The Priory Motor Coach Company was founded and established in 1929 at North Shields by a man called George Chapman. Coaches were garaged at premises situated at Queen Street, North Shields though the office and operating centre was based at George’s home, which was located at No. 33 Waterloo Place. The house had in evidence a stained glass fanlight above the front door depicting Tynemouth Priory, which may have given rise to the choice of name for the company.
In later years, the business moved to a shop situated at No. 59 Church Way, North Shields where it has remained to the present day.
The company survived throughout World War 2 and by the late 1940s Priory were running over 40 coaches on a private hire basis, as well as operating tours and excursions throughout the North of England. Many of the coaches in those days were built to a maximum of 33 seats and were liveried in dark green and cream, before becoming two-tone green in 1969.
George Chapman died in the mid-1950s and his widow Mary continued to run the business in conjunction with the then Transport Manager, Jack Watson.
In 1965, the business was eventually sold and came into the hands of a Selby Blenkinsop, who with a consortium also owned Team Valley Dairies at Gateshead. However, Jack Watson continued to run the company on their behalf.
During this time, a number of changes took place within the company, and new split-level garage premises were acquired at Northumberland Street, North Shields, with workshop facilities on the lower level.
The same year, a man called Stuart Lee took up employment with Priory Coaches as a fitter and remained with the company for a number of years.
In 1973 Jack Watson died, as a result of which Stuart took over as Transport Manager, and in later years he purchased shares in the company along with other employees.
Over the years the fleet was reduced in size, and in 2001 the company operated just 10 coaches. It was during this year that Stuart retired from the business, selling out the company to a Mr Jed Patrick.
Priory Coaches are still well known in the area with their redesigned and distinctive modern livery, and their success story continues.
With grateful thanks to Mr Stuart Lee for his assistance in the preparation of this article.
by Charlie Steel © 2013
His published books include ‘Monkseaton Village’ Vols 1 & 2, and ‘North Shields Public Houses, Inns & Taverns Part 1’, all of which are available from most local booksellers.