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In the decades immediately following the end of World War 2 and Guernsey’s liberation, our island’s buses became an essential part in the rebuilding of the economy. In those days before mass car ownership, buses took people to work, ferried children to school, and delivered shoppers to St Peter Port. There were originally several bus operators, each with their own colour scheme meaning that the terminus at St Peter Port was a colourful place. The smart grey and black buses belonging to the Watson Brothers primarily served the number 11 route from St Peter Port out to the West Coast at Portelet, and as part of this year’s Channel Islands Heritage Festival passengers can once again board the number 11 for a journey back in time.
This particular Albion Victor bus first arrived on Guernsey in 1954, and was allocated the registration number 1787. It seated 35 passengers, but was licensed to carry 36, and spent many years plying the number 11 route and doing school runs as well as being used for Sunday School outings on weekends. By 1978 all of the various bus operators had sold out to Guernsey Motors, bringing the island’s bus services under the management of a single operator; the Watson Brothers were the last of the independents to come under the umbrella of Guernsey Motors. Some of the Watson Brothers buses were repainted, however 1787 was left be in her grey and black livery and became the number 78. When Guernsey Motors updated their fleet, they sold all of their buses at auction and many of them left the island. 1787 ended up on the British mainland for a number of years, before returning to Guernsey in the late 1980s to be restored and used for “Discover Old Guernsey” tours. She then left again, and took up residence in Cumbria in the Lakeland Motor Museum.
In 2012 the team at local private hire coach company Intransit tracked 1787 down in Devon and persuaded owner Ron Greet, a vintage bus enthusiast, to let them bring her home. Ever since, the 1954 Watson’s Grey has been used for private hire, these days carrying wedding guests and tourists as opposed to workers and school children. Each Sunday during the Heritage Festival the old number 11 service will be running from the Liberation Monument in St Peter Port out to the Imperial Hotel at Rocquaine Bay on the west coast, where there will then be a guided walk out to Fort Pezeries and to the Fairy Ring to hear the true story behind Table des Pions. There will then be time for some light refreshments back at Portelet before boarding the bus to head off up the west coast and back around to return to St Peter Port. Trips depart at 2pm and return at 5pm, and tickets cost £12.50 (with one child under 16 free with each paying adult).
If you are staying with us at the Bella Luce during the Heritage Festival and would like to join the Old Number 11 Bus Tour then please ask a member of the reception team who will make a booking for you. Alternatively, you can book by calling +44 (0)1481 700066, or email [email protected].
Trips run on April 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th, and on May 1st and 7th.