Huddersfield Corporation Tramways

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Huddersfield Corporation Tramways operated the tram system in the Huddersfield area from 1883 to 1940 and is noteworthy as the first service to be run entirely by a municipal authority.


By the early 1880s, a number of towns and cities were operating a horse-drawn or steam engine powered tramway system including Liverpool (1869), Leeds (1871), Middlesbrough (1875), Manchester (1877), Sunderland (1879), Derby (1880), and York (1881). Under the terms of the Tramways Act of 1870, local boroughs or urban district councils were authorised to construct the track but were not permitted to operate the tram service themselves, which instead was operated by a private company which leased the lines.

The London Tramways & General Works Company sought a Parliamentary Bill in 1877 to build and operate a tram service in Huddersfield. Initially this had the support of Huddersfield Corporation but this was later withdrawn and the Bill failed. According to local solicitor Samuel Learoyd, the reason for the withdrawal of support was not given,[1] but town clerk Joseph Batley wrote to the Chronicle to state that the company had failed to discuss their plans with all of the necessary stakeholders and that the Bill was too different from the scheme that had previously been proposed to some of the town council.[2][3]

In October 1879, an editorial in the Huddersfield Chronicle noted:[4]

Admitting that tramways are a better mode of communication than omnibuses we anticipate, not only that they will ultimately prove a source of profit to the Corporation, but that they will tempt residents in the out districts to visit the town oftener, and the inhabitants of the inner districts to ride a little oftener into the outskirts of the town. A tramway, for instance, to the newly-acquired park would be a great boon. An impetus would likewise be given by the tramway system to the erection of cottages and villas in pleasant districts around the town, and investors in building societies have every motive to give the scheme encouragement.

The Huddersfield Improvement Act of 1880 contained plans for the construction of several miles of track — which had been surveyed by borough engineer John Henry Abbey — including lines to:

  1. Parkgate, Berry Brow
  2. Bradford Road North, near Ashbrow
  3. Woodfield Road (now Meltham Road), Lockwood
  4. Marsden Road (now Manchester Road), near Milnsbridge
  5. West Street, Paddock Head
  6. Lidget Street, Lindley
  7. Wakefield Road, Waterloo
  8. Newsome Road, Newsome
  9. Northgate, Almondbury

Abbey resigned his position in August 1879 and the subsequent construction of the tramways was overseen by his successor, Richard Swarbrick Dugdale.

By the end of February 1881, a tender for the "iron and steel work of the tramways" had been accepted and advertisements were prepared to accept tenders for the laying of the tracks.[5] The first routes to be laid were from Fartown to Lockwood, to Lindley, and to Paddock.[6] The companies involved with the works were named as:[7]

  • Darlington Iron Company — rails
  • Anderston Foundary Company (Middlesborough) — bearers
  • Messrs. S.W. Pilling & Co. (Manchester) — construction and paving

The Huddersfield Chronicle reported in June 1881 that "the work of laying the tramways in the borough has begun in earnest" and that "it is expected the tramways will be laid throughout the town and its outskirts in about eight months".[8]

By March 1882, 10 miles of the proposed 19 miles of track had been laid.[7]

During the summer of 1882, concerns were raised by both local councillors and the local press that there had seemingly been no progress in finding a private company interested in tendering to run a service.

The Huddersfield Corporation Act of 1882 contained several tramway route amendments but more importantly included a clause permitting Huddersfield Corporation to operate a tram service if no private company could be found, subject to approval by the Board of Trade. In the event of a private company subsequently tendering to operate a service for a period of not less than seven years, the lines would be leased subject to Board of Trade agreement.

At the September 1882 town council meeting, it was agreed that if no tenders were received, the Corporation would purchase a 8½ engine and tramcar in order to being operating their own service.[9]

By the following month, the only interest in leasing the lines had come from the Nottingham Tramways Company. However, as that company only wished to "work certain portions of the line" — specifically the Fartown to Lockwood route — rather than the entire network, their offer was rejected in favour of Huddersfield Corporation proceeding with an application to the Board to Trade to begin operating their own service.[10] The cost of the works to date was reported as £27,792.[11]


The Corporation's first tram steam engine and car were delivered in late October and were housed in a temporary shelter on Lord Street. Built by Messrs. Wilkinson & Co. of Wigan at a cost of around £800, the engine had a patented brake "so powerful that the car can be brought to a stand almost immediately". The initial trial run of the engine took place on Wednesday 1 November 1882 along Northgate.

The following day a longer trail saw the engine starting from St. George's Square and continuing out via Chapel Hill and Lockwood to the terminus at Dungeon. The return journey up Chapel Hill proved difficult, "owing to the slippery condition of the rails". The engine was then run as far as Greenhead Park, and then along Bradford Road to the Waggon & Horses Inn. The run up to the Junction Inn at Moldgreen went without any problems, after which it was taken all the way to the terminus at Lindley.[12]

The trail on Saturday 4 November saw runs to Fartown, Lockwood, Edgerton and Moldgreen. The curve at the junction of Northumberland Street and Northgate, which had proved problematic on the previous trials, had been adjusted and "was passed without the least difficulty". The engine left the lines at the bottom of Chapel Hill, "in consequence of the lines not being properly gauged".[13]

On Monday 6 November, the tram car was attached to the engine and taken out on trials. After running all the way to Lockwood, it was taken successfully back up Chapel Hill — reportedly the steepest tramway incline in the country at 1 in 1½ — with a small number of passengers on board. The tram then reversed back down the hill and around 40 bystanders were encouraged to climb aboard in order to overload the tram car. This time the tram struggled to ascend the hill and stopped a few yards from the top. During the afternoon, the tram was run to Moldgreen without any issues.[14]

The trial on Monday 13 November saw a successful attempt to take a fully-loaded car up Chapel Hill. This time the car was mostly loaded with local councillors, including the Mayor John Fligg Brigg. The tram then continued on to Fartown where photographer photographer Thomas Illingworth of Bradford Road took a photograph of the dignitaries. A decision was then made to further test the fully-loaded tram by running it to Lindley, which took under 17 minutes. The return journey to the Crown Hotel on Westgate was completed in under 15 minutes.[15]

Board of Trade Inspection

Major General Charles S. Hutchinson[16] of the Board of Trade carried out his official inspection on Thursday 16 November.[17]

The first journey was from Huddersfield through Lockwood to terminus at Dungeon Cottages. During the descent down Chapel Hill, Hutchinson ordered the brake applied to test the breaking power. On the return journey, he had the car loaded with passengers — mostly passing mill workers on their lunch break — and had the engine stop partway up the hill to test "the capability of the engine to restart from that point with a load". Unfortunately, possibly due to it being a foggy day which made the rails slippery, this test failed. Once around half the passengers had disembarked, the engine was able to climb the rest of hill. Embarrassingly, it was then discovered that the brake in the tram car had been applied since leaving Lockwood.

During the rest of the afternoon, the tram was run to Paddock, Moldgreen, Fartown, Edgerton, Lindley. At around 5pm, the test on Chapel Hill which had failed earlier in the day was repeated — this time the engine had no problems in pulling the car which had been overloaded with 44 passengers.

On Monday 27 November, Huddersfield Corporation received notice that Hutchinson had certified the tramways as "fit for public traffic" with the exception of a section on Longroyd Lane where "the sides of the street were not yet paved".[18]

Hallidie Patent Cable Tramways Corporation Ltd.

London born Andrew Smith Hallidie[19], who is usually regarded as the inventor of the cable car system, had approached Huddersfield Corporation during 1882 with a proposal to lease and operate the Paddock and Moldgreen routes with cable cars. The agreement was formalised in January 1883, with the proposal having been included in the Huddersfield Corporation Act of 1882. The lease was to have been for a period of 21 years.[20]

Local architect Ben Stocks prepared plans for the tramway car shed with a boiler house that would power the continuous cable system. This was to have been situated on Manchester Road near to the junction with South Parade and is described on the Buildings of Huddersfield web site:[21]

...a large shed (100 feet by 44 feet) to house tram cars, a boiler house with its chimney to provide power to the continuous cable system, ticket and management offices and accommodation. At street level, the elevation of the building to Manchester Road was to have been only 30 feet wide, half of which was taken up by the double doors to the car shed, and the other half with the window and entrance to the ticket office, and the lobby to the accommodation at first floor level. Only the front part of the building had an upper floor and this housed the living accommodation and manager's office. At first floor level, the elevation was to have had four well-proportioned sash windows and decorative string courses, typical of Stocks's work at this period. There was a basement under the whole site. The construction of the building necessitated the excavation of the rising ground behind Manchester Road. This unused site was later to be occupied by the Grand Picture House, the listed faience façade of which has been preserved in the structure which currently (2009) houses the Lidl Supermarket.

By the summer of 1883 the scheme had been abandoned after the Board of Trade refused to issue an operating licence. According to Roy Brook, the Hallidie company engineers had struggled to implement the cable system on the curves of the route — particular the curve at the junction of New Street and King Street.[22]

Public Services

Despite only having a single engine and car, it was decided to bring them into service and the Fartown to Lockwood route ran its first public service with the 9am departure from Fartown on Thursday 11 January 1883.

The first recorded fatality occurred on the afternoon of Saturday 24 February. Thomas William Wainwright (aged 15), son of painter Alfred Wainwright of Broad Road, was killed after being knocked down by a tram that was travelling at about 5 miles per hour. Unfortunately there was no jack to raise the engine and it was 20 minutes before his body could be recovered from underneath the tram.[23]

The second line to open was the route to Lindley, which commenced a public service on Saturday 9 June 1883.[24]

Extent of the Network

The 1893 O.S. map (surveyed in the late 1880s) shows the following tramway routes:

By the time the 1906 O.S. map was surveyed, the following routes were in operation:

By the 1930s, the line to Slaithwaite had been extended to Marsden and connections made to the towns of Elland and Brighouse:

Local Acts

The following Local Acts are relevant to the tramways in Huddersfield:


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Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. See "Correspondence" in Huddersfield Chronicle (11/Nov/1882).
  2. "Correspondence" in Huddersfield Chronicle (16/Nov/1882).
  3. Huddersfield Corporation Tramways (1983) by Roy Brook, page 11.
  4. "Scraps and Hints" in Huddersfield Chronicle (17/Oct/1879).
  5. "Huddersfield Town Council" in Huddersfield Chronicle (17/Feb/1881).
  6. "Huddersfield Town Council" in Huddersfield Chronicle (16/Jun/1881).
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Round Huddersfield" in Huddersfield Chronicle (01/Apr/1882).
  8. "The Tramways" in Huddersfield Chronicle (16/Jun/1881).
  9. "Huddersfield Town Council" in Huddersfield Chronicle (21/Sep/1882).
  10. "Huddersfield Town Council" in Huddersfield Chronicle (21/Oct/1882).
  11. "The Municipal Elections" in Huddersfield Chronicle (31/Oct/1882).
  12. "The Huddersfield Corporation Tramways" in Huddersfield Chronicle (04/Nov/1882).
  13. "The Tramway Trial Trips" in Huddersfield Chronicle (06/Nov/1882).
  14. "The Tramway Trial Trips" in Huddersfield Chronicle (07/Nov/1882).
  15. "Huddersfield Tramways and Chapel Hill" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Nov/1882).
  16. Wikipedia: Charles Scrope Hutchinson.
  17. "Official Inspection of the Huddersfield Tramways" in Huddersfield Chronicle (17/Nov/1882).
  18. "The Huddersfield Corporation Tramways" in Huddersfield Chronicle (28/Nov/1882).
  19. Wikipedia: Andrew Smith Hallidie.
  20. "Local and District News" in Bradford Daily Telegraph (13/Apr/1883).
  21. The Buildings of Huddersfield Project.
  22. Huddersfield Corporation Tramways (1983) by Roy Brook, pages 18 & 21.
  23. "Huddersfield: Fearful Death of a Boy" in Leeds Times (03/Mar/1883).
  24. "Huddersfield" in Leeds Times (16/Jun/1883).