Felix Bus Services

End of the Road for Felix and its Successor

Saturday 21 July 2018 was the last day of operation of the number 11 bus through Chaddesden by Notts & Derby leaving Morley Road residents with just the Trent Barton Black Cat bus which, incidentally, is no longer black since the buses painted for the route have been withdrawn.

YN05GZB, one of the former Felix fleet, on Chaddesden Lane during the last week of operation of route 11.

Photo: Peter Barnes

 

Bus route 11 could be traced back over 90 years to the Felix Bus Service founded by local man Norman Frost, born at Stanley. Frost was apprenticed to a garage on leaving school but his apprenticeship was interrupted by the First World War in which he served with the Royal Army Service Corps in France. After the war he returned to the garage but later moved to Rolls-Royce.

 

A few year later he borrowed some money from his father, bought a Crossley lorry for £500 and began delivering coal and transporting miners. This lorry was converted at weekends to a bus that ran between Stanley and Ilkeston.

 

In 1924 Mr Frost's buses started to run to Derby, terminating in the yard of a public house where the Council House now stands. The fleet then consisted of two Crossleys, one carrying a body built by William Dickens of Loughborough. When Dickens asked what name he wanted on the side of the bus, Mr Frost’s favourite song “Felix kept on Walking” provided the answer. The bus was painted in his favourite colours of red and maroon.

Operation of the Ilkeston – Derby service became daily when a licence was obtained to terminate in Derby at the Corn Exchange. In October 1933 the Derby terminus was changed to the new Morledge Bus Station. A temporary terminus on Derwent Street was used between 2005 and 2010 while the present Derby Bus Station was being built.

Fare table and time table for 1931.

Credit: The Bus Archive

The route through Chaddesden has always been via Nottingham Road, Chaddesden Lane and Morley Road. The original garage was in New Street, Stanley. In July 1937, larger premises were opened at 157 Station Road which are still in existence. Both the house and garage were built from the locally manufactured Stanley concrete blocks, and the garage is a rare example of a non-domestic building made from these blocks.

 

There have been several changes to the route through West Hallam. The first was achieved by running duplicate buses through the village from the White Hart, Beech Lane, St Wilfred’s Road and on to Stanley Common at the Bottle Kiln (and vice-versa). When there was no duplicate a bus connected at the White Hart for the village.  New housing led to the second route around 1980, a loop from the White Hart, Beech Lane, Hallam Way and back to the White Hart. This missed out the centre of the village!

Although Mr Frost stopped driving buses in 1966, he continued to run the company and supervise repairs and maintenance until his death in March 1975. The business then passed to his nephew, Mr G. Middup, of Grantham. Miss Ida Bacon, who had helped Mr Frost run the business, became company secretary when Felix became a limited company in 1975.

 

The company’s 60th anniversary was celebrated by a line-up of five buses in Ilkeston Market Place in March 1982. The Ilkeston terminus was moved to Wharncliffe Road in 1986 when the Market Place was pedestrianised and the route extended to the new hospital a year later.

 

By this time the sole route had acquired a number – 12. Competition had appeared in the form of the Trent 120 following the same route between Derby and Ilkeston and extending to Mansfield. The branding of both routes as Black Cat is a recent innovation.

In 2009, “Felix the Cat Creations Inc.”, a large United States company, approached Felix and claimed it owned copyright for images of cats used next to the Felix name. To avoid a costly law case Felix buses carried just the company name for their final years of operation, while Trent Barton buses on the same route continue to display a black cat logo which was even printed on the tickets.

YJ08 EFL, a VDL with Plaxton Centro body new in March 2008, seen at Chaddesden Lane End on its last day with Felix. Photo: John Bennett

 

The Felix Black Cat buses last ran on Saturday 28 January 2012. In accordance with the will of Norman Frost, the founder of the company, that the business was not to be sold to Trent, the new operator was Notts & Derby Traction, another company in the Wellglade Group. The private hire part of the business went to Swiftsure of Burton upon Trent.

To emphasise the separation, the Notts & Derby buses carried route number 11 and inter-availability of tickets ended – it was no longer permitted to use the return half of a ticket issued by one company on the buses of the other. The half hourly service was turned into two separate hourly services where most routes have a 20 or 30 minute interval. Norman Frost’s timetable lived on – “A bus on the hour every hour”. Notts & Derby also worked the Sunday Black Cat between Derby and Heanor, but reduced from 7 to 4 return journeys.

 

The one journey per hour on the Ilkeston Flyer, that passed through Chaddesden non stop on Brian Clough Way, was also transferred from Felix to Notts & Derby in January 2012. That journey was the first to go when YourBus began their competing Y3 route between Derby, Ilkeston and Cotmanhay. There was then a best ever eight fast buses per hour between Derby and Ilkeston, four each operated by Trent Barton and YourBus.

 

Route 11 still ran in the evenings and on Sundays when the Black Cat did not. Those few remaining journeys were operated by YourBus under contract to Derbyshire County Council. When YourBus ceased trading in October 2019, a replacement contract was arranged with Hulleys of Baslow but that was not renewed when it ended, the last tendered bus running on Friday evening 28 February 2020. The Trent Barton Black Cat is now the only bus that serves Morley Road. There are 13 journeys each way, Monday-Saturday daytimes only.

 

John Bennett and Peter Barnes

 

Readers' comments:-

Peter Leadbeater says:

Devastated to hear of the demise of the ‘Flying Felix’ :((Spent many a happy hour riding the Felix when I lived on Chad Lane and during my period of ‘bus spotting’ visited the garage at Stanley regularly – didn’t we John (Bennett)?!!

 

Paul Spencer says:

I also used the Felix bus service as a child. I caught the bus outside of the Co-op in Chaddesden Lane and travelled to Ilkeston, where I changed to a Nottingham bus (blue) and alighted at Trowell where my uncle owned a farm. The drivers and conductors were the same people for many years but I never knew their names. I also used the service to visit friends on a farm at Stanley. It was a half hour service and they were always on time, unlike the buses of today. I remember one of the conductresses was a very attractive lady, 1950’s anyone remember her name?

 

Tim Doust says:

We lived in Stanley 1940-42 with my aunt and uncle Horace and Grace Sanders. We had been evacuated from Southend. Horace drove us to school in the Felix buses and then people waited for the Felix bus rather than get on the other company’s buses.

 

Hazel Wheatley says:

Hi there… can anyone remember the old 3 digit telephone number for Felix buses ? I cant find any old adverts with any phone numbers on…i was bought up on Station Road myself and everyone preferred Felix buses to the Trent ones didn’t they.. Felix was luxury !

 

Caroline Dea says:

Hi, I have a four digit phone number for Felix buses if that’s any good and the advert is from the Stanley parish magazine... Ilkeston 5332.

 

Peter Barnes adds:

By 1985 the telephone number had become Ilkeston 325332 and, by 1996, 0115 9325332, that number being retained until the end of the Felix's existence.

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