Darwen Corporation Tramways

Although photographs of Darwen Corporation Tramways are far from common, and those depicting staff even rarer, it is nevertheless possible to tell the story of the uniforms, at least during the Edwardian era.

At the commencement of services, staff wore uniforms which were very similar, if not identical, to those of their close neighbour, Blackburn (see link). Jackets were single-breasted with a single row of five buttons — almost certainly in nickel (see link) — with breast pockets and upright collars; it is currently unclear if the latter carried insignia (photographs are of insufficient quality), though they certainly did by the mid Edwardian era (see later). Caps were in a tall kepi style and bore a large oval cap badge of uncertain pattern, possibly cloth. Long, double-breasted overcoats with two rows of five buttons and high, fold-over collars were also worn, and it is possible, but by no means certain, that the latter bore some kind of embroidered insignia.

The kepi caps were however relatively quickly superseded by more modern military-style caps with tensioned crowns (tops), with the previous oval cap badges being dispensed with in favour of a small badge of unknown pattern, almost certainly a municipal device of some description. By this time, and possibly from the inception of services, tramcar crews were wearing single-breasted jackets with five buttons with two breast pockets (with triangular flaps) and upright collars; drivers had just the two pockets, but conductors also had two waist-level pockets (with square flaps). The jacket edges and the pockets were all piped. Initially, the right-hand collar bore a standard, off-the-shelf, script-lettering grade badge — either Driver or Conductor - with the left-hand side bearing an employee number, all almost certainly in nickel to match the buttons. After what appears to have been only a relatively short period, the grade badges swapped places with the cap badge, though sometimes the latter continued to be worn on both the cap, as well as on the bearer's right-hand collar.

Late in the system's life, probably in the 1930s or 1940s, jackets were changed to a more modern single-breasted design with four buttons and lapels; the latter certainly bore badges, though of what pattern is currently unclear.

In the first decade of operation, and possibly for much longer, inspectors wore very similar uniforms to tramcar staff, but edged in piping. Caps were also identical to those worn by lower grades, but with a nickel script-lettering cap badge, 'Inspector'. It is likely that inspectors' uniforms were changed in later years, though all that can be stated on current evidence is that they were being issued with gabardine-like overcoats after the Second World War, and that caps appear simple to have borne a small badge, probably featuring the municipal arms. Note that Darwen Corporation probably employed inspectors from the inception of the Blackburn Corporation-operated steam services in 1899 (over the lines of the former Blackburn and Over Darwen Tramways Company), as financial records from 1899/1900 indicate that salaries were paid and uniforms purchased (thanks Phil Calvey for this information).

In common with many tramway systems, it is highly likely that Darwen employed female staff during the Great War to replace male staff lost to the armed services; however, photographs are yet come to light, so it is impossible to say what uniforms were worn. Female staff were also employed in the Second World War and for a time thereafter; once again, photographic evidence is extremely sparse, with just a single example indicating that conductresses wore trousers (or were at least allowed to wear trousers) and were issued with double-breasted overcoats with lapels and epaulettes.


Motormen and conductors
Darwen Corporation Tramways Tram No 7 and crew
A rare early photograph of Darwen Corporation Tramways Tramcar No 7 with crew — photo undated, but almost certainly taken in 1900 when electric services were introduced. Both men are wearing kepi-style caps with what appears to be a large oval cap badge; unfortunately, the precise form cannot be discerned. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.

Darwen Corporation Tramways Tram No 5 and crew
Another early but poor quality photograph, this time of Tramcar No 5, possibly decorated to mark the crowning of King Edward VII in August 1902. Both men are wearing single-breasted tunics with upright collars, along with kepi-style caps, again with a large oval cap badge. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.

Darwen Corporation Tramways tram crew
Darwen Corporation Tramways Milnes-built Tramcar No 1 outside the depot — photo undated, but probably mid-Edwardian. Whilst the tunics appear to be the same as in the earlier photos, the cap has been changed to a more modern military style, and the large oval cap badge appears to have been dispensed with. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.

Darwen Corporation Tramways Tram No 6 and crew
Darwen No 6 and crew — photo undated, but probably taken in the mid-Edwardian era. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.

Darwen Corporation Tramways Tram No 17
A photograph taken on the 3rd August 1907, the day Accrington Corporation Tramways' route to Oswaldtwistle was opened. The crews pictured are however not from Accrington, but from the neighbouring systems of Darwen and Blackburn, who sent trams to mark the occasion. Photo courtesy of Phil Calvey.

Darwen Corporation Tramways and Blackburn Corporation Tramways tram conductors and motormen
A blow-up of the above photo showing the two crews, from left to right: a Blackburn motorman, a Darwen conductor, a Blackburn conductor, and a Darwen motorman.

Darwen Corporation Tramways conductor 1907
An enlargement showing the Darwen conductor, Employee No 2. He is wearing a small badge on his cap, presumably some kind of municipal device, along with a script-lettering grade badge — Conductor — on his right-hand collar. The wearing of grade badges on jacket collars was highly unusual, but was most notably practiced by nearby Manchester Corporation Tramways.

Darwen Corporation Tramways staff photo circa 1908
Depot photo taken circa 1908. Photo courtesy of Phil Calvey.

Darwen Corporation Tramways drivers circa 1908
Blow-up of the above photo showing three drivers and an inspector (left). All present are wearing script-lettering cap badges, almost certainly nickel. Photo courtesy of Phil Calvey.

Darwen Corporation Tramways conductors circa 1908
Another blow-up of the depot photo above, showing two drivers and a conductors The top-most driver appears to be wearing a small circular cap badge above his script-lettering cap badge, though he is the only one of all the staff depicted. The right-hand collars carry some form of badge, probably a municipal device, whilst the left-hand collars carry an employee number. Photo courtesy of Phil Calvey.

Blackburn Corporation tramways script-lettering cap badges
Script-lettering cap badges of the pattern worn by Darwen Corporation Tramways staff from the mid-Edwardian era onwards — nickel.

Darwen Corporation Tramways depot photo 1936
Depot photograph taken in 1936. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.

Darwen Corporation Tramways crew
Blow-up of the above photo, showing a conductor and driver. With thanks to Duncan Holden.

Darwen Corporation Tramways bandsman's jacket
Darwen Corporation Tramways tunic. Given the elaborate embellishments and the red collar, this is almost certainly a bandsman's jacket, presumably belonging to a member of Darwen Corporation Tramways Band (the buttons are standard DCT pattern — see link). Photo courtesy of Beckie Johnson.

Senior staff
Darwen Corporation Tramways inspectors c1908
A blow-up of the c1908 depot photo above, showing two of the inspectors. In contrast to tramcar staff, their jackets are piped, and their caps carry a script-lettering 'Inspector' grade badge. The meaning of the large circular badge on the right-hand arm of the right-most inspector is unclear. Photo courtesy of Phil Calvey.

Darwen Corporation Tramways Inspector cap badge
Script-lettering cap badge, as worn by Darwen Corporation Tramways inspectors — nickel.

Female staff
Darwen Corporation Tramways conductress 1946
Inspector Albert Gardner and Conductress Lotte Clerke pose with Tramcar No 7 at the Circus shortly after the Second World War. Photo courtesy of Phil Calvey.