Route 1 was one of the first buses to be introduced in London. It started operation in 1908. Despite subsequent route changes, it continues to serve part of its original route, between Elephant & Castle and Aldwych.
Route 1 once ran from Willesden to Lewisham, and more recently provided part of the service between Lewisham and Bromley. However it has since retracted at both ends, largely without direct replacement. N1 the night route of the 1, goes off in a completely different direction after Surrey Quays, to Thamesmead.
Although essentially now a south London route, it was won late in 1998 by First Capital, a company from North East London, which operated it from a base in distant Dagenham.
Changes connected with the Jubilee Line Extension in 1999 saw the 199 withdrawn between Surrey Quays and Elephant & Castle. Once again the 1 became the only route serving South Bermondsey on an East-West axis, the theory being that passengers would transfer to the Jubilee Line. They did not, and severe overcrowding resulted at peak times on this section.
On 3 October 2009, East Thames Buses was sold to London General (Go Ahead), which included a five-year contract to operate route 1. This bus has been the same since.