Birkenhead United Tramway, Omnibus and Carriage Company Ltd

History
The Birkenhead United Tramway, Omnibus and Carriage Co Ltd was formed in 1888 to acquire the assets of the Birkenhead Tramways Company (which was in liquidation at the time) as well as those of the Birkenhead and District Omnibus and Carriage Co Ltd. The BTCo was formally taken over on the 15th August 1890, with Birkenhead Corporation acquiring the BTCo's tracks (circa 6.3 miles of standard-gauge horse tramway) on the same day. The tramway was therefore worked by the BUTO&CCo under a lease agreement with Birkenhead Corporation.

The company seems to have led a rather uneventful existence, at least by the standards of its predecessors, though by the mid 1890s, it was becoming clear that the corporation was giving serious consideration to conversion of its horse lines to electric traction, and thereafter, operating the system as a municipal concern. The BUTO&CCo's lease was due to expire at the end of 1900, so the corporation concentrated its efforts on the Wirral Tramway Company, which had a much longer lease; this was eventually terminated by mutual agreement on the 31st December 1899. Although the WTCo was allowed to continue running services until the line to New Ferry was ready for reconstruction, agreement on the precise details could not be reached, the WTCo running its last horse tram service on the 8th May 1900. This resulted in new business coming the way of the BUTO&CCo, as the corporation asked the company to provide a replacement tram service on the New Ferry route, which it did from 16th May 1900 onwards.

With the agreement of the corporation, the BUTO&CCo continued to provide services following the expiry of its lease (at the end of 1900), the last journey over former WTCo tracks taking place on the 22nd January 1901, and the last horse service of all on the 8th November 1901.

Uniforms
Fortunately, several photos exist showing BUTO&CCo staff working the horse trams, so it is possible to say with some degree of certainty what attire was worn.

In common with the majority of horse tramways in the UK, drivers simply wore heavy duty informal attire — trousers, jackets, knee blankets (see first photo below) and the predominant headgear of the day, the bowler hat. Conductors appear to have also worn informal jackets and trousers, though they do appear to have worn overcoats with upper lapels of a darker material then the main coat, suggesting that they were either company-issued, or if self-purchased, that they were bought through the company. In the first photo below, there is no reflection from the flash, suggesting that the overcoat buttons were not made of brass or nickel, and therefore, that they were probably plain (in this period, uniform buttons were always either brass or nickel, and metal buttons would not have been used on everyday working-class garments).

Conductors wore a low kepi-style cap that appeared to carry a large metal badge (of unknown pattern), almost certainly issued by the company.

Further reading
For a history of Birkenhead's tramways, see: 'The Tramways of Birkenhead and Wallasey' by T B Maund and M Jenkins; LRTA (1987).

Images

Birkenhead United Tramway, Omnibus and Carriage Company
BUTCCo Horsecar No 5 standing outside Palm Grove depot — photo undated, but probably taken some time in the early 1890s given the good condition of the vehicle, which was new in 1890. The conductor appears to be wearing an informal jacket, but with a kepi-style cap, more than likely issued by the tramway company. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Birkenhead United Tramway, Omnibus and Carriage Company
BUTCCo Horsecar No 18 at the Borough Rd terminus of the Prenton Route — photo undated, but probably taken in the mid-to-late 1890s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.



A blow-up of the above photo showing the tramcar staff. The conductor appears to be wearing a long overcoat with dark collars (not unlike those issued to another horse tramway - Derby Tramways Company) and a cap with a large metal badge. The driver is wearing heav- duty informal attire, and the normal headgear for his profession during this period — a bowler hat.


Birkenhead United Tramway, Omnibus and Carriage Company
BUTCCo Horsecar No 7 standing at Woodside — photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1890s. Only the driver can be seen — seated facing the camera — and he is clearly wearing informal attire. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.