Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 30, 2018
Webpage updated: July 27, 2019




Plymouth's second street tramway was that authorised by the Plymouth, Devonport and District Tramways Act 1882.  This granted powers to a Company of that name to construct seven lines of tramway within Plymouth and Devonport to a gauge of 3 feet 6 inches.  The promoters planned to use steam trams on the system.

On Friday July 11th 1884 Major-General C S Hutchinson RE, from the Board of Trade, made his inspection of the line.  Only the lines from West Hoe to Compton, and part of Line 4, from Princess Square to outside the Yarmouth Inn [currently known as the Notte Inn] at the junction of Notte Street with Southside Street, were finished.

When his report came, a week later, everybody's hopes were shattered.  Not only did he refuse to allow the use of any power other than horse power but he also refused to sanction the line through the narrow Richmond Street, thus breaking the system into two.

There was then a long delay while the Company made representations to the Board of Trade and generally deliberated on what to do next.  Finally, on Monday November 3rd 1884 a steam tram was run over the entire line from the West Hoe Pier to Compton Lane End and gave free rides.  This was very much an unofficial opening.

Ignoring the ban on steam traction, regular services over the two authorised sections was started on Tuesday November 4th 1884 and a timetable was published the following day.  On the same day the Company also published its Bye-Laws and Regulations.  The tram fleet was kept in a depot in West Hoe Road.

Two days after the opening Mr William Derry presided at the first annual general meeting of the Company in London.  It was an optimistic affair.

The end of the Company's aspirations came swiftly.  On Friday November 14th Devonport Corporation went to the Chancery Division of the High Court to seek an injunction restraining the Company from opening or operating lines 1, 5, 6 and 7 until the whole of the system was complete.  The injunction was granted.  The trams never ran on that day: the system was closed.  The Company went to the Court of Appeal but their case was dismissed with costs.  Plymouth had enjoyed steam trams for just 10 days.

It was not the Company which came in for criticism, though, but the members of Devonport Corporation and the people of that Town.  Letters of condemnation abounded. 

An Extraordinary General Meeting was called on Wednesday February 18th 1885 to consider the future of the Company.  However, before the meeting took place the contractor, Mr John Freeman, petitioned for the winding-up of the Company.  The Court made such an order on May 2nd 1885.