From Wednesday 4th November 1914, Service 25 operated by the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO—Midland “Red” Motor Services) ran between Birmingham, Bromsgrove, Worcester and Great Malvern, over a route that would later be renumbered to become the iconic Service 144. However, the formation of the route was not simply a desire by BMMO to link Birmingham to the Malvern Hills by motor omnibus (that journey had been possible by railway since the 1860s), but by the merger of several existing omnibus routes bought about an Acts of Parliament and the outbreak of the First World War.
In the period before the First World War, the Birmingham Corporation Municipal Transport Watch Committee did not permit omnibus operations (horse or motor powered) along tram routes, and with new tram routes opening throughout the city during the previous decade, the BMMO operations were almost entirely confined to the Hagley Road and Harborne route, which did not have trams. Before May 1912, the company had only run horse omnibuses but by September 1913 all BMMO's routes had been entirely converted to motor omnibus using petrol-electric Tillings-Stevens vehicles.
The number 35 tram operated along the Bristol Road by City of Birmingham Tramways Company Limited between Birmingham and Selly Oak had been in operation since c. 1902, and after obtaining an Act of Parliament for the rights to run omnibus services, a motor omnibus service operated by the Birmingham Corporation from Rubery to connect with the trams at Selly Oak had been in operation since 1913.
Meanwhile at the other end of the route, by 1913 the Worcester Electric Traction Company Limited had established a daily motor omnibus service between Salters' Hall in Droitwich Spa and Angel Place in Worcester. On the Easter Weekend of 1913, the company operated a number of special services between Worcester and Great Malvern and following the success of these, on Saturday 7th June 1913, the company extended certain journeys beyond Worcester to the Beauchamp Hotel in Great Malvern.
This service proved to be very popular and on Monday 27th October 1913 the route was extended to Bromsgrove, then on Saturday 20th December 1913 to Rubery. Therefore, by the end of 1913 it was possible to travel the whole of the “144 route” from Birmingham to The Malverns by tram and motor omnibus, using connections at Selly Oak, Rubery, and Malvern Link, using services provided by Messers W. & B. Woodyatt for the final leg of the journey to Malvern Wells.
On Saturday 15th August 1914, the Worcester Motor Transport Company Limited was formed to take over the bus routes of the Worcester Electric Traction Company Limited, following the merger and reorganisation of a number of companies in the Worcester and Kidderminster area.
The Birmingham Corporation wished to take control of all tram and omnibus operations with their territory to provide a coordinated public transport network. An agreement was made with BMMO on Saturday 14th February 1914 whereby the Corporation would take control of all BMMO operations within the city boundary, and BMMO would only operate services into Birmingham from outside of the city boundary. The agreement included to sale of Tennant Street depot and 30 vehicle to the Corporation. An Act of Parliament was required for the deal to go ahead, and once this was obtained the transfer of assets and services took place at midnight on Saturday 3rd October 1914.
With the agreement in place, BMMO needed to establish a network of routes outside of Birmingham, and thus introduced a service between Birmingham, Rubery and Bromsgrove, which would become their first contribution to the route…
As part of the Birmingham Corporation's plans to create an integrated public transport network, on Saturday 14th February 1914 the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO—Midland “Red” Motor Services) entered into an agreement to sell them their Tennant Street depot, including 30 vehicles and all their services wholly within the Corporation's territory. BMMO would only operate services in to and out of Birmingham from places outside of the city boundary, and therefore with the pending loss of their primary routes, BMMO needed to establish a new network of services to locations outside of Birmingham if they were to survive.
As part of their expansion outside of Birmingham, on Saturday 29th August 1914 BMMO entered into an agreement with the recently formed Worcester Motor Transport Company Limited to run a connecting service between Birmingham and Great Malvern. The Worcester company would terminate their existing service from Great Malvern at Bromsgrove, and a connection would be made with BMMO's new Service 25 to provide a through service to Birmingham City Centre. Three return journeys each day between Birmingham and Great Malvern were provided using this connection, and through fares were available.
All Service 25 journeys that connected with the service to or from Great Malvern started or finished in Birmingham City Centre, but the majority of Service 25 journeys ran only between Bromsgrove and Rubery. An hourly frequency was provided Monday to Saturday throughout the day, and during afternoons only on Sunday. As part of the agreement to Birmingham Corporation, sections of the route that were within the Birmingham City boundary were subject to a minimum fare so that no competition would take place.
It should be noted that the marketing material of the day made no mention of through passengers having to change vehicles at Bromsgrove, although this appears to be common practice at the time.
Great Britain entered the First World War on Tuesday 4th August 1914, and within a few months the entire omnibus fleet operated by the Worcester Motor Transport Company Limited (except for a few spare bus bodies) was commandeered by the War Office for use as troop transport vehicles. This started in September 1914, and as a result the company was soon unable to operate. However, the petrol-electric vehicles operated by the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO—Midland “Red” Motor Services) were not favoured by the War Office, and so that company did not loose any of their vehicles to the war effort. BMMO was able to take over the entire network of the Worcester company from Wednesday 4th November 1914, and from that time they were the sole operator on the full route of Service 25 between Birmingham and Great Malvern, plus short-working journeys between Worcester and Great Malvern, which became Service 36 in BMMO's route numbering system.
A new Service 25 timetable was introduced from Saturday 7th November 1914 that removed the need for the passenger to change buses in Bromsgrove and thus giving the first direct bus service between Great Malvern, Worcester, Droitwich, Bromsgrove and Birmingham. The additional vehicles required were housed at two sites in Worcester, both being owned by Worcester Motor Transport Company Limited, with vehicles operating from the Birmingham end being housed at BMMO’s Bearwood depot.
By May 1915 a bus company operating local routes in Malvern, W. & B. Woodyatt Limited, had also lost a number of vehicles to the war effort and were struggling to meet demand, operating all their routes with just one vehicle to a much reduced timetable. BMMO had noticed this and on Thursday 23rd March 1916 the BMMO Traffic Manager, Mr O.C. Power, wrote to the Licensing Committee to apply to extend Service 25 to Malvern Wells. He offered a direct hourly service to Birmingham and pointed out numerous advantages this would bring to Malvern in general, and also offered to take over all of Woodyatt's local services in Malvern at the same time. Woodyatts agreed to give up their operations and BMMO started running local services in Malvern on Saturday 22nd April 1916, with Service 25 being extended to run to Malvern Wells from the same date. However, within six weeks the company was forced to reduce the number of journeys operated due to war-time shortages.
In 1917, the Ministry of Munitions warned all bus companies that they should abandon all services that were not of national importance, so because of this and general fuel restrictions, the service was shortened to run only between Worcester and Malvern Wells. Eight vehicles per day were used, and all were converted to run on coal gas.
Normal services resumed after the war ended and the service frequency was increased to run every 45-minutes, with certain days seeing a frequency of every 30-minutes during the summer. On Monday 26th July 1920, a new depot was opened in Bromsgrove providing extra capacity on the route, and this was followed in April 1921, when one of the two Worcester Motor Transport sites used to house buses in Worcester passed to BMMO.
On Saturday 16th May 1925, Service 25 was renumbered to Service 125 in an effort to give more numbering room in BMMO’s rapidly expanding network, but this number was short-lived and the route soon became known as Service 144.
1 Certain journeys connect at Bromsgrove with Worcester Motor Transport Company for through journeys to Droitwich Spa, Worcester and Great Malvern.
2 Certain journeys continue to Birmingham City Centre.
3 From c. March 1917 to the end of the First World War, Service 25 was shortened to run only between Worcester and Malvern Wells, due to fuel rationing.
|25||BMMO||August||1924||Birmingham • Bromsgrove • Worcester • Malvern Wells|