Wrexham and District Electric Tramways
The Wrexham and District Electric Tramways Co Ltd was a subsidiary of the much larger British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BET), a concern which at its zenith either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles. The photos below clearly show WDETCo staff wearing the familiar and largely regulation BET uniform. Although jackets appeared to vary somewhat between BET systems, as well as across the decades, the cap badges, collar designations and buttons invariably followed a standard pattern.
The jackets initially issued to WDETCo staff were single-breasted, with a row of five buttons (presumably of the standard BET pattern - see link), a single breast pocket on the bearer's left-hand side (with button closure) and upright collars; the latter carried an employee number (in individual numerals) on the bearer's left-hand side, and system initials - 'W & D E T' - on the right-hand side. The badges and the buttons were almost certainly brass. Caps were military in style with a glossy peak, and carried a standard brass BET ‘Magnet & Wheel’ badge (see below), underneath which an employee number was worn. By the time of the Great War, and probably much earlier, a switch had been made to double-breasted, 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five buttons and upright collars; the latter continued to bear the same insignia as previously, though seemingly with 'W & D T' in place of the earlier 'W & D E T'.
After the Great War, the company struggled on with increasingly dilapidated trams, their careworn condition seemingly also reflected in the company's relaxed attitude to uniforms, with several photos from the 1920s showing tramcar crews in a variety of makeshift uniforms, frequently with flat caps or other informal headgear. Where uniform jackets are in evidence, these are single-breasted with five buttons, two breast pockets (with button closures), upright collars and epaulettes. Insignia was probably the same as used previously, at least initially, but as time wore on, even this embellishment appears to have been allowed to lapse.
Tramcar crews were also issued with long, double-breasted overcoats with two rows of five buttons, three waist/hip level pockets, epaulettes (with button fastening) and high, fold-over collars. The epaulettes probably carried an employee number, though this cannot be made out with certainty on surviving photographs; the collars were left unadorned.
Inspectors initially wore double-breasted jackets with two rows of five buttons and lapels; the latter carried some form of insignia, more than likely the grade - 'Inspector' - in embroidered script lettering, though it could equally well have been system initials. Caps were in the military style and appear to have carried a standard BET 'Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge. These early jackets had certainly been replaced by the time of the Great War, and possibly long before, by a more traditional tramway design, namely: single-breasted with hidden buttons (or an hook and eye affair), edged in a finer material than the main jacket, and with upright collars; the latter bore ‘Inspector’ in embroidered script lettering. Caps were in the military style and bore the standard BET 'Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge, above a hat band with the grade - 'Inspector' - in embroidered script-lettering. The Chief Inspector appears to have worn a virtually identical uniform, but with 'Chief Inspector' insignia in place of 'Inspector'.
Female staff were employed in significant numbers (as conductresses and as motorwomen) during the Great War to replace male staff lost to the armed services, and in contrast to most UK tramway systems, continued to be employed right through to closure in 1927. These ladies were issued with long, tailored, double-breasted jackets with two rows of five buttons, and like the men's jackets, with a single breast pocket on the bearer's left-hand side (with button closure). The jacket also had a waist belt, epaulettes (with button fastening) and tall upright collars; the latter carried an employee number on the left-hand side and 'W & D T' initials on the right-hand side. Headgear took the form of a large, soft-topped peaked cap, which bore the standard 'BET' cap badge above an employee number. An inspectress was also employed - Mrs Phillips - who wore the same uniform as the other ladies, but with 'Inspectress' in embroidered script lettering on the upright collars of her jacket; the cap was the same as worn by inspectors, so differed from that worn by female tramcar staff.
For a history of the Wrexham District Electric Tramways, see 'North Wales Tramways' by Keith Turner; David and Charles (1979).
My thanks go to Alan Brotchie for providing the majority of the photographs shown below, many of them from the collection of the late Harry Dibdin.
Motormen and conductors
Tramcar No 8 at Cemetary Loop in summer 1904.
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor (Employee No 15) and the Motorman (Employee No 12) in summer 1904. Although the conductor's standard 'BET' cap badge appears to be absent, it is in fact under the white rain cover of his cap.
The same conductor as above (Employee No 15), this time with a different motorman (Employee No 3) and Tramcar No 9 - taken on Gutter Hill in Rhos in the summer of 1905.
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the conductor's uniform. The collar initials are 'W & D E T'.
Another blow-up of the above photo, this time showing the conductor. The standard 'BET' 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge sits above his employee number (3).
Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge - brass
Tramcar 10 at Rhostyllen, decorated to mark the funeral of Motorman W Edwards in 1909. Those that can be identified are as follows: T H Hughes (1st left); J Mackie, former horse tram driver (4th left); Chief Inspector Steen, who drove the tram on this occasion (on tramcar steps); D Bowen, Chief Clerk (in bowler hat); Thy Evans (3rd right); W Quiff (2nd right); E Morris (1st right).
A formal staff photo taken at Johnstown depot in 1914.
A blow up of the above photo showing two of the tramcar staff. A switch had by this time clearly been made to double-breasted 'lancer-style' tunics.
Tramcar No 4 at Rhostyllen - photo dated 1917; however, given the lack of uniforms, the later-period tram livery, and its rathered battered state, this could well have been taken several years later in the mid 1920s.
A blow-up of the above photo showing Motorman Jim Newnes and Conductress Bessie Jones, both of whom appear to be in completely informal attire.
Tramcar No 7 pictured at the Turf Hotel Wrexham in 1925.
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductress and motorman, both of whom appear to be wearing makeshift uniforms, devoid of insignia.
Inspector Moffat and an overhead engineer with a brand new Tramcar No 10 at Rhostyllen in 1903.
A blow-up of the above photograph showing Inspector Moffat in early double-breasted jacket with lapels.
A blow-up of the 1914 staff photo above showing Inspector Tom Roberts (left) and Chief Inspector George Steen (right). By this time, the company had clearly switched to a traditional style of senior staff tramway uniform.
A blow-up of the motorwomen photo below showing Chief Inspector George Steen - 1918. The jackets cuffs are embellished with chevrons.
An evocative survival from 1918 showing the Chief Inspector and Manager along with six motorwomen and an inspectress. Front row: Mrs Purcell (No 7), Chief Inspector Steen, Manager A A Hawkins, Inspectress Phillips, Mrs Jackson (No 2). Rear: Mrs Woodhead (No 5), Miss Daniels (No 6), Miss Plumbley (No 1), Mrs Roberts (No 3).
A blow-up of the above photo showing Mrs Purcell. The uniforms were clearly of high quality, giving a very smart appearance, in stark contrast to the the policy that prevailed towards closure.
Another blow-up of the above photo, this time showing Inspectress Phillips. The uniform is identical to those worn by the other ladies, but with the addition of embroidered grade insignia; the cap is the same as worn by inspectors.
A damaged photograph of Tramcar No 1, but one which does show a Great War conductress in uniform.
Tramcar No 3 at Rhostyllen - photo undated, but judging by the poor state of the tram and its livery, probably taken in the mid 1920s. Authors Collection.
A blow-up of the above photo showing the crew members. The only uniform item on display appears to be the motorman's jacket.