Updated: Aug 8, 2022
Although I’m a fairly recent immigrant to the Moor, I remember the first time I caught a glimpse of a green double-decker going past our kitchen window on Hithermoor in 1986. When I didn’t see another I assumed the driver had been lost, was dropping off a mate, or I’d been hallucinating….but no, it turned out our new village did have a bus service and it did run green double-deckers! So what’s the story?
As best I can determine, regular buses first came onto Stanwell Moor when the Beeching cuts closed the GWR branch railway line from Staines West to West Drayton – including the stop at Stanwell Moor - in March 1965. The closure of the line deprived the village of their only source of public transport to Staines where many residents worked, and to fill that gap, London Country's 444 route was introduced as a Rail Replacement Service.
(There’s a blog in the works, “Poyle Halt for Stanwell Moor” that will give more on the railway links)
The London Country buses were based at Staines Bus Garage which was opened in June 1936, an example of the influence of Frank Pick’s designs on the London transport network. It was situated on the corner of London Road and Greenlands Road in Staines, immediately south west of the Crooked Billet roundabout. Demolished in 1996 it was replaced by Centurion House, currently (2022) a Regus serviced-office building.
(This is really about the buses and the route, but here’s a few links to the garage
AEC Regent III RT3502 (LYR 921) at Staines Bus Garage 1972 © Barry Lewis
The 444 ran from the former Staines West railway station to the village and back. It was operated by a combination of three AEC buses: Regent III double-deckers; Regal IV single-deckers; and Routemaster RML’s from time to time. The RML Routemaster was about 2ft 6in longer (76cm) than the Regents making them a bit harder to navigate the curves of the village, nevertheless they were used on the 444 every now and again.
So here’s a quick run round the route…
AEC Regent III RT603 (HLX 420) leaving the (then) recently closed Staines West station at Moor Lane in July 1970 © Andrew Harvey-Adams
There were main stops at Church Street, the (old) Police Station, the Anchor Pub, then back via the Police Station and on to Moor Lane. The round trip took about 30 minutes, and the service operated 4 times a day on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
AEC Regent III RT3502 (LYR 921) passing through Staines for Stanwell Moor, February 1972
© Michael Thorne
AEC Regal IV RF67 (LYF 418) en-route Stanwell Moor, opposite Staines Bus Garage, June 1974 © Michael Thorne
The main stop in the village was just up from The Anchor, towards the shops.
AEC Regent III RT4495 (OLD 715) at The Anchor stop, Stanwell Moor, November 1975
© Michael Thorne
The bus then travelled anti-clockwise round Hithermoor Road, entering at The Anchor and leaving opposite the Village Hall. There were a few official stops around Hithermoor including one just after Farm Way and another just after Whatmore Close. Does anyone remember any other stops?
AEC Routemaster RML2453 (JJD 453D) navigating the corner at Leylands Lane, passing close to the entrance to The Croft, November 1972 © Malcolm K Allan
AEC Regal RF247 (MLL 784) stopped at Whatmore Close and about to head towards Horton Road, July 1973 © Dave C Wilkinson
On the route back to Staines the 444 went down towards the airport before joining the Stanwell Moor Road between the reservoirs, heading towards the Crooked Billet.
AEC Regent III RT3607 (MLL 917) with Heathrow’s southerly runway in the background, April 1976 © Michael Thorne
AEC Regal IV RF247 (MLL 784) leaving the Crooked Billet and heading back into Staines, 1973 © Steve Fennell
Bus deregulation in 1985 caused the break-up of London Country into 4 areas, and services out of Staines became part of London Country South West in late 1986, which was then sold off in early 1988.
So my glimpse of that green double-decker was very lucky indeed! That said, there have been at least two occasions that I know of, when restored, privately-owned buses have come back onto the Moor, so if you do happen to see one be sure to stop and take in the view!
AEC Regent III RT3491 (LYR 910) leaving Hithermoor Road, August 2016 © Michael Thorne
As a footnote, the twice a week frequency of the 444 did not satisfy the locals, and the Golden Miller 606 was introduced from Nov 1971, adding services to the existing 2 days but more importantly, on 4 of the days the 444 did not run. No buses ran on a Sunday.
Golden Miller 606 picking up at The Anchor, 1977 © David Flett
(More on the 606 here: http://www.countrybus.co.uk/independent/golden.htm)
Do you remember the London Country 444 bus service?
If you used the service, can you remember the route in more detail: did the 444 leave the village via Spout Lane and enter the airport perimeter road there, or did it exit via Horton Road and follow another route?
What about in Staines: did the buses come down the High Street and go under the Iron Bridge?
Any other 444 stories or memories? Please sign up and leave your comments.