See also Richard Jay - Coach Operator based at Caldermount, Littleborough

Early Horse Drawn Coach services

There have been regular road based public transport services in the Littleborough for some 250 years. Initially, it was by horse drawn ‘Coaches’ which were first operated over the Blackstone Edge Turnpike circa 1774 when 3 regular Manchester to Leeds Coaches operated each week. Later, coaches operated to Todmorden over the Calderbrook Turnpike. By 1781 Coach services over the Blackstone Edge Turnpike were daily and by 1825 the much improved Blackstone Edge Road was completed to the satisfaction of the Inspector General of Mails (for the use by Mail Coaches) such that 6 coaches operated daily between Rochdale and Halifax – Shuffle, Perseverance, High Flier, Defiance, Duke of Leeds and Commerce. Not long afterward, in 1826 there were regular Stage Coaches from Todmorden to Manchester via Summit. With the coming of the railway to Littleborough and then through Summit Tunnel towards Todmorden and Leeds these coach services ceased operation.

Whist it is probable that irregular local coaches operated around Littleborough connecting with the trains, many local people walked often considerable distances on a regular basis. However, the first recorded Omnibus began running from Rochdale to Littleborough in May 1877 with fares inside 5d and outside 4d. In June 1879 Omnibus Timetables were published for Rochdale (Reed Hotel) to the Falcon Inn in Littleborough and from Falcon Inn to Summit. But these soon faced competition by the new Steam Trams which operated from Rochdale to Littleborough (Falcon Inn) and lasted until 1905 when they were replaced by electric Trams. The electric trams ran from Rochdale to Littleborough and thence to the Summit Inn.

Motor Bus Services

The first regular bus service in Littleborough was operated by Todmorden Corporation when they extended their service from Todmorden to Steanor Bottom (pictured right) to the Summit pub in 1921.

Rochdale Corporation was a late entry into motor bus operation not obtaining powers until the Rochdale Corporation Act of 1925. Littleborough began agitating for a local service to link the trams with the surrounding areas. And these began in August 1926 when an hourly service ran between Littleborough Square and Hollingworth Lake (Fisherman’s Inn) via Smithy Bridge. On return to Littleborough the bus ran alternately to Shore and to Clough Road, giving each a 2-hourly service.  

Rochdale had ceased operating trams by 1932 which led to rapid increases in the number of bus services operated in and through Littleborough. Some actually commenced before then as in January 1928  a daily limited stop bus service between Rochdale and Todmorden started, jointly operated by Rochdale and Todmorden Corporations, offering a 40 minute interval service for most of the day. A through service from Halifax to Rochdale via Blackstone Edge was taken over by the LMS railway company in December 1928.

On the 19th October 1930  Rochdale Corporation buses replaced trams on the Rochdale to Littleborough to Summit service creating the necessity for passengers to change at the Summit Inn for most journeys between Littleborough and Todmorden. This remained for nearly 40 year. Even now, the road is still wider outside the Summit to enable the respective buses to turn around.

Organisational Changes

Whist there were various changes in the routing and frequency of local Littleborough services. The LMS railway company generally ceased bus operations instead taking full or partial ownership of Hebble, Ribble etc. Thus Hebble became the operator of the Blackstone Edge route to Ripponden and Halifax. Ribble operated long-distance services to Burnley - Todmorden - Rochdale - Manchester service (X4) for many years, with some journeys extended to Blackpool or Morecambe. Picking up and setting down restrictions applied within municipal boundaries, as usual with Ribble express services. However, the Ribble service did stop in Littleborough. Meanwhile organisation changes led to Todmorden becoming owned by a Joint Committee with the LMS railway in 1st January 1931.

Passenger Transport Executives and similar Organisations

No significant changes took place until the 1968 Transport Act led to Rochdale Corporation buses being absorbed by SELNEC Buses (South East Lancashire, North East Cheshire) in 1969. Over time the traditional Cream and Blue livery was replaced by Orange.

Further changes occurred in 1974 when SELNEC was replaced by GMPTE (Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive). A similar change affected West Yorkshire when their PTE became operational. And took over the Joint Omnibus Committees there.

In September 1971 the Joint Operator committees of Todmorden and Halifax merged to form Calderdale Joint Omnibus Committee. An important benefit for Littleborough of these organisational changes was that in June and October 1973 all-day services operated through from Littleborough to Todmorden, Halifax and Burnley without the change at the Summit Inn.  complete with extensions to Halifax and Burnley.

So far as Littleborough local services were concerned, all day direct services operated between Hollingworth Lake and Rochdale Town Centre with subsequent direct services to Rochdale via Milnrow later being introduced. But perhaps the most significant change occurred in the mid-1980s when through services were operated between Rochdale - Littleborough - Todmorden - Halifax and Burnley providing 2 buses per hour throughout the day.


The 1985 Transport Act resulted in the privatisation of bus services on 26th October 1986 and the new arrangements heralded much change as smaller operators sought to enter the bus market place. Many changes didn’t last long and neither did the smaller operators except Rosso which has become a regular feature in Littleborough. Now owned by the Transdev Blazefield Group it operated a network of services from Littleborough to the lake and then Rochdale via Hollingworth Road. This was only possible with the rebuilding of the original very narrow and awkward Ben Healey canal bridge and the redesign of the Halifax Road/Canal Street Road junction.

Not all changes have been positive with service changes and reliability issues have affected the Halifax service via Ripponden and direct bus services to Burnley have been lost albeit a train service was available from 2021..

The Bee Network

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester has obtained government approval for the ability to operate a Transport for London style public/private bus network wherein Transport of Greater Manchester specifies the whole Network of Bus Route and private operators tender for individual or generally groups of services. Commencing in 2023, it will be extended across Greater Manchester in future years.

Charabanc and Coaches and other services

Charabancs excursions (or Charas in the vernacular – even used to refer to Coach trips even recently) were popular from between the wars and later. Technically, a Charabanc had doors to each bay of seats and sometimes shared a chassis with a wagon or lorry. Excursions often left from local hostelries or churches and chapels. For some, they actually replaced excursions by barge or by rail. Interesting enough, coach excursions were often run from seaside locations to Hollingworth Lake and many a local on a mystery trip found themselves not far from home! National Tour Holidays operators pick up in Littleborough but these may be by a shuttle service. Coach services to Football matches both home and away were also popular journeys from Littleborough.

Littleborough had a number of operators over the years with Ellen Smith starting in the town - see also Richard Jay

Since Littleborough no longer has a Secondary School (June 2021) school buses operate from the town especially to St Cuthbert’s Roman Catholic School. Also services operate to Rishworth Public School.


Compiled with the grateful assistance of Ian Holt and Geoff Kerr

                                        Above - charabanc - location unknown