I’ve been using the 213 bus for 2 years
An easy way to get to work in Kingston. As I don’t drive, this was the best way to visit by girlfriend and baby at Kingston Hospital. It will be the first bus my daughter travels on.
I meant to write this last Thursday, sorry for the delay!
I caught the bus from Kingston (Fairfield Bus Station) at about 9.10pm as I’d been working late. The bus was really busy – presumably with other late workers – who mostly got off at The Plough, Old Malden.
At around Cambridge Road, New Malden, I overheard a conversation between a young woman and her friend (well… I didn’t hear the friend as it was a phone call!) and the basic message was that the woman on the bus was advising her friend not to get sacked, and rather, to hand in her notice. It seemed like pretty sensible advice to me. I guess that the reason I remember the conversation is I was thinking about my own career at the time.
As well as studying for my MA, I work for Kingston Museum and Heritage Service 4 days a week. I really enjoy my job as I am learning a lot – not just about the heritage sector, but also about working for a local authority and also how to behave professionally. It’s a tough world out there, and you have to make the most of every opportunity – above this, I think it’s really important to get along with people.
Heritage might appear to be about material things : objects, castles, 1950’s buses, but fundamentally it is actually about people: who they were, what they valued and what they have chosen to give to us (their future). What the woman on the bus was telling her friend, was ‘don’t jeopardise your future’ and this too is the basic message of heritage. Learn from people who came before, let’s share their stories together, and tomorrow will be better.
A few weeks ago now, I met a nice gentleman called Roger who had heard me speak at the Maldens and Coombe Heritage Society. He is a pensioner who spends some of his time as a paid Transport Surveyor on London Transport so he knows a lot! He also happens to have a wonderful collection of bus ephemera: tickets, timetables, other leaflets which he kindly leant to me. I’ve now scanned it all in and will be uploading bits as time goes on.
Roger shared a few of his experiences on the 213 which were particularly evocative to me. In 1969, Roger was commuting on the 213 to North Cheam and there was a regular fellow passenger on the upper deck who used to chain smoke for the whole journey. As a none smoker, I can’t really imagine anything worse than being stuck in a moving metal box, smoke billowing, but I guess it was fairly common in the late 1960s. It makes quite a contrast to the annoying habits of the average fellow passenger nowadays – listening to music too loud, gossiping about their sex lives….but my absolute worst complaint is when people eat really smelly food on the bus home, when I’m starving for my dinner! A few years ago, Roger’s stop ‘Oak Road’ got bus shelters and apparently one of the neighbours complained. This made me think about how (potentially) disruptive it would be to have a bus stop located right outside your door, and buses zooming along your road every 3-5minutes (one going each way at 6-10 minute intervals), it must actually be quite intrusive to your daily life. Finally, another insight into the lives of bus drivers: apparently the 213 route is favoured by older and female drivers because of the ‘facilities’ at both ends of the route. The average shift might be 4 round trips, i.e. Sutton-Kingston, Kingston-Sutton x 4 which is actually quite a lot of driving, particularly when road works seem to make parts of the route into a crawl (A3 to Worcester Park, North Cheam). It’s bad enough being on the bus in such conditions, but to be driving must be really frustrating! I suppose automatic transmission makes it a bit easier than manual, but still!
This week I addressed the Maldens and Coombe Heritage Society, a newly formed society of people interested in their local area. Robin Gill (as mentioned below) invited me along and his enthusiasm for my project has been a really great motivation to keep things ticking whilst I also complete the other two modules for my MA this term! It was quite nerve racking standing up before everyone to talk about my project but I did get some interesting memories about the 213 route:
Unfortunately for Mary, the Chairperson, the 213 holds bad associations dating all the way back to 1943 when her little Labrador ‘Bobby’ was run over by the bus! After the meeting, Julian (another member) came up to me and mentioned his investigations into whether Kingston’s gallows were located at the junction of what are now Queens Road and Galsworthy Road (The Stop: Queens Road – Kingston Hospital), which has made me consider developing a ‘Deathly telling of the 213’ incorporating these stories alongside information about the various local undertakers on the route and anything else under this heading people wish to contribute!
Two lovely gentlemen kindly filled in my reminiscence flyers, and hopefully I’ll get some more through the post or at the next meeting. If you’d like to fill one in I can post or email it to you.
‘In the mid-1950s I lived in New Malden and went to school in Croydon. The 213 bus took me from the Plough to Sutton and each bus had a metal plate on the side with (I think) some letters and a number. If I was in time for no.10 I would be certain to catch my connection (Route 406) at Sutton. If it was no.11 I would probably be late for school!’
‘Single deck buses ran up Traps Lane until the new bridge at New Malden Station, after a double decker was introduced ‘213A’ going along the same route as now, the new double deck 213 still ran up Traps Lane and Coombe Lane for some time before it was withdrawn’
Other than that I’ve got some more leads: New Malden Fortnight (6th-20th July) should be a place I can gather more information or possibly even enact the creative element of my project…. I’m thinking a carnival of all my collaborators dressed as 213 buses (anything is possible with cardboard)!!! I learnt a bit about the history of Pengilly’s stationers (on New Malden High Street) and why ‘New Malden – The Fountain’ has its name, which isn’t because of the public house, but for the fountain which used to water the horses of horse-and-carriages in the pre-bus days.