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Bristol Tramways & Carriage Company

The Bristol Tramways Company was formed on 9 August 1875 by Sir George White and it operated until 11 April 1941 when a Luftwaffe bomb destroyed the main power supply cables. The first trams were horse-drawn and ran from Perry Road (Colston Curve) to Apsley Road, known as Redland Terminus.

The horses were kept at the Colston Stables, wedged between the triangle of Perry Road, Colston Street and Griffin Lane (now Lower Park Row). These first trams had a maximum speed of 6 miles per hour!

How fast is 6 miles per hour? We wondered and this is what we found:

  • It's about 0.000000009 times as fast as The Speed of Light

  • It's about one-one-hundred-fiftieth as fast as The Speed of Sound

  • It's about one-thirty-five-thousandth as fast as a bolt of Lightning

  • It's about one-fifteen-thousandth as fast as a Meteor

  • It's about one-three-thousandth as fast as The Space Shuttle

  • It's about one-thirtieth as fast as a Helicopter

  • It's about one-fortieth as fast as a Peregrine Falcon

  • It's about one-thirty-fifth as fast as an Arrow (archery)

  • It's about one-tenth as fast as a Hare

  • It's about one-fourth as fast as Usain Bolt


  • It's about 65,000,000 times as fast as Grass growing

  • It's about 40 times as fast as a Sloth

  • It's about five times as fast as an Iceberg

  • It's about two times as fast as Walking Pedestrians (in Manhattan)

  • and it's about as fast as a Crocodile

The fleet started with 109 horse trailers and 678 horses.

Horse tram routes

  • Drawbridge – Perry Road – Redland (Apsley Road)

  • Drawbridge – Horfield Depot

  • Drawbridge – Cumberland Street – Ashley Road – Warwick Road

  • Hotwells (Dowry Square) – Drawbridge – Joint Station

  • Bristol Bridge (Redcliffe Street) – Ashton Gate (Coronation Road)

  • Bristol Bridge (Redcliffe Street) – Bedminster Old Market – Bath Street – Joint Station – Totterdown – Arno’s Vale

  • Old Market – Peny Road – Redland (Apsley Road)

  • Old Market – Eastville

  • Old Market – St. George – Kingswood

“Drawbridge” was later discontinued and “Tramways Centre” substituted.

Bristol first to introduce electric trams! Bristol was the first city in the UK to introduce electric trams were introduced on 14 October 1895 running from Old Market to Kingswood. The trams kept at the depot in Beaconsfield Road, St. George, which was also the power station.

The last new batch of electric trams was built in 1920 to the same basic open top design and style as those of twenty years before. At its peak there were 17 tram routes and 237 tramcars were in use. (The first bus route was 18).

In 1900/01 the largest depot, workshop and maintenance complex was built at Brislington and it was used for the construction of trams. Later many of the City’s buses were built and housed there. It still exists (a listed building) and some of the tram tracks are still down in the old engineering shops at the far end.

Electric tram routes The routes were not numbered until November 1913 and were as follows –

  • Tramways Centre – Whiteladies Road – Durdham Downs

  • Tramways Centre – Whiteladies Road – Durdham Downs – Westbury

  • Eastville – Old Market – Whiteladies Road – Durdham Downs

  • Tramways Centre – Zetland Road – Durdham Downs

  • Tramways Centre – Ashley Down Road – Horfield Barracks

  • Tramways Centre – Ashley Down Road – Horfield Barracks – Filton Park – Filton

  • Tramways Centre – Warwick Road – Eastville – Fishponds

  • Tramways Centre – Temple Meads Station

  • Hotwells – Tramways Centre – Temple Meads Station – Arno’s Vale – Depot – Brislington

  • Bristol Bridge – Knowle

  • Bristol Bridge – Ashton Road

  • Bristol Bridge – Bedminster Depot – Bedminster Down

  • Tramways Centre – Old Market – St. George – Whiteway Rd – Kingswood

  • Zetland Road – Old Market – Eastville – Fishponds – Staple Hill

  • Knowle – Bushy Park – Old Market – St. George – Marling Road – Nags Head Hill – Hanham

  • Old Market – St George

  • Hotwells – Tramways Centre – Temple Meads Station

From 1902 to 1905, the route from Hanham. having reached Old Market, was extended to the Tramways Centre.

The final journey... In 1938 the five phase discontinuation of the trams began, but during an air raid on Good Friday 1941, bombs dropped on St Philip’s Bridge outside the power station and disrupted the system’s electricity supply. Unplanned, buses immediately appeared the next morning and over the next few weeks the powerless cars were towed to Kingswood to be laid to rest. The last one to disappear in the flames was car 64 on 16th October 1941.

Car 64 (S. Miles Davey)

Ownership In 1887 the Bristol Tramways Company merged with the Bristol Cab Company to form the Bristol Tramways and Carriage Company. The new company developed a fleet of omnibuses to serve the rest of the city and country areas. In 1912 it bought the Clifton Rocks Railway. In 1929 the White family sold its controlling interest in the company to the Great Western Railway, but by 1932 control had passed to the Thomas Tilling Group. William Verdon Smith (nephew of Sir George White) remained as chairman but was replaced in 1935 by J.F. Heaton of Thomas Tilling, so he could concentrate on the Bristol Aeroplane Company.

In 1937 control of Bristol's tramways passed to a joint committee of the Bristol Tramways company and Bristol Corporation.


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