Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 07, 2017.
Webpage updated: July 27, 2019




Plymouth's first street tramway was constructed by The Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport Tramways Company Limited, as authorized by the Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport Tramways Act 1870.  It was the first in Great Britain to follow the passing of the Tramways Act of that year.

Built to the standard gauge of 4 feet 8 inches, the route commenced at the Plymouth Clock Tower and ran through East Stonehouse, across Stonehouse Bridge and terminated in Cumberland Road at Devonport.  The emerald green and cream tram cars were pulled by two horses, with additional ones being attached at Stonehouse Bridge to haul the cars up the 1 in 11 Devonport Hill.

Trial runs were made on the morning of Monday February 12th 1872 and on Saturday February 17th 1872 the great and the good of the Three Towns inspected the line.  Free rides were given on the official opening day, Sunday March 17th 1872.  The regular service started the following day.  The horses were provided by the horse bus owners until May 1872 when the Company bought out Messrs Moreton, Temple and Watts, and began to operate the horse buses as feeders to the tramway.  In the July the Company was taken over by the Provincial Tramways Company Limited.

By virtue of The Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport Tramways Act 1874, the Company got authority to extend the line via a one-way system up Chapel Street to Fore Street and return via Saint Aubyn Street back to Cumberland Road again.  This was opened to traffic on Thursday October 28th 1875.

During 1900-1901 the gauge was reduced to 3ft 6ins and the line electrified.  The tracks within Plymouth and Devonport were doubled, leaving only the part within Stonehouse as single-track.  They then leased back the municipal sections for a period of 21-years.  The terminal spur in Fore Street, Devonport, was removed at that time.

The Board of Trade's inspection was carried out on Friday October 18th 1901 and the new electrified service commenced on Monday November 18th 1901.

Although Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport were amalgamated in 1914, the Company continued to run their trams independently until their leases expired on July 1st 1922, when new through-running circular services were started.