Portsmouth Street Tramways

Summary
The Portsmouth Street Tramways Company was a subsidiary of the Provincial Tramways Company, and though it operated its first horsecar service in 1874, it actually grew to become the sole Portsmouth horse tram operator following its amalgamation with its close neighbours - the Landport and Southsea Tramways Company (opened in 1865), the General Tramways Company of Portsmouth (opened in 1878) and the Gosport Street Tramways Company (opened in 1882). All four companies were owned by the Provincial Tramways Company, but were operated as one entity - the Portsmouth Street Tramways Company - from 1883 onwards. The company also operated the Portsmouth (Borough) Tramways services from 1886, taking over the company completely in 1892.

Photographs of the three companies with which the PSTCo was amalgamated have not survived, so it is not possible to say what attire its employees wore. A few good quality photographs of the PSTCo do however exist, including one from 1881, so it is possible to give a reasonable description of what was worn from then until the municipal take-over (1st January 1901).

Drivers initially appear to have worn informal but smart attire, consisting of a heavy overcoat, shirt, tie and bowler hat; conductors wore similar attire, but with a squat kepi-style cap that bore a small cap badge of unknown pattern. The last two photographs below suggest that in the last decade of operation, drivers wore long, double-breasted overcoats with two rows of five buttons and high, fold-over collars (without insignia); conductors appear to have worn long, single-breasted overcoats, again with high, fold-over collars (without insignia). It would be easy to conclude that these overcoats were issued by the company, but given the paucity of photographs, there is is always a danger of over-interpreting limited evidence, and it could be that the men simply purchased overcoats from the same supplier.

Drivers continued to wear the fashionable headgear of the day, bowler hats and occasionally straw boaters towards the turn of the century, and conductors the squat kepi-style caps. Drivers and conductors also wore a large round municipal licence.

For a detailed history of the area's tramways, see 'Tramways of Portsmouth' by S E Harrison, Light Railway Transport League (1955).

Images

Portsmouth Street Tramways
Conductor and driver pose with an unidentified horsecar on a service from The Hard to Lake Road - photo purportedly taken in 1881. The driver is wearing a bowler hat with curved brim, whilst the conductor has a squat kepi-style cap bearing a small cap badge. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Portsmouth Street Tramways 68
Conductor and driver pose with Horsecar No 68 - photo undated, but definitely taken after 1894 as No 68 was built that year. The driver sports a bowler hat whilst his conductor has a squat kepi-style cap that bears a small badge. Both men are wearing large round municipal licences. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Portsmouth Street Tramways staff
Conductor and driver pose with an unidentified horsecar - photo undated, but definitely no earlier than 1890 when this car was built. Once again the driver is wearing a bowler hat and the conductor a squat kepi-style cap bearing a small cap badge. The fact that both mens' overcoats appear to be identical to those in the previous photograph, suggests that they were company issued. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular to David Voice.