This service has seen the longest continuous operation of any of Oldham's bus services, as the section from Oldham to Middleton Junction has run without interruption from its inception to the current date.
The original service ran from Clegg Street to Middleton Junction station and commenced operation on 1st August 1925. From 29th September 1926 the Oldham terminus was moved to Chaucer Street (referred to as Star Inn). From there it went along King Street, St. Domingo Street, and Middleton Road to Lansdowne Road, Cow Hill, Denton Lane and Foxdenton Lane.
The original Middleton Junction terminus is referred to as Grimshaw Lane Car terminus, the end of a short tram service from Middleton which had been operated by Middleton Electric Traction Company until they were acquired by the corporations of Manchester, Rochdale and Oldham on 16th June 1925, only months before the C commenced. Oldham was never involved in the operation of trams to Middleton Junction, which were replaced by buses on the 54 service from 1st April 1935. Some workings, numbered 54X, ran from Middleton to Foxdenton Park in summer 1939. This involved passing through the low Grimshaw Lane bridge at Middleton Junction station and therefore, as has been the case with the C and its successors, only single-deckers could be used.
The terminus at Middleton Junction was referred to as Greengate Street by 1939, but it is not clear whether this was actually the same terminus. With that exception the service remained unchanged until 26th March 1950, when it was extended through Oldham along Yorkshire Street, Mumps. Bottom o'th Moor, Huddersfield Road and Ripponden Road to Moorside when it climbed up to serve the housing estate at Strinesdale along Turf Pit Lane. Although Yorkshire Street was two-way at this time, inward journeys from Strinesdale travelled along Union Street to Star Inn and then up George Street due to various objections, including from the police.
The service was extended at the other end in November 1956, the terminus moving from Greengate Street to the end of Mainway. Mainway was originally planned as a through road from Manchester New Road to Greengate but plans were later changed and the road had two separate sections. The Middleton Junction end later became Mainway East. I believe originally buses turned using Brookside Crescent but later, and presumably with the development of Alkrington, they used the roundabout at the junction with Kingsway.
On 8th September 1957 services along Ripponden Road were rationalised and Strinesdale served by a diverted 5. The C was then diverted to the very top of Oldham at Bar Gap Road, on Oldham Edge. It reached there from Market Place along Henshaw Street, Lord Street, Rifle Street (I believe), Radcliffe Street and Henshaw Street again.
By this date there had been a change to the service in Chadderton, with the C no longer using Denton Lane but following the same route as the B along Fields New Road.
From 22nd September 1963 the 7 service exchanged termini with the C, with the C being diverted to follow the route of the unsuccessful Egerton Street tramway, which had closed as early as 14th September 1912 (having already closed once). The service ran up Lord Street to Rock Street and Egerton Street and continued via Shaw Road to Higginshaw, but was later diverted along Higginshaw Road.
Following the introduction of the town centre one-way scheme on 22nd March 1965 buses from Higginshaw were diverted down George Street and along Barn Street to King Street, St. Domingo Street and then down West Street and Middleton Road. Buses in the other direction were not affected.
On 1st April 1968 the C was renumbered 15. From 29th December the same year it was converted to one-man operation. Operation passed to SELNEC Southern Division from 1st November 1969 and it was renumbered 415 in the SELNEC scheme from 2nd December 1973.
The construction of St. Mary's Way led to the closure of Rock Street and buses continued further up Lord Street before briefly joining St. Mary's Way to reach Egerton Street.
The service was extended through Alkrington to Middleton in 1975/6. The route from Mainway East was along Kingsway, Hardfield Road, Kirkway, Townley Street and Oldham Road to the bus station.
Deregulation on 26th October 1986 saw the service truncated at both ends to become an Oldham to Alkrington service, the terminal loop being formed by Kingsway, Hardfield Road, Kirkway and back along Kingsway. In Oldham the service terminated at Mumps and followed the usual one-way loop going down Yorkshire Street to Mumps, returning along Union Street and Clegg Street to serve the bus station in Town Square.
By May 1990 the service had returned to the earlier terminus in Middleton, using the same route, and had also been extended from Mumps up Greenacres Road to Greenacres, replacing the 343 which then used Huddersfield Road. Bee Line were by now also involved in the operation of the Sunday service.
From 21st April 1991 GM Buses took over the Sunday workings from Bee Line. By September 1992 Market Place had been closed to buses and from Town Square buses travelled to Middleton along Yorkshire Street, St. Mary's Way and Cheapside. They also resumed the route down the upper part of West Street they had used from 1950 to 1965. In the opposite direction buses used West Street, Cheapside, St. Mary's Way and Lord Street.
From 3rd October 1993 Citibus became the Sunday operator, but this ceased by April 1996.
From 27th March 1995 the service was extended from Middleton to Langley via Wood Street, Windermere Road and Bowness Road. From 1st April 1997 the service was further extended at the other end along Greenacres Road, Stamford Road, St. John's Street, Lees High Street, Hartshead Street and Lees New Road to Holts Estate. However, the route did not operate long at its maximum extent as from 30th June 1997 the extension to Langley was withdrawn, having been split in Middleton a week earlier on the 23rd June.
Universal Buses started their own 415 service from Greenacres to Middleton on 27th June 1999 and First Manchester responded with additional journeys on 10th July followed by more on 6th September. Universal curtailed their operation to between Chadderton and Oldham from 9th October 1999 and withdrew from the service altogether on 13th February 2000.
From 23rd April 2006 evening and Sunday services were reduced to operate only from Oldham to Middleton. The Sunday journeys were operated as a tendered service by JPT.
Following the closure of Park Road in Middleton, the route into the bus station was modified from the Long Street/Assheton Arms junction via Assheton Way, Oldham Road and Manchester New Road to the bus station.
Town Square bus station closed from 1st October 2004, although some stands still remain in use. 2012/13 have seen various diversions in the Town Centre as Metrolink work progressed along Union Street.
It remained in this form until major service revisions from 28th October 2012 saw the section from Oldham to Holts replaced by a diversion of the 350 and an extension of the 81A. The 415 starting on that date from Oldham bus station.
© David Beilby