James Crabb of Sydling St. Nicholas

James Crabb was born on 11th April 1883 at Loscombe in the parish of Netherbury, to the south of Beaminster in Dorset. His family were farm workers and he, his brother (George) and father (Issac) moved to Sydling St. Nicholas when they were offered the tenancy of South View, a small-holding belonging to Winchester College. This lies to the north of the Sydling, on the left hand side when coming from Maiden Newton. Here they lived in the large house, which with a mill building and some land formed the holding, and a housekeeper was employed to look after the three men.

JamesCrabbWithCartBy 1915, when James was 32 years old, he was running a carrier service to and from Dorchester on Wednesdays and Saturdays, presumably using a horse and van. This served Sydling and Magiston, as well as Grimstone, Stratton and Wreckleford on the main Yeovil to Dorchester road. In town he put in at the Plume of Feathers in Princes Street, an inn used by several carriers. He was in competition with his fellow parishioners (Fred Kellaway* and) Frank Terrell, as well as several other carriers who ran out of Dorchester along the main road to places such as Maiden Newton and Cattistock. Among the latter was a Mr Record of Rampisham who had an old-established service from Rampisham, Cattistock and Maiden Newton and he also used the Plume of Feathers as his Dorchester terminus. * Fred Kellaway is listed as carrier from Sydling to Plume of Feathers until 1915, the year James Crabb first appears. Could the service have passed from one to the other?)

Whether this is significant in what followed is not clear but on 5th August 1918 .lames Crabb, then aged 35, was married at Rampisham Church to 23-year old Nellie Record, daughter of the carrier.

After marriage Nellie at first helped her husband in the business by driving a pony and trap which took passengers to or from the railway station. During the 1920’s two daughters were born to Nellie and Jimmy, Irene (12.8.1921) and Joyce (5.5.1929).

crabbfamilywithbusThe Crabb family business also grew with the horse and van giving way to the first motor vehicle in March, 1923. Registered PR256 this was one of the very popular Model T Fords and it carried a dual purpose van body with windows in the sides and a luggage rack on the roof. Jimmy and Nellie, with their little daughter Irene, proudly stood in front of the new motor to be photographed. With them was a young man called Albie Lovell, who on leaving school had gone to work on the farm for the Crabb family and he became the driver of the motor. Albie was employed by the family for 33 years. (It seems as though Terrells ran a motor for 3 years before Jimmy Crabb changed from horses? see later)

TK33BusJoyceCrabbApprox1934Over the years the first van was replaced by another Ford (TK3338), fitted with a square body painted light blue, with seats for 14 passengers. This gave nearly twenty years service and saw Jimmy Crabb through the Second World War before it had to be replaced. Vehicle were hard to come by in the post war years and it was necessary to take whatever was available.

A Dennis Ace was bought from another old-established operator, House of Hilton. RV6946 had a small protruding snout-like bonnet with small wheels set back, which led to the model being commonly known as “The Flying Pig”. Its body was in poor condition but after some refurbishment it was fit for service.

In the motor age Sydling village was served by two bus services, one run by the Terrell family, the other by the Crabbs. Although in competition, each had their own passenger and did not generally intrude on the other service. Like many villagers Sydling people always used their favoured bus and never ventured on to the rival. On one occasion a young man from away arrived in Dorchester to visit relations in the village. Knowing nothing of the unwritten rules he liked the look of one bus and got on. When he got to his destination he was asked who he had ridden with. On saying, he was told he shouldn’t have, we be ………. (one) and you rode with ………. (the other)

FrontOfBusRV6946On market days the bus started from the Cross Tree, at the bottom of the village, the traditional gathering point. Beforehand Nellie Crabb toured the village taking orders for shopping and errands for those who could not travel. She then acted as conductress on the bus. Loaded with all sorts of livestock, rabbits, poultry, young calves and produce, as well as passengers it went into town twice on Wednesdays, one round trip in the morning, another in the afternoon. On Saturdays it was a similar pattern but an additional journey, catered for those wishing to go the “pictures”.

On market days Mrs Crabb was kept busy in town. First produce and livestock had to be taken to the market and if there were a lot of eggs they had to be taken out of the travelling boxes and placed in the auctioneers own containers. This was time consuming job. When this was complete she went round the shops selecting items for those who had couldn’t get in. Every conceivable item from clothing to foodstuffs, ironmongery to timber was brought back to the village. In the 1920s, when carriers and other traffic thronged the streets of Dorchester, it was decided that something had to be done to ease congestion. A yard in Trinity Street belonging to the Council was made available free of charge to the carriers and most of them, including Crabb’s bus, now used this as a parking ground, although still calling at their traditional inns and at the railway stations to collect items left for delivery.

A bus trip to the seasideIn addition to the regular bus service,outings for villagers, or for the local Sunday Schools and other organisations, were organised to the seaside at Weymouth (usually the first choice), to Bournemouth or to the Military Tattoos held at Tidworth on Salisbury Plain. These rare treats were eagerly anticipated and greatly enjoyed – whatever the weather.

When not needed for passengers, the bus was used on Mr Crabb’s coal round. With seats folded away or removed it was loaded with bags of coal which were carried up cottage paths and tipped into coal houses. Daughter Joyce remembers that Tuesday and Friday nights were bus cleaning nights, when all the family got together to brush the floor and clean the windows, removing all traces of the black dust and ensuring the vehicle was fit to take people.

As mentioned, the other village bus service was run by the Terrell family. Henry Frederick Terrell also farmed some land as well as being involved in transport from as early as 1903. His bought his first bus in 1920, FX5484, a plum coloured 30hp Selden with a body apparently built by Pitfield’s, the Sydling builders, in the City Barn which used to stand on the site of the green. In 1929 this was replaced by a Morris 13-seater (TK2996), painted brown. His son, Frank, took over but sadly he died in 1946 at the early age of 34, but just before his death the business was sold. Crabb’s driver, Albie Lovell, had married a Miss Dubben, whose family had been bakers in Sydling until 1935. They had enough capital to purchase Terrell’s service and so Albie left Crabb’s to become the owner of the other service. (who then drove Crabb’s bus?). Albie was quite a character and always wore gaiters. He is remembered rushing round Dorchester on market days, doing errands and also for the fact that his Commer bus (YD9487), which Mr Terrell had bought from Legg’s of Evershot in 1944, had poor brakes and, as a result, usually ran back into the wall at the parking ground in Trinity Street.

In 1950 Jimmy Crabb died but his wife, Nellie, continued the bus service until 1952. Then the proprietors of both the Sydling firms agreed a sale to Ivor Collins of Pearce & Co. of Cattistock. The new owners merged the two services and extended them to Up Sydling, a hamlet which had never before had a bus service. On Saturdays the Pearce drivers waited at Sydling from half past four, when they arrived with the shopping bus, until 6pm when the picture bus” departed and they usually spent the time having a cup of tea with the Crabb family.

  1. Buses owned by Mr J. Crabb
  2. PR256 Ford van. Bought new 17.3.1923. Withdrawn 1929 Last owned by W. Vandy of Church farm, Batcombe
  3. TK3338 Ford 14-seat bus. Bought from Crabb & Co., Dorchester 23.5.1929 Withdrawn in August 1948.
  4. RV6946 Dennis Ace 20-seater. Ex House of Hilton, 1948. Withdrawn 1952.

To learn more about carriers and buses in Dorset visit www.countrybus.co.uk  & www.countrybus.co.uk/sydling

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