Edwards of Joys Green by Martyn Nutland.
An AEC Reliance ... and with that Gloucestershire registration mark, almost certainly ex-Black & White Motorways who used this chassis with Harrington Cavalier coachwork. Edwards liked former members of this company’s fleet and also had a number of 1961-bodied Duple Britannias. These had chrome side embellishment and destination panels unique to Black & White as well as a chrome on black, as opposed to blue and red, AEC ‘shield’.
The following article is reproduced by kind permission of Martyn Nutland. Martin's web site can be found here:
(All photos courtesy of Paul Rogers, all text and captions by Martyn Nutland)
The Forest of Dean lies like a green velvet handkerchief crumpled into the pocket of the southernmost edge of the English Midlands.
Since the beginning of time ‘The Forest’ has been developing its own distinctive character. Long before the South Wales coalfield was ripped apart by a Klondike of exploitation, the men of Coleford, Cinderford and Lydney took the mineral more gently from their earth.
As you might expect, an area as colourful and distinctive as this spawned its own transport systems. Chepstow-based Red & White Services, and to a lesser extent Midland Red, made forays into these leafy realms, but a homegrown company held sway above all others on the ‘Forest’s’ roads – WT Edwards & Sons.
Edwards was based in the poetically named, but also unlikely, setting of Joy’s Green. A village perched on the hilltop above the twin communities of Upper and Lower Lydbrook, it is only accessible by a steep and winding road that wriggled its way over a level crossing on the old Monmouth to Gloucester railway, disused for much of Edwards residency.
The raison d’etre for a Joy’s Green headquarters was quite simply that it was where William Thomas Edwards had settled, at Old House, after his ancestors moved to the ‘Forest’ from their native Wales
Two of the AEC Reliances ... and although the front aspects are slightly different I would suggest both are carrying Plaxton coachwork. The first is Panorama, the rearmost vehicle, possibly Consort. This Panorama had a close companion, 900 VTU, but on the longer 36 ft (51 seater) wheelbase.
He began his transport business immediately after the First World War using one, then two, Ford TT vehicles. These were the commercial version of the famous Model T car and the arrangement, common at the time, was that they carried lorry bodywork in the week and were fitted with passenger coachwork for weekend excursions.
Although the beginnings seem extremely humble, with the two Fords operating from a random collection of sheds, clustered on a small plateau beneath that single road into Joy’s Green, Edwards was no ‘back street’ operation. As a lorry as well as the bus fleet burgeoned in the 1950s the firm became one of the largest transport businesses in Wales and the West.
The complement of 100, mostly AEC Mammoth Majors, but also Atkinsons, ERFs and Leylands, stationed on a yard in the centre of Lydbrook, washed and lined up on a Sunday afternoon for early departure on Monday, was a source of great local pride. But that is another story.
Back at Joy’s Green in the late 30s only one of the Fords remained on the ‘books’ and the fleet size remained at a modest four vehicles. However, during the War numbers increased to around 18 comprising a selection of ubiquitous Bedford 26-seaters, half a dozen former London Transport single-deck Leyland Cubs and, also ex-LT, a lone, highly distinctive, double-decker with outside staircase.
Terry Tippins joined Edwards in 1943 and apart from a brief period in the Services spent virtually the whole of his working life with the company as a tyre fitter. ‘
As the eldest son I followed a Joy’s Green tradition of being given work as a delivery boy by the one and only shop in the village. But I spent a lot of time larking about in Edwards’s yard and on Easter Monday 1943 started work in the garage,’ begins Terry.
Mention of the surviving Ford, which in those days stood at the rear of the shed, reminds him of an apocryphal ‘Edwards’ story. Bus enthusiasts are wont to mention that when the depot was demolished in the late 1980s, a Leyland Titan chassis was incorporated as rubble in the foundations of the redevelopment.
‘I never remember a Titan and suspect this is the bus equivalent of the fisherman’s tale, but I know for certain that our Ford’s sister is buried in the garden of Old House having been moved there at some stage to gently decompose,’ laughs Terry.
This one really is a poser. An AEC Reliance Harrington Cavalier, undoubtedly from the ex-Black &, White batch. But why the Gourd’s Coaches of Bishops Steighton in Devon lettering. Guessing; this is ‘pre-Tizard’, otherwise the livery would have been dark blue, and signage for a new owner has been applied at Joy’s Green, or, from the information blind, the coach has already been sold and this is a park-over at Edwards on a rugby tour from the West Country to ‘the Forest’. Your guess is as good as mine!
The fleet remained at around 18 throughout the Second War and saw valiant service in an area that made an often-overlooked contribution to the War effort.
Gloucester had a major aircraft factory – where the Meteor was built – there were numerous army camps in the vicinity, and even Lydbrook had a cable works and attracted a German bomb, although fortuitously, it landed on the ‘wrong side’ of the River Wye.
However, that luck did not always hold. One of Edwards’s Bedfords was machine-gunned in a lunchtime raid at Brockworth on the outskirts of Gloucester, and an elderly passenger killed. The OWB lived to fight another day but Terry Tippins remembers that for some macabre reason the fatal bullet was never removed from the Bedford’s upholstery!
Other members of the Edwards fleet also suffered War damage and were normally sent to coachbuilder Praills of Hereford for repair.
Reminiscing about the war years Terry refers to those Leyland Cubs as ‘refugees’ from London Transport. This is particularly interesting in view of the acute bus shortages in the capital, and the large number of ‘imports’ to make up the shortfall.
The LPTB ran Cubs in the country and on metropolitan inter-station services. Significantly the former ceased or were severely curtailed early in the War and the latter stopped altogether. However, the between-station routes were reinstated in December 1943 and one wonders if the Cub’s from Joy’s green went back to London’s Chiswick depot as a result *.
Once hostilities ended a period of renewed prosperity dawned on the transport industry at both Lydbrook and Joy’s Green. The collection of sheds that had formed the pre-War bus garage were replaced with two of the now redundant aeroplane hangers where the Gloster Meteor had been built.
These improved facilities enabled the company to set up its own coachworks and paintshop. The latter was under Wally Clowes and Owen Toombs, but the familiar green detailled cream livery of Edwards had not yet been firmly established and buses were often finished in light and dark green. In later years the summer uniform colours were confirmed as cream piped in green. Winter hue was black with green piping.
The bus stock list now boasted 30 vehicles; the average from now on.
An AEC Regent came from Oxford City Transport, a CV Series Daimler from Birmingham and two more Regents – ‘highbridgers’ that had worked in the Carmarthen area. Albion Valiants, Venturers and at least one Valkary appeared from Red & White – a happy hunting ground at Edwards for second hand buses.
I think we can be confident in identifying this stylish member of the fleet as a centre entrance, Plaxton Embassy. The chassis builder, without a badge, would be more difficult if 63 BUA had not had two sisters (64 BUA and 9905 UG) at Joy’s Green and they were Leyland Leopards new to Wallace Arnold in Leeds.
These first Albions were shortlived at Joy’s Green. Scottish operator Bluebell Coaches were the victim of a mysterious fire in which their whole fleet of ex-Scottish Motor Traction Albions was damaged or destroyed.
Terry remembers Bluebell’s Arthur Thomas coming to the ‘Forest’ and paying double the market price for the Valiants and a Valkary.
‘That was the beauty of the former Red & White Albions,’ he reflects. ‘When you eventually sold them you were virtually guaranteed the purchase price because the Gardner engines were so sought after.
’ Like the Leylands Red & White later disposed of, they often went to Hong Kong and the engines ultimately found their way into fishing boats where they would have had an almost indefinite life.
In the post-War era William Edwards’s two sons, Donald and Leslie were active in the business. The former had served with the Armoured Corps at Catterick during the War and had a particular affinity for the engineering side of the operation.
The commercial opportunities were now highly promising. ICI had established a continuous process chemical plant at Gloucester and was absorbing some of the workforce from the declining ‘Forest’ coal industry. Rank Xerox had a factory near Mitcheldean and the Army had a major presence throughout the region.
A bonus from the military contracts was that Edwards was employed to take soldiers to weekend stop-over sporting events. Not only did this provide the drivers with the diversion of cricket, soccer or rugby to watch on one of the days, but enabled the company to sub-contract to distant operators for excursion work. ‘Turns’ to Southend for the London company, Valiant, would be a typical example.
For me this is a difficult one, not least because the middle letter of the registration mark is not discernible. It could be a Leyland or an AEC, but as Edwards preference was for the latter let’s say AEC Reliance. Coacbuilder? I’m not entirely convinced, but would put some money on Park Royal or possibly Marshall..
Even better was to come. In the early 60s a giant steelworks was under construction on the windswept marshes around Llanwern, between Chepstow and Newport and on the cusp of the treacherous Severn Estuary. Edwards provided workers’ buses for Sir Robert McAlpine, one of the principal contractors, and the fleet soared to an all-time high of 41 vehicles.
It was this buoyant local economy which led to the acquisition of two of Edwards’s best-remembered coaches – double-decker MWL 984 – an AEC from Oxford – and DRN 243, an ex-Ribble Leyland. These were bought specifically for, and used exclusively on, the onerous duty to ICI Gloucester.
Terry explains: ‘The money at ICI was equivalent to what was available from mining but the downside was a journey to Gloucester. We got the AEC and Leyland to provide as much comfort as possible and they were fitted with luxury upholstery, heaters and even had an air operated door!
‘On the technical front, “MWL” had a five speed gearbox and Jacob exhauster assisitance to the braking.
‘The two coaches ran the service 365 days a year and covered three shifts around the clock. As with all the works services I never remember us missing a turn. If the weather was really bad with snowbound roads, the Edwards brothers used to go out with a Land Rover and bring the passengers to a point the coach could reach.
‘In the old photographs of the Edwards family’, continues Terry, ‘they look rather sombre and staid and maybe that was born of a strong chapel background in Wales. But an extremely caring family approach went with it and it was a marvelous place to work where you and your own family were looked after, even down to a party for the kids at Christmas.’
Strong climbing, if a little smokey, on the road from Lydbrook to Joy’s Green. This AEC Reliance with Plaxton Panorama Elite C41F coachwork was bought by Edwards in 1978 and lasted until 1982.
Bryn Wadley joined in 1962 and learnt to drive buses and lorries under Edwards’s tutelage. So exemplary was the training he received in transport matters that he went on to manage the company’s haulage fleet.
‘There was never any meanness or “micky taking” at Edwards,’ he says, ‘ and as a youngster I appreciated that.
‘Everyone was on first name terms, although when I first arrived I used to call Leslie Edwards “Mr Les”. Everyone was willing to help and advise you and even though professionalism was of a high standard the atmosphere was extremely informal
‘When anyone showed an interest in driving, as I did, you just went to Bill Jones, the road manager, and he would ask one of the “old hands” to take you out. I started and took my test on ex-Red & White coach HWO 363. I found it quite difficult initially with a very slow gear change, but soon benefitted from the advice: “put ‘im in neutral and roll a fag between first and second!”
‘I like to think we learnt the craft in a very thorough way. On the lorry side the lads were sent to the local factories to spend time sheeting and roping Edwards vehicles as they came in for their loads. On the buses the fundamental differences between handling a psv and a lorry were impressed on us – for example, how to brake with passengers as opposed to a load of strip steel or a wagon full of bricks – all quite separate techniques.
‘ A typical working day began at 5 am with the arrival of the relief driver. It was his job to tick off each man on the duty board as they reported for work and took the buses out. If there were any absentees they would be replaced by an off-duty driver or, as often as not, by Donald or Leslie Edwards.
‘And of course, if there were any turns left uncovered at the end of the schedule the relief would take to the cab.’
It was common practice for the workshop team, led by Joe Matthews, to drive on public service and they normally only pursued their mechanical roles in the off-peak hours between nine and four. The efficiency of this department, that had an AEC Mandator and later a Seddon tractor unit, as recovery vehicles was enhanced by work on components sent from the lorry depot.
Spirited cornering on a works service from Rank Xerox at Mitcheldean. It is impossible to identify this Reliance Harrington Cavalier positively, but it is almost certainly one of Edwards’s ex-Black & White Motorways contingent.
Joe Matthews, a diesel engine expert, had his own injector pump workshop and overhauled units for both the lorries and buses.
Road manager, Bill Jones, was very proud of the economy and accuracy of his scheduling and buses rarely wasted mileage. To achieve this during the school day four vehicles were parked in the station yard at Newent and five in the cattle market at Ross-on-Wye. This avoided returning empty to Joy’s Green after the schools’ services that covered these towns.
In addition, throughout the 50s and 60s a satellite garage was maintained at Lysons Avenue, Gloucester, just off the Bristol Road.
Bryan continues the story of the Edwards routine. ‘I usually started at 7 am leaving Joy’s Green and going through Lower Lydbrook to Ross, Lea, Mitcheldean for Rank Xerox, Ruardean and back to the garage. I’d then go out again for Lydbrook cable works before picking up schoolchildren for Coleford. I’d return to Joy’s Green just after nine and a round trip of some 30 miles. I did the same trips in reverse order between 3.30 pm and 6.15.
‘You normally kept the same vehicle through the week and, of course, the passengers got to know you. We always got a nice ‘Christmas box’ in December.
Another handsome ‘decker’. From the registration mark, and the as yet unconverted livery, we can conclude this is ex-Bournemouth Corporation. It’s a Leyland Titan, of course - I would suggest a PD3 or maybe PD2. The coachwork is much more difficult. The narrow spacing of the slats on the front panel is unusual. I’d take a guess – Weymann H37/25D for a 1959/60 batch of 20 PD3/1s.
‘The best buses for working the ‘Forest’ were undoubtedly the AECs – strong and powerful. The Bedfords made heavy going of the hills. The Albions were very good in snow, which was always a problem because of Joy’s Green location. In fact, it was usually our lads who cleared and gritted that long hill.
‘In winter we were always very cold in the cabs. Any brief stop-over was a chance to get down and warm yourself against the radiator.’
And were there any black sheep in the fleet? ‘An AEC Reliance’ Bryn and Terry remember with passion, ‘and a Leyland Royal Tiger’.
‘The “Tiger” just had very heavy steering,’ expands Bryn, ‘but the AEC had appalling brakes. A very long time lag then an application of neck-breaking violence. We tried everything to no avail then one day one of the team drove it off the garage lift and it careered unstoppably across the yard. It soon went!’
By the 1970s the halcyon days of Edwards were drawing to a close. Operators employing part-time drivers undercut the family firm on works contracts, and although summer excursions were run to the South Wales coast and as far as Weymouth, there had been little attempt to develop and diversify.
For example, and unlike Red & White, the extent of Edwards’s parcel service was dropping off bundles of Gloucester Citizen newspapers.
The same intriguingly varied selection of vehicles continued to make its way up the hill to Joy’s Green. The inevitable Guy Arab double-decker from Red & White at Chepstow; long term friends of the Edwards, Yeoman’s of Canon Pyon, sold them the occasional vehicle as did Crosville; dealer Stanley Hughes of Gomershal and Bradford supplied ex-Wallace Arnold AECs and the two vociferous Commer Avengers run by the ‘Forests’s’ own Percy Grindle and his tiny Forest Greyhound enterprise eventually came Edwards way.
As motorways arrowed their concrete way through the landscape sub-contracts to Black & White Services for the Associated Motorways network became available, but generally Joy’s Green vehicles proved no match for the new high speed coaches being introduced by firms like Midland Red.
In the late 1970s a takeover by Bowen’s Coachways of Birmingham seemed imminent but at the last moment the business went to a consortium led by a businessman named Paul Tizard.
Terry describes the final scenes: ‘In my opinion the Tizard takeover was a good thing for Edwards because there was new investment and we never lacked materials or equipment we asked for. But it was 15 years too late and, perhaps inevitably, we lost the “family” approach. The people in charge were businessmen and, understandably, were not like the Edwards who were work-at-the-bench, climb-in-the-cab participants’.
Edwards closed in the mid-1980s. The garage was operated for a short time by another bus firm but the site was soon to be redeveloped for housing.
There are (at the time Martyn wrote and researched this article in the mid-1990s) no known survivors of Edwards vehicles in the company livery. The last unconfirmed sighting Terry had of one of his old charges was a Plaxton-bodied Daimler coach in – Las Palmas!
(Again, at the time of writing.) Well attended reunions of the Edwards team are occasionally held, but never again will an old AEC or Albion beat its majestic course up that steep and twisting road, and cross the abandoned railway crossing, on its way to Joy’s Green. In ‘the Forest’, deep and dark, nothing like that now stirs.
Gary Partridge added (August 2013): "... my father, Jeff Partridge was manager at Edwards in the Tizard days. I remember sometimes going down to the yard during summer hols when I was off school. Everyone was always so friendly there. I remember watching a sign-writer painting a coach with the Edwards name, I was amazed at the skill of the man, who's name I can't remember. I remember Paul Tizard as a very professional man, who also had interest in narrow gauge railways. Another boss was called John Beddall, who was very much a family man. Jeff was always a driver first, and when Edwards closed in I think the early eighties, he bought a truck of his own and became an owner driver. I remember going down for the christmas dance. We used to stop at a lovely hotel by the river side. John and Jeff used to commute down every day from Birmingham".
Alan O Watkins added (September 2013): "... That was an interesting article that sparked many memories for me of Edwards'. My earliest was going on a school trip (to where I don't remember) but aboard an Edwards coach sometime in the mid 1950s. In those days the family had a large fleet of Albions, many ex-Red & White. They also had a garage of the Bristol Road in Gloucester. I remember going in there one day and helping hose clean a former Bambers AEC Regent III doubledecker which still exists in preservation (though not in Edwards' colours).
Turning to the photos, the unidentified red singledecker was JRC 254D, new to Trent. It was a 36-foot long Leyland Leopard with one of the final Weymann bodies that were taken in frame to Metro-Cammell to be finished off. It had coach seating for longer-distance bus journeys.
The Black & White coach from Gourds of Newton Abbot was bought for spares for the remainder of the fleet of AEC Reliances with Harrington bodies.
91 BFW - I remember occasionally riding in that one: it was used on the odd occasion to carry the Gloucester rugby team to away matches when the usual vehicle was off the road. The driver was Duke Bevan.
The vehicle coming out of Rank Xerox was not one of the Black & Whites. I think it came from a London operator, possibly Valliants.
The yellow doubledecker, YLJ 147 was a 1959 Leyland Titan PD3/1 built with two doorways, but only one staircase (at the rear). I am pretty certain it was one of many vehicles that were stored for periods at Joys Green until the dealer that had acquired them could decide what to do with them (usually consigning them for scrap). I don't think it ever operated for Edwards".
Kev Nottingham added (December 2013): "... my father used to work for Edwards from the early 1970's to 1982 when they closed. He then went on to work for Dean Forest for a while. I remember spending school holidays at the yard or on service runs usually on ECJ or PYB- some great memories. The coach AAD 251B I don't think was run by Edward's so probably was a stay-over. Another coach in the pictures DJH 737F was a 'famous' coach of the Edwards fleet, a few years previous to their ownership it appeared in the film Carry on camping".
Pete Davies added (March 2014) "... YLJ 147 is indeed a former Bournemouth bus. She still exists, in the collection of Phil Blair and his son Gareth of XELABUS, Colden Common, Winchester".
Paul Rogers added (September 2015): "... I worked at Edwards for about 18 months 1979 / 1980 with 'Ozzie', Les Foxwell, Alan Coake, Sid Arkell ... Norman lived down by the Jovial's (Jovial Colliers) pub. Gordon Pete Hurley the foreman lived in one of the cottages".
Thanks to Sam Yemm who added (January 2016): "... Joys Green is spelt exactly as I have just spelt it. Its not Joy's Green. There is no apostrophe in Joys. My dad worked for Edwards's coaches for years. Wonderful photo's by the way".
Bob Wyatt added (November 2016): "... YLJ147 was bought by Wyatt & Tizard Ltd., a model business based in Greet, Birmingham. It was used as a mobile shop for a few years then sold for preservation. An AEC Reliance single deck was bought from Edwards as replacement. Paul Tizard left Wyatt & Tizard in 1979 to concentrate on the bus business. Bob Wyatt continued in the model trade with W&T manufacturing (B'ham Ltd and from 1991 Scale Link Ltd".
* Peter Essex added (September 2019): "... I have just been reading Kevin Lane's "An Illustrated History of London's buses. On page 16 there is a history of London's Class C Leyland Cubs. It says that out of a batch of 22 such buses that were put into service in 1936, 6 were "loaned" to "Edwards of Lydbrook" during the War. This use of the word "loaned" may suggest an answer to the query about whether these buses ever returned to London, although Lane's book does not give the answer".
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