Horse buses had been introduced to Barrow in 1877, when two such
vehicles commenced a service connecting Barrow Island and the Strawberry Hotel
on Abbey Road via the town centre. They were not an immediate success and the
service was withdrawn shortly afterwards. However, they had proved the necessity
of public transport, although it was to be several years later before there were
any further developments.
The Barrow-in-Furness Tramways
Company, under the Barrow-in-Furness Corporation Act of 1881
and the Tramways Order Confirmation of 27th February 1884, built and
operated the first tramway in Barrow, but by 1898 the company had gone into
liquidation. It was taken over by the British Electric Traction Co. Ltd., who converted the system to electric traction in line with their regular
practice and the new system opened to the public on 6th
The outbreak of World War I in 1914 restricted the BET expansion plans and the lack of
men and materials put a strain on the system, which consequently suffered serious neglect
over the next few years and, as a result, on the 1st January 1920 the Corporation of Barrow
exercised its option to purchase the tramway system for the sum of £96,250.
Over the next two years more cars were added and the system improved. Nos. 1-4
were re-bodied with second-hand ERTCW bodies from Southport, nos. 29-34 were purchased
second-hand from Sheffield and nos. 35-46 were new from Brush in 1921, the last to be
purchased before the system's closure. The old BET livery of maroon and cream
was changed to olive green and cream.
Motor buses had made an appearance in Barrow as early as 1915 when the British Electric
Traction Co. applied for a licence to run a service from Barrow Town Hall to Dalton and
Ulverston. Six Daimler CD vehicles especially purchased for the route, were followed in
1916 by three Belsize vehicles. In 1919 the BET offered to sell the bus side of their
business to the Corporation, but the Corporation declined and the undertaking was
transferred to the British Automobile Traction Co. Ltd. The service was abandoned on 29th
Barrow Corporation had made proposals for a bus service as early as 1920, but in the
event, it was not until 17th August 1923 that the first service was
inaugurated. A small Ford vehicle was used for the service from the Roose tram terminus to
Rampside, followed shortly after by the purchase of two Chevrolet buses.
The Barrow-in-Furness Corporation Act of 1925 contained powers to operate motorbuses
and an expansion of the bus system began. In May 1925 the route from Roose to Rampside was extended to Whitehall and subsequently
to Ulverston with new Guy single-deck vehicles being purchased for the purpose. Later that
year two further services from the Town Hall to Ormsgill and Hawcoat were commenced.
In November 1926, buses were introduced at week-ends over part of the Ramsden
Dock route in an effort to reduce operating costs. It must have met with some
success, since the trams were subsequently used only at peak times.
garage was acquired next to the tram depot in Salthouse Road for use as a bus depot and
this remained in use until 10th January 1936 when the new bus depot on Hindpool
Road was officially opened.
In 1929 two new routes from Roose to the Tea House, and from the Town Hall to
North Scale commenced and four Leyland TD1 chassis with Leyland L24/24R bodies were
purchased. In 1931 four all-Leyland TS3 single-deckers joined the fleet, with Leyland
subsequently supplying the bulk of
vehicles; the remainder being of Crossley manufacture. By 1930 when the Prussian blue and cream livery associated with Barrow was introduced, further
expansion of services had taken place. With the final abandonment of the tramway system in
1932 buses appeared on all the routes. A feature of Barrow buses was the coloured
destination blinds, introduced in 1934, ostensibly for that section of the
population that could not read. Green was used for the Abbey to Biggar
Bank route; blue for the Roose to Tea House route; red for the Hawcoat to Shore
route and yellow for the Hawcoat to Harrel Lane route. These blinds were retained until the 1960's.
In 1930 consideration was given to the closure of the system and, although the
trolleybus system at Wolverhampton was inspected, the Corporation eventually decided that
replacement should be by motorbus.
The last tram (No. 45 and suitably decorated) operated from the Abbey terminus on the night of 5th April
1932, driven by Mr. William Parsons, who had driven the very first tram to operate on the
system on 11th July 1885.
In 1933 another new bus route opened, from Oxford Street to Risedale via
Greengate Hill. Five Leyland Tiger TS4's (Nos. 1-4 and 6) inaugurated the route.
A new bus garage was built in Hindpool Road in 1936.
In 1942 the first utility vehicles arrived, six Guy Arab I's with Park Royal bodywork,
followed in 1943 by two Daimler CWG5's and three more Guy Arabs - all with Massey
bodywork. A single Guy Arab II, again with Massey bodywork completed the wartime
deliveries in 1943.
In the early postwar period Barrow gained a reputation as having one of the most modern
and standardised fleets in the country. Twenty new Crossley DD42 double-deckers arrived in
1948, and between 1949 and 1951 fifty Leyland Titan PD2/3 double-deckers with Park Royal
bodywork were purchased, all built to the newly introduced maximum width of 8-ft. Nos.
141-150 were later re-bodied by Roe.
In 1950 alterations were made to the Ormsgill to Harrel Lane and the Oxford Street to
Risedale services to provide a circular service and double-deck vehicles were introduced.
The business of the Grange Motor and Cycle Company, who operated between Barrow
and Ulverston was taken over, jointly with Ribble Motor Services in 1951. The
additional workings were operated solely by Ribble. On the 1st February 1953 the Ormsgill to Risedale service was extended to the
new housing estate at Newbarns. On the 6th October 1958 one-man-operation
was introduced on the Coast Road service to Ulverston. 1958 also saw the next intake of double-deckers when ten more Park Royal bodied
PD2/40's were delivered, although three single-deckers had been added to the fleet in the
In 1961 ten more Leyland PD2 double-deckers were delivered, this time with Massey
bodies to a front entrance design. Also during this year the maximum length for
single-deck vehicles was increased to 36-ft, which made them much more attractive to
operators. Barrow was among those that subsequently favoured single-deck vehicles and no
further double-deck vehicles were purchased until 1982. The single-deck vehicles provided
a variety of chassis types, Leyland Leopard and National, Daimler Fleetline and Dennis
Dominator all made an appearance in the blue and cream livery of Barrow.
Tentative steps into coaching were taken in 1973 with the purchase of E. N. Hadwin of
Ulverston, along with ten coaches. The business was operated as a separate
entity under the name of
Hadwin's Luxury Coaches, but was disposed of in 1977. Another attempt at
developing a coaching operation was instigated in 1986 when two coaches were
purchased. The name chosen was 'Barrovian Travel' and the new company commenced
operations in May 1986. It was still operating when Barrow Transport
became Barrow Borough Transport Limited later in 1986.
In 1982 three second-hand Fleetlines with MCW bodies were purchased from London
Transport with two similar vehicles arriving in 1984.
Under the 1985 Transport Act, the Transport Department was forced to become an 'arm's
length' limited company , which commenced trading as Barrow Borough Transport
Limited on 26th October 1986, effectively ending over 65 years of municipal involvement in
local transport, although the Borough Council continued to be the major
shareholder until 26th May 1989, when, after a lengthy battle with Ribble Motor
Services, the Company ceased to trade.
This history covers the period of
municipal operations of Barrow Corporation which effectively ceased on 26th
October 1986 with the enactment of the 1985 Transport Act (de-regulation).
In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
The Directory of British Tramways (Keith Turner, PSL 1996); Trams in the North
West (Peter Hesketh, Ian Allan 1995); Cumberland Motor
Services 1921-1996 (Chapter 6), (Harry Postlethwaite, Venture 1996); Barrow
Diamond Jubilee by Adrian W. Norris (Buses Extra No. 15); Barrow
Borough Transport by Roy Marshall (Buses Extra No. 62 Dec 1989-Jan 1990); PSV
Circle Fleet History PA15 (1984), Buses (various editions). Some of this
material draws on earlier works which are acknowledged in the respective