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CHAMBERS OF BURES

The oldest bus company in England



Please note - this is a site of historical record and does not contain current service information



Bures, the home village of the Chambers business, straddles the Essex and Suffolk border and is divided into two parishes: Bures Hamlet in Essex and Bures St. Mary in Suffolk, each lying on opposite sides of the River Stour. This part of East Anglia, where Suffolk meets Essex, has long been the home of a large number of independent bus and coach operators over the years, including Corona Coaches of Acton, Long of Glemsford, Jennings of Ashen, Mulleys Motorways of Ixworth and H S Theobald of Long Melford. Perhaps the independent firms thrived hereabouts because the county boundary was also the territorial boundary between two of the big bus companies, Eastern National and Eastern Counties. Some of those names are long gone but fondly remembered, some are still active today. One of the latter is Chambers Coaches, hailing from Bures but now operating from a base in nearby Sudbury in Suffolk.

The firm of H C Chambers & Son was first founded in 1877 when Henry Christopher Chambers began making horse saddles at Bures, but they didn't move into passenger transport until much later. The business stayed wthin the family right through to his great grandchildren. The company lays claim to being the oldest bus company in England. Originally there were horses, livery and saddlery with motor vehicles arriving during the first world war from 1916. Buses ran on market services to Sudbury and Colchester replacing the previous horse drawn provision. During the time between the two wars the business diversified into farming, haulage and coal merchant; but these would fade away in the 1960s. Also at this time between the wars weekly buses reached Haverhill and Halstead and eventually north to Bury St Edmunds following the acquisition of the business of Wormell (Charles Catllin) of Colchester in 1930. This saw Chambers working their red buses through from Colchester to Bury St Edmunds on a daily basis. This important service was and is the mainstay of the bus operations to this day, with the route being for many years one of the longest independently operated bus routes in the country with a length of some thirty five miles. But because of the staunch Methodist beliefs of the family buses did not run on Sundays. The long route is still operated hourly, requiring five buses for all day service, and is now numbered 753. It passes through Lavenham, often reckoned the prettiest village in England, noted for its 15th century church and half-timbered medieval cottages.

undated timetable sheet for Colchester - Sudbury - Bury St Edmunds bus service

old undated Chambers timetable sheet



cover of 1933 timetable
timetable cover 1963

season ticket
cover of 1933 timetable booklet


cover of 1963 timetable booklet
Route 1 Colchester - Sudbury - Bury St Edmunds
some of the other supporting and local routes
Selected pages from the December 1965 timetable booklet. Other pages not shown above included service 5 Bures - Lamarsh - Halstead (Tuesday afternoons) and service 6 Bures - Lamarsh - Sudbury (Thursday afternoons); and also the Saturday timetable for service 1.




The Garage of H C Chambers and Son in Bures 1970

photo by sludgegulper from Flickr under creativecommons


The three elegant Guy Arab double deckers in the photo were used on the Colchester - Bury St Edmunds service at this time. Photo taken 18th July 1970. ECF756 and KCF711, new to Chambers and HWO341 ex-Red and White. CCF669 is a Duple bodied Bedford OB. The firm of Vanner's (seen advertised on the side of HWO) is still in Sudbury, having removed from the silk weaving enclave in Spitalfields, London 150 years ago. They even had their own bus!
interior bures garage in 1970s


some Chambers tickets
The second world war bought increased activity, particularly with the construction of airfields around the area; it also bought the first double-deckers into the fleet. A wide range of vehicles has been operated over the years, both single- and double-decked (eg Guy Arabs and Leyland Titans). By 1972 however the fleet had become exclusively single-deck again, including high capacity single deckers (Bedfords with 3+2 seating) but reverted to double deckers in the 80s. In 1986 the fleet numbered nine, all Bedfords bought new. Three were 53-seater coaches, the others buses with seating capacities ranging from 55 to 63. Great emphasis has always been placed on the presentation and cleanliness of vehicles. Over the years the size of the fleet has grown substantially and in autumn 2012 there were thirty three staff and twenty six vehicles, of which no less than twenty were double-decker Volvos. Two single-deckers, three coaches and a minibus completed the set.

In May 2012, after 135 years of independent operation, the Chambers business was bought by the Go Ahead Group. This was their fourth purchase of an East Anglian independent operator following Konectbus of Dereham in Norfolk, Anglian Bus of Beccles in Suffolk, and Hedingham Omnibuses of Sible Hedingham in Essex. The office and garage premises in Bures did not form part of the purchase transaction and operations continued from the Sudbury base, still using the Chambers name.



s48rga at Sudbury 2007
g864xdx at Colchester 1991
MAN/Marshall S48RGA at Sudbury in May 2007
(photo with thanks from the johnmightycat1 collection)

Leyland Olympian G864XDX at Colchester in summer 1991
(photo with thanks from the johnmightycat1 collection)


Chambers routes as at November 2012
753/754

Colchester - Bures - Sudbury - Long Melford - Lavenham - Bury St Edmunds
    using 753 from Bury to Sudbury and 754 from Sudbury to Colchester
hourly service Monday to Saturday
84

Colchester - Nayland - Leavenheath - Sudbury
hourly service Monday to Saturday
374

Clare - Glemsford - Hartest - Bury St Edmunds
3 or 4 journeys Monday to Saturday
X6

Wakes Colne - Halstead - Sudbury - Bury St Edmunds
Wednesday, 1 journey










THE

INDEPENDENT

BUS

BLAND
COTTESMORE
SOA
SHROPSHIRE

READING
MAINLINE

BIRCH
BROS

SAFEGUARD
GUILDFORD

IMPERIAL
WINDSOR

GRENVILLE
MOTORS
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