Group History

The Beginnings 

The history of the Minibus Group is inextricably linked with the provision of help and assistance to the local community. In 1973, the Care Group formed to provide emergency help to those in need. This included such activities as collecting prescriptions and transporting people to hospitals, dentists, doctors and so on. It also went further and helped people in their homes providing assistance with events like getting into bed, meals and shopping.

In 1975, the Thursday Lunch Club formed, at Bishop’s Waltham House, and people were referred there by doctors and social workers. A year or so later, this concept was adopted on a wider scale and developed into a Pop-In Club, held at the Congregational Church Hall on Tuesdays, open to young and old for light lunches and some instruction in crafts.

Both these Clubs moved to Priory Court in 1977, and it became difficult to continue to cater for very young people so the Pop In Club became the Tuesday Lunch Club (with some activities taking place in the afternoon).

In 1978 the Gateway Club formed, and, due to popular demand of the Lunch club concept, in 1980, the Monday Lunch Club started.

In 1981, all three Lunch Clubs - Monday, Tuesday and Thursday - moved to the Jubilee Hall.


Formation of the Minibus Group

During these development stages, transport had been made available through a minibus run by the Red Cross in Swanmore. However, it soon became clear that a dedicated Bishop’s Waltham bus would be invaluable.  Step forward the original Committee Members!

  • Mrs Sylvia Bondsfield

  • Mr Eric Cole

  • Mrs Janet Clarke

  • Mrs Christine Fletcher

  • Mrs Sandy Kara

  • Mr R G Knight

  • Mrs Helen Hills

  • Mr Bryan Pragnell

  • Mrs Sally Stubbington

  • Mrs Pat Carpenter

  • Mr Ivan Watling

The First Minibus 

The committee raised sufficient funds to buy the initial minibus, a Fiat "Daily", in 1984. Fund raising was, and still is, a key part of the success of the Group and grateful thanks are offered to the organisations that help, especially the Bishop’s Waltham Rotary Club, Bishops Waltham Fire Brigade and Meon Valley Lions Club, and many individual donations. Many of these original committee members are still active but new volunteers, in any capacity, are always welcome.

Group History - 1st Minibus.jpg

The Second Minibus 

After 40,000 miles, the first bus was de-commissioned and replaced by a £27,000 Peugeot Talbot Freeway in 1990. This popular bus was an improvement on the previous one with a lift fitted to enable the carriage of wheelchair passengers and the facility to remove and re-position seats inside.
However, time and use took their toll and, after a further 7 years, it became necessary to replace the vehicle again.

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The Third Minibus 

This time, with a great deal of help from Bishops Waltham Rotarians, the Group opted for a Ford Transit which, again, had internal flexibility and a lift for wheelchairs as well as boasting an automatic door which was popular with the drivers who could now operate it from a seated position!  In Dec 2004, the Group, again magnificently supported by Bishop’s Waltham Rotarians, funded a major refurbishment to the bus, replacing the seats with a more modern design and adding reversing aids. Having acquired its own Minibus, the Group was in a good position to extend its services to Dial-a-Ride and to other worthy organisations.  The Transit lasted over 9 years until it, too, needed replacing.

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The Fourth Minibus

Once again, a magnificent fund-raising effort brought together £45,000 for the successor, an Iveco 14 seater, delivered in 2008. This was a hi-tech bus, with automatic gears and electronic operated everything which could cause the drivers some frustration when the bus decided to take control of events. Nevertheless, once got used to, the bus was a fine vehicle to drive, though being quite narrow, some passengers found the seats rather small.

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The Fifth Minibus

A number of committee members visited a display of minibuses in Basingstoke in September 2012 to choose one that would most meet the needs of the Minibus Group.  The Citroen Relay, adapted by Courtside Conversions, looked very suitable and was examined later by both drivers and passengers.  In the event, the very similar Fiat Ducalto was chosen because it had automatic gears and had proven more reliable.  The new minibus was delivered on 14th November 2014.

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