In 1903 William Webster commenced trading as a haulage and removals contractor and passenger carrier, offering coach transport, and by 1931, Webster Bros (Wigan) offered excursions and tours to North Wales and Manchester.
In 1914, James Smith began operating coach tours from Wigan and Southport. The first tour was to John O'Groats. Webster Bros purchased James Smith's coach business in 1931, and a new company, James Smith & Co (Wigan) Limited, was formed. By 1935, Webster Bros (Wigan) marketed 'Webster's Tours', operated by James Smith & Co.
The first tours to Continental Europe were offered in 1938, continuing up until the outbreak of World War II. Smiths claimed to be the first company to operate coach tours to Europe after the war, with a sell-out 14-day tour to Switzerland in May 1946. In 1947, the company carried 6,000 passengers, of which more than 10% travelled to mainland Europe.
In 1958, Smiths was purchased by Les Gleave, and renamed Smith's Tours (Wigan). Wilf Blundell of Southport purchased Smith's Tours from Gleave in 1964.
Blundell began his coach operation with just one coach in 1950, later purchasing Blundells Coaches (Southport) Ltd in 1952, Enterprise Coaches Ltd in 1955, Poole's Coaches Ltd in 1958 and Tootle's Tours Ltd in 1960. This portfolio of companies formed Blundell Holiday Group Ltd.
Blundell purchased Spencer's Tours and Happiway Tours from Edwin Holden in 1968, merging both companies to form Happiway-Spencers Ltd. By 1975 Blundell's coaches were branded as Smiths Happiway-Spencers, and in 1980 the company Smiths Happiway-Spencers Ltd was formed, consolidating Blundell's coach operations.
Shearings was founded in 1919 in Oldham by Herbert Shearing. Shearings took over Eniway Motor Tours Ltd in 1935, a company offering express coach transport between Manchester and London.
On Herbert Shearings' retirement in 1949, two new companies were formed: Shearings Tours (Manchester) Ltd and Shearings Tours (Oldham) Ltd. In 1953 the business was sold to James Robinson, then-owner of Happiway Tours Ltd. Happiway Tours was sold to Edwin Holden, owner of Spencers Tours, in 1957. Robinson kept the Shearings Tours companies, consolidating them as Shearings Holidays Ltd in 1963, before selling the company to the Jackson family of Altrincham in 1964.
Jackson had purchased Pleasureways in 1955 and, following an agreement to share resources and pick-up points with Blackburn based Ribblesdale, their coaches being branded Shearings-Pleasureways-Ribblesdale, shortened to Shearings Ribblesdale in 1979 and Shearings Holidays in 1982.
MERGER WITH SMITHS HAPPIWAYS
In March 1982, Associated Leisure Limited acquired the Blundell Group including Smiths Happiways-Spencers. The Spencer name was quickly dropped, the company becoming Smiths Happiways. Associated Leisure acquired Shearings Holidays in January 1984 and later that year, Associated Leisure was bought by Pleasurama.
From 1985 Pleasurama's coaches were rebranded Smiths Shearings, but both companies continued to operate separate programmes until 1987, when the two were formally merged as Smiths Shearings.
MERGER WITH NATIONAL HOLIDAYS
National Holidays was established in 1976 to co-ordinate the coach activities of the state owned National Bus Company. As part of the privatisation of the National Bus Company, National Holidays was sold to Pleasurama in July 1986. Coaches in National Holidays livery were rebranded Shearings National in 1989. Also in 1989, Mecca Leisure Group purchased Pleasurama immediately dropping the Smiths name, and subsequently merging National Holidays with Shearings.
In 1988 the business of Jenkins, Skewen was purchased.
The Rank Organisation took over Mecca in 1990, and continued to own Shearings Holidays until selling it to a management buyout in 1996 backed by Bridgepoint Capital.
In March 1990 the business of Eagle Coaches, Tunbridge Wells was purchased with 25 buses and coaches followed in May 1990 by Gwalia Coaches, Llandudno Junction with 23 coaches.
MERGER WITH WALLACE ARNOLD
In February 2005 venture capitalist 3i, then owners of Shearings Holidays' main competitor Wallace Arnold, purchased a controlling stake in Shearings. 3i merged the two competitors under the WA Shearings brand.
In September 2007 WA Shearings was rebranded as Shearings Holidays. The merger included eight travel shops in Yorkshire, rebranded from Wallace Arnold Travel to WA Shearings. These kept the WA Shearings name until 2010, when they reverted to their original Wallace Arnold Travel name.
Thank you to the following people for allowing us to use their images: Eddie Evans (Spencers Coach in the 1950s), David Barlow (Wallace Arnold Coach in the 1960s), Ado Griff (Smiths Happiways Coach in the 1970s), Matt Forbes (Shearings Coach in the 2000s & Shearings Coach in 2013).