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KING ALFRED MOTOR SERVICES

Their routes in and around the cathedral city of Winchester in Hampshire








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





The story of this Winchester operator has been recorded more fully elsewhere so the main focus of this present article is to look briefly at the bus routes that they operated over the post-war years.  It was unusual in being one of the few privately owned companies of size that provided a municipal type of service for its host city with a fleet of thirty to forty vehicles; perhaps all the more notable that it continued to do so until its demise fifty plus years later in 1973.  An operation ever identified by the portrayal on the sides of their vehicles of the statue of King Alfred to be found in Winchester Broadway, the hub of their bus routes over the years.

To set the historical context the firm was founded by Robert Chisnell senior in 1915 during the first world war with shooting-brakes linking the city to military establishments and army camps in the surrounding area.  Bus services per se started in 1922 with four services, comprising two circular routes to new housing developments at Stanmore, to the south of the city; a route to Shawford and Twyford, also south of the city; and a route to Flowerdown to the north-west.  Other routes followed and the map below from their 1936 timetable book shows the geographical extent of the eleven (four country and seven city) services at that time. At 24 miles in length the route to Basingstoke via Whitchurch was the longest. There was also present in the city the established combine company Hants & Dorset with routes to Romsey, Salisbury, Andover, Eastleigh, Southampton, Fareham and Petersfield.  Wilts & Dorset jointly operated the routes from Andover and Salisbury.  Aldershot & District had their route 14 coming in from the east from Alresford and Aldershot.  Amongst independent operators coming into the city were Winchester & District (Whapshare) from Alresford and Empress Coaches (Martin-Cooper) who ran on the road west to Stockbridge in competition with King Alfred, resulting in several battles in the traffic courts.  Competition from Empress, which had commenced in 1928, would remain along the Stockbridge road until 1961.



1936 route map of King Alfred services


1936 King Alfred route map

A limited company was formed in 1939.  The second world war was a time of austerity and difficulty for transport operators, with staff and fuel shortages, but again there were heavy loadings to be carried given the range of military camps and bases.  The 1940 timetable showed a network of eleven services in operation. It differed little from the 1950 list below except for the omission of the 3A and the 4A. The first conductresses joined the staff and it was during the war that the company's first ever double-deck buses arrived, a Leyland Titan and four Guy Arabs.  All five were wartime utility models.  The founder Robert Chisnell died in June 1945 but his two sons continued the business, known to all as Mr Bob and Mr Fred.  In post-war years services and carryings continued to develop, the continuation of petrol rationing as a deterrent to private motoring being a great promoter of public transport.  From 1946 Venture 11 (coincidence or not?) came south from Basingstoke, albeit by a different route along the A33 to that of King Alfred. The illustration below gives the list of routes as shown in the May 1949 timetable; the same booklet was reissued in March 1950 as shown, but with no great change to its contents except for introduction of connections on route 11 at Whitchurch to the Venture 35 service to Newbury.  Route numbers which had previously only appeared in timetables now were shown on the buses for the first time.  The daytime running requirement was some 15 buses.



1950 timetable and list of routes
(original page size 5.5 x 4.25 inches)


1950 King Alfred timetable cover 1950 list of routes

Further services were added to the route network, the 12 to East Stratton in April 1953, previously operated by Callaway of Micheldever; followed by the 13 to Weeke Estate in September of that year to serve new housing developments.  The number 14 was not used as it was already employed by Aldershot & District on their route coming in to Winchester from Alton.  In November 1953 the fleet size stood at 45 of which 18 were double-deck (all Leyland Titans except for 3 utility Guy Arabs), 13 single deck buses and 14 coaches. The 15 to Owslebury followed in November 1955, with the 16 to Highcliffe in January 1956, both replacing the previous Greyfriars services which had been withdrawn.  King Alfred assumed these services somewhat reluctantly as it was already experiencing staff shortages.  1960 saw new service 18 to Winnall, extended the next year to Spingvale (replacing short workings on route 10 to Sutton Scotney), alternating with the 17 to there from Highcliffe.  November 1965 saw the final route extensions with 19 to Teg Down and 20 to Harestock, both of which were to serve new housing areas to the north west of the city.  The illustration below gives details of the routes at this time, requiring some 22 daytime buses in service.



1965 timetable and list of routes
(original page size 8.5 x 5.5 inches)


1965 timetable cover 1965 list of routes



The 1950s were good times, with busy loadings on routes like Weeke and Stanmore recalled by family members.  Operations to the latter always being restricted to single deck by low and narrow railway bridges in Stanmore Lane and Ranelagh Road.  But the 1960s were not to be the easiest of times, particularly for smaller companies.  Passenger numbers were falling and it was hard to attract people to work in the bus industry with its unsocial hours and evening and weekend working.  Traffic in the narrow city streets of Winchester was on the increase and new one-way systems were causing further difficulties in keeping to time and operating reliably. 

In April 1967 the fleet size stood at 49, comprising 6 coaches, 5 minibuses, 25 double deck buses and 13 single deck.   By the middle of the decade reductions to evening and Sunday services had become inevitable as evidenced by the November 1965 timetable.  Routes 4A and 5 interworked with 20 through to Harestock.  This was still not enough and in May 1970 further substantial service adjustments had to be made.  Frequencies on 3, 4 and 7 were halved and the 17 withdrawn.  Services 1 and 2 to Fishers Pond had been previously withdrawn in April 1969.  The route number 21 now had a brief existence, running to Morn Hill as replacement for part of the 6 which was diverted to Winnall (giving a half hourly frequency to there with the 18).

The timetable published in January 1971 (believed to  be the last one issued) showed Sunday services running only on 4A Stanmore, 11 Overton, 13 Weeke Estate and 18 Springvale.  The Sunday workings (which were afternoon and evening only) were so arranged that they could be covered by just two buses, one running on the 4A and 13 and the other on the 11 and 18, the latter being the vehicle from the Whitchurch out-station; in previous years a bus had also been out-stationed at Stockbridge for the 8 and 9 since before the war.  A similar limited service was operated on the same routes on weekday evenings too, with daytime running out-turn reduced to 18 buses. 
On service 13 leaving Weeke Estate, Atlantean HOR590E in the early 1970s.
New to King Alfred in 1967.  This was one of the busiest routes
.
Route 13 Weeke Estate Atlantean 590

By now the end was approaching although the Chisnells still strived to do their best with King Alfred, trying to negotiate a sale of the business to Hants & Dorset, inter alia.  Maintenance issues were becoming an increasing problem and had come to the attention of the Traffic Commissioners.  Matters nearly came to a head with a threatened public inquiry in January 1973 but dispensation was given to avoid disruption to the travelling public and agreement made that King Alfred would cease to operate on 28th April 1973, with the two Chisnell brothers taking their retirement.  Hants & Dorset took over the routes and many of the buses the next day, the only payment offered being the written down value of the vehicles.

And that would have been the end of King Alfred except that a very keen interest in the company and its operations manifested itself in the shape of James Freeman who, with other like minded enthusiasts, formed the Friends of King Alfred Buses in 1985.  That organisation has grown over the past thirty years and has succeeded in restoring most of the extant King Alfred buses to running order.  Each year, usually on New Years Day, a running day was staged with all the preserved vehicles in Winchester running over their old routes to recreate the heyday of King Alfred operations. A successful event was held at the start of 2014 although it was a wet day,  but this was the last New Years Day event, because of the proposed redevelopment of the bus station area. The running day took a different form from 2015, operating on the May Day bank holiday. Having now experienced two May Day running days, and noting how very quiet the 2016 event was both in terms of ridership and customers in the transport bazaar, there was definitely something missing compared to the buzz of the New Years Day events of previous years.
KA Bell Punch ticket Ultimate tickets King Alfred








A detailed history of King Alfred was written by James Freeman and Robert Jowitt and published as a book in 1984 by Kingfisher.  ISBN 0 946184 10 0



A short black-and-white film of King Alfred (and Silver Star) operations in the 1950s can be found on Youtube here





THE

INDEPENDENT

BUS

CHAMBERS
OF BURES
READING
MAINLINE

BIRCH
BROS

SAFEGUARD
GUILDFORD

IMPERIAL
WINDSOR

GOLDEN
MILLER

GRENVILLE
MOTORS
LONDON:
98B and 235

BLAND
COTTESMORE

COUNTRYBUS