556 HISTORY  


556 was delivered new to The Thames Valley Traction Company in August 1951 and entered service at Reading garage where it remained until January 1958 when it was transferred to Newbury. It remained at Newbury until September 1960 when it was sold for further service with United Welsh retaining its Thames Valley fleet number 556.

After six years’ service, 556 was sold to Welsh independent Precelley Motors of Clynderwen in Carmarthenshire in October 1966. They operated 556 for two years before passing it on to nearby Jones Motor Services of Login in September 1968. 556 spent a further 10 years in service with Jones Motor Services (a total service life of almost 28 years) before being withdrawn circa May 1978 and sold to a preservationist.

Prior to 1982, 556 had been acquired by a farmer in Sussex (Haywards Heath, Uckfield, Burgess Hill area) who disposed of the seats and kept chickens in it. In September 1982, 556 was acquired from this Sussex farmer by Ward Jones of High Wycombe and restoration commenced.

A Thames Valley enthusiast acquired 556 from Ward, following which Ward continued to restore 556 on his behalf. The Bristol gearbox as fitted to 556 needs plenty of driving time to become accomplished. And the new owner found this a barrier to full mastery and enjoyment so he reluctantly decided to return 556 to Ward. He can be proud that the restoration work carried out during his ownership then enabled 556 to be rallied by several other owners for nearly 20 years before it was laid up in the early 2000s for a period of 14 years. When TV&GWOT obtained agreement to take 556 on loan in early 2015, we were able to drive her back from Worcestershire with only minor fuel issues at the start of the journey.

While on loan, 556 was maintained in roadworthy condition by TV&WOT giving public rides at events in the Thames Valley and Oxfordshire.  However, 40 years since the original restoration, signs of damage and deterioration were increasingly evident and the vehicle was looking rather shabby rather than an ambassador for TVTCo..

The success of the 556 Appeal in June 2020 and generosity of donors, enabled TV&GWOT to acquire 556 and invest the necessary resources to restore 556, securing the vehicle’s future and making a tangible contribution to preserving the Thames Valley’s transport heritage for celebrations in 2022 and public enjoyment in years to come


With 556, TV&GWOT has three former Thames Valley Traction Company vehicles in its permanent collection, the others being 152 (MO9324) our 1927 Tilling-Stevens B9 Express and 1946 Bristol K6A 446 (DBL154).  The special significance of 556 is that:
  · It was Thames Valley’s first 30ft long vehicle.
  · It is the oldest surviving former Thames Valley Bristol single deck bus.
  · It is the oldest preserved Bristol LL with its original body. 

556 is contemporary with and complementary to 446.

556 at Newbury.  © Paul Lacey Collection

556 with shiny paintwork after initial restoration some 40 years ago.  © Colin Billington Collection
556 at TV&GWOT’s Didcot running day with 446.  © Colin Billington

TV&GWOT is committed to holding 556 along with 152 and 446 within the charitable trust in perpetuity, ensuring that it will be kept in the Thames Valley and available for use at public running days and heritage events. The presence of 556 within our vehicle collection alongside our extensive archive and photographic collection has consolidated TV&GWOT’s position as the authoritative custodian of the heritage of The Thames Valley Traction Company. This gives a major boost to the Trust in pursuing its charitable objectives in relation to educating the public in the history of road passenger transport and increasing access to the historic vehicles which provide the experience of bygone travel.

Read more about the 556 restoration and how you can help


(C) Copyright The Thames Valley & Great Western Omnibus Trust

Company Registered in England No. 5035702.  Registered Charity No. 1125980