Bexley Urban District Council Tramways

Summary
The precise chronology of the uniforms issued by Bexley UDC tramways is currently a little unclear. Although the majority of Edwardian photographs show staff in single-breasted jackets, odd examples have survived, particularly of motormen, which show them in double-breasted 'lancer-style' tunics. On the basis of the current evidence, it would therefore seem likley that both motormen and conductors were initially issued with single-breasted jackets with five brass buttons (containing a stylised letter 'B' - see link), two breast pockets (with button closures), epaulettes (again with button closures) and upright collars; both the epaulettes and the right-hand collar bore badges of some description, possibly employee numbers, though these cannot be made out with certainty on surviving photographs. Caps were military in style and carried standard, 'off the shelf', script-lettering grade badges, either 'Motorman' or 'Conductor'; these were probably brass to match the buttons. A small round badge of unknown pattern was worn above the grade badge, more than likely comprising some kind of municipal device.

For motormen, a gradual switch appears to have been made to double-breasted, 'lancer style' tunics with two rows of five buttons (narrowing from top to bottom), epaulettes and upright collars; these were apparently in blue serge with red piping and appear to have been worn by them right through to the take-over of the system by the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933, whereas conductors probably wore the original style of single-breasted jacket until the mid 1920s or so, after which they were issued with single-breasted jackets of a more modern cut, with five buttons, epaulettes and lapels. Tramcar staff were also issued with long, double-breasted overcoats with two rows of five buttons, epaulettes and high fold-over collars; the former carried a badge of unknown pattern, whilst the latter were devoid of insignia.

Motormen and conductors always appeared in service wearing Metropolitan Public Service Vehicle badges (see link).

Whilst it is thought that early in the tramway's life, inspectors wore elaborate 'bandmaster- style' uniforms with black braid frogs, photographic evidence remains elusive. By the time of the Great War, inspectors were certainly wearing double-breasted jackets with two rows of four buttons and lapels; the latter carried the grade - 'Inspector' - in embroidered script lettering. Caps were military in style and carried the grade, almost certainly embroidered, on a hat bad.

In common with the vast majority of UK tramways, Bexley employed female staff during the Great War to replace male staff lost to the armed services. These ladies were issued with smart tailored uniforms comprising: a single-breasted jacket with five buttons (offset to one side), two waist pockets (with button closures), a belt with button fastening, cuffs with button adornment and high fold-over collars; the latter were plain, i.e. devoid of insignia. A long matching shirt was also worn, which had a row of three buttons, aligned vertically, embellishing the bottom of the garment. Headgear comprised a felt bonnet with a wide brim, which carried a standard script-lettering grade badge affixed to a hat band. Female staff were also issued with overcoats which had two rows of five buttons, epaulettes and high fold-over collars; the former carried a badge of some description, whilst the latter were devoid of insignia. The last conductresses ceased work on 24th December 1919.

For a history of Bexley UDC Tramways, see 'The Tramways of Woolwich and South East London' by 'Southeastern'; Light Railway Transport League (1963).

Images

Motormen and conductors
Bexley UDC Tramways Tram No 8 and crew 1903
Conductor and motorman with Tramcar No 8 at Courtleet Bottom - photo undated, but probably taken around 1903. Both men are wearing standard script-lettering grade badges, with a small, round badge of unknown pattern above. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Bexley Urban District Council Tramways cap badges
Standard ‘off the shelf’ script-lettering cap badges of the type used by Bexley UDC Tramways - brass.


Bexley Council Tramways staff photo 1914
A staff photo taken at Gravel Hill depot in May 1914. Photo courtesy of Bexley Archives (see link).


Bexley Council Tramways tram drivers and conductors Great War
A blow-up of the above photo showing eight of the motormen (in 'lancer-style' tunics) and conductors (in single-breasted jackets). Only two of the individuals appear to be wearing a small round badge above their script-lettering cap badges, suggesting that it was no longer being issued to new employees.


Bexley UDC Tramways Conductor Great War
Bexley UDC Tramways Great War conductor. The cap badge is almost certainly a regimental badge - in this case a Queens Own Royal West Kent Yeomanry Regiment collar badge. The wearing of regimental badges was common practice at this time, either to denote military service or to show support for friends and relatives who were serving. The buttons - on magnification - appear to be a stylised 'B' within a circlet. Photo courtesy of Bexley Archives (see link).


Bexley Council Tramways Great War staff photo
Another staff photo taken at Gravel Hill depot, purportedly in 1916, and presumably, to record the new intake of female staff. Although wearing uniforms, the ladies appear to be in a variety of headgear, suggesting that formally issued hats were yet to arrive. Photo courtesy of Bexley Archives (see link).


Bexley Council Tramways Tram No 27 and driver
Bexley Council Tramways motorman at the controls of Tramcar No 27 at Horns Cross on the 30th June 1933. Photo by Dr H Nicol, courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Bexley Council Tramways Tram No 14 and motorman
Bexley Council Tramways conductor aboard Tramcar No 14 - photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1930s. Photo by Dr H Nicol, courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Bexley Council Tramways Tram No 14 and driver depot
Another shot of Tramcar No 14, this time at the depot, with motorman at the rear - photo taken in the 1930s. Photo by H Wightman, courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Bexley UDC Tramways Tram No 24 and motorman
Motorman at the controls of Tramcar No 24 bound for Horns Cross - photo undated, but probably taken around 1930. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Senior staff
Bexley Council Tramways inspectors
A blow-up of the 1916 staff photo above showing two of the inspectors.


Female staff
Bexley UDC Tramways Great War conductress
A slightly out-of-focus studio portrait of a Bexley Council Tramways Great War conductress, but one which does reveal the type of uniform worn - photo purportedly taken in 1918. The hat lacks the usual script-lettering grade badge, which is however present in other photos of female staff (not shown). Photo courtesy of Bexley Archives (see link).