I waited at the bus stop along with a few other potential passengers and soon the H37 glided up and swooshed to a stop.  The door sprung open and in we got.  No one seems to use money anymore on a bus and we each took our turn to bring our Oyster Cards or Freedom Passes to the yellow disc, which allowed our trips to be noted and a suitable amount to be removed from our respective balance.  This was performed under the watchful gaze of the driver.  Once accounts had been rendered we shot off again and the bus rocked as if we were at sea.

Oyster and Freedom Cards is now the method of choice to pay for a ride on buses, under- and overground trains and trams 
on TRANSPORT for LONDON vehicles
Top Left: The lady who sold me my Oyster Card, which is sold with a wallet (Centre)

I cannot get used to the new numbering of the bus routes in London.  How on earth does one arrive at a system whereby the bus route is called H37?  I assumed at first that the H meant Hounslow, but it still bears this letter even when the bus is travelling towards Richmond!  Better to accept the fanciful ideas of Transport for London and delve no further into the minds of those responsible.  Better to sit and look out of the window and watch the houses and sites of Twickenham and environs roll by.

 Various Bus Types used on Route H37

We were soon racing along the Twickenham Road and coming into Isleworth where we squeeched to a half at the Isleworth War Memorial.  The War Memorial is located close to Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church and has a clock face on all sides.   Although, according to a number of local newspaper articles, the design of the memorial was still under discussion in January 1922, a final decision was evidently made soon after and it was unveiled in June of that year.

Isleworth War Memorial (Left) and Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Bridget's Roman Catholic Church (Upper Right)

The bus turned and swayed on until Isleworth Train Station, which was the first permanent station in Isleworth.  Prior to its construction, a temporary station had been built east of Wood Lane, about 400 or so yards from the current site.  The temporary station, opened in August 1849 and named Hounslow Station, and allowed the train service to operate until the bridges, embankment and station buildings of the permanent station were built.  Following this, the temporary station’s name was changed to Smallberry Green.  The present station opened in February 1850 and was named Isleworth Station, but in 1855 its name was changed to Spring Grove and Isleworth only to be returned to Isleworth in August 1911.

 Isleworth Train Station showing the line to Hounslow

A new passenger got on the bus at the station and came and sat next to me, causing me to move over a lot to allow her the full half of the seat.  As a result, I did not notice the bus’ progression and only noticed my surroundings once we were turning on to the London Road.

 Who lived in Isleworth?
Sir Joseph Banks, bontanist and traveller on The Beagle (Top left); William Turner (Top middle); Vincent van Gogh lived here in 1873 while working for an art dealer in London (Top right); David Attenborough was born here (Bottom left); 
and William Harnell, the first Dr. Who, seen here with The Tardis (Bottom right)

As the bus raced along, it suddenly hit me!  We were on the London Road and we were in Isleworth!  And then, there on the right, just up the road a short way was the Odeon Isleworth!  I immediately reached out and pressed the button and the bus slammed to a halt much to the grumblings of the driver and passengers.  Apparently I ought to have rung it earlier.  I paid no attention to the murmurings of my fellow passengers.  I was far too excited.  I sprang from my seat and quickly jumped from the bus!   

There it was – that glorious building!  The Odeon was still there!  Evidently it had survived the fate that had befallen so many cinemas and had not been demolished.  I stood there and admired the building for although not demolished, it had nonetheless changed, but in spite of this, it was still the Odeon!

 The Odeon Isleworth as it was in 1935 (Left) ....... and as it is now (right)

I could not believe my good fortune.  Quite by chance I had come to Isleworth that day and quite by chance I had discovered the old Odeon once more.  I stood there looking at the building, and while I did, an old woman out walking, seeing me lost in my own thoughts, stopped and asked me if I was lost.  I said no and told her that I was admiring the old Odeon.  She smiled and said that she remembered it as a cinema and had gone there many times with her husband.  I asked her if she liked how it looked now and she said that it still had a certain charm.  We chatted and I told her how I had found the building in 1956, quite by chance, while in the area looking at the trolleybuses.  After chatting further for a while, we bade each other good-bye and I crossed the street to examine the Odeon further.

I later learned that with the closure of the Odeon Isleworth as a cinema in 1957, the new owners removed the interior décor and turned it into a film studio for the making of advertisements.  Although the building was renamed Isleworth Studios, the original Odeon sign remained on display on an external side wall where it was to stay until 1993.

 The building as a film sudio; note the 'O-N' of the word ODEON on the right.

In 1999, the building was sold to Equator Films and continued to be used as a studio.  Howver with its subsequent sale to Spring Grove Investments in 2001, it ceased to be used as a studio.  In May 2002, as the auditorium was of no further use, it was demolished.  Fortunately the front entrance block including the façade was retained along with the adjacent parade of shops and were restored to original design and bore the name, Odeon Parade.  Where once stood the auditorium, a number of apartments were built and arranged around a central courtyard.  The now-restored one-time entrance of the cinema became skillfully incorporated into the new design as an entrance to the apartments.

 Odeon Parade, Isleworth

The façade of the cinema had been beautifully restored and looked majestic.  The shops were also restored although one was vacant during my visit.  Upon closer inspection of the old box office area of the cinema had now taken on a completely new function.  It had become of all things a Chinese Restaurant!  I looked inside, but could not go in as they were on the verge of closing.  Obviously it would be necessary to return, but it could be after another fifty years!

A beautiful building from any side .......

I spent a long time looking at the building, but eventually it was time to leave as I was expected elsewhere and needed to get back to Central London.  During my journey back, I could not get over my luck at finding the old Odeon and being able to see it in its restored glory.

.......  and remarkable from any angle

There was little doubt about it, finding the Odeon and seeing that it had not succumb to the wrecker's ball was going to be the highlight of my trip.  The only thing missing and which would have made it even better was to find trolleybuses rumbling along the street once again.  

Still, alas you can’t have everything, can you?  As Bette Davis said in Now Voyager ........... Oh Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon.  We have the stars.


Footnote:  While writing this piece, thanks to Kenneth Henderson in Melbourne, I learned that there had been another film studio in Isleworth, Worton Hall Studios.  Worton Hall was a country house built in 1783 and rebuilt in the early 19th Century and then converted into film studios in 1913.  In 1936, Alexander Korda produced H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come there and in 1948, The Third Man began its shooting here and, shortly before the studios closed in 1951, part of The African Queen was filmed here.



Manny Norman wrote:

I have just had a good look at all your trolleybuses and the Isleworth Odeon.  They bring back some happy memories for me.
Firstly, I remember bus spotting with my brother and a few pals when we were young and living in England.  We lived in Harrow during the 1940s and I can remember six different bus routes that served our area:

  •   114 Rayners Lane to Stanmore;
  •  140 Hayes Station to Mill Hill at that time *;
  • 158 Ruislip Lido to Watford;
  • 183 Pinner to Golders Green;
  • 187 South Harrow to somewhere in Ealing, I recall; and
  • 18 –  Edgware to Wembley and was extended to London Bridge on Sundays.
 *  I believe that this route now connects Heathrow Airport to Harrow Weald Garage.
I am surprised that I can remember the numbers of these routes after all of these years!

However what really interested us about these routes were the buses that served them and the stock numbers that appeared on the sides of every bus in service.

Routes 114, 158 and 140 were serviced by STL buses; route 183 by STD buses (diesels); route 18 by G buses, which were provided with utility wooden seats called slatted upholstery; and route 187 by old ST buses, which we used to call these buses,  long at the front, because of their projecting cabin.

Left: The STL was the standard General/LPTB double-decker bus operating in London from 1932 to 1939.  Although standard, they varied in appearance over the years.  The photograph shows
STL 469 at Clapham Transport Museum in 1961.
(Photograph taken by Geoff Bannister)

Right: Mr. Norman's reference to the STD servicing route 183 was to the pre-war batch of on hundred  Leyland TD4s built to resemble the STL.  These buses remained in service until the early 1950s.  During this time they operated on route 183 and were housed at Hendon Garage (code AE).  The photograph shows STD 12 soon after its introduction operating on route 52, which is another route serviced by Hendon Garage. (Photograph by London Transport)

Left: There were 435 austerity Guys produced, which were mainly delivered towards the end of the the Second World War or just after its conclusion.  The photograph shows G 150 in service on route 18.
(Photograph taken by Alan B. Cross)

Right: The ST double-decker bus was the precursor of the STL.  It was a shorter AEC Regent bus built between 1929 and 1932.  The photograph is of a standard ex-General vehicle, ST 821, now preserved and seen here at Clapham Transport Museum in 1961.
(Photograph taken by Geoff Bannister)

We did not have trolleybuses in the area where I lived.  I thought that the nearest were in Greenford and traveled to Wembley, but I have learned that there were no trolleybuses at Greenford.  Apparently the nearest service was route 607 at Ealing, which ran along the Uxbridge Road.  I also remember trolleybuses on the Harrow Road, which I have learned were routes 662, traveling between Edgware and Paddington Green and 664, in service between Wembley and Paddington Green.

Trolleybus number 1529 (Class L3) is seen here in service on route 662 at Paddington Green during its last weekend of service
in January 1962.
(Photograph taken by Geoff Bannister)

In one of your stories you mention going into bus garages.  Like you, my brother and I were thrown out of quite a few too!  Our most memorable was Turnham Green where we had bagged the first RTL double-decker bus (RTL 501).  

 RTL 139 servicing route 15 traveling towards Aldgate

However, I also remember a more pleasant experience thanks to a friendlier employee when we went to Romford Garage.  He was very kind to us and took us into the main office and gave us a great deal of information about London Transport buses, including a list of all the number of the buses housed at the garage, which I seem to recall were mostly D-type buses.  After this, he took us on a tour of the garage.

Romford Garage (code RE) was a garage which housed green livery double-decker buses and operated Green Line ServicesGreen Line routes had been suspended during the Second World War and were resumed only when hostilities were halted.  Romford Garage was allocated 37 D buses.  The photograph shows D 69 at 
Aldgate Terminus in service on route 722.
(Photograph taken by Prince Marshall)

Of course, we were never without our Ian Allen book on London Transport Buses and Coaches containing the complete list of the stock number of the buses that were in service at that time.  

After a day of bus-spotting and jotting down the number we had seen, we returned home and religiously underlined each number in our books.  I remember that probably our best haul of new buses seen was during the 1948 Olympics at Wembley Stadium.  Here we were lucky enough to see such rare bus types as C, CR and Q types.

Left: The CR was a single-decker Leyland Cub with a rear transverse-engine seating 20 passengers and was designed for short rural routes.  As a result of the war, they spent most time in storage because of a shortage of spare parts.  Some of these buses saw service as extras in the rush hour after the war and during the Olympics.  Only a handful operated during normal service.  The photographer notes that he often saw one in green livery at Epsom Station on a route to a new housing estate in the early 1950s.  
CR 14 is shown here at Clapham Transport Museum in 1961.
(Photograph by Geoff Bannister)

Right: The Q was a single-decker bus with a side engine and 238 were built between 1933 and 1936.  These buses were considered to have cutting edge engineering pioneered by AEC and Leyland.
Of the total, 234 of them had slightly different layouts.  Central Area red livery Qs were built with an open platform at the very front, forward of the wheels while Country Area and Green Line versions (both in green livery) were built with a shorter front overhang and a central entrance.  Country Area Q 55 is shown here at Clapham Transport Museum in 1961.
(Photograph by Geoff Bannister)

I notice that the cost of the Ian Allen book was half-a-crown, which was quite a lot of money for a child in the 1950s and before.  My father used to give me this amount each week when I was young for arranging his sheet music in the various folders designated for each instrument that was needed for his band member for his BBC Radio programs.  I assume that this is how I must have afforded the other books that I had, which included various train-spotting books, one for the LMS (London-Midland-Scotish Railway), LNER (London-North Eastern Railway), GWR (Great Western Railway) and SR (Southern Railways).  We also spent a great deal of times at the end of numerous platforms in the major London train terminals, especially Euston.

I remember that when the buses arrived at Harrow Wealdstone Station, the conductor always dropped Harrow and only called out Wealdstone Station, L, M and S, but would add in an amusing tone, 'ell of a mess!  This addition was made long before the tragic train accident of 1952  where many people were tragically killed.  I am sure that after this the addition was dropped too.

A bus that I remember was Old Bill, which was a vehicle from the one-time London General Omnibus Company and was of the B class.  This bus had been in service during the First World War and had transported troops to France.  The bus was brought out of retirement occasionally and formed part of the funeral processions of London Transport dignitaries

 Old Bill - B-Type Bus - shown here at the Imperial War Museum in London

By the way, in the fourth part of your series, The Odeon Isleworth, did I see a picture of J. Arthur Rank?  My father knew him and would mention him on occasion, but I never met him myself. There was an Odeon in South Harrow close to where we used to live.  Although the exterior was perhaps not as spectacular as the one in Isleworth, we nevertheless like it and used to go there on Saturday mornings to see, amongst other things, cartoons with Donald Duck and Deadwood Dick!  We also used to go to the café associated with the cinema and to Genners, the department store adjacent to it.

 The Odeon South Harrow - the Odeon Cafe and Genners are seen in the photograph on the left

 J. Arthur Rank, later Baron Rank
 Deadwood Dick and Donald Duck
Here is the song I (almost) remember that we were supposed to sing on Saturday mornings:
To the Odeon, we have come.
Now we’re all together,
We can have some fun.
We’re a hundred thousand strong,
So how can we be wrong ……. ?

Unfortunately I don’t remember the rest of it!  In 1994, I went back to Harrow on a visit, but sadly the Odeon South Harrow was no longer there and the space was now occupied by apartments.

Thanks for the memories!


I would like to thank Manny for his letter and for sharing his great memories with us.  I also extend my thanks to Geoff Banister for allowing photographs from his collection to be shown here and for providing additional information about them and on the bus routes.
Regarding The Odeon Song that Manny mentioned, I have not found his song, but I have found another which can be heard here.  I have to admit that when I went to Saturday Morning Pictures as a child, we were never asked to sing such a song.





And, as the French say, a la prochaine!