Croydon Horse Tramways

The first horse tram service in Croydon ran on the 6th of October 1879 under the auspices of the Croydon Tramways Company. The system was actually in two halves, as the short stretch of track that would have connected the two could not be built until significant demolition and street widening had taken place. Despite this apparent handicap, the system made a profit and was well supported. Unfortunately, things were to take a turn for the worse with the appearance of the Norwood and District Tramways Company, who planned to build a small system around South Norwood, which would connect with the lines of the CTCo. The N&DTCo could not however raise enough capital to begin construction, so an approach was made to the CTCo with a proposal to merge the two companies and then expand as planned. The CTCo agreed, a move which it no doubt came to regret, and a new company — the Croydon and Norwood Tramways Company — was formed on the 2nd August 1883.

The C&NTCo immediately leased operation of the system to the Steam Tramways Traction Company Ltd, a subsidiary of the City of London Contract Corporation, a somewhat dubious concern that proved to be the undoing of many a UK tramway company. Although the professed aim of the STTCo was to introduce steam-hauled services, it efforts were a total failure, with the new engines only managing to run trials rather than revenue-earning services. The STTCo finally threw in the towel on the last day of 1884, with the C&NTCo taking over operation itself the following day (1st January 1885). The company was however in difficulties, having effectively spent all its money on constructing lines which proved to be completely unremunerative. They struggled on, abandoning some lines by the simple expediency of not running services, but on the 25th October 1887, the game was finally up, and a liquidator was appointed.

After much wrangling, a new tramway company was formed, which was effectively the old company shorn of its useless partner; it even had the same name, though it was a de facto newly constituted company. Version 2 of the CTCo took over the assets of the C&DTCo from the liquidator on the 1st of January 1890, running services on what were largely the lines of the old CTCo. On the 6th of January 1897, the two halves of the system were finally connected, though the new line was built and owned by Croydon Corporation, from whom it was leased. This was a harbinger of things to come, and on the 22nd January 1900, the corporation purchased the CTCo as a precursor to the creation of a municipally owned electric tramway system.

In common with the majority of horse tramways in the UK, conductors and drivers simply wore heavy duty, informal attire: trousers, jacket, shirt and tie, along with heavy coats in colder weather. Some drivers also wore heavy leather aprons, a common accoutrement of the horse-drawn transport trade. Headgear tended to follow the fashion of the day, initially the bowler hat, with other styles — such as the trilby and straw boaters — making an appearance in the closing years. Other than the mandatory Public Carriage Office enamel licences (see link), no badges of any description were worn on either the jackets or the hats.

Photographs of inspectors have unfortunately not survived, so it is currently impossible to say if they wore company uniforms or insignia, or indeed, whether any of the owning companies ever employed them.

Further reading
For a history of Croydon's horse tramways, see: 'The Tramways of Croydon' by G E Baddeley; Light Rail Transit Association (1983).


Croydon Tramways Company horse tram No 8 and crew
Croydon Tramways Horsecar No 8 at the Red Deer Terminus — photo purportedly taken in 1885, when services would have been directly operated by the Croydon and Norwood Tramways Company. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.

Croydon Tramways Company horse tram No 8 and crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and driver. Both men are wearing informal attire, along with large round enamel PCO licences issued by the Metropolitan Police. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.

Croydon Tramways Company horse tram No 31
Horsecar Number 31 on a Thornton Heath service — photo undated, but certainly taken no earlier than May 1897, when Nos 24 to 31 seem to have replaced older single-deck cars. Author's Collection.

Croydon Tramways Company Horse tram No 31 and driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver, in informal attire, and with the tall style of bowler hat much favoured by horse tram and bus drivers.

Croydon Tramways Horse Tram No 13
Horsecar No 13 on a Thornton Heath service — photo undated, but judging by the fashions, probably taken in the late 1890s. Author's Collection.

Croydon Tramways horse tram driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver, who appears to be wearing a light-coloured raincoat, along with a straw boater, and the usual PCO licence.

Croydon Tramways Company horse tram and driver
An unidentified horsecar on the move in London Rd — photo undated, but probably taken in the mid-to-late 1890s. The driver is wearing a trilby. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.