Eastern Counties Roadcar Company
Apart from the bus service to Shotley started by the
Great Eastern Railway in mid 1904, the Ipswich and
surrounding area had no motor bus services until after
the first World War. In 1919 the appropriately named
business brothers, Walter and Thomas Wolsey visited
the town with a view to starting bus services, having
previously been involved in similar ventures in
London, Brighton and Folkestone. They persuaded
Thomas Tilling Ltd. to send four buses up from
Brighton to inaugurate services in June 1919.
After some experimental operations it was decided to
form a company, Eastern Counties Road Car
Company Limited (E.C.R.C.). This was registered on
30th August 1919 and on 1st September took over
both the vehicles and services operated by the Wolsey
brothers, from offices in Dogs Head Street, Ipswich,
close by the existing Old Cattle Market Bus Station.
The company was promoted in association with the
British Automobile Traction Company rather than
Thomas Tilling although the latter company supplied
many vehicles up to 1922. BAT and Tilling were
very much intertwined and had many common
interests, including cross shareholdings.
About 16 Tilling Stevens TS3 petrol electric buses
were put into operation, mostly open topped double
deckers, but including a few charabancs. Being of
petrol electric propulsion they were relatively simple
In 1920 a separate centre of operations was
established in Wisbeach, but this was to last only until
Back in Ipswich a network of routes was rapidly
established, leading to the setting up of another base
at Bury St. Edmunds. 24 more vehicles joined the
original 16 in 1920 providing a sizeable fleet of 40
vehicles, all being transferred from the London or
Brighton parts of Tilling. By comparison Ipswich
Corporation Tramways only had 36 tramcars and did
not need all of those to maintain peak services.
In 1922 the first new vehicles were delivered to the
company in the shape of more Tilling-Stevens TS3A
petrol electrics, but this time with bodies built locally
by Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies and locally
registered as DX 3442/3.
In April 1922 the service to Shotley was taken over
from the Great Eastern Railway, although the
vehicles, three Thornycroft J with Hora single deck
bodies, were transferred away to Thames Valley
Of course, the E.C.R.C. did not have everything its
own way, and many small competitors established
themselves, some taking over the role of the village
carrier's cart by providing a "Market Days" only
service into Ipswich. Amongst these were Beestons
and Partridges, both of Hadleigh; names which are
still connected with bus operation today.
During 1924 a great debate raged in Ipswich. Ipswich
Corporation had experimented with trolleybuses as a
possible replacement for the ageing tramway system.
The E.C.R.C. was obviously well
placed to offer an alternative to a trolleybus system.
The debate went on in the local press and in the
council chamber. The E.C.R.C. issued a leaflet;
cartoons appeared in the press and tempers became
inflamed all round. The depression of the post war
years was being felt locally and this also added fuel to
the debate as both Ransomes and Garratts could build
trolleybuses. The conclusion came at a Council
meeting on 10th December 1924 with a decision to
convert the entire tramway system to trolleybuses.
E.C.R.C. must have been disappointed, but quickly
moved on to consolidate its position in the County.
By the end of 1926 it had a fleet of around 70
vehicles and a large network of services.
Apart from the take-over of the Ipswich to Shotley
service from the Great Eastern Railway in 1922, a
series of take-overs began in 1925 with that of R. A.
Moore of Aldeburgh. Others followed, including C.
Quantrill of Chelmondiston, A. Quantrill of
Kesgrave, and Felixstowe Motor Services, all in
1928; W. V. Edmonds of Shotley and the Swiftsure
Bus Company of Ipswich, both in 1929; D. Kerridge
of Needham Market and T. H. Butler of Ipswich, both
in 1930. These brought a motley collection of
vehicles into the company, but some were almost
immediately sold off.
The railway companies, in this case the London and
North Eastern Railway, were investing heavily in
local bus companies and had acquired a half interest
in E.C.R.C. in 1929. This was followed by the 1930
Transport Act which effectively regulated the bus and
coach industry. The stage was thus set for some large
scale rationalisation. Locally this meant the
amalgamation of E.C.R.C. with three other
companies; the Ortona Motor Company of
Cambridge, the Peterborough Electric Traction
Company of Peterborough and the East Anglian part
of United Automobile Services, which took effect as
from 1st October 1931. By this time the E.C.R.C.
fleet had grown to 131 vehicles, mainly of Tilling
Stevens manufacture and many with locally built
bodywork by Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies.
The new company took a similar title to the E.C.R.C.,
becoming the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company,
but with headquarters at Norwich. The new company
quickly established different practices and vehicle
policy and the E.C.R.C. slipped quietly away. The
most immediate effect was the renumbering of all
routes by the addition of 200 to the former E.C.R.C.
numbers. This rendered the enamelled route signs