Gloucester Corporation Transport
Gloucester's first public transport was provided by the
Gloucester City Tramways Company (a subsidiary of Imperial Tramways), who
operated a 4ft gauge, horse tramway in the town from 1879, using 16 single-deck
cars in crimson lake and cream livery, an assortment of closed saloons and
roofed toastracks built by Bristol and Hughes.
The tramway was 6½ miles long and consisted of five
routes radiating out from the city centre; to Kingsholm via Northgate Street,
Worcester Street and Kingsholm Road; to the Fleece Inn at Wotton, via Northgate
Street and London Road; to the depot in India Road, via Eastgate Street and
Lower Barton Road; to Theresa Place on Bristol Road, Southgate Street; and to
St. Nicholas' Church on Westgate Street. There was a short branch line from
Eastgate Street to the Great Western Railway and Midland Railway Stations in the
The tramway was not a financial success and in July 1881
was taken over by a new company - the City of Gloucester Tramways Co. Ltd.
The tramway was pruned by closing the Westgate to St.
Nicholas' Church section and the branch line serving the two stations. Six new
Starbuck cars were purchased and two of the older ones withdrawn. The tramway's
fortune seemed to improve and a short extension to Tuffley Avenue on Bristol
Road was opened in 1897. An order to extend and electrify the tramway was
approved by Gloucester Corporation, who purchased the Company on the 30th
September 1902 - the commencement of municipal transport in Gloucester. It was
subsequently re-gauged to 3ft 6ins and electrified, the last horse tram running
on the 17th March 1904.
The reconstructed system was officially opened on 7th
May 1904, a mixture of single- and double-track sections, although the former
Bristol Road horse route was operational by the 29th April. The fleet consisted
of 20 Brush 4-wheel open-top double-deckers in a crimson lake and cream livery,
no doubt derived from that used by the City of Gloucester Company. A further 10
identical Brush cars arrived later in the year to make up the fleet, which
remained unchanged until closure. The entire fleet was painted grey as an
economy measure during World War I, but was never returned to the crimson lake
livery after hostilities ended, and remained all-over grey until the demise of
Under municipal control the newly electrified system was
extended to a total of 9¾ miles, including a 2-mile extension from the Fleece
Inn across the boundary to Hucclecote. This line was actually owned by the
County Council, although Gloucester Corporation worked the line as part of its
system. It was extended in 1917 to serve a new aerodrome at Brockworth, but
after the end of the War the traffic declined and this section became the first
part of the tramway to be closed on 1st October 1924.
By the late 1920's the Corporation viewed the motorbus
as the natural successor to the inflexible trams and the first conversions of
tram routes to bus operation took place in September 1929, accompanied by an
expansion in the network.
On 8th September the Cross to Cemetery Road tram route
was converted to bus operation. It was numbered as service 2 and the opportunity
was taken to extend it to Saintbridge.
The Cross to Kingsholm route was next to succumb on 12th
September when it was replaced by bus route 4, which was also extended in both
directions to Longlevens and The Oval. On the same day an entirely new service
commenced, numbered 5, it linked Kings Square with Longlevens via Cheltenham
The final tram replacement of this initial tranche took
place a week later on 19th September when the Tuffley service became bus route
1. New bus route 3 was also introduced on the 19th and provided a facility to
Tredworth and Bibury Road. To operate these new services a fleet of thirteen new
motorbuses entered service. All had local bodywork constructed by the Gloucester
Railway Carriage and Wagon Co and were built to a normal control layout. The
fleet consisted of nine (Nos. 1-9: FH6170-78), Vulcan Duchess's with twenty-six
seat, front-entrance bodywork and four Thornycroft BC's with thirty-two seat,
front-entrance bodies, and were finished in the former tramway livery of crimson
lake and cream.
In January 1930, route 2 was extended from the Cross to
Westgate but this extension, like the tram route before it did not prove
successful and so, in August, it was withdrawn. Meanwhile in June, route 5 had
been diverted via Oxford Street and Denmark Road, thus leaving London Road to
the trams. January also saw the arrival of three more Vulcan Duchess’s, which
were numbered 14 to 16 (FH6462-64) again with local GRCW B26F bodywork, with
another three similar vehicles (Nos. 17-19: FH6964-66) arriving in October. This
enabled new route 6 to commence on 6th November. This route was a variation of
route 5 (Kings Square to Sisson Road) but it diverted from Cheltenham Road via
Elmbridge Road to its junction with Sisson Road.
The following year, route 7 commenced. This was a
variation of route 4 - Longford to The Oval, and operated via Seymour Road and
Linden Road instead of King Edwards Avenue. In 1932, route 3 was extended along
Finlay Road from Bibury Road to Selwyn Road, and in December, eleven more GRCW-bodied,
26-seat, Thornycroft BC's (Nos 20-30: FH7948-58) were delivered in readiness for
the final tramway abandonment in 1933.
1933 started with the final abandonment of the tramway
system, when, on 12th January, the trams on the Bristol Road to Barnwood and Hucclecote routes
ceased running. The replacement bus routes followed the same
route as the trams but were extended along Tuffley Avenue to turn at Wilton
Road. The new routes introduced were;
On the 20th July a further new service was introduced,
numbered 10, this linked the Centre with Coney Hill, via Barton Street and
Painswick Road. To operate this route a further 6 (Nos. 31-36: FH8289-94),
Thornycroft BC's were delivered to the Corporation. The chassis were similar to
the earlier vehicles but were modified to have forward control. They were fitted
with 29-seat GRCW bodies with open rear platforms.
Early in 1934 a new circular route was introduced and
operated as route 11 anti-clockwise and as route 12 clockwise, via Southgate
Street, Stroud Road, Parkend Road, Barton Street, Eastgate Street and The Cross.
Later in the year route 10 was extended to Westgate, whilst another innovation
was the introduction of special services, nominally numbered 13, to serve the
Greyhound Track in Cheltenham Road.
Two more, GRCW B26RP-bodied, Thornycroft BC's (Nos.
37-38: FH8765-66), arrived in April - the last of the type to be built by the
manufacturer. In October the four oldest Thornycrofts were sent to Roe, in
Leeds, for modification to a rear entrance layout.
In April 1935, Thornycrofts Nos. 10 and 11 received oil
engines, that in No.10 being a Gardner 4LW engine, whilst a 4-cylinder Dorman
engine was fitted to No.11. Around this time Nos. 31-36 were fitted with an
extra three seats, giving a total seating capacity of thirty-two. An order was
placed for six more Thornycrofts with Gardner 5LW engines for delivery the
following year, however, on 12th June 1936, Gloucester Corporation leased their
services to Bristol Tramways and Carriage Company Ltd., and as a result the
order was cancelled. All vehicles in the Corporation fleet were
officially transferred to the Bristol company from this date, although the
actual transfer had already taken place in April.
The former Gloucester Corporation vehicles did, however,
continue to carry the Gloucester coat of arms, a fitting reminder of the days of
Gloucester Corporation Transport.
In producing this history reference has been
made to the following sources;
The Directory of British Tramways (Keith Turner: PSL 1996), A History of
Gloucester City Bus Services (R. Waters; website;
ongoing research which also draws
on material from other publications), PSV Circle Fleet History PH6 (1985).
History 1902-1936 | Tram Fleet List 1902-1933 | Bus
Fleet List 1929-1936 |