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 wore smart but informal attire, most often consisting of a shirt, tie and heavy duty greatcoat or coachman's coat, along with the horse driver's favourite headgear of the period, the bowler hat, though in latter years the straw boater also made an appearance (in summer presumably). Conductors also wore informal attire: shirt and tie, jacket and single-breasted overcoat, but with a squat kepi-style cap; the latter was presumably a company issue, and bore a small cap badge of unknown pattern. It would be easy to conclude that the conductors' overcoats were also issued by the company, given the general similarity in styles, but given the small number of photographs, there is is always a danger of over-interpreting limited evidence, and it could well be that conductors simply purchased similar style overcoats from the same supplier.

Drivers and conductors also wore a large round municipal licence, attached to either the coat or in the conductor's case, his cashbag strap.

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 horse tram and crew
An unidentified and somewhat battered PSTCo tramcar and crew - photo undated, but probably taken in the 1890s. Author's Collection.


Portsmouth Street Tramways horse tram and crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the crew, the conductor in kepi-style cap and informal jacket, the driver in long coachman's coat and with a bowler hat; both men are wearing licences.


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. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular to David Voice.