It’s as much an iconic part of the London scene as the guards at Buckingham Palace, the Beefeaters, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben or the Houses of Parliament. We are of course talking about London buses of which the red Routemaster is probably the most iconic. A fully restored 1959 version of this most famous bus in the world can be found amongst other exhibits at the London Bus Museum. By a quirk some may find strange, the museum that is open in partnership with Brooklands Museum is not in London but is located at Weybridge in Surrey.
Exhibits cover 100 years of London Transport history and the museum is operated by the London Bus Preservation Trust. There are around 30 vehicles on display, many unique to the museum itself. Visitors can see examples of horse buses from the Victorian era, open top buses of the 1920s through to the rear-engine buses of the 1970s.
There is a special WWII exhibition where transport used throughout the period can be seen in all its splendour. The museum is the home of the only surviving WWII “utility” bus. Utility buses were built to replace those destroyed in the bombing of London and were built under strict guidelines. They were made from recycled materials and alien to what Londoners had known pre-war. But without the 800 utility buses London would not have had a public transport system capable of keeping the city operating.
All the buses are restored by dedicated volunteers and many are roadworthy for use today and do indeed ‘come out’ on special occasions for rallies and events. This is possible because the museum has skilled engineers that volunteer to give up their time to build new parts or restore old ones. They also have researchers that work hard to collate all factual information about specifications for each category of vehicle making sure continuity and accuracy is paramount.
Inside, the building is split up into a timeline of types and styles of transport applicable to the period all with authentic settings for the time.
The origins of the museum date back to a time when a group of private individual collectors wanted to pool their resources and formed the London Bus Preservation Group, (LBPG) in 1966. Some members of the LBPG were attempting to restore buses as far back as the early 1950s with limited success and resources. However, success came in 1956, with the purchase of an old 1929, AEC Regal single decker originally from the London General Omnibus Company, which is believed to be the first privately preserved bus in the UK. They then acquired a former WWII aircraft factory in 1972 near Cobham in Surrey where they formed the private ‘Cobham Bus Museum.’
By early 2000s, the building was in desperate need of repair and the future of the museum was under threat. The group could not get planning permission to operate a ‘public’ museum from the site and their charitable status was in question. They eventually, secured a large plot of land from the nearby Brooklands Museum Trust, where it was agreed a new building could be built to facilitate public access to the new London Bus Museum which opened in 2011. Visitors to the London Bus Museum can also visit the nearby Brooklands Museum with its aviation and motorsports exhibits including Concord.
One entry ticket allows visitors to see both attractions although additional costs are required for some exhibits and events. Children under the age of 17 years must be accompanied by an adult. The museum is open daily except for the Christmas period. The museum caters for corporate and private events and they hire out some of their transport to film companies including experienced staff to act as ‘extras’ dressed in period livery.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Bridge Road, Chertsey
Surrey, England, KT16 8JX
+44 (0)1932 562 405
- Address: Cobham Hall, Brooklands Drive, Weybridge, Surrey, United Kingdom, KT13 0QN
- GPS: 51.35513611,-0.463619444
- Phone: 0044 (0)1932 837 994
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: KT13 0QN
- Entrance Fees: Yes
- Disabled Access: Very Good
- Visibility from Road: None
- Image Credits: Header Image: Chris Jenner / Shutterstock.com