A 1975 Leyland Leopard vintage bus, one of the last known surviving buses of its type in the world, is owned by local charity Accrington Heritage Trust. They have just had the fantastic news that their bid for £94,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund has been successful. Thanks to National Lottery players, the bus can be restored to a modern safety standard, and will be available to tour local historic sites and for use by schools and other local organisations.
The project is officially called Wheels and Water – Accrington’s Transport History, and will involve other partners such as the Kennet Project, a historic canal barge maintained by the Leeds/Liverpool Canal Society. The funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund will help showcase the area’s innovative past as part of the original ‘Northern Powerhouse’, focusing on transport from turnpike to canals, railways, trams and buses.
Accrington has a rich history, notably the invention of the Spinning Jenny, NORI bricks which were used on the Empire State Building, the football team being one of the first twelve to found the Football League, and Europe’s largest collection of Tiffany Glass being donated to, and housed at, Haworth Gallery.
The Accrington Pals are also important to Accrington’s history. They were the smallest home town battalion of volunteers formed to fight in the First World War, and sadly suffered heavy loss of life. After the war and until 1986, Accrington Corporation buses were painted in the battalion’s dress uniform colours of red and blue with gold lining. Reportedly, the mudguards were painted black as a sign of mourning.
One of these buses survives today, and is the only one painted in the original colours of the Accrington Pals Battalion. Number 42 was stored in the open until 2017 when it was acquired by Accrington Heritage Trust, and is now in indoor storage with Town and District Transport Trust in Great Harwood.
The bus will be painstakingly restored, brought up to modern safety standards, and will incorporate digital screens featuring footage and demonstrations of all types of local transport through the years. The bus will be available to schools and community groups, as well as being displayed at public events and other heritage sites, ensuring that the rich history of the area is not lost to future generations.
The project will also involve young people working on the bus, from volunteers who are not in education, employment or training, to apprentices from North Lancs Training Group and Accrington and Rossendale College.
Richard Hooper, Trustee of Accrington Heritage Trust, commented: “We’re absolutely delighted to be awarded this funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we can preserve important history of our region for generations to come. Thanks must go to all who’ve supported us so far, and we now start the work to bring this project to life!”
Murray Dawson, Chair of Amazing Accrington, added: “This project has required time, work and investment so far and I’m delighted it will be carried through to completion. It will be of great use for the work we do with schools at Amazing Accrington, and also feature at our events.”
The Accrington Heritage Trust are keen to get in touch with anyone who may have memories or materials from Accrington’s transport history, to add to their extensive archive.
Keep an eye on the Amazing Accrington website https://www.amazingaccrington.co.uk/ and social media channels for further updates.