Family coach firm has proud new owners

Paul Hodgson, on the left, with his wife Jan, hands over the reins to Peter Nelson and his wife Nina.
Paul Hodgson, on the left, with his wife Jan, hands over the reins to Peter Nelson and his wife Nina.

A family coach business which has been operating in the Ribble Valley since the 1930s has new owners.

Hodder Motor Services has been taken over by another respected local business P & S Travel owned by Pendleton lad born and bred Peter Nelson and his wife Nina.

The name Hodder Motor Services will be retained with the company continuing to operate from its base on the Pendle Trading Estate at Chatburn.

Paul Hodgson, who started work in the family business in 1965, will semi-retire, but continue to work alongside Peter and Nina for the foreseeable future.

A huge part of Ribble Valley life, Hodder Motor Services started off in Slaidburn as a small haulage firm under the ownership of John Hodgson, the brother of Paul’s grandfather William. Its lorries, which carried coal, lime and other products to local farms during the week, were converted to charabancs at the weekends carrying passengers. The firm had two garages in Slaidburn and its original vehicles were built in Clitheroe by Matt Nicholls.

Realising there was a growing need for a bus service from the Hodder Valley to Clitheroe, the firm diversified into passenger travel with Paul’s father Stanley becoming a coach driver for the firm in the 1930s transporting passengers from Slaidburn to Clitheroe and operating a service via Whitewell.

“The coaches were always full on a Saturday night leaving Clitheroe to get back to Slaidburn,” said Paul. “Passengers who wanted to travel even had to sit on the front wings of the coaches sometimes.”

Paul also remembers being told how one of the drivers had to use a local lady’s knicker elastic as a temporary fix when the accelerator cable broke on one of the coaches. The bad winters and heavy snowfalls also stick in Paul’s memory with drivers often facing treacherous conditions on the Hodder Valley’s country lanes.

Paul, who joined the family business in the mid-60s, still remembers driving his car around the local farms to pick up children before taking them to one of the coaches that would subsequently drive them to school. This even included school services to Settle in North Yorkshire which the firm operated in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

At its peak, Hodder Motor Services had 15 coaches were parked in its garages which used to be opposite where Waterloo Timber is now on Clitheroe’s inner link road.

In 1968, the firm moved its base to Chatburn’s Pendle Trading Estate and, in the early 70s, Hodder Motor Services added Blackburn bus company Wearden’s to its portfolio. This acquisition saw Hodder Motor Services conduct tours throughout Great Britain during the 70s and Euoropean destinations in the80s.

With the couple’s three children pursuing other career paths, Paul and his wife Jan, who has dealt with the firm’s admin for more than 30 years, wanted to sell the firm to like-minded people who would preserve and build on Hodder Motor Services good reputation.

P & S Travel, which started trading in 2009, operates six mini-buses/coaches ranging from 16 to 33 seaters, used for school services and private hire.

The acquisition of Hodder Motor Services adds two 49 seater coaches to this fleet.

Peter Nelson, the proud new owner of Hodder Motor Services, said: “The decision to acquire Hodder seemed a natural way for P & S Travel to expand an already successful business especially as Paul Hodgson was, and still is, very keen to work with us both driving and sharing his expertise and experience which will ensure that Hodder continues to serve its customers.

“The intention is to continue to operate the business in a similar way to Paul and Jan, but it is possible over time that there will be some small changes which will be aimed at improving the customer experience such as being able to take payments over the phone, a website and eventually online booking facilities.

“Whilst the long term aim is to develop and grow the business at no point will this compromise the quality of customer experience. If anything we are optimistic that the vehicles we already operate will enhance the quality of Hodder product by enabling door to door pick up for tours across the Ribble Valley.”