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Superb follow up double page spread in the Western Morning News on the Tavistock Wagonette Omnibus & Penny's Lucket to Tavistock Bus SOLD at out last Carriage Auction.


(text below picture)

Public transport has come a long way

from the vehicles of the 1800s compared

to today’s modern equivalents.

So, too, has the quality of the roads –

and the quantity of traffic travelling

on them.

It is, therefore, fascinating to picture

a bygone world where horse

power literally meant what it said, and

air conditioning would have been a

euphemism for lack of windows.

One man who holds such transport

from the past in warm regard is John


He has a keen interest in the vintage

transport scene of both East Cornwall

and West Devon – living in the former,

and having gone to school in the


So when, several years ago, two restored

horse-drawn buses that once

served the Tavistock area came on the

market from a private collection John

was determined to ensure they stayed


By a fascinating coincidence both

these vehicles, a unique 1896 Wagonette

omnibus and 1893 Penny’s horse

bus, were built by Budge & Co of Lumburn,

near Tavistock. The fourwheeled

Wagonette omnibus began

service with John Backwell of the

Cornish Arms in Tavistock as a

private hire bus.

John Pearce says one of its working

duties was to take prisoners from the

Southern Railway station in Tavistock

up to Dartmoor Prison. A cheerless

journey for handcuffed passengers

on any day – but, if the mist was

down during their last vision outside

the walls of penal servitude, it must

have been especially bleak.

There were, of course, many more

happier excursions, with the omnibus

running trips to Two Bridges, Princetown,

Burrator and Lydford Gorge.

The omnibus was taken out of service

in 1930. Its final outing was or-

ganised by Ginger Maddock, a local

butcher, taking staff and friends on a

34-mile trip at five shillings per head.

Upon return, it went into storage in

the coach house of the Bedford Hotel

in Tavistock. In 1949 it was loaned to

Buckland Abbey, moving to the National

Trust’s Arlington Court carriage

museum in 1987.

Fortunately the bus returned to its

old Tavistock stomping ground when

the Backwell family, its original

owners, brought it back in 1996 – and

eventually put it to auction.

Had the original owner, John Backwell,

not kept it under cover in the

hotel yard it would not be here today.

After much expert help from local

craftsmen, the carriage was restored

to pristine condition.

In 2015 it was then sold at auction

again – and John acquired it.

“I like horse drawn things. My

father worked on a farm and it was all

horses and wagons,” he says.

John was attracted to the omnibus’s

Tavistock connection. At the same

auction he also became the owner of

Penny ’s Horse Bus.

“It was operated by the Penny

family from Luckett and ran from the

village to Callington. My grandparents

used it because they were Luckett

people, ” says John, explaining a personal

reason to be its custodian.

It had wagonette-style seating for up

to eight passengers.

John says the seats can fold up, so it

could double as a removal van.

Smartly finished in black and red with

gold lining, the vehicle would make a

weekly trip to Tavistock on Fridays

for market day.

“There were originally three of

these horse buses – but this is the only

surviving one,” he says.

Fortunately, John is ensuring these

two 19th century transport treasures

remain cared for and preserved for



buses picture