Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: April 17, 2018
Webpage updated: July 27, 2019




There were in fact two separate undertakings called the Plymouth Tramways Company.  The first was apparently registered in 1888 as the Plymouth Tramways Company Limited, while the second, the Plymouth Tramways Company, without the limited liability, was incorporated under the authority of the Plymouth Tramways Act 1889.

The Preamble to the Plymouth Tramways Act of 1889 stated that the purpose of the new Act was 'to authorise the acquisition by and transfer to the Company and to vest in the Company the undertakings, lands, works, estates, property (real and personal), and all powers, rights, privileges and authorities of and excersible by the Plymouth Tramways Company Limited, hereinafter called the Limited Company.'

Mr A Bennett was the secretary of the Company, and Messrs W H Davis and Edward T Wise were two of the directors.

In seeking the support of the Council for their Parliamentary powers, the Company proposed to construct a new single-line tramway extending from the junction of Mutley Plain and Houndiscombe Road back through Tavistock Road, Old Town Street and Basket Street to link up with the existing line at Westwell Street.  The old route would be abandoned as it was considered unprofitable and running traffic would therefore be an unproductive nuisance.  Their engineer, Mr Joseph Kincaid MICE, also proposed the use of either electricity or cable, rather than horses, for the power.  Even at that time it was realised that Basket Street might be too narrow to take both normal road and tramway traffic together so a concession was offered whereby the route could be broken into two and the track through Basket Street used only as a means of getting trams to and from the depot.

In anticipation of getting Parliamentary approval, on Friday March 8th 1889 the Company ordered what the press described as 'some light horse cars of the newest design and which are specially constructed to ensure easy running.'  It was hoped to be able to start running the trams at Easter.

Unfortunately the Plymouth Tramways Act did not receive the Royal Assent until August 26th 1889.  This Act authorised the incorporation of the Plymouth Tramways Company.   On Wednesday September 18th 1889 that the first trial runs were made.

At the Borough Council meeting later that month the corporate seal was put to an agreement by which the Company had to deposit 1,500 with the Corporation as an indemnity fund.  Until the money was deposited the Company could not start running, except between Westwell Street and West Hoe but even on that section they had to put the roadway in good order before the Council would sanction the start of a service.

Although Messrs Grover and Company, under the supervision of Mr J C Inglis, engineer, had completed construction of some of the lines authorised in the Company's 1889 Act, they had not been opened for traffic.   Furthermore, the contractors went bust in January 1892 although they later recommenced the work.  As the Company's legal powers were due to expire the promoters submitted a new bill to Parliament that would extend their powers to August 26th 1893.  Unfortunately the Borough Council objected to the bill.

In February 1892 they agreed to withdraw their objections providing the Company inserted in the bill a clause that enabled the Corporation to purchase the undertaking for 10,000.  It transpired that the Company had no funds but had spent 4,000 on new lines.  From a comment made at that meeting to the effect that: 'if the Company was given a chance the lines would probably be opened for traffic within six months' it would appear that there was still no service.

It is said that the Company operated twelve tramcars, some single deck and some double deck, all manufactured by Messrs George F Milnes & Company Ltd, of Birkenhead.  Only one horse was needed to haul the single deck cars and two were used on the double-deckers.

When the final Agreement was drawn up on April 30th 1892 the purchase price was 12,500.  The agreement, which allowed for the Company to lease the lines from the Corporation, was confirmed by the Plymouth Tramways Act receiving the Royal Assent on June 27th 1892.  The Agreement stated the extent of the system to be handed over to the Corporation, which also included in the Agreement were the two short pieces of track leading to the depots, the Horse Emporium in Belgrave Road, Mutley, and the stables at West Hoe held on a lease dated May 28th 1884 from Mr William Booth.

The Plymouth Tramways Company's system was never opened for traffic.  The only photograph must therefore have been taken during the trial runs and the advertised service, published in Doidge's Annual for 1892, was purely speculative.

All that remained now was for the Deed of Transfer to be signed and the Plymouth Corporation Tramways Department would officially be born.