General Tramways of Portsmouth

A scheme to construct a third horse tramway within Portsmouth and Portsey was first mooted in 1875. The promoters applied for provisional powers the same year, following which, on the 20th December 1875, a new company — The General Tramways Company of Portsmouth — was incorporated. Powers were granted through the Landport Southsea and Portsea Street Tramways Order, 1876, which was approved on the 24th July 1876, under the umbrella of the Tramways Orders Confirmation (Bristol, &c.) Act, 1876. The company, however, did not get approval for a crucial stretch of tramway in Osborne Road, which it needed to reach South Parade, due to the objections of the residents.

Powers for a further line, from Commercial Road to Ordnance Row were granted on the 23rd July 1877 by the Portsea Tramways Order, 1877, under the umbrella of the Tramways Orders Confirmation Act, 1877.

Construction of the 4ft 7¾ins-gauge horse tramway probably commenced in late 1877, with sections of it opening on the 4th and the 19th March 1878, including a short length in High Street, and a longer length between Castle Road and the Queens Hotel (on Southsea Terrace), the company lacking powers to continue southeastwards along Osborne Road. Services eventually ran from the Floating Bridge (at Point) to the western end of Alexandra Road, along Portsmouth Street Tramways Company tracks, and from its eastern end along Landport and Southsea Tramways Company tracks. Agreement for this was enabled by the Provincial Tramways Company, which already owned the PSTCo, and which, in February 1878, approved the acquisition of both the GTCo and the L&STCo, having already agreed this with the respective companies. The GTCo was taken over by the PTCo on the 11th April 1878, following which, the the L&STCo was re-registered (on the 17th April 1878) as a limited company, becoming the Landport and Southsea Tramway Company Limited. Two weeks later, on the 8th May 1878, operation of the L&ST was placed in the hands of the GTCo.

The GTCo's new parent company, the PTCo, was a London-based holding company that had been founded in 1872, and which would ultimately be involved in tramway operation for over fifty years, either owning, controlling or operating: Borough of Portsmouth, Kingston, Fratton and Southsea Tramways; Cardiff Tramways; Cardiff District and Penarth Harbour Tramways; General Tramways of Portsmouth; Gosport Street Tramways; Gosport and Fareham Tramways; Great Grimsby Street Tramways; the Landport and Southsea Tramway; London Southern Tramways; Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport Tramways; the Portsdown and Horndean Light Railway; and Portsmouth Street Tramways.

The existing lines were joined, on the 31st March 1879, by the 1877-authorised line from the station to Ordance Row. Although the GTCo ran services over the other companies' lines, this effectively took the GTCo's own lines to their maximum of circa 2.13 miles. From a terminus at The Hard, the main line ran broadly southeastwards via Ordnance Road, St Georges Road and Alexandra Road, then over L&STCo tracks along Kings Terrrace and Jubilee Terrace, and from there over its own tracks along Southsea Terrace and Emanuel Terrace to the latter's junction with Osborne Road. The line from the station joined the main line at Ordance Row, having traversed Commercial Road, Edinburgh Road, Lion Place, Lion Terrace, Mill Dam Road and Park Road.

Powers for the eastwards extension to South Parade — via Osborne Road — were eventually granted, but in the name of the PSTCo rather than the GTCo.

Five years after it had been taken over by the PTCo, the GTCo was formally amalgamated with the PSTCo, and the Gosport Street Tramways Company, on the 1st September 1883. Powers for this, as well as the formation of a new statutory company — the Portsmouth Street Tramways Company — were granted on the 16th July 1883, under the Portsmouth Street Tramways (Amalgamation) Act, 1883.

Photographs of the horse tramway taken between its opening and amalgamation (1878 to 1883) have not survived, so it is not possible to state whether staff working the GTCo's horse trams wore uniforms. However, given that early photographs (circa 1881) of the PSTCo show staff wearing informal attire, and conductors self-purchased kepi-style caps, it is likely that GTCo crews wore similar attire.

Drivers and conductors of the PSTCo also wore a large round municipal licence badge, attached to either the coat or in the conductor's case, the cash-bag strap, which again suggests that their equivalents on the GTCo did likewise.

Following the amalgamation of 1883, tramcar crews would have worked for the newly incorporated PSTCo, and would have worn the same attire as their counterparts elsewhere in Portsmouth (see link).

Further reading
For a history of the area's tramways, see 'Tramways of Portsmouth' by S E Harrison, Light Railway Transport League (1955), and 'Provincial Paper No 2' by Stewart Brett, The Provincial Society (2014).