originally in a village a
north of Yeovil, Wakes have provided
services in the area since the 1930s. The firm was founded by
18-year old Reginald
(Reg / Reggie) Edgar Wake of South Barrow in February 1930 with a second
Chevrolet 14-seater, and services were run
to Glastonbury on Tuesday; Yeovil on Wednesday and Saturday: and
Shepton Mallet on Friday. The business grew and by
1937 the fleet size had reached four vehicles.
The business was to grow further to include routes from Castle Cary to Yeovil, Keinton Mandeville to Yeovil and Alford to Yeovil. In 1940 the principal operating base was moved a mile or so southwards to a site in nearby Sparkford. The making of the business was perhaps the extensive wartime contracts to carry workmen to and from Yeovilton, Henstridge, Charlton Horethorne, Corsham and other airfields and camps in the area. At its peak in the summer of 1943 over twenty vehicles were needed for this work alone.
expansion came with the
the trunk Yeovil to Shepton Mallet via Castle Cary daily route in
1947; objections from other operators had to be overcome to achieve
nigh on twenty
years from 1949 the route warranted the use of double-deckers - these
replaced by one-man operated Bedfords in 1968. As well as this main
route other market day services went to Sherborne, Wincanton, Shepton,
Glastonbury and Yeovil from the villages in the area. The 1949
timetable is reproduced below.
Wakes had three double deckers. The first two entered service in 1949 and were bought brand new:
LYA449 AEC Regent III /Reading L55R. This one lasted until 1968And the third vehicle was bought secondhand:
KHU623 Bristol K6A/ECW L55R. New 1947 to Bristol Tramways & Carriage Co. Ltd and came to Wakes via Say, Gloucester (dealer) in June 1960. Originally built as a K5G it had an AEC engine fitted by Bristol Tramways. It lasted until 1966.
All three of these buses were used on the trunk Shepton Mallet - Castle Cary - Sparkford - Yeovil service which ran at about a two hour frequency with a journey time of an hour and a half over a distance of some twenty-one miles.
|Wakes double decker Bristol KHU623 at Shepton Mallet Cenotaph, waiting to depart on the one and a half hour run to Yeovil.
day in the 1960s and LYA449 comes into Yeovil at the end of its journey
from Shepton Mallet - note the informative destination screen with the
full listing of intermediate points. A Hutchings & Cornelius single decker stands to the left.
(photo Roger Grimley)
Acquisitions grew the business beyond the original base at Sparkford. Brue Coaches of Bruton was purchased in 1950 and this was followed in 1956 by English Rose Coaches (Chinn) of Wincanton. This included several stage services and led to Wake's setting up a second base at Wincanton, some miles to the east of Sparkford along the A303 road. Wincanton soon became the main engineering and operating base from premises in South Street. The business became a limited company in 1964: Wakes Services Limited. 1958 had seen the takeover of Grosvenor Coaches of Shaftesbury and then North Dorset Coaches (Wolstenholme) followed in 1971. With a fleet size then of around twenty five vehicles, coaching and school work and private hire was a significant feature of the business as well as the running of the bus routes.
In January 1966 with the impending closure of the Somerset and Dorset rail line, Wakes were to introduce a replacement daily bus service between Blandford, Gillingham, Wincanton, Shepton Mallet and Glastonbury. But this didn't happen for one reason or another and this dithering effectively prolonged the life of the rail line by two months until March 1966 when the replacement service was introduced by Somervale Coaches of Midsomer Norton. (One of Somervale's regular drivers who was based at the southern end of the route in Blandford was Ray Cuff - he was eventually to celebrate his 30th anniversary as a bus operator in his own right in 2002, after he introduced partial replacement services when Somervale withdrew from the route in 1972).
|Winter 1963 and a Wakes double decker is marooned in the snow
With the introduction of one man operation on the main route from Yeovil to Shepton Mallet when the double deckers were finally withdrawn in 1968 one of the usual two vehicles to be found on this service was a bus-bodied Bedford VAL JNT252E. For some unknown reason it was re-registered LWY820D with its previous owner. The second bus was usually one of the two dual-purpose VAMs with Willowbrook bodies, FYC 126/127C, which had been originally ordered for the Somerset & Dorset rail replacement service (which Wakes did not operate in the end, see previous paragraph). In 1972/73 two Bedford YRT/Willowbrook bus-bodied 57-seaters took over the main route. (This was always a busy route and I noted on a visit to Sparkford depot in the 1980s that this service was operated by just two buses and two drivers, both of whom had long all day working shifts. One of the drivers even fitted in a short afternoon school contract run in the Yeovil area).
Following bus deregulation in 1986 the Wakes route network was considerably expanded, with long once or twice weekly routes to the market towns in the surrounding area becoming quite a feature of the operation with services to comparatively distant destinations such as Salisbury, Dorchester, Poole and Taunton.
|This 1965 Bedford/Duple bus FYC126C is laying over in Yeovil (corner of Southville and Sherborne Roads), and the man getting into the bus is the Safeway's driver, going for a chat with the Wakes' man. Taken on 22.04.67. (Photo Simon Brown).
|This 1965 Bedford/Strachans bus CYC669C is pictured at Yeovil Junction Station on the rail link service to Pen Mill Station put in place after the rail service between the two stations was withdrawn. Taken on 26.05.68. (Photo Simon Brown).
|Decker LYA449 seen at Sparkford depot on 26.05.68 after it had been withdrawn and delicenced. (Photo Simon Brown).
By 1996 the fleet size had grown to thirty five vehicles, and local bus operation coupled with school contract work was still the mainstay of the business, alongside private hire and some excursion and tour work. More recently the business was sold by the Wake family - in 1999 - so that Reg's sons Dennis (named after the manufacturer!) and Michael could retire - although it is believed they still "helped out" with the business for the new owners. The buyer was South West Coaches of Yeovil, owned by the Hulbert family. They continued to operate the Wakes routes as a separate unit for some time under the long established and well known Wakes name. The Sparkford base is now no more, the Northfield Garage site having been sold for redevelopment, and it is a drive-through MacDonalds restaurant in a prime site alongside the busy A303 trunk road. The Wincanton base continues in operation and an interesting connection was maintained with one of the former Dorset operators. Nigel Collins, great grandson of Albert Pearce of Cattistock, was the coaching manager for Wakes in 2004. Since the South West Coaches takeover, a purpose built depot in Yeovil has replaced the small site in Victoria Road (which was ideal for the minicoach fleet, less so for full length coaches), and the combined operation has taken a lot of additional work on, discarded by First Group.
Further expansion of stage routes from 2002 brought Wakes into new territories: routes 32, 80 and 83 in the Frome area were previously operated by Leathers Coaches of Maiden Bradley, whilst route 73 to Bridport has been variously operated by Mike Halford of Bridport and Pearces of Cattistock. Several journeys on the 73 served Cattistock on three days a week - reinforcing the link between this Somerset operator and one of the fondly remembered country buses of Dorset. In 2005 the operation of the 73 passed to Sureline of Portland.
A further link to another 'traditional' Somerset operator occurred in early 2007 when South West Coaches introduced service 81 hourly between Yeovil and South Petherton, initially running against Nippy Bus N10 service. This led to the withdrawal of the Nippy Bus service from 13th August 2007. The road to South Petherton had been served by Safeway since 1979, and prior to that by Hutchings & Cornelius. South West Coaches then acquired all the operations of Safeway of South Petherton during 2008 (having operated the bus service side since 2007).In a further important acquisition, from 26th October 2009 South West Coaches took over the routes and operations of Sureline of Portland, and thus established a presence on the Dorset coast in the Weymouth area. This included the local routes in Portland, the services from Portland and Weymouth to Dorchester as well as the ex-Pearce of Cattistock route from Dorchester through Maiden Newton and Evershot to Yeovil.
|Cover of Wakes timetable, circa 1960, showing Sparkford garage
|List of routes from the
Yeovil - Sparkford - Castle
Cary - Evercreech -
List of routes in operation, January 2002
1 Yeovil – Sparkford –
Castle Cary - Shepton Mallet
2 Bruton –
Castle Cary –Yeovil
– Wincanton – Sparkford – Yeovil
– Templecombe – Yeovil
– South Barrow - Yeovil
(Westfield / Preston Schools)
- Sturminster Newton – Poole
Monday (1 trip)
- Keinton Mandeville – Yeovil
Friday (1 trip)
- Long Load – Yeovil
Wednesday (1 trip)
(Town Centre - Schools)
School term only
– Henstridge – Shaftesbury - Salisbury
- Sparkford - Wincanton
Tuesday (1 trip)
– North Cadbury - Yeovil Wednesday (1 trip)
– Holton – Yeovil Friday (1 trip)
– Shepton Mallet - Oakhill School term only
- Milborne Port
School term only
– Castle Cary – then continues to
Weston-Gillingham-Wincanton Thursday (1
– Tisbury – Warminster
Thursday (1 trip)
– Bruton – Street
Tuesday (1 trip)
– Mere - Salisbury
Tues (1 trip) / Sat (2 trips)
29 Milborne Port - Wincanton School term only29 Wincanton - Milborne Port Monday to Friday (1 trip)
30 Wincanton-Gillingham-Blandford-Poole Thursday (1 trip)
Cary – Shepton Mallet –Warminster - Salisbury
- Frome Wednesday/Friday (1 trip)
Horethorne - Bruton
School term only
School term only
– Shaftesbury -Todber - Yeovil Friday (1
– Gillingham – Salisbury Tuesday/Friday
– South Petherton – Taunton
Thursday (1 trip)
Yeovil – South Petherton - Exeter
Newton – Bridport Monday to Saturday (4 trips)
- Frome Wednesday (4 trips) / Saturday (2 trips)
Saturday (2 trips)
- Warminster Friday (1 trip)
Tuesday (1 trip)
Newton–Dorchester Wed / Sat(1 trip)
117 Wincanton –
Marnhull - Sturminster Newton Monday
Two rebodied Leylands seen in Summer 2002. WSV 868 was an
East Lancs Leyland Tiger, which Wakes had rebodied in 1995.
It was originally an ECW B51 body new to Black & White of
Cheltenham (as BDF 205Y) and came from Northern Bus
of Anston. In 2002 it was repainted (being the main bus on
the 1 Yeovil - Shepton route) when the Marshalls came into the fleet.
Alongside is Leyland Leopard/Willowbrook Warrior GIB 5970
(Photo Steve Oxbrow)
South West Coaches in action in Weymouth in September 2010.
YEZ6692, a 1996 Volvo B6 Wright Crusader, waits for
departure to Dorchester on hourly service 210. Behind are
several First vehicles pulling onto the Kings Statue stop.
(Photo Henry Frier)
The summer 1949 timetable
Business letterhead, Sparkford and Wincanton
|A last shot of LYA449 at work - a stalwart of the main Yeovil to Shepton route for some fifteen years.
Bought new by Wakes in 1949, an AEC Regent with 55-seater Reading body.
(photo from the Roger Grimley collection)
with many thanks to Roger Grimley, Andrew Patenall, Peter Brown, Michael Wadman, Paul Welling and Simon Brown for
additional information and illustrations
Further pictures of some older Wakes
1963 can be found here
Paul Welling, who used to be interested in the Wakes fleet in the early 80s, has researched the vehicles and created
sets of pictures and links to several of the
Wakes vehicles on Flickr
pictures from Steve Oxbrow illustrate the changeover period 2002
- 2004 from Wakes to South West Coaches
A detailed illustrated fleet list of Wakes vehicles for the period from 1964 to 1999 can be found here
A book has been published (November 2011) by Roger Grimley to tell the complete story of the early years:
"Wakes Services - The Early Years"