Thomas Tilling Ltd

Date Established:
Date Trading Ceased:
Thomas Tilling Ltd

London's oldest bus company was started as family business by Thomas Tilling in 1846, and continued by his sons and grandsons. In the first half of the 20th century, it grew into one of the two most important national transport groups, and had interests in all the other major bus operating companies.

Thomas Tilling was born in 1825 at Gutter's Hedge Farm, Hendon, Middlesex. In 1846, he set up as a 'jobmaster' in Walworth with one horse and carriage. This was the Victorian equivalent of 'a man with a van'. He was 21 years old. By 1850, Tilling operated buses between Rye Lane, Peckham and the north side of Oxford Circus. He was one operating company of many.

Tilling decided his buses should stop at predetermined points and run to a fixed timetable, making them more punctual and orderly than the other operators' buses. This was one of the reasons for his success with customers. Because his buses operated on time, they earned the nickname of 'Times' buses, and this became the fleet name painted on the side. Before long, Tilling became the biggest supplier of horsepower and vehicles in London.

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