genealogy of the Bird and Musgrove families
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Jonathan (1837 - 1906) and William Shaw (1865 – 1918)

My wife’s great great and great grandfathers both worked for the London General Omnibus Company at their stables in Paddington as stablemen and grooms to the horses.

London's first regular bus service was begun in 1829 by a firm of coach builders and livery stable keepers.  Following their success, a number of independent operators sprung up until, in 1855, the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) took over 80% of the network.

Buses were overcrowded and the route from Paddington to the City took an hour - quicker than today then !  In 1836 The Times newspaper printed a set of instructions intended to provide an etiquette for passengers using this new type of transport which could well apply in the 21st century including one I particular like : "Do not spit on the straw.  You are not in a hogsty but in an omnibus travelling in a country which boasts of its refinement."


Operating a horse drawn bus was an expensive business. Each bus required 12 horses to stay on the road. As well as the cost of the horses and the bus itself, there was also the costs of stabling, food for the horses, and vet's fees to take into account. 

From around 1875, Jonathan Shaw and his family lived and worked at the stables at Queens Arms Yard, Paddington, where some of LGOC horses were housed.  By 1881, both 44 year old Jonathan and his 16 year old son William were described as "stableman (groom)".

These stables had a number of self contained rooms built above them for the families of those working at the yard.    Jonathan died aged 70 at his home, 3 Queens Arms Yard in 1906; his son, living at number 2, was in attendance.

Horse drawn omnibuses, so called from the Latin meaning "for all", continued in service until 1914 when the success of the motor bus (or "the horseless carriage") made the large horse workforce redundant.  17,000 horses were owned by L.G.O.C. in the heyday of horse buses. All were either sold, often to farmers, or sent to the knacker's yard to be destroyed.

Horse buses had been painted a variety of colours for different routes. From 1907 all LGOC motor buses were painted red and numbers differentiated routes as The Metropolitan Police insisted that every bus should display their route and destination clearly on both front and back. The last LGOC horse drawn “Blue Bus” ran from the Queen Arms Yard in Maida Vale on Wednesday, 4th October, 1911. This photograph was taken the day after and is being driven by William Shaw. 

The last LGOC horse-drawn bus ran three weeks later on 25 October 1911.

In 1912, the Underground Group, which owned most of the London Underground, bought LGOC.  In 1933, the Underground Group became part of the new London Passenger Transport Board. The name London General fell into disuse, and London Transport instead became synonymous with the red bus which we know and love.

Presumably, soon after the demise of the horse drawn bus, William Shaw was made redundant.  At some point between then, 1911, and 1913, William became a blacksmith, again his work being horse related.  He died in 1918. 


Acknowledgments : London Transport Museum; LGOC - Explore 20th Century London; Transport for London own copywrite of photo's relating to the stables.


Linked toJonathan Shaw; William Shaw

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