This route has an important part in the history of Saddleworth’s buses as it was on 31st August 1914 that Oldham Corporation started a bus service from Grains Bar to Denshaw which was the first such service to operate in Saddleworth.
The genesis of this service lay in the extension of the tram network from Grains Bar to Moorside which was the highest tram route in the country with a terminus at around 1150 feet above sea level. Oldham had started bus operation (from the Town Hall to Coppice) on 12th May 1913. This service only ran on weekdays and the popularity of the hills at Grains Bar led to the buses being used to run a Moorside to Grains Bar service from 16th May 1913 at times when there was a demand. This was usually on early closing day (Tuesday) and at weekends and at busy times two buses would be used.
The tram route extension opened on 4th June 1914 which made the bus service unnecessary, but a bus was soon deployed on the new route to Denshaw from 31st August 1914. However, the Great War brought about different needs and the service last ran on 27th August 1916.
Denshaw was served by North Western buses from 1925, but Oldham Corporation did not start to run to Denshaw until 15th April 1927. A new service was introduced from Oldham to Halifax. This was operated by Oldham Corporation and North Western and in agreement with Halifax Corporation. The initial service ran every 90 minutes through to Halifax but was reduced by October 1927 with only four through journeys (more to Denshaw) with a later start. These changes led to a record of a complaint about the reduced service.
On 26th July 1928 Oldham Corporation Tramways Committee approved a Heads of Agreement with North Western whereby Oldham’s operation would be restricted to a local service from Oldham to Denshaw. The timing avoided a dispute with West Riding County Council who had complained that Oldham’s operation on the route was unauthorised in the WRCC area apart from a short stretch which was presumably that in Saddleworth. They were threatening to institute proceedings for operation in excess of statutory powers but the North Western agreement allowed Oldham to say they were ceasing operation anyway. Oldham buses last ran to Halifax on 28th July 1928, just two days after the agreement was signed.
The Halifax service had been given the route letter ‘H’ in line with Oldham’s practice of using letters for bus services. Letters were allocated in order as new services were introduced and it is just a coincidence that H is the first letter of Halifax. The route letter continued to be used for the Oldham to Denshaw service until September 1957, when a reorganisation of services saw the introduction of a modified service 6 running from Chadderton Burnley Lane to Denshaw.
One unusual feature of the timetable was the lack of a morning service to Denshaw. For example in 1964 there were morning peak journeys from Denshaw every 15 minutes up to 0827, then there was a bus at 1030 and the next was at 1250 after which the service ran every 30 minutes (15 minutes in the evening peak).
From 22nd September the route was extended in Chadderton from Burnley Lane to Chadderton Hall Park. A more gradual development was the massive housing estate at Sholver and in 1969 some buses to Denshaw were diverted to serve this estate and given the service number 4. Due to the extra traffic from this development most journeys on the 4 were ones that terminated in Sholver. The through journeys to Denshaw were mainly in the evenings and on Sundays, the detour through Sholver adding seven minutes to the journey time.
The 4 and 6 were renumbered 404 and 406 respectively on 2nd December 1973. From 17th August 1975 the Denshaw service was separated from the other services using Ripponden Road (those to Sholver and Strinesdale) and linked with the 422 service to give a through service from Moston Greengate to Denshaw. This was a Limited Stop service between Oldham Mumps and Moorside and was co-ordinated with a 423 Moston to Strinesdale service.
A further rationalisation of services followed from 21st January 1985 when the 422 and 423 were withdrawn and the section to the north-east of Oldham replaced by extending the 408 service which had run from Stalybridge to Oldham. Buses for Denshaw turned off at Moorside to go to Pennine Meadows, which was the name for Strinesdale following the selling-off and refurbishment of the former council estate. They then returned to Moorside before continuing to Denshaw.
This service continued until deregulation, when Denshaw was served by the 556 and later on the 407 (q.v.). The last 408 to Denshaw ran on 25th October 1986.
© David Beilby