Bus Operators of Rye & District

By Roland Jempson.

The article in the January issue of “Rye’s Own” telling of Rye in the 1930’s has inspired me to write about the Bus Services and their operators in and around the town from the 1920’s.

At the start of the ‘Charlston era’ in the early twenties, removal company Wright and Pankhurst branched out into the people transport business and ran a small bus (there is a photograph of it in “Rye in Old Photographs” by Alan Dickinson) to and from Rye Harbour, Rye and Camber six times a day. This part of their business was eventually sold to the East Kent Road Car Company in 1930.

Another early operator was R & J Bennett of Tenterden, who ran a service to Rye via Wittersham and Iden using a Commer Centaur registration AKL 667. This route was eventually taken over by Maidstone & District.

John Dengate, a baker from Battle used his bread van to carry passengers on Sundays as far back as 1903. By 1919 he had garages at Northiam and Beckley. In 1922 John Dengate & Son started a coach route from Northiam to Hastings via Beckley, Peasmarsh, Rye, Broad Oak and Westfield using four small Napier buses. Other routes followed to Battle and Robertsbridge, but these were short lived. Dengates then started the Rye Hawkhurst route. This was later run jointly with Maidstone and District. After the Second World War the Hastings route was changed to Nothiam and Beckley direct to Hastings via Broad Oak and Westfield, using a Dennis and two Bedford/Duple buses. These were supplemented by a Crossley Double Decker which ran from 1949 to 1965.

John Dengate died in 1957, his son took over the business. Ten years later in February 1967 the traffic commissioners visited the garage and ordered two buses off the road, their age had caught up with them. This caused considerable difficulties and in May of that same year Charles Davie of Rye took over the business and ran the routes with two new Ford buses and some second-hand vehicles. From February 1973 the routes were changed again to 1. Rye – Northiam – Hastings; 2 Rye – Northiam – Hawkhurst: 3 Hastings – Northiam – Hawkhurst. On 5 May 1974 Davie sold out to Maidstone & District. At this time Three Fords, Four Leopards and a Bedford were being used on the routes.

Charles Davie drives one his new buses with the Dengate logo past the Landgate

East Kent came to Rye in the 1920’s with a wooden shed as a garage, this was situated in South Undercliffe and was replaced in 1932 with a purpose build brick garage.

The original East Kent routes were 2 Hastings – Canterbury via Rye; 62 Hastings – Margate via Rye; 112 Rye – Ashford; 113 Rye – Hastings via Winchelsea: 114 Rye – Winchelsea Beach. In the 1950’s it was extended to start from Camber. (The Camber – Rye route was 116) ; 115 Rye Station – Rye Harbour; 116 Rye – Camber via East Guldeford (see 114); 117 Rye Station – Cadborough Cliff (This was short lived, from 1950 – 1960 I believe.) The South Coast Express was jointly operated by Southdown and East Kent. It ran from Margate to Bournemouth via Dover, Folkestone, Rye Hastings, Bexhill, Eastbourne, Brighton, Worthing, Portsmouth and Southampton.

I had two relatives working for East Kent, they were my father’s cousins Len Skinner, who had polio as a child and walked with a limp. He was conductor initially but then became a driver. He finished his career driving the London Coaches for M&D. The other was Stanley Jempson, he was a conductor for the company. Does any reader remember them?

Maidstone and District first ran services to Rye in 1922 with the 30 route Hawkhurst – Northiam – Rye – Hastings via Udimore, Broad Oak and Westfield. This was operated by a bus from Northiam where they had it garaged, this was later split at Rye and became route 31 and operated jointly with Dengates.

A new garage was built by M&D on the site where Budgens stands today. It was completed in 1939 but immediately requisitioned by the Army for the duration of the War. It was opened as a bus garage with enquiry office attached in 1946. The Northiam garage was then closed. When M & D took over the R & J Bennett business it added the Tenterden – Rye via Iden route it joined it to it’s Maidstone – Tenterden service. Maidstone – Tenterden – Rye became the 12 route. This was later split at Tenterden and became the 102 Tenterden – Rye and was operated from Tenterden Garage. Later, in the 1980’s it became the 12 again and is now a council subsidised route operated by Coastal Buses. The only other service run out of Rye by M&D was the London Express service E10 operated with a Leyland TS7 or AEC Regal. This was extended to Camber in the summer season. It went via Hawkhurst and Tonbridge to Victoria Coach Station.

On 25 March 1973 Maidstone & District took over East Kent’s operations in Rye area and another re-organisation of routes followed.

There were more changes in 1983 when the Rye & Hastings Area became Hastings & District under separate management. A new Garage was built on the site where Budgens Car Park is now. The buses were painted blue.

The information for this article comes from the following sources; “The Motor Bus Services of Kent and East Sussex” by Eric Baldock; “The Illustrated Fleet History of Maidstone & District Motor Services Ltd” by the M&D and East Kent

Bus Club; “The History of British Bus Services South East England” by Colin Morris; and my personal reminiscences.

All photographs of buses, except for the first one in the article are by kind permission of the East Kent and Maidstone & District Museum.

From the June 2005 Issue of “Rye’s Own”

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