As older readers may remember them . . .

Before the minibus days of the late 1980s the name Charlie's Cars had been well known to residents and holidaymakers in Bournemouth for their fleet of plum and cream coloured excursion coaches, particularly distinctive with their Harrington bodies with that trademark "dorsal fin" carried on Albion chassis.  In fact they had acquired the very first of such bodies produced by Thomas Harrington of Hove after it had been shown at the Commercial Motor Show at Olympia in November 1935.

Charles James Pounds obtained a licence to drive a coach in 1891 and joined Elliott Bros Royal Blue as a four-in-hand driver in 1893.  In 1919 he founded his own motor coach business at Pembroke Garage off Poole Hill with a Daimler coach; this was the start of Charlie's Cars.  Two Dennis vehicles were added in 1920. The year 1926 saw eight vehicles in the fleet, plus cars.  The motif illustrated above was first introduced in 1928.  By 1935 the fleet had grown to 14 coaches and 9 Vauxhall landaulettes and cars.  The coaches at that time were 1 x Unic 13-seater, 3 x Albion 20-seaters, 7 x Albion 26-seaters and 3 x Albion 32-seaters.  A marked preference for a particular manufacturer can already be ascertained.

An informative article appeared in Bus & Coach magazine in 1951.  At that time the founder C J Pounds was in partnership with his son Cecil Charles Pounds, whilst Cecil's son - another Charles - was also active in the business.  By now there were 30 coaches and 26 private hire cars.  Seventeen Albions, most (but not all) of which were new full-fronted 31-seaters operated as front line vehicles offering a daily range of eight separate tours in the morning, afternoon and evening, in addition to eight whole-day tours.  Four of the Albions were pre-war half-cab Valiants still working tours and dated from 1935/6; they would last in the fleet until 1959.  Those Albions were kept fully employed with the intense tour programme!  The other thirteen vehicles were mainly engaged on contract work for the then new Esso oil refinery at Fawley on the shores of Southampton Water.  These were ten Bedford OBs (26- or 29-seaters) obtained between 1946 and 1948, two 26-seater Daimlers and one 34-seater Guy.

Charlie's Cars also undertook much relief and contract work for big companies like Western National, Royal Blue and Black & White of Cheltenham as well as serving a wide range of local private hire customers. Apart from the main base off Poole Hill at the Pembroke Garage (near to the hotel of the same name) there were other garages in Alma Road, Winton, and Seamoor Road, Westbourne.

The tour coaches were always very well turned out and special attention was paid to passenger comfort as well as the publicity material, including leaflets, tickets and ticket wallets.  Although none of these were extravagantly produced they were effective ambassadors for both tours and private hire.  Costs had always to be kept under control.  The personal touch was felt to be very important and all tours were seen away by one of the Pounds, father or son.   The motto of the time was "Charlie is never satisfied unless you are".  Based on the western side of the town centre the main departure point was in Somerville Road, off Durley Road, just round the corner from the office.  Cecil was a frequent correspondent in the transport trade press of the time, expressing his opinions on a range of matters, including what he judged to be the high purchase price of coaches which affected the economics of operation.

C J Pounds, the founder, died in November 1958 aged 83.  Cecil became managing director of the company.  On the occasion of the firms 40th birthday in 1959 the entire hire car fleet was replaced by new vehicles.  In 1962 Charlies Cars brought eight brand new Harrington Cavalier coaches, registration Numbers 1175CD to 1182CD (Peter Archer recalls that his father drove 1176CD).   Finally a little later in May 1963 the twenty-six coach business was sold for a reported thirty-six thousand pounds to one of the two principal local competitors Shamrock & Rambler  For some years afterwards the separate trading identities of Shamrock and Charlie's were maintained for coaching activities. The other main competitor in Bournemouth was Excelsior Motorways, founded in the 1920s by the Maitland family, with an extensive range of local day tours and extended holiday tours at home and abroad.

The illustrations below recall the Charlie's Cars coach tour and excursion activities from 1946 when day tours and outings became possible once again after the war (although that perennial favourite from Bournemouth, the Isle of Wight day tour, had not yet recommenced).  Charlie's Cars proudly tell of both their wartime work and their patented Observation Coach; whilst the cleverly designed colour coded booklet in maroon, blue and green was printed and cut in such a way as to come open at the appropriate page for the type of tour.  This style of booklet was used during most of the post-war years, latterly with a photograph of a coach replacing the drawing on the cover. The circular disc illustrated below was another example of their flair for innovative marketing and presentation.

Front cover of the tours booklet designed by Cecil Pounds

Back cover of the tours booklet

These pages from the Charlie's Cars tours booklet show how they were cut away for easy access to the type of tour the customer was interested in

The 1946 offering of day and half day tours

What happened to Charlie's Cars during the war?

Passengers joining their coaches for their afternoon tours in Somerville Road in 1951

Charlies Cars Albion FT39 / Harrington: ORU264, registered in summer 1954
(photo with thanks from Alwyn Ladell, Flickr, used under creative commons)
ORU264 Charlies Cars Albion Harrington
Albion Victor / Harrington from a manufacturers advertisement in 1954

front of tours disc
rear of tours disc

drivers badge

for more reminiscences of the past coach operators of Bournemouth follows these links
Click here to go to the Shamrock & Rambler coaches page

Click here to go to the Excelsior Motorways page

     Click to return to the Countrybus main index page

       Click to the Charlie's Cars minibus page