Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 27, 2019
Webpage updated: March 16, 2022




Plymouth's first street tramway ran from the Clock Tower (Derry's Clock), through Bank of England Place, Union Street, Plymouth, Union Street, East Stonehouse, Edgcumbe Street, East Stonehouse, over Stonehouse Bridge, up Devonport Hill, along Cumberland Road and terminated at the bottom of Ker Street.  It was constructed by the Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport Tramway Company Limited and opened for traffic in 1872.  In 1874 it was extended at the Devonport end to run up to a new terminus in Fore Street.  Only the portion between Derry's Clock and the Borough boundary at the junction of Union Street with Phoenix Street was within old Plymouth.  Ful details will be found in Tramway Through Old East Stonehouse.

The second tramway to be built in the Borough consisted of Lines 1, 3, and 4, authorised by the Plymouth, Devonport and District Tramways Act on July 24th 1882.  This ran from West Hoe Piers through the Town to Compton Lane End and by a branch line to the western end of Southside Street on the Barbican.  Although the lines were completed and opened for traffic by the Plymouth, Devonport and District Tramways Company Limited, the motive power was steam and the Board of Trade Inspector refused to allow the steam engines to run on part of the line.  This meant that the main tramway service was split in two, West Hoe to the Guildhall, and the Market to Compton Lane End.  Devonport Corporation took the Company to Court because it had not laid a single stretch of track within that Borough (Lines 5, 6, and 7) and at the end of 1884 the whole project was abandoned after just ten days of traffic.

In 1886 the Plymouth and Devonport (Extension) Tramways Company was authorized to take over the old steam system and construct some new lines.  However, nothing came of that proposal and in 1890 the existing tracks were taken over by the Plymouth Tramways Company Limited and then the Plymouth Tramways Company.

The failure of the Plymouth Tramways Company to complete their promise to extend the system spurred Plymouth Corporation in 1892 to purchase the system.  Thus at long last tramway services began on Easter Monday 1893 between the Guildhall and West Hoe Piers and between Plymouth Market and Compton Lane End via Houndiscombe Road and Mutley Plain and also via Tavistock Road and Mutley Plain.

Once the new found power of electricity had been adopted in 1899, Plymouth Corporation built new lines to Beaumont Road, Mount Gould, Pennycomequick, and Peverell Corner, all of which came into good use following the amalgamation of the Three Towns in November 1914, when the Devonport network was joined to the Plymouth one at Peverell and Pennycomequick, which enabled some through tramway services to be started.

The final unification of the tramway services of the Three Towns came in 1922 when the Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport line was acquired by the Corporation.

In 1920 Plymouth Corporation acquired its first motor omnibus and commenced a network of motor bus services.  Although quite separate at first, the motor bus network was integrated with the tramway one and a programme opf tramway replacement put into operation.  After the Blitz of March 1941 there was only one stretch of electric tramway left in operation, between Drake Circus and Peverell Corner, although the lines did continue to Milehouse Depot.

When hostilities had ceased, it was decided to abandon the trams altogether and Plymouth's last tram ran in September 1945.