Woolwich & Districts
on a horse tram
Article from the Kentish Independent Newspaper
By E.R. Oakley
boyhood days were spent around the Wickham Lane district of
Plumstead and I remember quite well some of the stone horse
troughs mentioned by Mr. E.W. Buis in his article “All
change” in the “K.I.” of 17 April.
is one still standing today (which, incidentally Mr. Buis omitted
to mention) at the top of Bostall Hill by the junction with
particular interest to me, however, is his mention of horse
and electric trams.
he is correct in saying that the horse trams “bridged
the gap” from the L.L.C electric trams at Albion Hill
to the Bexley cars at ‘The Plume of Feathers,’ Plumstead
High Street, this is by no means the whole story.
in 1881, a 3' 6" gauge horse tramway was constructed by
the Woolwich and South East London Tramways Co. and ran from
‘The Plume of Feathers’ to ‘The King William
IV’, Trafalgar Road, East Greenwich.
depot was at the bottom of Cage Lane —later Lakedale Road—and
is still in use as a motor garage, aptly named ‘Tram Yard.’
wasn't until 1903 that Bexley Council cars began running into
Plumstead, and then they terminated end-on with the horse cars,
outside "The Plume."
in 1903 the L.C.C. opened the first section of the newly electrified
reconstructed line from East Greenwich to Westminster, built
to ‘standard’ — or 4' 8 1/2" —
the next few years extensions eastwards were made to this conduit
1905 the L.C.C. purchased the Woolwich horse tramway and in
1907 closed the portion between "The Plume" and Beresford
Square, Woolwich, for reconstruction on the overhead system
of current collection and at standard gauge.
extension to Abbey Wood was also built and the new line opened
in 1908. Bexley cars commenced to run through to Woolwich as
a consideration for the purchase of their tracks in Plumstead
High Street by the L.C.C.
afterwards, this line was extended to Nile Street (Free Ferry),
and this remained the terminus for a number of years.
1910 a new depot was opened to house the electric cars of the
L.C.C. at the end of the line at Abbey Wood. Originally intended
to provide accommodation for 25 cars, it was not long before
it was enlarged and its ultimate capacity was 86 cars.
1911 the L.C.C. extended this conduit electric line eastwards
to Chapel Street, Woolwich, and from this time until November
1913 the ‘gap’ was ‘bridged’ by the
horse tramway —just over a 1/2 mile long— and operated
by one or two cars.
cars were housed in the now disused car shed at Lakedale Road,
and conveyed to the narrow gauge line each day by a long standard
gauge truck with a length of narrow gauge track on its deck.
in 1914 — with the ‘gap closed’ — electric
cars ran through from London to Abbey Wood.
to Mr. Buis' remarks about Bexley trams being cast-offs from
most of the corporations in the country, I'm afraid that here
he is very much ‘off the track’, so to speak.
purchased 12 four-wheeled cars of the open top type with which
to commence services. These were new vehicles and were housed
at the dept built near the eastern end of the line, not far
from the Graveyard Hill terminus.
services were operated,one from Plumstead (later Woolwich) to
Gravel Hill, and the other over the same line as far as Bexleyheath
Market Place and then along Mayplace Road to the council boundary
at Northumberland Heath.
long, however, the ‘Main line’ became Woolwich —
Northumberland Heath and remained so for many years before circumstances
caused Bexley to allow the Bexley Heath Service to be operated
by Erith Council.
two years after the commencement of these services, four more
cars were purchased to maintain an anticipated increase in traffic.
the early part of the 1914- 18 war Bexley borrowed six class
‘B’ L.C.C. four wheeled covered top cars to enable
them to cope with the vast increase in munition worker traffic,
and in 1917 — due to Dartford Tramways depot and cars
being totally destroyed by fire on the night of August Bank
Holiday — hired more L.C.C. cars to enable them to maintain
the joint service to Horns Cross.
17 of these cars were purchased and remained in service, along
with the open top cars, until the whole lot was taken over by
the L.P.T.B on 1 July, 1933.
all the cars were by then 30 years old and nearing the end of
their lives, they were replaced by class ‘M’ cars
of the late L.C.C. Although these cars were 22 years old they
were much more sturdily constructed and had many more years
of life left in them. These were all covered top cars, and maintained
the service until replaced by trolley busses during the night
of the 23|24 November 1935.
is true to say that the track of Bexley tramway was bad. This,
coupled with the fact that most of it was single line with passing
places, making the service very slow, was the main reason which
prompted the L.P.T.B to change over to trolley busses when they
closing, I would like to say that there is an excellent book,
‘The Tramways of Woolwich and South East London’,
published by the Tramway and Light Rail Society and the Light
Railway Transport League, which gives the complete story of
tramways in the Woolwich area, and I am sure that Mr. Buis —
and many other people — would enjoy reading about this
fascinating period in our local History.
submitted by Derek Crompton.
The Kentish Independent newspaper is now history along with
the tram which was before my time. I can remember the trolleybuses.
Also the rails in Beresford square.
ER OAKLEY reefers to Tramways of Woolwich and South East
London (Hardcover) by Southeastern edited by G
E Baddeley was published in 1963 for the sum of 35 shillings.
interesting artical is this: BEXLEY
TRAM LETTER BOX by Peter Bathe