Coventry Corporation Tramways

Summary
Coventry Corporation became a tramway owner on New Year's Day 1912, when it formally took over the assets of the Coventry Electric Tramways Company, who had built Coventry's tramway system and operated it for seventeen years. The system ran uneventfully for a further 29 years, but suffered a complete suspension of services following the heavy air raid of the 14th November 1940, being formally abandoned some three months later in February 1941.

Following its takeover of the CETCo, the corporation appears to have lost little time in replacing the uniforms of the erstwhile company. Motormen were issued with double-breasted, 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five buttons (narrowing from top to bottom and bearing the full system title and the arms of Coventry — see link) and upright collars. The latter bore an employee number on the bearer's left-hand side, in individual metal numerals, whilst the right-hand side bore 'C C T', in individual metal initials, all insignia being almost certainly in nickel. Motormen's tunics also carried a stripe on the right-hand cuff; this was in a lighter coloured material than the main body of the tunic.

Conductors were issued with single-breasted jackets with five buttons, two breast pockets (with button closures), epaulettes (again with button closures) and upright collars; the latter carried the same insignia as motormen's tunics, whereas the epaulettes — which were not present on motormen's tunics — carried a badge comprising the arms of the city and the full system title: 'Coventry Corporation Tramways'.

Caps were military in style with a tensioned crown (top), glossy peak and chin strap; they bore standard, 'off-the-shelf', script-lettering cap badges, above which a small badge of unknown pattern was carried, though it more than likely depicted the arms of Coventry, possibly the same pattern as shown below. Although Motorman badges were definitely used in the 1920s, earlier photographs are less conclusive, so it is possible that Driver badges could also have been used.

At some point in the 1920s or early 1930s, the uniform style was altered to a more modern double-breasted design with two rows of four buttons and lapels; the latter bore the same insignia (employee number and 'C C T' initials) as was applied to the upright collars of the previous tunics. The right-hand stripe continued to be used on motormen's jackets, along with individual stars; these are only present on occasional photos, and almost certainly signified length of service or good conduct.

Although the style of the cap remained unchanged, later photographs indicate that the script-lettering grade badges were occasionally supplemented by badges (worn above) which appear to have been identical to those previously worn by conductors on their epaulettes, being notably larger than the normal municipal cap badge. The script-lettering cap badges appear to have been dispensed with altogether some time in the early to mid 1930s, leaving only the small municipal arms badge or former epaulette badge as the sole cap adornment.

Tramcar crews were also issued with double breasted greatcoats with high fold-over collars, which seem not to have carried any insignia. In later years (1930s onwards), conductors were also issued with lightweight dustcoats (presumably in summer only). These were double-breasted, with two rows of four buttons, three pockets (with button closures), lapels and high fold-over collars; the latter were of a darker material than the rest of the coat, which was very probably light brown or beige. They do not appear to have carried any badges.

Inspectors initially wore elaborate single-breasted jackets edged in a fine silk-like material, and embellished with ostentatious trappings, including braided epaulettes. Military-style caps were worn, which appear to have carried the grade —Inspector — in embroidered script lettering. In later years, inspectors appear to have been issued with the same style of double-breasted jackets worn by tramcar crews, as well as the lightweight dustcoats.

In common with many tramway operators, Coventry recruited female staff during the Great War to replace male staff lost to the armed forces. Although they were certainly employed as conductresses, it is currently unclear whether they ever took on driving or inspector duties. Conductresses initially wore informal attire with the same style of cap worn by the men, however, they were subsequently issued with uniforms comprising a tailored jacket with seven buttons, waist belt, two breast pockets (with button closures) and high fold-over collars; the latter do not appear to have carried insignia of any kind. A long, matching skirt was also worn. Headgear seems to have been the standard male cap, though it remains a possibility that specific female headwear may have been issued, as the photographic evidence comprises only one or two early photos.

Female staff were also employed during the Second World War. It is unclear what uniforms were issued, as photographs show them wearing the standard light-coloured dustcoat that was issued to male conductors. Bonnets were worn — these bore the standard 'Coventry Corporation Tramways' cap badge.

For an historical account of the tramways of Coventry, see 'Coventry Transport 1884-1940' by A S Denton and F P Groves (Birmingham Transport Historical Group; 1985).

Images

Motormen and conductors
Coventry Corporation Tramways conductor
A studio portrait of a Coventry Corporation Tramways conductor — photo undated, but probably taken prior to the Great War. Author's Collection.


Coventry Corporation Tramways conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the collar and epaulette insignia. Unfortunately, he is not wearing his cap.


Coventry Corporation Tramways epaulette and cap badge
CCT conductor's epaulette badge — nickel. In later years, these appear to have been worn as cap badges. Author's Collection.


Coventry Corporation Tramways staff photo
A staff photo taken in Priestleys Bridge depot yard — photo undated, but probably taken around the time the corporation took over, i.e., 1912. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Coventry Corporation Tramways staff photo
A blow-up of the above photo. Most individuals are wearing script-lettering grade badges plus a small badge of unknown pattern, which in all likelihood incorporated the municipal arms.


Coventry Corporation Tramways cap badges
Standard 'off-the-shelf' script-lettering cap badges of the type worn by Coventry staff — nickel. Author's Collection.


Coventry Corporation Tramways crew
A conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 23 — photo undated, but certainly taken between 1912 and the Great War. The motorman's collar initials can be clearly seen, as can the stripe on his right sleeve. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of Mr T Wilson of Travel Lens Photographic.


Coventry Corporation Tramways cap badge
Probable CCT municipal device cap badge, worn from 1912 onwards — nickel. Author's Collection.


Coventry Corporation Tramways crew
A conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 30 on Route No 8 — photo undated, but probably taken in the 1920s or the 1930s. Both men appear to wearing script-lettering cap badges only, though the shading effect of the crown (cap top) makes this difficult to say for certain. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of Mr T Wilson of Travel Lens Photographic.


Coventry Corporation Tramways Motorman
A motorman poses with Tramcar No 44 with a service to Bell Green on Route No 5 — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s. The precise meaning of the three stars on his right-hand sleeve is unclear, but probably indicated length of service or good conduct. The script-lettering cap badge is definitely of the Motorman variety. The photograph was probably taken by the late Alf Owen, and is reproduced with the kind permission of Mr T Wilson of Travel Lens Photographic.


Coventry Corporation Tramways crew
A conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 23 outside Foleshill Depot — photograph undated, but probably taken in the early 1930s. Both men are wearing script-lettering grade badges and a small municipal device badge. The photograph was more than likely the work of the late Alf Owen, and is reproduced with the kind permission of Mr T Wilson of Travel Lens Photographic.


Coventry Corporation Tramways crews
Two crews pose with an unidentified tramcar — photo undated, but almost certainly taken in the late 1930s. Two of those depicted are wearing lightweight dustcoats (probably light brown or beige) and there appear to be no script-lettering cap badges in sight. The photograph was again probably taken by the late Alf Owen, and is reproduced with the kind permission of Mr T Wilson of Travel Lens Photographic.


Senior staff
Coventry Corporation Inspector
An inspector (taken from the same photo as the crew of Tramcar 23, above). The elaborate jacket is very similar to those worn by Manchester Corporation Tramways inspectors during the pre-Great War era (see link). This photo may well show the same individual pictured with the group of conductresses below. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of Mr T Wilson of Travel Lens Photographic.


Female staff
Coventry Corporation Tramways conductresses
A group of newly recruited conductresses line up for the camera with an inspector — photo undated, but without doubt taken during the Great War. Only one lady appears to have an official uniform, the rest are wearing makeshift outfits. Author's Collection.


Coventry Corporation Tramways conductress
A conductress poses for the camera aboard the platform of Tramcar No 26 — photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. This lady is probably the same individual pictured in the group photograph above, also in a uniform. Author's Collection.


Coventry Corporation Tramawys crew
A motorman, conductress and inspector (probably) pose with Tramcar No 71 — photo undated, but more than likely taken in 1940. All the individuals depicted are wearing cap badges which were formerly e ployed on conductor's epaulettes, the script-lettering cap badges having been dispensed with. The photograph was almost certainly taken by the late Alf Owen, and is reproduced with the kind permission of Mr T Wilson of Travel Lens Photographic.


Coventry Corporation Tramways conductress
A conductress swings the trolley pole of Tramcar No 46 in the depot yard, possibly at Priestley's Bridge in 1940. The photograph was probably taken by the late Alf Owen, and is reproduced with the kind permission of Mr T Wilson of Travel Lens Photographic.