Exeter Tramways

The Exeter Tramway Company ran horse trams for approximately 10 years from 1882, before being taken over by the Tramway Purchase Syndicate, who then leased operation of the line to a local contractor (Frederick Burt and Son). The tramway was taken over by Exeter Corporation in 1904, with horse operation finally succumbing to electrification in 1905.

Photos of Exeter's horse tramways taken prior to 1904 (the year of the corporation take-over) are surprisingly rare given the fact that they had been plying their trade for a good 22 years prior to this. Fortunately, the excellent staff photo shown below, almost certainly taken in the early 1880s, clearly shows the general attire of both conductors and drivers. As was frequently the case with horse tramway operators, drivers tended to wear smart but informal attire comprising trousers, jacket, waistcoat and tie, plus long coachman-style overcoats; no insignia of any kind was worn. Headgear essentially followed the fashion of the day, namely, the bowler hat, with the occasional flat cap putting in an appearance.

Conductors, who in the early days at least, appear to have been boys rather than adults, wore similar attire, but with a kepi-style cap; this was presumably issued by the company, and bore an employee number, though whether this was metal or cloth is unclear (see below). Given the sparsity of photos, it is impossible to state with any degree of certainty whether the kepi cap continued in continuous use up until municipalisation.

Photographs of inspectors are unknown, and it is entirely possible that the ETCo never made use of them.

Further reading
For a history of Exeter's horse tramway, see: 'Exeter: a Century of Public Transport' by R C Sambourne; Glasney Press (1976). For a pictorial history of Exeter's tramways, see: 'Exeter and Taunton Tramways' by J Perkin; Middleton Press (1994).


Horse tram drivers and conductors
Exeter Tramways staff photo 1880s
Staff photo — date unknown, but very probably taken in the early years of the tramway company’s life, i.e., the 1880s. Of those assembled, eight are conductors, with all but one wearing kepi-style caps; all eight are very young, which was probably a deliberate policy of the company, no doubt aimed at keeping the wage bill as low as possible. The gentleman in the centre is probably either the chairman or a significant shareholder. With thanks to David Bryant.

Exeter Tramways horse tram conductor 1880s
A blow up of the above photo showing a very young conductor (No 1). The jacket was probably self-purchased, with the kepi-style cap being issued by the company, in order to confer a level of officialdom on the wearer.

A photo of two horse trams at the junction of High St, Paris St and Sidwell St — photo undated, but possibly taken in the 1890s. The two drivers are wearing bowler hats and long coachman-style overcoats. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.