Red RF routes

Kenwood Concerts Express Service

Page last updated 19 October 2017


How we believe the RF blind looked.  We have been unable to locate any photos of the buses in service - can you help?


In June and July of 1960 to 1963, a special RF-operated express service operated on Saturday evenings to Kenwood House for the summer concerts. This followed the route of the 210 between Golders Green and Archway Station, stopping only at Jack Straws Castle and Kenwood. Little has been published about this operation; that which has been discovered is given here. Thanks are due to Andrew Colebourne for forwarding details from the TfL Archives.

Dates of RF operation
Saturdays: 11 Jun to 16 Jul 60, 10 Jun 61 to 22 Jul 61, 2 Jun to 14 Jul 62, 1 Jun to 20 Jul 63.  


RF Garages

MH   Muswell Hill

EW   Edgware (1963)

Sullivan Buses now operate the Kenwood Shuttle.  Trident TN3 is seen at
The Spaniards on 26 Jun 2010.
Photo © Andrew Colebourne
The Kenwood open-air concerts, by Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath, started in 1951 and are a popular feature of north London summers.  The nearest road to the concerts was, and is, served by the 210. 
It would appear that the 210 had become over-burdened with concert-goers on Saturday evenings, as an additional Express service was introduced by London Transport. The TfL Archives file 'Kenwood Concerts Express LT001300/007' gives details of the service between 1960 and 1963, and blind production records show the production of blinds for the service in 1960. It is believed that the service did not operate in any earlier year. The service is not mentioned in the timetable books or the LT allocation books.
In 1961, the PSV Circle recorded that a ‘Special EXPRESS service was introduced on Saturday evenings between 18.30 and 24.00 between GOLDERS GREEN STATION and ARCHWAY STATION stopping only at Kenwood. Buses carried blue blinds marked 'EXPRESS'.'
Reference is made in LT papers to the shortage of RF buses at Muswell Hill (7 Mar 60) because of the double-decking of route 212. There is also regular reference to staff shortages.  A typical comment was made by the Traffic Superintendent on 3 Aug 61 "....the staff positions deteriorated, and on some Saturdays (10 June, 15 June, 22 July) we were unable to meet all our commitments." He also comments, ".....the lack of liaison with the concert authorities is regretted."  In 1963, the LT Central Buses Traffic Committee minutes state that the Kenwood Concerts Express Service, Sats 1 June to 20 July, was approved ‘as 1962’, with two buses 'forward traffic' from Edgware (EW) garage and five buses 'return traffic' (2 EW, 3 MH). At the 24 June meeting, staff shortages and allocation problems are noted and the service was experiencing losses. On 8 July, the service is still loss-making, having not operated 6 July due to bad weather but the staff were paid. On the other hand, the minutes note that in fine weather, reliefs were required, especially 'at the break' [it seems likely that this refers to the end of the concert, rather than part way through].
The Omnibus Society magazine for August 1963 confirms the dates noted above and records that the route was operated by RFs with blue 'Express' blinds. It reports that buses ran from Archway and Golders Green stations from about 6.30pm and again when the concerts finished at about 10pm, the buses being in addition to the normal service on the 210.
David Carpenter, a resident of Hampstead Garden Suburb until 1970, remembers the service: 'I do have recollections of the special Express service to the Kenwood Lakeside Concerts. As I recall it ran for several summers, but am unsure of exact dates. It was always red RF worked [note that, had Edgware provided buses before 1963, these would have been TDs, as EW had no RFs until October 1962]. Certainly the blinds were white on blue, with the wording “EXPRESS” in bold capital letters being the most prominent. I think but not 100% certain, the blinds were displayed on the back as well. Whenever I travelled on it, it was always very busy, with long queues both at Golders Green beforehand and Kenwood (Hampstead Lane) afterwards. Even in those days the road traffic was very heavy whenever the weather was good and caused considerable delay to the bus service, particularly after the event when everyone was trying to get away at the same time. Journey times in excess of 30 minutes to Golders Green were not uncommon!'. Many thanks to David for the detailed memory.


Stuart Perry confirms that the service did not operate from 1964 onwards, and that the RF blinds in use at MH in late 1963 did not include the service, although they did include the 251, which had moved away that spring. This ties in with details from blind records provided by George Jasieniecki. He records that, in 1960, a special RF blind was produced for Muswell Hill garage, with just one panel (as well as the obligatory 'blank', but no 'Private'). The records show that 12 sets were produced, dated 10/6/60. The schedules didn't actually state that the printed panel was blue. The wording on the panel was arranged in four lines, with 'Express' at the top. The second line read 'To & from Kenwood &', third line 'Golders Grn or Archway' and 'Single fare 6d' in the fourth line. All lettering was in capital letters at that time. Although sometimes loosely referred to as the '210 Express', and having used the same roads, the blind details indicate that the workings were not regarded as part of the 210. As the buses would have been dressed front and back, this indicates a maximum of six buses, probably only five. The fact that they were individual blinds, not added to the usual garage RF blind, seems to envisage some buses being borrowed. However, in summer 1960, MH put out 28 RFs on Sundays but only 19 on Saturdays – so why would they borrow? The staff shortages and the use of buses from EW in (at least) 1963 seem to provide the answer.

The 1963 Omnibus Society item states that the fare was 1/- to Kenwood from either direction, and the TfL archive mentions flat fare of 1 shilling per adult and 6d per child for any journey [it is unclear as yet whether this relates only to 1963]. At the introduction of the service, the 6d fare mentioned on the blinds was the same as the normal fare on the 210. As the 6d fare applied on the 210 until 1964, it appears that a decision was taken at some point to increase the fare for the special service.  It is not known whether the blinds were reprinted or altered, although we know of no record of the blinds being reprinted.


Although sometimes loosely referred to as the '210 Express', and having used the same roads, the blind details indicate that the workings were not regarded as part of the 210.  Thanks to David Carpenter, we have confirmation that these blinds were indeed used.


Stuart Perry adds 'My experience of concerts at Kenwood [from 1964] was that you left Archway or Golders Green with a standing load, often with much grumbling from the queue, but I have no memory of getting help from any "extras".  I do know that if the weather was good a lot of passengers used the 271 to Highgate Village and enjoyed the walk from there.  If the weather was bad there were a lot less passengers anyway as of course the concerts were all open air and only the hardiest bothered to turn out.  I always got the impression that those who supported the concerts were choosy about the weather which was the major factor in how busy we were during the evening.'


It seems likely, given the losses recorded in 1963 and the well-known staff shortages at that time, that the service was withdrawn for some time.  There seems to be no record of operations in the period between 1964 and about 2004.  Andrew Colebourne was local and does not recall any special operations for the concerts from the mid 1960’s to 1988, and notes that any augmentation that there might have been on the 210 did not involve unusual workings. 


George Jasieniecki comments 'Personally, I would not be surprised if it failed to appear as a London Transport operation for a while from 1964 onwards. There were extreme staff shortages around that time, and all resources available were concentrated on running normal scheduled routes with numbers. Private Hire, and special services for other events, such as Race Specials, football and so on, were contracted out and operated by commercial private coaches. Even the Round London Sightseeing Tour lost its Routemasters from New Cross, and was run by private coaches for several years. Bad for LT's image, of course, but they would have been criticised just as much if the resources on RLST were not redeployed.'


A special service for Kenwood has been revived in recent years, but now operates to and from Golders Green and East Finchley stations.  This service has been operated by Sullivan Buses since about 2005.  Andrew Colebourne notes that although in theory there are two routes, from/to Golders Green and from/to East Finchley, in fact the buses run through from one to the other.  They only carry passengers to Kenwood before the concert and from Kenwood afterwards.  Dean Sullivan provided the following details in early 2010:


'Yes we do run the Kenwood Shuttle and have done so for about five years.  The PVR is a minimum of 4 depending upon the concert. If it's busy, we put extra buses out. The bus is normally SLF double deck but Routemasters have regularly appeared. Other than the Routemasters, all SLF DD’s carry Kenwood displays.  The loadings do vary with the concert. One weekend when they had Simply Red and we were VERY well loaded. Golders Green creates the majority of passengers, roughly about double the loadings from East Finchley.


English Heritage [owners of Kenwood] run the free service for two reasons, firstly the 210 is unable to cope with the loadings at tip out, even though they now run double-deckers. There are also concerns expressed about the concerts by the local residents.  The concerts were cancelled in 2007 due to noise, and there are issues about the parking on event days.  The bus services are an attempt to reduce this problem.'


In 2011, the service operated on Fridays and Saturdays, 24 June to 16 July.


RF route in detail
GOLDERS GREEN STATION, North End Road, Spaniards Road, Hampstead Lane, Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, Highgate High Street, Highgate Hill, HIGHGATE Archway Station.
RF allocation
1960 to 1962 unknown
PVR 1963: Sat 2 (EW), 3 (MH)