Being Bland

For nearly 70 years the Blands bus company operated from Cottesmore in Rutland. Operating originally as ‘Pride of Rutland’ the firm was founded in 1929 by Reginald Bland. Initially services went from Cottesmore to Melton Mowbray via Market Overton and Wymondham on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, the Saturday service extending to Oakham. On Fridays a service started at Market Overton and ran to Stamford via Greetham, Tickencote and Great Casterton. Reg also undertook car and cycle repairs, but as the coach business expanded that side of it was dropped. During the 1930’s Reg and his father Horace, a carpenter, built a new bus garage in Cottesmore, which was used until 1997.

Reg Bland with Bland’s 1937 Dennis Lancet II bus.

During WWII the number of journeys was reduced due to fuel rationing and none was available for excursions or private hire, although fuel was available for essential war work, including transporting RAF personnel. One bus, an Albion, was damaged by a bomb which was dropped on Stamford in December 1942.

1949 Crossley with pre-war Albion coach behind.

In 1949 a new Crossley coach was purchased. Although it was an improvement on the pre-war vehicles it was under-powered and struggled on steep hills. There was a post-war boom for coach operators with an increased demand for travel but private cars still scarce. This changed in the 1960’s with the increase in car ownership and television sets reducing the need for people to visit the cinema. By the early 1970s it was realised that without assistance bus and coach operations in rural areas like Rutland were likely to disappear altogether. Grants became available for the purchase of new vehicles and in 1973 Reg Bland bought his first new coach for 20 years.

Blands’ Bedford OB coach at Cottesmore garage. Tony Bland on left, Harry Wilkinson on right.
AEC Reliance with Burlingham Seagull bodywork, waiting outside the Abbey Lawn in Bourne.

Reg Bland drove regularly until 1974 when ill health caused him to stop, but he continued to take an active hand in the business. After his death the business continued to be run by his widow Ivy and elder son Tony. They were later joined by Reg’s younger son Peter and Tony’s son Ian, They continued to operate a mixture of regular services, school contracts, excursions and private hire, but by the 1990s the economic climate became increasingly difficult and they ceased trading in August 1997.

The last new coach purchased by Bland’s – DAF SB2300 Caetano Algarve – seen outside The Sun Inn, Cottesmore.

Additional information from Malcolm Knight, the late Paul LeFevre and the Countrybus website (http://www.countrybus.com/)