An Epping resident is currently researching the history of buses in the district for London Transport Museum as the council looks to cut routes

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: 1069 on route 20A in Loughton High Road 1069 on route 20A in Loughton High Road

As Essex County Council looks to scrap routes across the county, reporter ZOIE O’BRIEN looks back at just how important public buses have been for Epping Forest and the surrounding areas.

For the last 500 years the district has been seen as a holiday haven. In fact, in the early 1900s the forest was a tourism hotspot accessed by carts and trains.

When the bus routes which served Leytonstone stretched out to Buckhurst Hill, even more day trippers took the chance to enjoy the greenery away from the East End.

Transport enthusiast Nick Agnew from Epping is currently researching the history of busses in the district for London Transport Museum.

He said: “We are talking around 1910 for the first routes which came initially on a summer Sunday.

“The number ten route started in central London and came as far as the Green Man in Leytonstone. It was then extended east into areas such as Epping Forest because of the strong leisure demand as well as for workers.”

Frequent and cheap buses meant that people could extend their social circle and job prospects increased.

Then, in July 1923 the district’s first bus garage was opened in Church Hill, Loughton, by the London General Omnibus Company.

The fleet was welcomed by huge demand throughout the district.

Post-war the bus routes had been run into the ground, but managed to remain as popular as ever.

Mr Agnew said: “After the war the bus routes were not in great shape. The STD buses were cosmetically altered to make them look like standard London buses.”

Buses boomed and a second, larger garage replaced the first in 1953, on the junction of Church Hill and Rectory Lane.

It was then however that the use of buses started to wane.

“In the 50s the second Loughton garage was built but as far as I know it was never used to its full design capacity because the demand for bus travel started to decline,” Mr Agnew said.

The garage was used as a storage yard for emergency buses but closed in 1986 and was eventually demolished.

However, societies swing towards each person owning their own car has never detracted from the significance and appreciation of buses in the district for Mr Agnew and many others.

He said: “This project is more of a labour of love.

“I worked in the transport industry for 43 years but I am no expert. I am happy to do it.

“On the Epping Ongar Railway where I volunteer as a conductor people will often get on the vintage buses and unlock a wealth of memories.

“Just the other day a lady told me that she used to work on the buses during the war. Buses unlock a social history for people.”

Loughton and District Historical Society will enjoy a talk from Mr Agnew, called ‘The Development of Bus Services in the Epping Forest Area’ on December 9 at the Methodist Church.

All are welcome from 8pm for a £1.50 donation.

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