This was one of the initial North Western routes in Saddleworth and started in 1924. North Western were noted as having applied for licences for twenty buses (and for drivers and conductors) at a Saddleworth UDC meeting on 23rd April 1924. Oldham Watch Committee had approved the proposal in February, subject to minimum fares when competing with the trams to Waterhead and Lees.
It started originally from Rock Street in Oldham but by 1930 the terminus was (officially) Greaves Street (GPO), in which area it was to remain for many years.
At a special meeting with Mr Cardwell of North Western on 6th April 1925 Saddleworth UDC agreed to the use of double deck buses. This followed a demonstration and an undertaking to prune trees (which were quite dangerous on an open-top bus!).
North Western drew up a Heads of Agreement in 1928 with Oldham Corporation which resulted in co-ordination of the Oldham to Saddleworth services and led to North Western involvement on the 10, 13 and 14 (q.v.). Part of this agreement was that North Western would give up the Uppermill circular, but that does not seem to have happened and instead the operators realised it played a useful part in giving a more balanced service to Uppermill by providing a bus via Lees when the Manchester one went via Scouthead and vice versa.
Oldham Corporation gave it the route letter P and by the 1940s North Western had given it the number 153, although it was only in the postwar period that North Western actually displayed service numbers.
Originally Oldham worked clockwise (out from Oldham via Scouthead) and North Western anticlockwise, but at some time in the ‘fifties someone realised that North Western were always working on the ‘inside’ of the circle (their workings on the 13/14 were the same) and they were working less mileage as a result! As a consequence the workings were exchanged.
Oldham’s use of letter P was dropped about the same time, although this was a gradual process as older buses did not have 153 on the number blind. I recall seeing a PD1/3 working a P to Delph Station in the mid-sixties , although at the time I didn’t quite know what it was as the P was not in the timetable and Delph Station was not on the destination blind!
The service was hourly, except on Saturdays up to around 1968 when there were two journeys an hour which were combined with the 13 and 14 to give a twenty-minute frequency to Uppermill. There were also peak hour extras, mainly provided by North Western, and these caused a problem as they left Oldham via either Scouthead or Lees, but more modern North Western buses just displayed ‘153 Uppermill’. That could mean either way, as I once found to my cost!
Consequently, North Western renumbered their workings on the 155 Rochdale to Shaw service as 15, the number already used by the joint operator, Rochdale C.T. This freed 155 which was then used for clockwise journeys, which were the ones mainly worked by North Western.
Oldham converted the service to one-man operation from 29th December 1968, when the batch of six Leyland Panthers (172-177) had entered service.
The terminus in Oldham had been in Ashworth Street (behind Central baths) for many years, but North Western opened a new garage and bus station off Clegg Street and the 153 and 155 moved there when it opened on 15th May 1966. It was one of the few service buses to use this bus station (the others were the North Western 160 and Hanson services to Huddersfield), otherwise it was principally long-distance routes.
The bus station had a relatively short life, being closed with the merging of SELNEC Cheshire division (which was the remnant of the old North Western in Greater Manchester) with SELNEC Southern Division. The closure took place on 21st May 1973 and the 153 and 155 then terminated in West Street.
As part of a general renumbering of Oldham area services into a common Greater Manchester series, the 153 and 155 were renumbered 433 and 434 on 2nd December 1973. They did not last too long in that form, as from 21st July 1974 they were withdrawn and replaced be new services 431-4, which gave through links from Oldham to Carrcote and Diggle, but that is another story...
© David Beilby