The buses of Sixpenny Handley


  adams brothers rubber stamp imprint

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

Another long established Dorset business was Victory Tours, based for many years in the quaintly named village of Sixpenny Handley up on Cranborne Chase in the north east corner of the county. The Adams family were builders and carpenters in Handley whilst the Coombes family were bakers and grocers there. Cyril Adams was a driver-mechanic with the Victory buses in Salisbury (also known as Salisbury and District) run by Maurice Coombes. But that business was sold by its proprietor Maurice Coombes to Wilts and Dorset Motor Services in June 1921 after only fifteen months of operation. Cyril acquired a Thorneycroft bus instead of money he was owed and brought it back to his home village of Handley. He adopted Victory Coaches as his trading name when, as eldest son, he set up in business with his father Albert Adams in that same year. Confusingly another Salisbury operator Sparrow & Vincent also operated as Victory Motor Services running city routes in and around Salisbury from 1922 to December 1933 until selling out to Wilts and Dorset. Mr Sparrow would have known Cyril Adams as he too had driven for Coombes. Additionally there was A W Alner's Victory Motor Service of Fordingbridge, also working into Salisbury from their home town.

The original routes operated by Adams were from Handley to Salisbury on Tuesday and Saturday; Handley via Blandford and Bere Regis to Dorchester on Wednesday; Handley to Blandford on Thursday. A second vehicle was obtained in 1923 and this enabled the introduction of a Thursday service to Salisbury as well as a new route to Wimborne on Tuesday. Adams is also shown as serving Bowerchalke on Tuesdays in the mid 1920s. Wilts & Dorset were also operating from Handley to Salisbury at this time and Albert Adams bought the goodwill of their routes in April 1922, the purchase price of 225 also including the garage in Handley. Albert died in 1925 and his widow Edith took over the reins. The following year the younger son E E Adams became old enough to help with the driving.

The first bus, a Thornycroft acquired in 1921.  Body built by Salisbury Carriage Works. Cyril Adams on the left of the group.

cyril adams and the first thornycroft

For some years the longest route went from Handley via Winterbourne Kingston and Bere Regis to Dorchester on Wednesdays, Adams operating it from 1922 until 1928.  This had been started by Harold Roy Bartley and his "Handley Express" in 1913 using a Scout 24-seater bus built in Salisbury. For some six months starting in November 1921 Wilts & Dorset Motor Services of Salisbury based a vehicle in Handley, operating from there to Shaftesbury, Farnham and subsequently Ringwood. This was short-lived and when they withdrew Adams purchased their Handley garage and the Dorchester route in April 1922. It was in 1921 that Wilts & Dorset were first established on the A354 road from Salisbury to Blandford and Dorchester although they ceased to operate for some years before that route being reintroduced at some point before extension from the county town of Dorchester to the coast at Weymouth in March 1929 - the route is not included in a 1925 list of their services. Perhaps the dates of operation of Adams' weekly service to Dorchester above may have some relevance. Frank Goddard also operated a parallel route to the Adams service between Handley and Salisbury.  Cox & Macdonald of Handley had also operated between Handley and Salisbury in the 1920s in a red painted Dennis bus.  Even earlier were the operations of H R Bartley on this route with a Scout bus between 1911 and 1914.  Bartley abandoned Handley and set up a Tidworth - Amesbury - Salisbury route instead (that business was sold to Wilts & Dorset in April 1929).

New Canal, Salisbury, in the 1920s - could that be Albert Adams leaning against the bonnet of their Thorneycroft FX8251 ?
Salisbury New Canal 1920s

This is thought likely to have been Adams second bus - FX9619 in 1923
From left to right:  Cyril Adams, Mark Burgess, Harry Bailey, Albert Adams
(photo reproduced by kind permission of Gaynor Cromwell)

thought to be Adams second bus in 1923

Victory garage in Handley in the 1930s - the vehicles include Bedford WLB TK7254 (in middle) and Thornycroft A2 HB2940 (on right).
The latter was new in 1927 to Davies of Merthyr and was also in the fleet of Merthyr Tydfil Corporation Transport briefly in 1929,
and is believed to have been a 20-seater.

handley victory garage 1930s

Kellys Directory for 1927 listed the following services from Handley.  Adams is shown as running to Salisbury on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; to Wimborne on Tuesday; to Dorchester on Wednesday; to Blandford on Thursday.  Goddard is shown as running to Salisbury on Tuesday and Saturday; Blandford on Thursday; Wimborne on Friday. There is a degree of duplication and competition but further details of the routes and the intermediate points served are not given. Goddard appears to have ceased running by 1931.

By the time road service licencing was introduced by the Road Traffic Act of 1930 the firm had grown further and Victory Coaches were operating services from Handley to (a) Salisbury via Tollard Royal, Farnham, Handley and Martin on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (b) Blandford via Farnham, Chettle and Pimperne on Thursdays and Saturdays (c) Blandford via Dean, Cashmoor and Tarrant Gunville on Thursdays (d)  Wimborne Minster via Cranborne and Wimborne St Giles on Tuesdays (e) Wimborne Minster via Cranborne and Horton Inn. The latter service was taken over in 1931 from Frank Goddard, the other operator in Handley in the 1920s.  In May 1934 the villages loop on the Salisbury service was extended to include Farnham Newtown and Woodley Down (for Ashmore). A Saturday evening cinema bus from Handley to Shaftesbury was operating by 1934 and a Monday shoppers bus from Handley to Bournemouth via Tarrant Monkton, Tarrant Keynston and Wimborne Minster was started shortly after (a Friday service was subsequently added post-war).

 Victory timetable for Salisbury route, dated January 1936, including some journeys proceeding via Martin

1936 timetable

From details in the Traffic Commissioners Notices and Proceedings we can identify the Victory bus routes as working in December 1938. They are identified by their road service licence number:
      H3905    Handley-Cranborne-All Hallows-St Giles-Gussage All Saints-Horton Inn-Wimborne   Tuesday and Friday
      H3906    Handley-Woodcutts-Dean-Minchington-Tarrant Gunville-Tarrant Hinton-Pimperne-Blandford   Thursday
      H3907    Handley-Tollard Royal-Farnham-Chettle-Tarrant Hinton-Pimperne-Blandford   Thursday
      H3908    Handley-Woodcutts-Cashmoor-Gussage All Saints-Horton Inn-Wimborne   Saturday
      H3909    Handley-Tollard Royal-Woodley Down-Farnham-Woodcutts-Handley-Salisbury   Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
      H3910    Handley-Tollard Royal-Woodley Down-Shaftesbury  (not via Ashmore)   Saturday (cinema bus)
      H4297    Handley-Tarrant Monkton-Tarrant Keyneston-Wimborne-Bournemouth   Monday

Oddy's 1936 timetable for the Ashmore to Shaftesbury route taken over by Victory Tours in 1946.

In 1946 the route of C A Oddy from Ashmore to Shaftesbury was purchased and extended back to work through from Handley. One of the Blandford routes ('c' in the list above) was reorganised in December 1946 to start from Wimborne St Giles and operate via Gussage All Saints  before rejoining the original route through Tarrant Gunville. From April 1947 to May 1949 a Wednesday market bus was operated from Handley to Ringwood via Farnham, Gussage All Saints and Horton.

The two routes to Wimborne Minster were merged into one late in 1948, starting from Wimborne St Giles and running via Monkton St Giles (instead of Cranborne), Handley, Cashmoor, Gussage St Michael, Gussage All Saints and Horton Inn.  This was at the time of introduction on 5th December 1948 of the Hants & Dorset 97 service from Poole via Wimborne, Gussage, Cranborne and Fordingbridge to Salisbury six times a day. The main route into Salisbury from Tollard Royal and Handley acquired daily morning and evening workers journeys from 1st September 1948.  The double-run diversion to Martin had already been discontinued by now, Martin being served exclusively by the buses of Charles Flemington of that village.

Handley garage seen about 1950, with Bedford OBs BJT 943 (on left) and DFX 144 (on right), with Bedford OWB  BJT 217 in the middle.
BJT217 new to Adams in December 1945.  BJT943 new to Adams in 1946 and withdrawn in 1967. DFX144 joined the fleet in 1949.
The original garage and workshop pictured, with capacity for three coaches, was later extended onto higher ground at the rear.
This arrangement included two pits in the workshop which could be simply walked into from the lower level original garage.

handley victory garage 1950


Tollard Royal - Handley - Salisbury

(extended to Woodley Down, Tollard Green and Farnham on      Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; also feeder from Deanland to Handley same days)

Handley - Tarrants - Bournemouth

Monday and Friday

Handley - Ashmore - Shaftesbury

Thursday, Saturday, Sunday

St Giles - Handley - Gussage - Wimborne

Tuesday and Saturday

St Giles - Gussage - Blandford


Handley - Farnham - Blandford

Thursday and Saturday

Handley - Gussage - Ringwood

(Discontinued May 1949 and not shown on map)


As with many operators, excursions, tours and private hires provided a welcome change from the day to day bus services for both passengers and drivers.  A range of excursions had been operated from Handley and surrounding villages since the early days of the business, as well as from Broadchalke and Martin. This type of activity grew in 1952 with the take over of the business of  J Robins & Son of Shaftesbury and their tours licences. In 1955 the Adams fleet comprised eleven vehicles, primarily Bedford OBs, plus a couple of Bedford SBs and a solitary Dennis Lancet. Further growth came in April 1957 with a similar take over of the tours licences of W Otton & Son of Cranborne (they had been bus operators too until 1952). Acquired from Otton was a 29-seater Bedford OB EFX337.

In January 1957, with fuel rationing restrictions, the Saturday afternoon services were withdrawn from the St Giles - Wimborne Minster, Handley - Blandford and Handley - Shaftesbury routes.  Also the pattern of travel was changing by this time and late Saturday afternoon return trips from the villages to the market towns were no longer serving their traditional purpose of enabling shoppers to obtain bargain food purchases as the shops and markets closed for the weekend. The Shaftesbury route lost its Sunday journey too at this time. Withdrawal of lightly used Saturday services released more vehicles for private hire work.  In the spring of 1957 the Shaftesbury service initiated a double run to serve East Melbury.  On the way to Shaftesbury the route negotiates the appropriately named Zig-Zag Hill. Then in 1959 the loop on the Salisbury service was extended to include Ashmore on Tuesdays.  

New Canal, Salisbury in the 1960s - A Victory Tours Bedford OB (JLJ 128) waits in the rain to depart for Handley.
This vehicle had come into the Adams fleet in August 1958.

The Victory business was incorporated as a limited company in 1964 as Adams Bros (Handley) Ltd.  At that time the fleet numbered fourteen full sized vehicles, all petrol engined Bedfords, ranging from 29-seater Vistas to 41-seater Super Vegas. Taxis and road haulage still played a part in the overall business. Figures from 1963 show average stage service revenue of 10.75 old pence per mile against average costs of 27.75 pence per mile. Best performing routes were the two once weekly Blandford market services, then the daily Salisbury service; followed by the Shaftesbury and Bournemouth routes.  Poorest performer was the Wimborne service. Although uneconomic in operation loyalty to customers and villages that had been served for many years had ensured their continuation despite being unsubsidsed except internally within the business by school contracts and private hire work. The Bournemouth route lost its Monday service in 1963 and in 1967 the Wimborne Minster route was withdrawn completely. After decimalisation the fare chart for January 1972 showed the fares from Handley to Salisbury as 16p single or 1.28 for a five day weekly ticket (20p and 1.60 respectively from Tollard Royal).  The corresponding single fares for spring 1978 were 36p and 42p, with other single fares Handley - Blandford 30p, Handley - Shaftesbury 30p, St Giles - Blandford 32p and Handley - Bournemouth 42p. In 1978 the total revenue from stage services for the year was stated to be 11,000. 

In 980 there were twenty vehicles in the fleet, all Bedford / Plaxton except for a Mercedes minibus. In that year Cyril Adams MBE, the founder, died in January aged 78. He had been awarded his MBE for work with the Dorset Army Cadet Force, retiring with the rank of Major. He is buried in St Marys churchyard in Handley. Victory withdrew the remaining Friday operation on the route to Bournemouth in 1983 (after a period of alternate weekly Friday operation to Poole instead of Bournemouth starting in May 1982) and the route was then taken over by Stanbridge & Crichel and operated intermittently by them for a few more years (the average passenger loading was one per week for a thirty mile journey each way!).

On 10th May 1982, following deregulation of express coach services under the 1980 Transport Act, a new Capital Link route was started from Handley, Salisbury and Andover to London twice a day.   The morning workers journey into Salisbury (started in 1948) was now provided by the London express coach.  The London service only ran for a year. By the time of the 20th June 1983 timetable the morning workers run from Tollard Royal operated only to Handley Cross where it connected with the Wilts & Dorset bus to Salisbury. At this time the teatime return run from Salisbury still ran as a through journey.  1982 also saw Ashmore gaining a Saturday morning shoppers service to Salisbury, whilst the St Giles to Blandford via Handley service on Thursday was altered to run as Handley to Blandford via St Giles.

Changes following bus deregulation meant that from 27th October 1986 the daily workers services on the Salisbury route were discontinued and replaced by diverting the Wilts and Dorset 184/185 Weymouth - Dorchester - Blandford - Salisbury service off the main A354 road and into Handley village for the first time. A connection was still provided by Victory for workers to and from Tollard Royal but the connection was now made in Handley village. Otherwise the Victory service to Salisbury was now just a three days a week market and shoppers service, but still serving the loop through Tollard Royal, Ashmore and Farnham.  Fares charged from Handley in November 1991 were 1.10 single and 1.80 return to Salisbury; 1.00 single and 1.75 return to Shaftesbury or Blandford.  The Thursday service to Salisbury was next to be withdrawn and finally from 3rd April 1999 the main Salisbury route (now one return journey on Tuesday and Saturday only) was lost after seventy eight years operation through county council retender and was then operated by Shaftesbury and District.  The route was amended slightly for operational convenience to start from Ashmore and serve Farnham and Tollard Royal on the way to Handley and Salisbury, whereas the traditional Victory route started at Tollard Royal and then served Ashmore and Farnham. It was also diverted at the city end to serve Salisbury District Hospital.

The business had been under the management of Nick Adams, Albert's grandson and Cyril's nephew, for a good number of years, since 1963.  Nick, now in retirement himself,  often said that it was his grandmother Edith who was the power behind the throne in earlier days!  By 1993 there were 22 vehicles in the fleet, but bus services were by now a minor part of the business.  The parking site for coaches besides Handley church was sold for housing development and operations were moved from Handley to Stanbridge near Wimborne (to the ex Stanbridge & Crichel yard) in 1998, although an office was still maintained in Handley, in a bungalow opposite the original garage site. The garage stood on the north side of the main street, between Handley's two pubs, the Roebuck (still open today) and the Star (closed some years ago). Houses were built on the garage site in a cul-de-sac appropriately named Adams Lane.

There were then only the three Thursday market routes left in operation by Victory (the two routes to Blandford and the Shaftesbury service).  These finished during June 2000, with the Blandford services passing to Damory Coaches as a one route combination of the two former routes, and the Shaftesbury route passing to Shaftesbury & District.   After nearly 80 years, Victory Tours were out of the bus business.  But still a thriving coach business well into the millennium with a fleet size of 18 vehicles, including Neoplan Skyliners and Beulas bodied Euroriders, the operations of Victory Tours included a wide range of private hire, touring, student and contract work.

Modern double decker coach

Autumn 2004 saw the retirement of proprietor Nick Adams and the sale of the Victory business to the owners of Blueways Coaches of London who formed a new company Blueways Victory Limited.  The yard at Stanbridge was given up and operations moved to St Leonards near Ringwood, from where the new owners had plans to continue to expand the operation from the new base.

Sadly on 17 May 2005 Dorset County Council was informed that Blueways Victory would be unable to fulfil school contract commitments from the following day because of financial difficulties.  Liquidators were appointed on 2nd June.  It seems that the demise of Victory was brought about by loss of contracts by the new parent company.  Events are a little unclear, as there was an association with Blueways Coaches of London and also with South Dorset Coaches of Swanage at the time (then recently acquired from the founding Sheasby family). Some operations continued from St Leonards as Blueways Dorset Ltd.  Blueways ceased trading in Dorset altogether in September 2007. The Victory Tours name passed then to Mark Self of Roadliner of Poole until his company was acquired by Cavendish Liner in August 2009, whilst the South Dorset Coaches name had been revived by Nick Hubbard of Swanage Taxis and LinkRider in autumn 2007. To clarify: the founding Adams family retired in 2004 and were not connected with the Blueways businesses and subsequent developments in any way.

In 2005 the Blandford route was operated each Thursday by Damory Coaches starting at Gussage St Michael, then via Gussage All Saints, Wimborne St Giles, Handley, Dean, Farnham, Chettle, Tarrant Hinton and Tarrant Gunville to Blandford.  The Salisbury service was still with Shaftesbury & District and numbered 400 but ran on Tuesday only, with the Shaftesbury service operated each schoolday except Thursday on a route from Cranborne via Handley, Tollard Royal, Woodley Down and East Melbury.  Ashmore was no longer served, and the route did not operate on Thursday, the traditional shopping and market day at Shaftesbury, and the bus only proceeded beyond East Melbury to and from Shaftesbury on request.  How things change! 2010 update: the Tuesday service to and from Salisbury was extended in 2009 to start and finish in Shaftesbury, and the Cranborne to Shaftesbury route was no longer operated (presumably following loss of the supporting school contract). Then from June 2010 the Salisbury service was curtailed to start and finish at the S&D depot at Cann Common rather than the town centre of Shaftesbury, and was also diverted to run via Salisbury District Hospital.  From 28th July 2011 operation of the Tuesday service 400 to Salisbury passed to Tourist Coaches (a Go Ahead subsidiary) as part of a major retendering exercise of bus routes by Dorset County Council. The 400 finally succumbed to county council funding cuts and was withdrawn in Aprl 2016. The Blandford to Salisbury route via the A354 and Handley continued five times a day as service 20, operated in 2016 by Dorset county council's own vehicles and drivers; in 2017 the operation passed to Damory Coaches of Blandford.

Many an overseas visitor, and perhaps some of our younger people too, must wonder about the origins of the village name 'Sixpenny Handley'.  Money has nothing to do with the name, it is derived from the two medieval hundreds of Saxpena and Hanlege ('Saxon hilltop' and 'high clearing').
6d Handley signpost

1948 timetable
The timetable above is from September 1948 and includes the introduction of new daily workers services to Salisbury from Handley and Tollard Royal.  Pre-war it is unlikely that such 'commuter' facilities would have been necessary, and it wasn't until after the 1944 Education Act that there was much need for older school pupils to be transported to and from town each day.  
The timetables below date from June 1949 but remained current until 1957. Thursday and Saturday were busy days with four routes operating! Note the traditional 3pm and 8pm Saturday trips on the Wimborne and Blandford services, necessary when agricultural workers still worked on Saturday mornings. These timings often made for a family outing to town, also hoping to pick up late bargains from shops and market stallholders.

victory tours timetable 1949 first part
victory tours timetable 1949 second part

Victory Tours Letterhead

Later examples of Victory Tours timetables can be found here

More historical pictures of the buses of Handley can be found on the Sixpenny Handley village website

======= With many thanks to David Gillard and Gaynor Cromwell for use of the black and white pictures above =======