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Eagles Coaches History

127 years of carrying people!!

Martin Eagle is the fourth generation of the Eagle family to take the helm of the family coaching business, which can trace its passenger carrying credentials all the way back to 1882, making it the oldest established operator in Norfolk.  The world has changed completely in the intervening 127 years, but Eagles continue to meet the needs of the rural population they serve.

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James Eagle moved up from London to take on the George Public house in Newton by Castle Acre, bringing with him his young son – Martins great grandfather, who like him was called Martin James Eagle.  It was he who later took on Drurys Farm in Castle Acre, one of the most charming villages in Norfolk.  In 1882 he established a horse and carriage service and provided a Tuesday link between Castle Acre and Kings Lynn around 15 miles away.  As well as carrying goods and passengers, would often take along his greyhounds for a spot of hare coursing, selling anything he caught at Kings Lynn market.

In the early years of last century, heavy snow fell during a trip to Kings Lynn causing him to abandon the journey at The Crown Pub, Middleton, the last village before their destination.  He and around half a dozen passengers spent the following 2 weeks there until the snow thawed.  Apparently, the Telegraph from the village remained operational and was used to obtain a guarantee of sufficient funds for ale they were consuming!

Jack Eagle, son of Martin James Eagle, was born in 1900.  Jack inherited his father’s entrepreneurial instincts and took on his transport business, which he ran from quite an early age.  He did not officially become the proprietor until December 1950 shortly before his father died in 1952.

As well as the pub and his transport business, Jack also maintained a herd of cows, a dairy business, ran Stanguard Vanguard taxis, had coal rounds and undertook haulage for local farmers, never using anything bigger than a four-wheeler.

Horses continued to provide the motive power for the enterprise until around 1921 when the first bus was bought – a model T ford.

Details are hazy but it appears that there may have been 2, one of which had a long stay in the fleet because it was not sold until late 1931.  By this time, a couple of Ford AA’s with 14 and 20 seats respectively had been acquired, the larger of which stayed in the fleet until 1947.

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Jack was quite a character; pictures show him with either a flat cap or trilby and his wide breeches tucked into his socks.  He always wore boots or, if he was on land, wellies and a yellow rubber apron.  His idea of getting dressed up was to remove his wellies, take the apron off and change his hat!

When there was an escape from the farm a coach driver would be told “the cows are out, and you’ll have to help me”

Rarely on time Jacks philosophy was that it was better to run a few minutes late and not miss anyone, which would put him at odds with Modern Traffic Commissioners!  He would turn up at the yard for the 9.30am service at 9.25am change out of his wellies and depart at 9.32am.  Jack and Ettie had 2 children – John and June born 1930.  John was Martins father.  As he grew older, he helped Jack by delivering milk and working on the small holding and on his 21st birthday took and passed his PSV test.

Martin recalls how hard his father worked for his grandfather “In the days before tachographs he would often do a Saturday trip to London, which, with no motorways was probably 4 hours each way, wait there 7 hours and then come back, wash down and do the same the following day”

Jack continued to take charge of the company until his death at the age of 89 in 1989, John then took over but it was only for a short period as he died at a young age of 62 less than 2 years later.

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It was never Martins intention to become involved in the business because he had seen how hard his father had been, working all hours for little reward.

He trained as a bricklayer as he saw more money in doing so, though he had helped on the small holding as well as washing and cleaning the vehicles.  A smart second-hand 1973 Bedford Dominant 45-seater was bought shortly before Martins 21st birthday that no one else could drive until he was 21.  Martin took his test at Kings Lynn and passed 2nd attempt.  To this day he was sure that he would have passed first time, but his grandfather had not had the correct legal lettering put on the side and the examiner held it against him.  He has since acquired an articulated HGV licence.  Maintaining his fulltime bricklaying role, he drove Saturday services and occasional trips to the coast.

A school contract came up from Castle Acre to Swaffham’s Hammond High School via Sporle, a total distance of around 32 miles a day.  Jack offered him a Bedford YMT Plaxton Elite coach and asked if he should put in for the contract on Martins behalf, to which he agreed, insisting that he did so at a considerably higher price than Jack thought achievable. To Jacks surprise the contract was won and Martin began operating full time.

As of April 2009, Martin runs 11 coaches, 9 of which go out daily on school runs.

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