Jolly coach trips from Southsea seafront

Coaches close to South Parade Pier and the D-Day stone ready for the off on their day trips.
Coaches close to South Parade Pier and the D-Day stone ready for the off on their day trips.
Jo and Rhys Williams competing in a nighttime navigational competition in East Hampshire

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In August I published this photo of the D-Day memorial stone and coaches parked near South Parade Pier.

I said they were for visitors, but it seems I was wrong, as transport buff Michael Hicks confirms.

Coaches bringing visitors to Southsea in the 1950s (in those days mostly day trippers in their hundreds, if not thousands) were directed to park at the south-west corner of Southsea Common close to Clarence Pier.

The trippers would visit either Billy Manning’s Fun Fair, stroll east along the prom to the Children’s Corner with its paddling pool and miniature steam train railway, or on to the Rock Gardens, South Parade Pier and Canoe Lake.

If they didn’t want to walk there were frequent open-top corporation buses that started at Clarence Pier and travelled the whole way eastwards.

And so to the coaches parked in the picture.

In the late 1940s and ’50s, to the east of the pier, parking in the road beside the prom right up to Canoe Lake was reserved for coaches belonging to local operators.

On the edge of the prom adjacent to the beach was a row of kiosks like small beach huts.

Each was allocated to the various local coach companies and used as sales points for the plethora of day trips on offer from Southsea.

The huts were manned by staff from these firms, some sitting in the kiosks and some walking among the promenaders offering leaflets advertising excursions.

Leaning against the railings at the roadside edge of the prom were blackboards about three feet high emblazoned at the top with the operator’s name and on which were chalked either details of excursions or colourful posters.

Operators included Southdown, White Heather, Byngs, Southsea Royal Blue, Don Coaches, Hants & Sussex, Triumph and Victoria.

All had different and colourful liveries and the line-up of immaculately polished coaches was an attractive sight.

Excursions could be all-day, half-day or evening.

An example of a short trip was Compton and West Marden, but a full day could be a surprising distance.

Two in particular Mike remembers taking with his parents – Buckfast Abbey in Devon run by Hants & Sussex (pick-up at Angerstein Road, North End at 6.30am), and The Vale of Evesham and Bourton-on-the-Water by Byngs.

Goodness knows what time they arrived back as there were no motorways and very few dual-carriageways.

The official speed limit for these vehicles was 30mph and most of them weren’t capable of exceeding this anyway, except maybe downhill.

A few months ago in Remember When Mike recalls there was a photo looking east across the Italian Garden (as it was then called) with the pier in the background.

In this could be seen two or three double-decker buses parked in the road adjacent to the promenade on the west side of the Pier.

These were Southdown regular service buses and this stretch of road was reserved strictly for Southdown vehicles only, South Parade being the terminus for most of their routes.

Michael’s family lived at Milton and he can recall they would take the corporation bus to South Parade Pier so they could, hopefully, occupy the front upstairs seats for Sunday outings to Hambledon or Petersfield.

They even took the number 31 all the way to Brighton for a day out – about four hours each way Mike seems to recall.