The first regular motor bus service through Imber is believed to have been introduced by the Lavington & Devizes Motor Services company in 1925, using a bus based in the village of Codford. This bus ran to a different market town on each day of the week and on Thursdays it would start at Codford shortly after 9am and run via Warminster, Imber and West Lavington, arriving at Devizes Market at about 11am and returning mid afternoon.
In June 1928 the older pupils at Imber School had been transferred to Warminster Sambourne School and A.G.Jefferies, a Warminster garage and charabanc proprietor, was contracted to convey them. There is a possibility that at some time in the 1920’s he ran a service between Imber and Warminster but no confirmation of this has been found. He operated the school run until 1930 when it passed to Ivan R.J.Brown of The Close, Warminster who used a car (presumably numbers had decreased). In 1936 P.E.Hicks of Boreham took over, also using a car.
Imber was also well served by excursion and tour operators. Three of the Warminster proprietors picked up passengers in Imber village – J.Button & Sons, W.Cornelius and M.N.Cruse. Yet another appeared in 1934 when C.S.White of Longbridge Deverill was granted permission to pick up Imber people on his trips to Tidworth tattoo.
Claude White also started a new motor bus service to Imber in 1933. This consisted of two round trips every Thursday and Saturday between Warminster and Imber. However, the Thursdays trips were not successful, probably because many people had gone to the popular market at Devizes on the Lavington & Devizes bus, and they were withdrawn early in 1934.
In 1932, Lavington & Devizes Motor services was sold to the Bath Tramways Motor Company who initially ran it as a separate entity until 1937. The licences for the Lavington & Devizes services were then taken over by Bath Tramways who abandoned the Codford – Warminster section of the Imber service, leaving it to the Wilts & Dorset bus company. The Thursday run to Devizes now left Warminster at 10am and returned at 3.30pm. The following year (1938) Bath Tramways acquired C.C.White’s Saturday Imber-Warminster route and by 1939 had extended it to Devizes, providing Imber residents the opportunity of a couple of hours recreation in Devizes in the early evening. However this enhanced service proved to be shortlived as following the outbreak of War, the Devizes services were withdrawn in September 1939, leaving just two round trips to from Warminster to Imber operating on Saturdays only.
It is believed that this minimal service continued this until the village was evacuated in December 1943 and all routes to Imber ceased. However, Imber continued to be shown on some bus route maps for a few years after this date, possibly in the belief that the villagers would be allowed to return after hostilities ceased. It is also understood that the service to Imber had been allocated the route number 42 by Bath Tramways, but there is no evidence that this number was ever shown in any timetable leaflets or on the vehicles themselves.
Travel to Imber before the bus
Prior to the introduction of a regular bus service, the local carrier linked villages like Imber to the local market town. Often combined with another trade the carriers, with their carts, used to visit local markets taking goods to market with the occasional passenger aboard for the journey.
In 1855 James Cruse was the local carrier and is listed in the Post Office directory of that year as visiting Salisbury on a Tuesday, Devizes on a Thursday and Warminster on a Saturday, some sources saying weekly whilst other fortnightly.
The 1898 Kelly’s Directory of Wiltshire records Emanuel Meaden, who, as well as being the shopkeeper, also providing the carriers’ service, to Devizes on Thursdays and Warminster on Saturdays. By 1915 this has passed further to Frank Wyatt, again combining the carriers role with that of shopkeeper and continuing to provide the links with Devizes on Thursdays and Warminster on Saturdays.
We are grateful to Roger Grimley, Laurie James, Clive Bryant, Michael Meilton and the Omnibus Society for providing the information for this article.