The bus to Norwich


As proposed changes to the 37A bus service are an active topic of debate at the moment, it seems a good time to take a look at the history of the bus service from Forncett to Norwich. From 1850 until the early 1900s, transport into Norwich from Forncett was provided by carriers using a horse-drawn carriage. The trade directories of the late 19th century show that there was a regular return service on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

In 1908 the carrier, William Knott, retired and the service was taken over by Walter Smith, who lived at Maltings Farm in Forncett End. Then, in 1916, Walter Smith started the first omnibus service to Norwich. His bus was built on a conventional lorry chassis and was fitted with solid rubber tyres, so the journey was probably not very comfortable! The service was still twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Walter Smith's bus in Norwich

Walter's granddaughter, Muriel Pymer, recalled that: "He would carry parcels and do shopping for folk along the way. He was held in great respect in the neighbourhood for he was a generous-hearted fellow. His customers were many and included the Cavell household at the rectory in Swardeston (the family of Edith Cavell)."

However, Muriel also noted that"Later Grandpa took to making calls at pubs and stopped too often! His behaviour lost him much of his reputation and made Grandma Smith very unhappy."

This loss of reputation may go some way to explaining why, in around 1920, a second bus service was set up by Chellis Humphreys, Walter Smith's brother-in-law. The driver was Chellis's son, Norman Humphreys, and initially the service ran on the same days (Wednesdays and Saturdays).

Demand for the bus service obviously increased steadily so that by 1933 the Humphreys were running a daily service to Norwich and Walter Smith's bus (driven by his son Eric) ran to Norwich three times a week.

You can read much more about the Forncett bus service here.