Rail Transport Service

“I think it was in the year, possibly the summer of 1905 that my friend A.G. Stevenson, the Land Agent of the North Eastern Railway (NER) brought over to Mill Hill Mr Philip Burtt, then assistant manager to Mr. Gibb (now Sir George Gibb). They came over to see what could be done in the way of the NER assisting in developing the agricultural area. Burtt wanted to increase traffic on the railway by the indirect means of development of agricultural districts. He became enthusiastic over the proposal for a motor service for heavy goods.”

Hugh’s first suggestion was to run the service from Tollerton via Sutton-in-the-Forest and Stillington to Brandsby. However, opposition form Arthur Duncombe (a Conservative MP) of Sutton-on-the-Forest caused him to modify the plan. Duncombe complained that the transport would damage the roads. There was also opposition in Stillington, whipped up by Souter the grocer. Souter figured in local politics, he was against the scheme because of its co-operative nature. Part of the plan was to establish depots, which would be owned by farmers cooperative societies. Hugh knew that he needed Stillington in order to guarantee sufficient traffic, so he secretly purchase a site in Stillington, which he guaranteed as a depot to Burtt.

Burtt would have rented the depots for the NER and fitted them out with sheds, weigh bridges, etc., but Hugh wanted to keep control in the hands of farmers cooperative societies. Hugh, therefore, built sheds at Brandsby costing about £160, and erected coal cells of railway sleepers and put down a weigh bridge, for which the Brandsby Cooperative Society paid £60. The sheds were rented to the Society. Hugh also built a depot and cells with weigh bridge, cottage and corrugated iron shop at Stillington. The Stillington Depot and buildings, including the cost of the land, came to a good £600, for which the society paid a rent of £30 yearly. Hugh said “This was a very precarious investment, but it was necessary in order to carry through the motor scheme.”

The depots were ready and the service started by the year 1905.

Hugh also built a new shop with a manager’s cottage attached at Brandsby for the society, adjoining the depot yard. The plan was made by Hugh, himself with Alfred Powell. The store including the architect’s fees was finished for £600.

Robert Yerburgh MP, President of the Agricultural Organisation Society, came to lay the foundation stone for the new store and a big luncheon was held in one of the depot sheds, with a tent added on.  Yerburgh, in his speech, emphasised the need for cooperation among farmers. He said that Brandsby was the first Cooperative Society to be registered with the AOS and was a pioneer to point the way, as it was doing with this new motor transport system, the first of its kind.

The NER was represented by Philip Burtt, Hugh’s solicitor Edwin Grey came, plus many of the tenants and representatives from other societies. Other landowners and their agents were conspicuous by their absence.

Many of these made the objection that the transport would damage the roads, but there was underlying great opposition to cooperative schemes, which many believed were damaging to the operation of a free market. Had the scheme been badged under a Tory label, Hugh believes opposition would have been less, but he scrupulously avoided all party politics.

There was also much opposition from small shopkeepers, middlemen and farmers who carted stone for hire. The actual cost for extra strengthening the roads due to the service of the heavy motor to Brandsby was not a great burden and upkeep of the roads for motor traffic, in general, demanded an increase in upkeep of the roads.

However the value of the service to the district was more than full compensation. In addition, after the service was diverted to run from Easingwold, the increase in rail traffic brought about a 1% increase in the Easingwold Railway dividend.

The motor service brought a fresh lot of visitors to Brandsby to see what was being done.

Stanley Coetmore Jones, Lord Scarborough’s agent came over and later brought 20 tenant farmers. Sir Richard Winfrey, MP and newspaper publisher, and J. H. Diggle, longstanding campaigners for agricultural rights and the encouragement of agricultural cooperatives came from Norfolk.  The Times agricultural correspondent also came, others from the AOS, including Noel Buxton, plus a motley assortment of others including H. Levy, author and economist, promotor of human rights and Maurice de Bunsen, British diplomat.