A Down Our Streets serialised photo special

If you’ve travelled around the Tameside, Oldham and Saddleworth areas by bus, you may have noticed these objects attached to lamp posts along the way:

01 Dukinfield, Albion Hotel (W-bound)
The plaque which started it all for me: this specimen outside the Albion Hotel stop, Dukinfield.

In an orange or white background, a number of direction signs were placed at key junctions along Greater Manchester Transport’s bus routes. The bulk of which in the Tameside and Saddleworth areas which started appearing in 1977-78.

The reason was instructional. After the Ashton and Stalybridge depots on Mossley Road and Tame Street were replaced by Tameside Garage (off Whitelands), some of the Ashton drivers needed to know the former SHMD routes, or vice versa. As seen with this example, stencilled numbers and two directional arrows.

From 1977 to 1985 they were square with an orange background. After 1981 or thereabouts they eschewed the hand-painted stencil text for the numbers in favour of Helvetica Bold. By 1985, standard directional arrows transferred onto the plaque replaced the more ornate examples (as seen above).

In 1985, white rectangular plaques became the new norm. The text, set in Helvetica Bold, and the standardised arrows. As deregulation undermined the purpose of the plaques (constant route changes), their use was diminished by the end of the 1980s.

By November 1991, when Tameside Garage closed, they fell in to disuse. Almost 25 years after the closure of GM Buses’ depot off Whitelands, a sizeable number remain intact.

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Last November, I set myself a challenge to photograph 101 examples of these directional signs. By Spring Bank Holiday, I not only reached my target. I exceeded this by two. Then I found there was more than 101 of these things from Greenside Lane to Hadfield. Plus another one in Oldham which seem to have predated the opening of Tameside Garage.

Before I leave you to browse at these specimens of public transportation based archaeology and ghost signs, this is the first posting of a six part series. Which allows for twenty images per post rather than 101 or more in one full swoop. In each entry, there will be reference to the amount of fieldwork I had undertaken. So, sit back, relax and look in awe or disbelief as to why this fellow posted 101 or more silly little plaques. Enjoy the ride.

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1. Albion Hotel, Dukinfield (westbound)

This is the first one of the 101 (seen at the top of this entry). A real survivor outliving most of the bus routes. Today’s 221 goes via Boyd’s Walk, once the preserve of the 220. Today’s 344 isn’t a part route version of the 343 via Staley Road. The full-on 343 now traverses Staley Road. The only route to remain unchanged in most part is the 346.

2. Ashton Road, Bredbury (southbound)

02 Ashton Road, Bredbury

Seen near to Bredbury Industrial Estate, close to Robinsons Brewery’s bottling plant. Part of the 25 route incorporates the 380/381 circular services. At the time I was working in Bredbury.

3. Oxford Street, Dukinfield

03 Albion Hotel/Oxford Road, DukinfieldSeen near the eastbound Albion Hotel stop pointing towards Lodge Lane.

4. Birch Lane, Dukinfield

04 Birch Lane, Dukinfield

Close to the bus stop for the 41 and 221 services, now its immediate forerunners.

5. Old Street/Cavendish Street, Ashton-under-Lyne

05 All Services, Old Street, Ashton-under-LyneClose to the car park for The Witchwood, this dates from a time when the 219 service used to go via Old Street instead of Katherine Street.

6. Cavendish Street/Katherine Street, Ashton-under-Lyne

06 All Services, Cavendish Street, Ashton-under-Lyne

Speaking of Katherine Street, this was installed for most services heading from Dukinfield as well as the 219.

7. Oldham Road/Katherine Street, Ashton-under-Lyne

07 Oldham Road, Ashton-under-LyneFurther proof of the fact that the 219 did traverse Old Street along with the 216. What’s noticeable was that the express 153 and limited stop 236 and 237 service went via Katherine Street. Today, the 236 and 237 terminate at Ashton instead of Piccadilly Gardens or Deansgate station.

8. Hollins Street, Stalybridge

08 Hollins Street, Stalybridge

Seen near the site of The Buck Inn. Only of great use to the driver of the solitary 220 service to Stalybridge. If he or she can make out the numbers from the creases.

9. Acres Lane/Mottram Road, Stalybridge

09 Acres Lane, StalybridgeBack in 1986, the 236 and 237 did not traverse Acres Lane with the 338 and 351 services being the only ones that did. Today, most Stalybridge bound buses pass The Organ and Old Hunters’ Tavern public houses.

10. Mottram Road/Acres Lane, Stalybridge (northbound)

10 Mottram Road, Stalybridge

Further proof as discussed in the previous plaque: our 236s and 237s going via Corporation Street and Portland Place.

11. Stocks Lane, Stalybridge

11 Stocks Lane, StalybridgeA well hidden plaque close to Mellor’s Bakery along today’s 348 route.

12. Stamford Street, Portland Place, Stalybridge

12 Corporation Street, Stalybridge

Our little white plaque leading us to Corporation Street.

13. Waterloo Road, Stalybridge

13 Waterloo Road, StalybridgeNoticeable by its absence on the plaque is the 343 and 344 routes. Which at the time may have come under Oldham depot.

A number of the Stalybridge plaques were photographed between two meeting I was involved in that Sunday.

14. Birch Lane, Dukinfield

14 Birch Lane, Dukinfield

Close to The Albion Hotel, an iconic Dukinfield bus stop.

15. Crescent Road/Chapel Street, Dukinfield

15 Crescent Road, DukinfieldOur first of two plaques close to the War Memorial.

16. Chapel Hill, Dukinfield

16 Crescent Road, Dukinfield

For anyone entering Dukinfield from Manchester, a reassuring sign you were near home. For me, when I used to get the evening 220 service from ‘town’ (God rest its soul!) this had a similar effect on me.

17 and 18: Riverside, Dukinfield.

17 and 18 Riverside, DukinfieldOur first one must have been one of the last generation of orange plaques, given the fading of the transfers. The second example dates from the start of deregulation when the 351 was accompanied by a second route via Park Road.

19: Foundry Street, Dukinfield (Southbound)

19 Foundry Street, Dukinfield

Added at the time when Foundry Street junction was remodelled for the then new Morrisons store, ready for June 1986.

20. Clark Way, Hyde (northbound)

20 Clark Way, Hyde

Seen close to the M67 motorway bridge near Morrisons. Hyde’s branch opened as Fine Fare in 1976 before a succession of takeovers led to the Hyde Department Store becoming Morrisons. This was ten years before Dukinfield’s branch opened.

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Part Two: from Hyde Park to Boyd’s Walk

In our next Bus Plaque Attack, we shall see quite a few from Hyde and Dukinfield. Plus, how two of the plaques required a degree of gymnastics involving a dog to get good images.

S.V., 27 July 2015.

2 thoughts on “101 Bus Direction Signs: A Tameside Garage Oddity (Part One)

  1. I’m not sure they fell entirely out of use when Tameside garage closed. Certainly I remember a lot of new white ones being installed around the time when the garage closure was looming. And if you think about it, that was a perfect time to install them. Routes once being served out of Ashton suddenly were now coming from Oldham, Stockport and Manchester depots. There were a lot of lost drivers at that time!

    The first Monday after the closure I had to help one driver who was stuck, confused in Newton where he was desperately looking for the 350 route to Hey Farm. No white signs were going to help him, but the 346 was pretty well signed.

    Amazing though, after all these years, that so many still exist.


    1. Hi Andrew,

      Indeed it was. Perhaps this could explain the amount of changes and renumbering schemes that today’s 348 route had till now (reflected by the plaques). From 1986, it was the 351 and remained so till the early 1990s. There was also its sister routes the 336 and the 338 and the 348.

      Pennine Blue also ran the 348 and there was some extensions to Denton. Then, by 1993 (Pennine’s acquisition by Badgerline), they became circular routes: the 32, 33, 34 and 35. Mayne of Manchester’s 232 – 235 services sat neatly alongside them, though to Manchester city centre.

      I too am surprised at the numbers. Sometime around 2008, I remember seeing a similar ‘idiot board’ on the outskirts of Halifax. Theirs used a Helvetica Narrow Bold typeface.

      Bye for now,



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