Birmingham and District Tramways

History
The Birmingham and District Tramways Company commenced operation on its newly built line from the Birmingham boundary at Hockley Brook to Dudley Port and Hill Top on the 20th May 1872; the line was standard gauge and horse drawn.

Even at the early stage in tramway development, Birmingham Corporation had decided to build and thus control, all tramway routes within its boundaries, so it resisted all attempts by companies to extend their lines within the city; it was however happy to build tramways and lease them to companies, its first being from Colmore Row out to meet the B&DTCo's line at Hockley Brook, which it duly leased to the company, regular services commencing on the 11th September 1873. The B&DTCo was not however in the best of financial health, and following some prudent cuts, it was taken over by a new company, the Birmingham Tramways and Omnibus Co Ltd, which had been formed for this purpose on 24th May 1876.

Birmingham Corporation built its last standard gauge tramway line — the Bristol Rd route — in early 1876, services (operated by the BT&OCoLtd) commencing on the 17th June 1876. This marked a hiatus in tramway building by the corporation, but when it took up the reins again, there was a significant change in policy, with all new lines built to a narrower gauge (3ft 6ins), and leased to steam tramway companies. These changes, along with similar developments in the Black Country, left the BT&OCoLtd operating a few standard gauge lines in a veritable sea of narrow gauge concerns, and it was therefore perhaps unsurprising that on expiry of the municipal leases on the 31st December 1885, the corporation chose to hand its standard gauge lines over to the Birmingham Central Tramways Company for conversion to the narrower gauge, as well as to another new form of traction, cable haulage. The BT&OCoLtd, did the only sensible thing, and sold out its remaining assets to the BCTCoLtd on the last day of 1885.

Conductors almost certainly wore a round, brass, municipal licence; this bore a number and a grade (CONDUCTOR), above which were the arms of Birmingham, which prior to 1889, took the form of a quartered shield.

Uniforms
Photographs depicting staff working the horse-drawn services do not appear to have survived, so it is currently unclear whether or not uniforms were worn; however, as informal attire seems to have been a general trend with early Birmingham tramway operators, it seems more than likely that uniforms were not worn. It is however possible that conductors and drivers wore Birmingham licences, though it is unclear whether these had been introduced before the B&DTCoLtd and the BT&OCoLtd had passed into history.

Further reading
For a history of Birmingham's tramways, see: 'A Short Review of Birmingham Corporation Tramways' by P L Hardy and P Jaques; H J Publications (1971).

Images

Steam tram drivers and conductors
Birmingham tram conductor licence
Birmingham municipal licence — brass — of the type probably issued to B&DT and BT&OCo conductors. In April 1889, a full grant of arms was made to the city, including supporters and crest, and this type of licence was replaced with a pattern reflecting the new arms. This was of course a few years after the B&DT passed into history. Author's Collection.