Preston’s former public tramways

With the 2017 announcement of the start of trials for a new tramway for Preston, it may be of interest to look into Preston’s trams of times gone by.

Horse drawn tramways were in force in Preston from 1879 and were a very successful form of public transport in their time. The main drawbacks of using horses was the necessary feeding and watering of them and of course the stabling during non-working times. Also, not least, was the inevitable waste the horses left behind in the streets which, in that period would have been somewhat of a tremendous pollution, although one would imagine that gardeners would not have complained!

The main company for all the stabling for the duration of the horse drawn tramways was W. Harding & Co. Ltd. Livery Stables, originally located at the summit of Fishergate Hill, opposite the railway station. Harding’s subsequently moved to the former Post Office building on Fishergate in 1902 when their premises, along with two hotels were demolished to make way for the railway bridge extension.

In 1904 the horse drawn tram system had come to an end and was superseded by the electric overhead trolley system, the first car being run on 7 June 1904. The contractors for the work involved in the electrification of the tramways, including the cars, permanent way, overhead equipment and generating plant were Dick, Kerr and Co., of Preston. The power station on Holmrook Road, adjacent to the Deepdale Road Tram Depot, was erected by a Mr. T. B. Garnett and the chimney-stack was built by T. Croft and Sons.

At that time in 1904, Preston Corporation had 30 double deck cars and by 1912 four new single cars were added. The routes initially were to Sharoe Green Lane (via North Road), Sharoe Green Lane (via Deepdale Road, Farringdon Park, Ashton, Penwortham and Ribbleton.

Fatalities – Despite the relatively slow speeds involved, both systems claimed several victims during their years of operation:

On Saturday May 26th 1888 the Preston
Chronicle reported that a child aged 16 months was ran over and killed by the 5:45 horse drawn tram car from Preston. The accident occurred at the junction of Hull Street and Tulketh Road. The child was later identified as the daughter of Mr. Thomas Wilkinson Boot & Shoemaker of 25 Tulketh Road.

Another fatality took place on October 11th 1920. The Lancashire Daily post reported the following: “Shortly after four o’clock on Saturday after-noon, James Livingstone., aged 5 of 20 Shuttle-street, Preston, was knocked down by a tram-car in Ribbleton Lane. The driver noticed two small boys sitting on the kerb-stone near the corner of Shuttle-street, and one of them suddenly darted into the road, as if to pick something up. Although the car was pulled up within its own length by the electric brake, the child was pinned under the guard. The front of the car was jacked up, and the boy released in less than two minutes. A motor cyclist took him in a sidecar to the Infirmary where he succumbed to his injuries about 7:30 last evening”.

On 15 December 1935, the final tram to depart from Fulwood made its way to the town for the very last journey which signalled the end of the Preston tramways for good, or maybe not quite for good!