Samuel Ledgard (1874–1952) was a Leeds entrepreneur who became a major West Yorkshire Independent bus operator. Following his death in 1952, his executors continued to operate the Samuel Ledgard bus company up until 1967, when it was acquired by the West Yorkshire Road Car Company.
1874 – 1952
Samuel Ledgard was born in Leeds in 1874. His business empire started in 1897 when he became the licensee of the Nelson Hotel in Armley, Leeds. He also owned a brewery and bottling plant, located behind The Nelson and bottled bulk Guinness and Bass. In expanding this business he provided outside catering at race meetings and local shows, and initially used a horse-and-cart to support this enterprise. This led him to further expand into the haulage business – initially with his horses then, in 1906, with a steam lorry. In 1912 he bought a Karrier petrol-engined lorry, registered U1949. He then bought an interchangeable charabanc body, manufactured by William Nicholson of Otley, to be fitted to his lorry for carrying passengers at weekends when there was little haulage work. In 1913 he took over Bridge Garage in Leeds to service and repair his own, and others, vehicles. His other businesses included cattle dealing and farming, quarrying and gravel extraction. He also bought property around his hotel, which eventually provided space for his bus garage.
1935 Leyland TD4 new to Ledgard with a Leyland metal framed body
His move into bus service was in 1924 with a Horsforth to Leeds service. He expanded both organically and by taking over a number of other bus companies from 1924 to 1943, by which time Samuel Ledgard buses were well established, operating from the main depot in Armley, and from other depots in Otley, Yeadon, Ilkley and Bradford.
1936 and is a Leyland TS7 with an English Electric C32F body
1936 Leyland Cheetah LZ with delightfully traditional Barnaby bodywork
1952 – 1967
Samuel Ledgard’s estate totalled £129,491. As the company was still owned by him, it formed part of his personal assets. The death duties on this amounted to £29,883, which threatened the continuance of the business and meant that, when looking to update the fleet, the executors had to look to the second-hand market. This strategy resulted a wide range of vehicles from various manufacturers entering service, including buses from: AEC, Albion, Bristol, Daimler and Leyland. A significant influx was 23 ex-London Transport ‘austerity’ Daimler CWA6’s with Park Royal bodywork during 1953-1954, 22 of which went into service unmodified, save for platform doors being fitted. They gave stirling service until the last one was withdrawn in 1962. However, one notable exception to the second-hand purchases, was six new AEC Regent V buses with Roe bodywork which were delivered in 1957. One of these buses was registered 1949U – a reversal of the registration on Samuel’s first petrol lorry, in 1912.
1937 Leyland TS7 new to Ledgard in 1937 with a Duple C32F body
In an attempt to standardise such a diverse fleet, 1963 saw the first of many ex-London Transport RT-type AEC Regent III buses being purchased. Over the next four and a half years, 34 of these vehicles entered the Ledgard fleet.
1940 Leyland TD7 with Leyland H30-26R body
In August 1967, it was announced that West Yorkshire Road Car Company would acquire the Ledgard business. The date for this was set to be midnight on Saturday 14 October 1967. Whilst Ledgard’s staff were offered employment with West Yorkshire, only 14 of over 100 Ledgard vehicles acquired by West Yorkshire entered service – ten AEC Regent V and two Daimler CVG6 buses, plus two Duple-bodied Ford coaches. By 1970, even these vehicles had been sold. I was working as a bus conductor for Leeds Corporation in 1967 and the union shop steward was gloating over Leeds intending to take over Ledgards so I am surprised to hear that West Yorks took them over. Their garage at Armley had a very steep little slope out onto Kirkstall Road that must have been a nightmare in snow and ice.
1940 Leyland vehicle is Titan TD7
The present day
- An active enthusiasts society (the Samuel Ledgard Society) was formed in 1998. The society holds an annual reunion, social events and publishes a quarterly magazine: The Ledgard Chat.
- The Nelson Hotel survives, and bears a blue plaque in Samuel Ledgard’s memory. A nearby road is named Ledgard Way.
- The Otley depot building is still in existence and is now used by a tyre-fitting company.
- The Samuel Ledgard Society
- SCT’61 Index of Samuel Ledgard bus photos
- Peter Gould’s local transport history pages
- Samuel Ledgard Ltd. 1912-1967 (Exors. of Samuel Ledgard Ltd. from 1952)
- Samuel Ledgard Bus Fleet List 1912-1967
- B. & B. Tours Ltd. (Exors. of Samuel Ledgard (Bradford) Ltd. from 1952) Bus Fleet List 1935-1963
- Cream Bus Service Ltd. (Exors. of Samuel Ledgard (Ilkley) Ltd. from 1952) Bus Fleet List 1925-1964
- RLH bus information centre. Samuel Ledgard section
- Buses Illustrated Issue No 155 (February 1968) Article ‘Farewell to Ledgards’ by Chris Youhill