The Story of John Bull”
“Fifty years ago (1969) as I was preparing for Anstey’s Local History Exhibition, Anstey’s George Salisbury answered our appeal for photographs and sent me the 1909 picture of the arrival of John Bull and shortly afterwards Josie Bryan put forward the picture of John Bull at it’s garage in Church Lane. I followed this up by contacting the records office at Wigston and discovered the notes of Anstey’s Primary School headmistress Grace Bickley with memories of it’s arrival, which in turn provided the copy for some of the section on public transport in the publcation of the 1970 book “from a narrow track”. Miss Bickley was my headmistress in 1940 when I was five years old. A further 29 years on and by chance encounter I was told that “John Bull” had been found and was being restored by Greg Duffin of Stonehurst Farm in Mountsorrel. It transpires that “John Bull” was only in the village for two years when Johnny Hutton having taken over the business from Maurice Reeson sold the double decker to Boyers of Rothley. This was subsequently rebodied as a single decker as per the photograph loaned by Greg. It is not known what happened to the single decker and I suppose it is possible that it was commandeered by the War Office in 1914-18 for taking the troops to the front although I guess the chassis and engine being a German Durkop would not have made it very popular!. However, all trace of it was lost.
The original body of “John Bull” was placed in 1911 in the garden of the Boyer family to act as greenhouse and remarkably in 1984, some 73 years later, Greg discovered it’s existance, still with it’s original glass, bodywork and signage in sound condition and subsequently did a deal with the widow Mrs. Boyer.
From there on the restoration was in the hands of Greg and his son Tom. Their first task was to find a chassis of the same age and mechanical specification as the original Durkop and after much searching found one in 1989, a 1905 British Commer, in a Wellingborough scrapyard. This was followed by discovering a gearbox of the same vintage in an old windmill near Peterborough in 1991. Final work was carried out and in 2003 a re-enactment run was organised with Greg driving the chain driven vehicle on solid tyres accompanied by Anstey passengers in period costume for the journey from Leicester’s High Cross terminus via the A50 Groby Road and the Gynsill Lane to Anstey and then onto it’s destination at the Bradgate Hotel in Newtown Linford.
Very sadly we have since lost Greg but his family have carried on his tradition not only with John Bull but numerous other forms of transport as witnessed in the display areas. His legacy lives on.”
Brian Kibble, September 2019
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