A SPECIAL anniversary for a historic bus company will be celebrated in Otley this month.

Samuel Ledgard buses were once a common sight on the roads around Wharfedale, Aireborough and Horsforth.

The company's fleet of distinctive, blue and light grey coloured vehicles first appeared locally in 1924 when Leeds entrepreneur Samuel Ledgard bought local company Wards, along with six buses.

The new stage carriage services included a route from Leeds to Otley - via Bramhope - and Ledgard's bus 'empire' grew to include all the major routes between Leeds, Otley, Ilkley, Horsforth, Pusey, Harrogate and Bradford.

Operating from a main depot in Armley, the business also had other depots in Yeadon, Ilkley, Bradford and Otley.

The company kept running after Mr Ledgard's death in 1952, at the age of 78, but in 1967 was taken over by the West Yorkshire Road Car Company signalling the end of the Ledgard network.

The Samuel Ledgard Society, however - made up of appreciative former passengers and employees along with enthusiasts - has ensured the legacy of the independent bus operator has not been forgotten.

Formed in 1998, the society has more than 200 members and holds commemorative events each autumn.

This year, to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of Ledgard buses, the organisation has organised two days of events - in Pudsey on Saturday, October 14 and then in Otley on Sunday, October 15.

Society Chair Barry Rennison said: "On Sunday the weekend action moves to Otley to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the takeover of the Ledgard concern by the West Yorkshire Road Car Company.

"From stand 5 outside the bus station, from 10am to 4pm, there will be free vintage bus rides departing on a regular time-table on local routes.

"In the nearby North Parade car park meanwhile, on Cattle Market Street, there will be a display of vintage buses.

"The day will conclude with a social gathering at the Rose and Crown pub on Bondgate, from 7.30pm, where all are welcome to join members, enthusiasts and former employees of the company."

The Pudsey activities on Saturday will also include free vintage bus rides, from the Civic Hall, between noon and 3pm along with a Transport Collectors' Fair at the same venue from 10am to 3pm.

So in August 1967 it was announced in the press that the Samuel Ledgard Company would pass into the control of West Yorkshire Road Car Company, and shortly after the

The commemoration dates were chosen because the takeover deal for the Ledgard Bus Company was made public at midnight on Saturday, October 14, 1967.

Reflecting on that historic occasion, Mr Rennison said: "That day many transport enthusiasts and appreciative passengers congregated in the Leeds area and travelled on the last ever Ledgard buses - most on the very last departures as they entered their depots at midnight for the very last time.

"They said farewell to fifty-five years of passenger service by a bus company who had carried out their public service out with pride - through all weathers they were there. "

*The Wharfedale & Aireborough Observer is grateful to the Samuel Ledgard Society for providing the photographs reproduced here.