IMPERIAL COACHES - 32 SUMMERHILL ROAD
It would appear that Summerhill Road once hosted yet another Coach Company before arrival of either Horseshoe or Viney's coaches.
We have obtained a copy of the following advertisement for Imperial Coaches that dates back to 1927. It is amusing to note that they claimed to have the most luxurious coaches in London complete with card tables, bucket seats and electric lights. Imperial Motor Services were founded in Hitchen, Herts in 1919 and the proprietors were Arthur Wellington Priest and his brother Ralph William Priest. It was belived that they once had an operating base in Clyde Road, Tottenham although it has proved difficult to locate the most likely location. Apparently the address 32a Beaconsfield Road, Tottenham once appeared on their bus tickets so it is possible this was where they first operated from. We also understand that their first booking office was situated at 298 West Green Road, close to the old Imperial Cinema and it is thought this may have inspired the company's name.
The brothers decided to sell their London bus service to the LGOC (London General Omnibus Company) in 1926 and it was left to R.W Priest to remain in business as Imperial Motor Services. He was now trading from the old address of 'Vineys Coaches' at 32 Summerhill Road, Tottenham and in 1927 he started an express bus sevice between London & Luton. This was later extended in 1928 to operate between London & Bedford.
Ralph Priest begain his operation with an ambitious timetable of 3 journeys a day leaving Manchester Square in Luton at 9.30 a.m, 2.00 p.m and 8.15 p.m and returning from York Road in Kings Cross at 12.00 noon and 6.30 pm and 11.00 p.m. The late return journey was very popular with theatregoers and other revellers. The return fare from Luton was 2s/6d (12 1/2 pence) and alls east had to be pre-booked. Surprisinglt the service was extended to 6 journeys each way for seven days a week but with an increased fare of 4/- s (or 20 pence). However this proved to be a very competitive route and fare reductions were necessary to keep in business.
Competition eventually became too much for Ralph Priest and by 1929 both the London-Luton and extended London-Hitchin-Bedford services were sold on to A.J Smith of Holloway who continued to use the Imperial Motor Services title.
Ralph Priest retained all (or most) of his coaches when he sold his 2 services to Smith and, as the latter had purchased the goodwill and the title of Imperial Motor Services,he wa forced to find a new name for his fleet. He duly created the title 'Safeway Motor Services' in 1929 and opened a service between London & Reading but with registered offices in Bounds Green Road, Wood Green it is uncertain whether he still operated out of the garage in Summerhill Road.
We are indebted to Mervyn Askew for his help in researching this information and should we find any further information on Imperial Coaches this webpage will be updated in due course.
Alan Swain April 2008