In 1923, Basil Leather of Maiden Bradley purchased a Model T Ford which he used to provide bus services from his village to Frome and Warminster. The business soon grew and soon “Leathers Coaches” became a familiar sight around south west Wiltshire with bus services operating from Mere, Maiden Bradley and Horningsham to Frome, Warminster, Salisbury, and Gillingham.
In 1962, Basil sold the business to one of his drivers – Don Newbury – who continued to build up the company, latterly in partnership with his daughter Sylvia and her husband Len Cooper, to whom the business finally passed in 1989. However, in 1997, Len and Sylvia decided to retire and so on Saturday 10th January 1998, Leathers operated their bus services to Frome and Warminster for the last time.
Leathers’ coaches were always smartly turned out in their two-tone blue and cream livery and are fondly remembered by many people in the Mere and Warminster area. The photographs below are therefore provided as a reminder of some the coaches that operated on Leathers bus services during the 1990’s (please click on each picture to see a bigger version).
Well known amongst bus enthusiasts is Leathers’ Bedford OB GWV101 which was purchased new by Basil Leather in 1951 and remained in the fleet until 1998, although latterly only used on special occasions, such as this outing on Saturday service 20.
The Bedford is pictured here with Len and Sylvia Cooper who although now retired, still own the bus and make occasional appearances at vintage vehicle events (including the Warminster Vintage Bus Running Days)
Bedford SB “VHR 828” was acquired from the Dorset bus company House Brothers in 1979 and was regularly used on Leathers bus services, particularly the Saturday service to Warminster, right up to 1998.
After a short period in preservation, it was acquired by Lewis Coaches of Henstridge, Dorset.
During the 1990’s, most journeys on Leathers bus services were operated by this Bedford YRQ.
“XMW 505” is seen here on Stourton Lane near Kilmington, whilst operating on service 20.
Seen arriving in New Canal in Salisbury to pick up its passengers is “XMR 558” – a Bedford YMT which was acquired in 1986 from South Dorset Coaches and given the name “Wiltshire Wanderer”
The extension of the Frome service to Bath on certain Saturdays was funded by Wiltshire County Council in the mid 90’s to try and increase use of Leathers’ services by young people living in the villages.
LMR is seen here in Frome having just returned from Bath in the capable hands of Mike Lucas, who went on to drive some of the former Leathers services for the Frome Minibuses bus company.
The photographs above were all taken during the 1990’s by Mike Wadman and the Warminster Running Day Team – click HERE to see some of the coaches that Leathers operated in the 1970’s & 80’s.
Leathers Bus Services – as at January 1998
- 20 – Gillingham – Mere – Zeals – Kilmington – Maiden Bradley – Horningsham – Frome (Wed & Sat) (some journeys extending to Bath on certain Saturdays)
- 21 – Frome – Horningsham – Shearwater – Crockerton – Warminster (Saturdays)
- 22 – Mere – Zeals – Kilmington – Maiden Bradley – Horningsham – Crockerton – Warminster (Fridays)
- 23 – Mere – Zeals – Kilmington – Maiden Bradley – Horningsham – Crockerton – Salisbury (Tuesdays)
School buses to Mere and Gillingham Schools were also operated
If you are interested in learning more about Leathers Coaches, a history of the company called “100 years of Travel from Maiden Bradley” has been compiled by by transport historian Roger Grimley – please visit his website to order a copy.
An extract from this publication, including some early black and white photos of Leathers vehicles, can also be found in the archive of the former Maiden Bradley village website – click HERE to take a look.