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  What is the Medstead Depot Omnibus Group?

The Medstead Depot Omnibus Group (“MDOG”) forms a part of the Working Omnibus Museum Project Ltd (“WOMP”), registered charity No.1020411. The Group is subject to WOMP’s Memorandum and Articles of Association. WOMP’s official registered address for Charity Commission purposes is:

Hampshire House, 204, Holly Road, Aldershot, Hampshire GU12 4SE.

Our aim is to maintain a depot to house preserved buses safely and securely. As far as is practicable, the Group also aims to provide facilities for their maintenance as preserved vehicle for public display at rallies, open days running days and other public events, and to provide facilities for further restoration work. However, MDOG's prime function is to maintain a secure storage facility for the preserved vehicles. This means that our Depot building is very much a functional store and not a museum (our planning permission precludes this use for parking and amenity reasons). Therefore, with regret, Medstead Depot is not open to the public.

MDOG’s objective, in common with that of WOMP, is “to ensure the continued preservation and operation of buses and coaches representative of those from the South of England so that they can be enjoyed by current and future generations, who may then learn the history of bus or coach operators and services in the area.” To this end, it houses vehicles from former South of England bus operators, notably, the Aldershot & District Traction Company, Thames Valley, Alder Valley, Southampton Corporation, Southern Vectis and Eastbourne Corporation. The vehicles housed by MDOG vary, as some are removed for restoration work and replaced with others from time to time.

What sort of things do we to do?

Since we are a part of a Registered Charity we consider it important that we provide a clear benefit to the public. To this end we are involved in:
  Active preservation
  Ensuring that a valuable part of the UK’s national transport heritage is retained, safe from deterioration and subsequent loss due to neglect
  Provision of free vintage bus services at venues in Southern England
  Creating opportunities for the public to re-visit or experience travel by bus in the mid-20th Century “golden age” of public transport in Britain
  Making a significant contribution to efforts to bring the UK’s transport heritage to the wider public (ie not just transport enthusiasts)
  Providing formal and informal talks to transport and local history clubs and other societies in Southern England on the history of bus transport and other bus-related subjects
  Through attending events, enabling public access to the buses, allowing people to learn about the history of the vehicles, and their contribution to local public transport services
  Provision of a Support Group
  Creating a means of engaging those who are sympathetic to MDOG’s aims and to increase understanding of aims and objectives
  Providing an opportunity for the public to participate in the renovation and operation of the vintage buses housed at Medstead Depot

How did we start?

Following its formation in 1985, WOMP sought premises to house vintage buses from the South of England. Those involved were very much aware that there were significant numbers of vehicles stored in the open and in other unsatisfactory places, their owners being unable to rent or purchase suitable storage buildings because of high land costs in the South of England. During this time, the Mid Hants Railway (the “Watercress Line”, a primarily steam-operated preserved railway running between Alton and Alresford in Hampshire) was keen to develop subsidiary attractions. An approach from WOMP members gained a positive reaction from the Railway, culminating in 1988 with a proposal that WOMP should purchase some surplus land. This would enable WOMP to operate vintage bus services which would complement train services and bring benefits for visitors and the locality as a whole. Consequently, in 1988 WOMP purchased the land with the aim of constructing a bus museum. Volunteers subsequently cleared the site and it opened for open storage of preserved buses in Easter 1989. The site also provided a base for free vintage bus services to Chawton, for visits to the former home of the Hampshire novelist, Jane Austen.

Unfortunately, the site suffered from all the usual problems of an open storage area and vehicles suffered from weather damage and vandalism. After one particularly bad vandal attack, WOMP took advantage of close links with the City of Portsmouth Museums Service and concentrated efforts on that Council’s museum storage building at Broad Street, Old Portsmouth, which became the home of a mix of preserved Council vehicles and those associated with WOMP. This was known as the City of Portsmouth Preserved Transport Depot (“CPPTD”), which became a registered museum and operated as a highly successful Portsmouth area visitor attraction until site redevelopment forced closure.

How did we get the project to its current position?

For a period of four years the MDOG site was empty and no further work was undertaken. However, WOMP’s early experience made clear more than ever that covered accommodation was necessary and, in 1992, the Medstead Depot Omnibus Group was formed as a WOMP sub-group to fund, construct and manage the proposed museum. Funding proved to be a particular problem and there were also difficulties in obtaining planning permission, notably over concerns regarding visitor access and the effect on local amenity. Proposals for a conventional museum were therefore abandoned and permission was obtained for a basic storage building. Funding was obtained by loans from WOMP supporters, including certain local bus groups, money being paid in stages. However, construction costs were rising faster than money could be attracted and there were concerns that the project might have to be abandoned. However, after additional backing from certain Group members, and some further simplification of the building design, a decision was made to proceed with construction and the present storage building eventually opened in March 2001. MDOG, like CPPTD, is an integral part of WOMP, reporting to the WOMP Board and following its charitable aims and objectives in its method of operations and activities.


MDOG receives no assistance from outside organisations, although it does benefit from WOMP’s charitable status and is able to apply for a reduction in Business Rate charges. For this reason, MDOG is dependent upon the loans which enabled the depot to be constructed and donations from MDOG members and supporters, and from the public. Donations are used to pay running costs, to purchase equipment for use in the depot and to contribute to a fund set aside for future major repairs. There is little money available for development, though this is very much needed, for example, to provide storage facilities for vehicle spares, and to expand vehicle accommodation. MDOG takes full advantage of the Government’s Gift Aid scheme to maximise the value of donations.

Because of the law (MDOG does not hold an Operator’s Licence), we are not permitted to operate bus services for financial reward, ie where fares are charged or to hire our vehicles for weddings, park and ride, shows or other events. Quite rightly, these are services for licensed bus and coach operators to provide. However, within the South of England we are fortunate in having a number of businesses that can hire interesting vintage buses and coaches. These include:

  Mervyns Coaches of Micheldever, Hampshire
  Top Marks Coaches of Ropley, Hampshire

How we are managed

Operation of the depot is managed by a Committee elected from members of MDOG. The Committee ensures that there is sufficient income to pay for running costs (principally business rates, insurance and utility charges), that the depot is operated efficiently and safely, and that it is properly maintained. To this end, the Committee organises monthly “working days” where time is devoted to the MDOG site, as opposed to work on vehicles. The Committee also considers long term developments and the purchase of equipment to assist maintenance and restoration of vehicles.

In common with many preserved bus facilities, space is very limited and this restricts the amount of restoration that can be undertaken on site. However, at present, five vehicles are at some stage of restoration, three are in long term store awaiting renovation, and the remainder are “runners”, though not all are licensed at any one time, some being off the road temporarily for mechanical attention.

In view of the fact that Medstead depot is a storage and maintenance facility, and because of planning permission restrictions, the building is not open to the public. Instead, MDOG members take operational vehicles out to the public through participation in bus rallies, free bus services, displays, and local events such as carnivals. In recent years MDOG has operated a free bus service connecting with Mid Hants Railway trains at Alton railway station. At present, these operate on the first Sunday of each month in the period May – September and the final Sunday in September, the last day when the Mid Hants Railway operates a “two train” service. The free service allows visitors to the area to travel to Chawton village, where the Jane Austen’s House Museum is located.

The Future

Much of this is bound up with the way in which the “heritage industry” develops in the UK, for example, that legislation continues to allow preserved and often very elderly vehicles to be operated on our roads and that these vehicles can be restored, maintained, and driven by volunteers. Also, like other charities and voluntary organisations, we are entirely dependent upon active individuals who are willing to give up time, money, and other resources to keep the organisation functioning.

More specifically, MDOG needs to improve facilities so that more work can be undertaken on vehicles, so that precious and decreasingly available spare parts are housed where needed and, ideally, so that more historically important vehicles can be kept safely and securely under cover. Without this development the usefulness of Medstead Depot will be restricted and it will not realise its full potential. In parallel, the Group needs to bring in more people, particularly from younger generations, to ensure that their interest is maintained and that their skills and talents are used to best effect and, perhaps, developed.

Above all, our aim is for the concept of “Working Omnibuses” to be maintained into the 21st Century and for the vehicles to be available to future generations.


(C) Copyright Medstead Depot Omnibus Group (part of the Working Omnibus Museum Project Limited)

Company Registered in England No. 02768057.  Registered Charity No. 1020411