The Provincial Tramways Company

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The Provincial Tramways Company was a holding company for horse tramway companies in various regional towns of England. It was floated in July 1872 by means of a prospectus inviting public subscription for shares in the new company.[1] The published prospectus lists the towns where it was proposed to operate horse tramways as Plymouth. Cardiff, Dundee. Portsmouth. Southampton and Tynemouth. Initially those in Plymouth and Cardiff were constructed and in operation as reported to the half yearly meeting of the company in 1873.[2]

The company failed to open tramways in Dundee, Southampton or Tynemouth but in 1874 a tramway was started in Portsmouth then in 1881 a tramway was started in Grimsby and in 1886 a tramway was opened in Gosport. The registered office of this company was always located in London even after 1936 when its operations were reduced to just the bus services of the Gosport and Fareham Omnibus Company.

The principal towns where subsidiary tramway companies were owned by The Provincial Tramways Company were as follows:-


Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport Tramways Company had started a single horse tramway line between the 3 towns in 1872 this tramway was the first one to be authorized under the provisions of the Tramways Act 1870 which was used to authorize so many later tramway schemes and provided for their municipilization after 21 years.[3] This tramway was taken over and electrified by the council in 1902 but the company continued to operate the trams under a lease arrangement until 1922. It was also operating horse buses and later motor buses throughout this period.[4]


The Cardiff Tramways Company started operations in July 1872 and developed a large network of horse tramways in Cardiff but these were taken over and electrified by the council in 1902 however the company continued its horse bus and later motor bus operations until these were also bought by the council in 1922.[5]


Portsmouth Street Tramways Company started in 1874 and then gradually extended its lines over the city including in 1878 the purchase of 2 rival tramway companies thereafter becoming the principal tramway operator in the city.[6] In 1901 Portsmouth Corporation bought the tramways in Portsmouth and reconstructed them for electrification.

Gosport and Fareham[edit]

Gosport Street Tramways Company started a horse tramway in Gosport in 1882 but in 1883 the company was amalgamated with the Portsmouth operation and the Gosport trams were subsequently operated by the Portsmouth Street Tramways Company.[7] The Gosport tramway was extended to Fareham and electrified starting in 1906 and a new company The Gosport & Alverstoke Electric Lighting Company was formed to operate the power station at Hoeford, this supplied electricity to both the tramway and local domestic users. Subsequently in 1929 the Gosport to Fareham tramway was closed and replaced by an expanded bus operation at the same time the Portsmouth Street Tramways Company was renamed to Gosport and Fareham Omnibus Company.[8] This was a statutory company under the terms of the 1929 Gosport and Fareham Omnibus Services Bill and this company continued bus operations in Gosport and Fareham until 1983.


Great Grimsby Street Tramways Company started a horse tramway Grimsby in 1881 later extending to Cleethorpes in 1887, This was electrified in 1901 and the Grimsby end of the route was bought by Grimsby Council in 1925 and the rest was bought by Cleethorpes Council in 1936.[9] This company had also operated a substantial fleet of motor buses and charabancs and this operation was finally disposed off to the Lincolnshire Road Car Company which bought them in June 1936 .[10]


The Portsdown and Horndean Light Railway Company operated a new tramway between Cosham and Horndean starting in 1903 it was abandoned in 1935.[11]

Company Restructuring[edit]

In 1936 the whole company was re-organised with all the subsidiary companies being liquidated except for the Gosport and Fareham Omnibus Company. The holding company The Provincial Tramways Company was wound up and its remaining assets transferred into a newly formed company, The Provincial Traction Company. This company went on during the 1950s to purchase various motor trading companies including The Swain Group, H.R.Owen Ltd., Harold Radford(coachbuilders) Ltd.,Hoffmans of Halifax, Joseph Tomlinson & Sons Ltd.,Edwards & Co(Bournmouth) and Thomas Greenwoods Sons Ltd..The annual report for 1960 reported excellent results from these motor companies generating a profit of £135,000 with a further £47,000 profit from the remaining bus operation in Gosport and Fareham [12]

The early 1960s were the high point for The Provincial Traction Company subsequently profits declined and in 1969 the company was taken over by the Wiles Group (later renamed to Hanson Trust).[13] At the end of that year with the motor companies having been hived off The Provincial Traction Company was sold to the state owned National Bus Company. The Provincial Traction Company was then liquidated but its sole remaining subsidiary company, the Gosport and Fareham Omnibus Company retained its separate identity within the National Bus Company for the next 13 years.


  1. ^ 'The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Jul 16, 1872; pg. 13; Issue 27430.
  2. ^ The Morning Post (London, England), Thursday, April 03, 1873; pg. 7; Issue 31437.
  3. ^ The Golden Age of Tramways, Charles Klapper 1961 pg181
  4. ^ The Trams of Plymouth Langley and Small 1990 chaps 1,6
  5. ^ Golden Age of Buses - Charles Klapper 1978 pg55
  6. ^ Tramways of Portsmouth S. E. Harrison 1955 pg15
  7. ^ Tramways of Portsmouth S. E. Harrison 1955 pg124
  8. ^ The Golden Age of Tramways, Charles Klapper 1961 pg193
  9. ^ The Tramways of Grimsby, Immingham & Cleethorpes J.H.Price Tramway Review 1984-1985
  10. ^ Golden Age of Buses - Charles Klapper 1978 pg176
  11. ^ Tramways of Portsmouth S. E. Harrison 1955 pg103
  12. ^ The Times, London Jul 3 1961 pg21
  13. ^ The Times, London Jan 16 1969 pg26