become the National Omnibus & Transport Co Ltd. Its arrival brought an accelerated development of Stroud’s bus network. Adjacent territorial company Bristol Tramways became nervous at the prospect of this potentially dangerous newcomer. Beyond the Stroud valleys, Tramways succeeded in frustrating National but, even so, National reached Cheltenham, though here the necessary licences were initially illusive.National did not enjoy a monopoly. In spite of National acquiring some of its competitors, competition was as fierce as it had been anywhere in Britain. This was especially so between National and N D Reyne’s popular Red Bus. Reyne, pronounced Reen-ee, had a knack of forging a business that served his customers well.In 1929, National was renamed Western National.1930sThe late 1920s and early 1930s saw both Tramways
and Western National within the control of the Tilling Group. Western National had previously absorbed Stroud’s GWR operations which at this stage included two more routes. Meanwhile, from 1931, the excess of on-street competition between operators was tempered by the Road Traffic Act 1930.The Tilling Group was so alarmed at Reyne’s 1932 sale to large independent Red & White (a group particularly strong in South East Wales) that, with the blessing of the Traffic Commissioners, it sought agreement for a comprehensive reorganisation at Stroud involving Western National and Red & White, something far less popular with the travelling public! Nevertheless, this arrangement lasted until after the Second World War.1940sIt was the war time armaments and military uniforms produced in Stroud that ensured Stroud’s bus services remained at reasonable levels, compared to most parts of the country. Even so, corners had to be cut, improvisations made, services thinned and passengers had to endure uncomfortable conditions. A lack of staff meant that Red & White came up with a novel way of conducting and Western National drafted personnel in from Devon. During the war, it was rare to see brand new buses but Red & White took delivery of a number and, in fact, operated most of its double deck fleet in Stroud.With peace returning and little realistically upon which to spend wartime savings, the latter years of the 1940s saw considerable growth in leisure traffic, especially associated with Stroud’s and Stonehouse’s cinemas but also coaching tours, often sold out weeks before departure. The fleet was slowly renewed.
Those who wish to have a thorough understanding of Stroud’s bus history should seek out the book “Stroud’s Buses” by N P Daniels. Over 279 pages, it gives a comprehensive & illustrated history