Look Back With Little: Midland Red parcels

Midland Red
Midland Red

Did you send your parcels the Midland Red way? If you did it is to be hoped that time was spent reading the official handbook of parcel offices and agencies.

A study of Kelly’s Directories between 1932 and 1972 reveals some significant changes of location for the Birmingham and Midland Red Omnibus Company luggage and parcels’ office.

At the start of the thirties its address was given as 22½ Bridge Street. These premises were on the south side between Allsops who were cycle dealers and Wrench’s Garage. By 1965 business had shifted eastwards to 12 Bridge Street where its nearest neighbours were the parcels delivery office of British Railways (London Midland Region) and Simon’s café.

In January 1970 when Midland Red issued its official handbook of parcels’ offices and agencies there was a company office as part of Castle Street bus station.

The handbook of offices and agencies is a fascinating item of bus memorabilia.

It opens with the claim that ‘facilities for quick transit are appreciated by thousands of passengers, traders and householders in numerous midland towns and villages’.

The alternative to the dependence on local offices was arrangements negotiated with conductors on ordinary service buses who were authorised to accept parcels subject to charges set out by the bus company.

The service embraced both parcels and suitcases. Both were subject to company definition of convenient sizes. Parcels could not weigh more than 40 lbs (just under 17½ kilos) and ranged in price from 2/- (10p) for 4lbs weight up to 7/- (35p) for the maximum permitted. Suitcases cost 5/- (25p) for about 20lbs but an additional shilling for every 10lbs up to the same maximum of 40 lbs. These charges were for transit only.

An additional 6d (2½d) covered delivery.

If you were a trader then parcel stamps of varying amounts could be obtained from the chief parcels’ office. Unsurprisingly certain items were deemed unsuitable for conveyance on buses. There is a short list of these but there must be many tales about attempted infringement of the regulations.

The items identified are bicycles, perambulators, large push chairs, wet fish and items of petrol.

Newsprint was limited to newspapers and periodicals. This was especially important in the time of much sought after Saturday sports papers like the Sports Mail (Green un) and the Birmingham Argus (on pink paper).

In some instances bus movements were more suitable than rail journeys. A classic instance was shifting bundles of Arguses from Stratford on Avon to Shipston on Stour. Without even stopping conductors used to toss papers on to the pavement nearest the expectant newsagent.

A discussion with Eddie Turvey (a long service Midland Red driver) has revealed how extensive the network provision for daily consignments of the Oxford Mail was.

As many as 20-30 rolls of the paper would be the responsibility of conductors such as Bill Capehorn.

Brackley Market Place was a major destination and Eddie himself has vivid memories of successfully propelling a quantity of Oxford Mails on to the Green at Shenington.

Special provision was also made for personal luggage carried by passengers.

There was no charge for a single suitcase. For a second case or something equally bulky then the charge rate was 1d in every 6d of the adult single fare.

Interestingly the conditions of carriage did not exclude perishable or fragile items. Items carried at owners risk included eggs, glass, china, pictures, wireless goods, gramophones and records, typewriters, television tubes, flowers, meat, and fruit.

In 1970 there was total of 24 conditions of carriage. Amongst these was a fascinating quirk of history.

Liability for loss or damage went back to the Carriers’ Act of William IV’s reign in 1830.

One advantage of the Midland Red carriage service was that the company had agreements with certain other operators. In 1970 these included link ups with Trent Motor Traction and the Bristol Omnibus Company.

l I am grateful to Jon Coles and Eddie Turvey for memorabilia and memories.