Michael Wadman recalls thirty years service to the people of North Dorset, and the end of an era in 2002

Please note - this is a site of historical record and does not contain current service information

        Ray Cuff  1941 - 2022

The end of two eras, actually. At Yeovil bus station on Saturday 31st August 2002 at a little after the booked 17:30, GCL 349N duly departed for Sturminster Newton on Ray Cuff's last journey as an operator, marking the end of thirty years' service to the people of north Dorset and bits of Somerset, and also the end of regular use of the Bristol RE on bus services in the south-west.

Ray’s operations had their origins in a service operated by Somervale Coaches from Glastonbury to Blandford Forum which was introduced on 7th March 1966 as a replacement for the Somerset & Dorset railway and withdrawn on 5th February 1972 when the subsidy from the British Railways Board was discontinued. Ray drove on this service and upon its withdrawal he purchased two of the Tiger Cubs used on it (KDB696 and JBO124) and commenced his own operation which was oriented towards providing shopping links for communities in the area rather than as a replacement for the trains.

Services commenced on 7th February 1972 as follows:

4    STURMINSTER NEWTON - Stalbridge - Henstridge - Templecombe - Wincanton - Bruton - Milton Clevedon (Tu) / Southwood (TuF) - Evercreech - Shepton Mallet - (some journeys via North Wootton) - GLASTONBURY  TuF

5    STURMINSTER NEWTON - Stalbridge - Henstridge - TEMPLECOMBE  M

6    STURMINSTER NEWTON - Stalbridge - Henstridge - Buckhorn Weston - Kington Magna - West Stour - East Stour - GILLINGHAM  W

7    LYDLINCH - Sturminster Newton - Fifehead Neville - Kingston - Hazelbury Bryan - Kings Stag - Pulham - Holwell - Stourton Caundle - Bishops Caundle - Sherborne - YEOVIL  S

13    GILLINGHAM - East Stour - West Stour - Fifehead Magdalan - Stalbridge - Stourton Caundle - Bishops Caundle - Sherborne - YEOVIL  S

From early 1973 Ray’s services were marketed as part of the Chris Knubley’s Brutonian network, using a common route numbering system. A connection at Gillingham with Brutonian service 12 provided a facility to Shaftesbury off service 6, and a similar connection provided a facility from Shaftesbury and Motcombe into service 13. On Tuesdays, service 4 provided a connection at Evercreech (outward) or Bruton (return) into Service 8 to Salisbury.

March 1973 - Service 7 withdrawn between Lydlinch and Sturminster Newton.

3rd July 1973 - Service 4 diversion via North Wootton withdrawn.

November 1974 - Service 13 diverted away from Fifehead Magdalen via Lower Marsh. In addition the two main journeys diverted between West Stour and Lower Marsh via Kington Magna.

1976 - Service 7 double run to Fifehead Neville withdrawn.

May 1978 - Service 4 Tu diversion via Milton Clevedon withdrawn. All journeys now via Southwood.

From 4th April 1981, the arrangement with Brutonian having been discontinued, the following changes were made:

New service 1    OKEFORD FITZPAINE - Shillingstone - Child Okeford - Manston - Rixon - Sturminster Newton - Lydlinch - Stourton Caundle - Bishops Caundle - Sherborne - YEOVIL  F; also one Yeovil - Sturminster Newton journey at 12:00 S

Service 4 withdrawn between Sturminster Newton and Bruton. The section between Bruton and Glastonbury passed to Smiths of Pylle.

Service 5 renumbered 4.

Service 7 extended from Sturminster Newton to Rixon, increased to TuS, and renumbered 3.

Service 13 renumbered 2.

February 1983 - Service 1 withdrawn between Okeford Fitzpaine and Shillingstone.

22nd October 1986 - Ray had initially registered all his services for D-Day, but the registration for the 6 was withdrawn, apparently because Tony Tucker (Air Camelot) registered a service from Buckhorn Weston and Kington Magna to Wincanton, and so this service ceased at D-Day. 

22nd December 1986 - New Service 6  GILLINGHAM - East Stour - Todber - Marnhull - Hinton St Mary - STURMINSTER NEWTON  M NSD replacing a Bere Regis & District service (BR&D continued to operate on schooldays).

11th November 1987 - Service 4 (previously service 5): The “live” journeys to & from Sturminster Newton diverted between Stalbridge and Sturminster Newton via Stourton Caundle on M SDO only. Also a W SDO service introduced STURMINSTER NEWTON - Stourton Caundle - STALBRIDGE.

In April 1988 Dorset County Council for the first time showed their internal route numbers allocated to independents’ services in a public timetable book, and Ray immediately adopted their numbers:

Service 1 Friday service renumbered 241.

Service 2 (previously service 13) renumbered 242.

Service 3 (previously service 7) and the S journey on service 1 renumbered 243.

Service 4 (previously service 5) renumbered 244.

Service 6 renumbered 245.

21st December 1988 - Service 244 (previously 4, originally 5) W SDO journeys withdrawn.

13th February 1989 - Service 245 (previously 6) withdrawn between Gillingham and Todber. One journey from Sturminster Newton diverted from Marnhull via Stalbridge to HENSTRIDGE. (Note that the last day of the Gillingham section was actually 24th October 1988 as there were no operational Mondays during the Christmas school holidays.)

23rd October 1989 - Service 245 (previously service 6) Henstridge journey withdrawn.

19th February 1990 - Service 244 (previously 4, originally 5) diversion via Stourton Caundle increased from M SDO to M.

23rd July 1990 - Service 245 (previously service 6) increased from M NSD to M replacing Bere Regis & District 117 on schooldays.

20th August 1990 - Service 245 (previously service 6) withdrawn.

23rd November 1998 - Service 244 (previously 4, originally 5) withdrawn, and replaced by Cudlipp Coaches.

31st August 2002 - All services withdrawn. Passed to Cudlipp Coaches (Linco Travel)

From 3rd September 2002 Linco operated:

    241  Shillingstone - Child Okeford - Sturminster Newton - Bishops Caundle - Sherborne - Yeovil  F
242  Gillingham - East Stour  - Kington Magna - Stalbridge - Bishops Caundle - Sherborne - Yeovil  S
243  Sturminster Newton - Hazelbury Bryan - Pulham - (Stourton Caundle Tu only) - Bishops Caundle - Sherborne - Yeovil  TuS
244  Templecombe - Stalbridge - Sturminster Newton M

SJB113M in Sherborne Bristol RE SJB113M pauses in Sherborne on
Friday 13th August 1993.

(photo courtesy of Michael Wadman)


With a peak vehicle requirement of 1 and (usually) a total fleet strength of 1, short-term hirings were not uncommon, and these have not been included. Three relatively long-term loans have been included.

    KDB 696    Leyland PSUC1/1T    575806    Weymann    M7861        B44F
        New 1957 to North West Road Car. Ex-Somervale, Midsomer Norton 2/72.
        Withdrawn 9/76. Sold by 7/77

    JBO 124    Leyland PSUC1/1    543552    Weymann    M6544        B44F
        New 1954 to Western Welsh.
        Ex-Somervale, Midsomer Norton 2/72. Acquired for spares only.
        Passed to Brutonian as immobile store 10/73

    AOR 379C    Bedford VAL14    1639        Plaxton    652517    C52F
        New 1965 to Glider & Blue, Bishops Waltham
        Ex-James, Sherston 1/76. Withdrawn 12/80

    URO 928F    Bedford VAL70    7862123    Plaxton    688544    C52F
        New 1968 to Alexandra, Enfield .
        On loan ex-Barrys, Weymouth 12/80 - 2/81

    NUF 438G    Bristol RELL6G    3-598        Marshall    B4186        B53F
        New 1969 to Southdown.  Acquired 2/81. Sold 4/87

    NCN 813L    Bristol RELH6G    4-576        Plaxton    733879    C47F
        New 1973 to Northern General . Acquired 11/83
        To C49F by 5/87. Sold 2/90

    SJB 113M    Bristol RELH6G    4-677        Plaxton    7411BXR513    C49F
        New 1974 to Alder Valley . Ex-Barrys, Weymouth  2/90.
       Withdrawn by 6/96. Remains gone by 11/97

    GCL 349N    Bristol RELH6L (6LX)   4-750    ECW        21426        DP49F
        New 1974 to Eastern Counties . Ex-Coombs, Weston-Super-Mare by 4/96
        Withdrawn 6/97. Reinstated 9/00. Withdrawn 8/02. Sold for preservation 5/03.

    GCL 348N    Bristol RELH6L (6LX)   4-747    ECW        21423        DP49F
        New 1974 to Eastern Counties . Ex-Village Tours, Garston  6/97.
        Withdrawn 11/98. Sold to Styles Farm (shed) by 8/99.

    SAH 851M    Bristol RELH6G    4-724        Plaxton    7411BXR510    C53F
        New 1974 to Eastern Counties . Ex-Hembry, Hazelbury Bryan  11/98
        withdrawn 3/00. Sold for preservation 6/01.

    YDC 24Y    Dennis Falcon         SDA409/132    Wadham Stringer  9487/83    B50F
        New 1983 to Hartlepool. Ex-Eaglen, Morton  1/00.
       Withdrawn by 9/00. Sold to Styles Farm (shed).

    LHT 171L    Bristol RELL6L    RELL-3-1911    ECW        20146        B50F
        New 1973 to Bristol OC . On loan ex-Simon Jennings 5/00 - by 8/00.

    YAZ 6393    AEC Reliance        6U2R38768    Plaxton    8011AC006/S    C53F
        New 1980 to Traject, Huddersfield  (FCX 576W)
        On loan ex-Shaftesbury & District  9/01 - 11/01

The two former Eastern Counties RELHs were built with Leyland engines but were fitted with Gardner 6LXs by Eastern Counties. The Dennis Falcon was purchased mainly because it had a Gardner engine but despite considerable effort and expense it could never be persuaded to run properly – the climb out of Yeovil on the A30 was painfully slow – and eventually was given up on. Fortunately the sale of GCL 349N had fallen through and it was still available, so it was reinstated for further use and lasted to the end of services in August 2002. It is now in preservation in East Anglia.


At first little obvious change was apparent to the unknowing passenger. Ray continued to drive “his” services, but as an employee of Linco Travel and using Linco vehicles. The double run from Bishops Caundle to Stourton Caundle was withdrawn from the Saturday 243, and TuF journeys into Yeovil extended to the ASDA store on request. Ray did his best to discourage such requests!

Mr Cudlipp of Linco gradually reduced his operations over the next few years – the 244 which he had taken over from Ray in November 1998 was withdrawn in December 2003 and he retired in March 2004. He sold what was left of his business to Mr Cargill t/a Frontera Travel, although by then the only bus services that he operated were the 241, 242, and 243. Frontera continued to operate these until the middle of August when they suddenly ceased without notice; for which Frontera subsequently lost their operating licence.

Dorset County Council arranged replacement services, but they didn’t start until November. Shaftesbury & District ran service 42 which followed the route of the 242 but confusingly on Tuesdays instead of Saturdays. Damory Coaches ran the 241 temporarily for a month to assess demand, and then diverted their existing 190 Blandford – Yeovil Friday service over the route of the 241 instead of the main roads it had used previously. South West Coaches took over the 42 from Shaftesbury & District in April 2008.

An aside - with Ray himself most often the driver, holidays could present a problem  -  Geoff Toomer of Stanbridge and Crichel

remembers driving the routes in the summer of 1985 to cover Ray's week away on holiday.

More recently I was pleased to bump into Ray again at several running days in 2015 and 2016.

As well as the photographs below, a fully detailed and illustrated fleet list of Ray Cuff's vehicles
by Paul Welling (a former Brutonian employee 1980-82) can be found
Ray's first bus at Shepton in 1973
Leyland KDB696 in striking livery. 
Ray Cuff's first bus at Shepton Mallet in 1973.

(photo courtesy of Michael Wadman)

AOR379C in Bruton

cuff almex ticket

Bedford VAL 52-seater AOR 379C passes
through Bruton in 1976.

(photo courtesy of Michael Wadman)

SAH851M  at Yeovil bus station in 1999
Another Bristol RE, 53-seater SAH851M in
Yeovil bus station on Friday 19th February 1999;
with a Wakes vehicle to left awaiting departure for Gillingham (a destination served by Cuff from
Yeovil on Saturday).

(photo courtesy of Michael Wadman)

GCL349N at Gillingham station

Bristol RE GCL349N at Gillingham Station

in October 2000.

Owned by Ray Cuff from 1996 till 2003, and
earlier with the Blandford Bus Company
(John Cumming) from 1994 to 1996.

(photo courtesy of Steve Oxbrow)

now in preservation in Eastern Counties white National livery and seen at the Busfest in Whittlesey in July 2021

rear of 349N on last day

And a rear view of 349N on Ray's last day

31st August 2002

(photo courtesy of Steve Oxbrow)

SJB113M at Yeovil

An earlier picture from 1992 shows Ray Cuff
with SJB 113M at Yeovil, another Bristol RELH6
with Plaxton body

(photo courtesy of R S Oxbrow)


1972 timetable
The original timetable 1972 (apologies for the poor quality  reproduction, no other copy available)

1974 times glastonbury route 1974 times for the route to Glastonbury. now advertised under the Brutonian name

1974 times yeovil route 1974 times for the Yeovil route, now expanded to operate both morning and afternoon

                  Raymond John Cuff  1941  -   2022

Ray first drove for Bere Regis Coaches in the 1960s and then went to work for Somervale Coaches in 1966. He then ran the ex-Somervale routes for his own account from 1972, in a collaboration with Chris Knubley of Brutonian. This joint arrangement lasted until 1981. Ray's services across Somerset and Dorset continued until August 2002 when the business was sold to Cudlipps Coaches (for whom Ray then drove over his old routes).


A fully detailed and illustrated fleet list of Ray Cuff's vehicles by Paul Welling (a former Brutonian employee 1980-82) can be found here