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Barton Transport was founded by Thomas Henry Barton O.B.E. as Andrew Barton Ltd in September 1908. Thomas was a very enterprising man who was involved in the development of Ruston Hornsby and Son's Ackroyd Stuart hot-bulb crude oil engine. He always claimed this was the first successful oil engine and never acknowledged Diesel.
Among the many ventures he became involved in, was the hiring out of a pony and trap to transport passengers from Mablethorpe station, and for collecting scrap iron which the family sorted before sending it to Sheffield by train. In 1897 he bought a 9hp eleven passenger vehicle with a Benz engine, and after one or two minor adjustments this vehicle was used to carry passengers around Mablethorpe, possibly one of the first buses in Britain.
The Barton's close links with Long Eaton began in 1908, after Thomas sold a 20 seater vehicle used in Derby. His son Thomas Andrew wasn't happy with the situation and it was decided they would travel by train to London to find another bus. They began chatting to the only other occupant of the carriage, who just happened to be a director of Durham-Churchill, who offered them a 28 seater for £450. Thomas thought this too expensive, so it was offered on a months trial for £12, with the option to purchase it for £12 monthly instalments if they were satisfied with the bus. After this was agreed, father and son broke their journey at Luton. While waiting for the return train, Thomas senior recalled that a lot of people travelled between Long Eaton and Nottingham, especially for the annual Goose Fair, which was the following weekend. The new bus was collected, and Thomas senior, Thomas junior, and his sister Kate stayed overnight at Wilsthorpe Farm, Long Eaton.
On Thursday 6th October 1908, at 8:00am, the Durham-Churchill charabanc left Long Eaton Market Place with one passenger. Six more boarded at Chilwell and on reaching Beeston, all 28 seats on the vehicle were full. The service continued at two hourly intervals all though the day, each time with a full load. The whole weekend continued in the same manner, so the service continued for some time after. Competition from the railways proved too strong, so eventually the service stopped. It was re-commenced in 1909 for that years Goose Fair.
New services to Castle Donington, Sandiacre and Draycott were set up between 1908 and 1914, Thomas senior's four daughters being employed as conductresses. 1913 saw a change of name to Progress Motor Services. All services were temporarily halted for World War One, and the vehicles were used to carry munitions workers to the Chilwell Shell Filling Factory. During this time, roof bags filled with coal gas were introduced and were so popular that other operators copied them, and the company was producing 100 bags a week to satisfy the needs of customers at home and abroad.
In 1920, the name was changed again, this time to Barton Brothers Ltd., finally becoming Barton Transport Ltd. in 1927. That same year the Nottingham-Skegness express service began.
By the Second World War, the company had 145 vehicles and 440 staff. The war department requisitioned 21 vehicles, and again gas bags were used, mainly on single deckers. The period between 1946-71 was Barton's glory years, many other routes were opened and other smaller companies were taken over, so much so that second hand vehicles from all over the country arrived at Chilwell supplementing the Barton fleet with various different models of bus.
Among the smaller companies acquired were: Hall Bros. of South Shields, Taylor Bros. of North Shields and Robin Hood Coaches. The company continued to flourish and expand all over the East Midlands.
In 1986 the deregulation of bus services throughout the country meant some losses to Bartons, as other companies began to offer cheaper services on some of the routes. However, new services were still being set up, including a mini bus operating every 12 minutes between the Wilsthorpe Farm Estate (Dovedale Avenue) Wyvern Avenue and Long Eaton Green. By May 1988 Bartons were involved in an attempt to be taken over by Plaxton (GB) Plc. By the following April discussions were being held with Plaxton and another company, Wellglade, and eventually the Wellglade offer was accepted. Bartons reported a trading loss of £490,000 in the first 24 weeks of trading from the year ending 30th September, this was compared with a loss of £158,000 from the same period the previous year. The board finally decided that although costs could be cut by closing depots and further rationalising of services, this would by no means guarantee the future of the company. The board made the decision to sell the company. The price was £2,050,000 for the fleet and £75,854 for plant and equipment.
Bartons kept the 50% share in South Notts Bus Company, the trading names Barton Transport Plc., Hall Bros., Robin Hood Coaches and Robin Hood Transport Ltd. Six motor vehicles were also kept and put into store, and have since been loaned to the Great Central Ltd. Museum. In the spring of 1993 it was decided that there was no future use for the subsidiary companies, and they were wound up.
So, having completely disassociated itself both in name and nature from the bus industry, the company continued to trade as a property and investment company. It remains to be seen what the future holds for this once great family business.
For more information about the history of Barton Transport, see "Barton Part One 1908-1949", "Barton Part Two 1950-1961" and "Barton Part Three 1962-1989" By Mr Alan Oxley.