Trams and Buses in Hull
From 1875 the omnibuses had mostly been forced out of operation by the horse-drawn trams of the Hull Street Tramway Company, who had nine miles of single-lines with passing loops, extending along the five main roads out of the city. The lines generally extended about two and a half miles out of the centre, plus a short route around the Old Town. In total 31 double-deck tramcars were in operation, all open-topped and with seating for 32 to 48 passengers. As well as these, eight omnibuses were in the fleet and around 150 horses; only a relatively small number of horses was needed in Hull due to the flat terrain, usually about four or five per car. Above right is an old omnibus that ran on the Hull to Aldborough route, via Sproatley, seen here in the 1930s long after the omnibuses had ceased to run.
However, as the incorporation of the Hull & Barnsley railway progressed, with its lines culminating at the new Alexandra Dock of 1885, the often-neglected Hedon Road took on a new importance. Horse drawn waggonettes took the initiative, and began a service for the new housing that was built along Hedon Road in preparation for the influx of workers the new dock and industries would bring. The first service attracted many imitators and once the swift and flexible nature of the waggonette had been proved, in an area not yet served by the trams, the waggonettes in general received a huge boost. Shown right is a horse-drawn omnibus in Leads Road, near the New Inn.
All of the tram routes now had stern competition from any number of waggonette proprietors. Several waggonette services were alleged to have been started by former employees of the tramway company, who relished competing with a former employer that had little respect for employees conditions or working hours. By 1887 waggonettes were so successful on the major routes that the tramway company had to reduce its fares to 1d per route in order to compete – the same fare charged by the waggonettes. This situation, unique in the whole of England, was brought about in large part by Hull’s flat roads. The advantage trams had in other more hilly towns was that by using rails to run along, they required fewer horses to pull them than the heavy waggonettes being drawn across wooden setts and rough road surfaces. This was not the case in Hull, and nor could the heavy omnibuses compete, but the lightweight waggonettes could outpace the trams as well as outnumbering them. The working class also favoured the waggonnettes as they ran all hours, providing the average man with a means of getting to work early, whereas the trams only started at 8 am. As the public became more and more familiar with the flexible waggonette service even the middle classes began to move away from the trams, particularly in areas that the tram service had not yet reached, such as the Avenues.
The tram service also encountered many problems whilst servicing the rails and its trams, which soon wore out and were more expensive to replace than a horse and carriage that only carried eight to ten passengers. Poor investment led to continual problems. Added to this the waggonette drivers were mostly self-employed, the number of horses required was half, and the conductors were often just young boys requiring little pay. The protracted situation was too much for the Hull Street Tramways Company, which inevitably collapsed after trying to recoup funds by raising its fares higher than those of the waggonettes. The company was wound up in November 1889 following severe criticism for lack of investment, poor service, and rising fares during the late 1880s. The horse trams were kept running by the liquidator for some years, but the waggonette was the clear leader for the next decade. Running without any form of regulation, and with few overheads, the waggonettes could quickly adapt to any demands, though few operators ever became rich from the competitive business they were in. In 1893 an operator told the local press that he rose at 4 am, worked until 10 and then went out again from 4 until 11 pm. On average for a working day of 12 or 13 hours he was lucky to earn 10s in fares, and often much less. This suggests a weekly wage for seven-days of about 50 shillings. From this had to be taken horse maintenance, harness renewals, vehicle maintenance and licensing requirements. In total an operator would have been lucky to clear 20 or 30 shillings, not much more than a labourer. The flexibility of being one’s own boss seemed to be the main attraction, possibly balancing out the hard work and poor pay. These overheads meant that few operators had more than one vehicle, with only three companies having four or more in 1899, a figure that was rarely exceeded (79 waggonette proprietors were listed in Kelly’s directory of 1899). Often, waggonettes were used as a means of gaining a secondary income, and only brought out in the evenings or at weekends by men with other main occupations. A tram is shown above on the Beverley Road route.
Although regulated by the Town Police Clauses Act of 1847 in respect of Hackney Carriages (the corporation’s Hackney Coach Sub-Committee being the administrators in Hull) the corporation’s powers did not extend to cover omnibuses or waggonettes as they were treated as stage-coaches, plying for hire at separate fares. This loophole did not however, give the waggonettes the right to stand on the highway to pick up or set down passengers. Known locally as ‘town-way-ups’, as that was the drivers call as they headed for the city, the waggonettes were constantly in trouble with the police and being moved on following complaints from the cabmen with whom they were in direct competition. The shopkeepers of Savile Street, where the main terminus for the waggonettes developed, made constant complaints about the dirty and badly maintained vehicles and foul-mouthed drivers. The Eastern Morning News reported in November 1888 that a driver had been on duty from 6 am until 6 pm without meals, and would eat tea when he finished at 11.30 pm. despite his wages being 1s per week, including free dinners and teas. A 12 year old schoolboy was hired as a conductor and had worked from 7.45 am until 9 pm during his holidays. The drivers won little support from animal lovers either, as many of them had little respect for animal welfare in the Victorian age and were often convicted of cruelty.
Obviously this situation was not tolerated indefinitely and in 1889 waggonettes were brought under the full control of the 1847 Act. Licenses were issued for 1s per year and waggonettes were then inspected annually, drivers had to be over 18, conductors over 16 and all had to be recognisable by numbered badges. The regulation of the trade proved worthwhile and in the first year many operators were refused licenses based on the poor condition of the vehicles. 275 vehicles were licensed in 1889 - 182 waggonettes, 78 contract carriages and 15 omnibuses, but animal welfare saw little improvement and conductors ceased to be used almost unanimously, the drivers taking fares themselves rather than pay a fair wage to a boy. The tramway company were no more responsible with their horses as the article on the right from 1881 reveals. A later article in the Hull Daily Mail 20th March 1894 noted: -
‘We have the most wretched display of equine crockery, of all the towns of England. The hanging heads, the worn shoulders, the knocked-up feet, the significant ribs – these are not horses; they are the mere medley of the bone-house, escaped by the skin of their bodies from Death’.
[Until compiling this article I had taken little notice of the horses shown in the collection of pictures I have used; on closer inspection it is clear that the majority are underweight and in poor health - sadly there was no such thing as ‘the good old days’ for most animals.]
Further regulation came in 1890 when the council took further advantage of the Town Police Clauses Act of 1889; the typically dense wording reveals the extent to which the council and indeed the government sought to bring the waggonettes under the same controls applied to omnibuses etc. An omnibus was taken to mean ‘every omnibus, char-a-banc, wagonette, brake, stage coach, and other carriage plying or standing for hire by or used to carry passengers at separate fares to, from, or in any part of the prescribed distance’, and amongst many other items it states that the new bye-laws were: -
‘For regulating the conduct of the proprietors, drivers, and conductors of omnibuses plying within the prescribed distance in their several employments, and determining whether such drivers and conductors shall wear any and what badges:
For regulating the manner in which the number of each omnibus corresponding with the number of its licence shall be displayed:
For regulating the number and securing the fitness of the animals to be allowed to draw an omnibus, and for the removal there-from of unfit animals:
For securing the fitness of the omnibus and the harness of the animals drawing the same:
For fixing the stands for omnibuses and the points at which they may stop a longer time than is necessary for the taking up and setting down of passengers desirous of entering or leaving the same:
For securing the safe custody and re-delivery of any property accidentally left in any omnibus, and fixing the charge to be made in respect thereof:
To provide for the carrying and the lighting of proper lamps for denoting the direction in which the omnibus is proceeding, and promoting the safety and convenience of the passengers carried thereby:
To provide for the exhibition on some conspicuous part of every omnibus of a statement in legible letters and figures of the fares to be demanded and received from the persons using or carried for hire in such omnibus:
To prevent within the prescribed distance -
(a) the owner, driver, or conductor of any omnibus, or any other person on their or his behalf, by touting, calling out, or otherwise, from importuning any person to use or to be carried for hire in such omnibus, to the annoyance of such person or of any other person;
(b) the blowing of or playing upon horns or other musical instruments, or the ringing of bells, by the driver or conductor of any omnibus, or by any person travelling on or using any such omnibus.
Provided that nothing in this Act contained shall empower the Commissioners to fix the site of the stand of any omnibus in any railway station, or in any yard adjoining or connected therewith, except with the consent of the railway company owning such site’.
In Hull fixed stands for waggonettes were created in George Street, Savile Street, St John Street as well as several locations beyond the reach of the horse tramlines such as Prince’s Avenue - initially beyond the Spring Bank tram terminus. The committee also kept a record of every operator in its ‘omnibus’ licensing records, which stated his name, serial number and seating capacity. Within the licensing records the majority of vehicles were waggonettes – four-wheeled vehicles drawn by one horse and seating ten passengers – two beside the driver and eight in the back. Although the earliest ‘town-way-ups’ were open-topped traps with low sides, that usually sat only four or more. Later vehicles had demountable bodies with glass windows and arched roofs but hese were unpopular, being cramped dingy, smelly affairs lit by oil-lamps. Shown right is a small waggonette passing the end of Cave Street alongside a cab - 'town way up!'
From 1892 a maximum of just ten passengers was allowed and consequently this size of vehicle was the most commonly used with 304 licensed out of a total of 410 in 1899 – the year electric trams began to run in Hull. The other main category appears to have been contract carriages, which can be split into two clear types; those that seated 11 or 12 - drawn by two ponies that supplemented waggonettes at peak times or for special outings, and the omnibus proper – usually double-decked and drawn by two or three horses. These could seat 16 inside and 18 on top and there were 15 licensed in 1889 but were short-lived, being as heavy and cumbersome as the trams they proved little competition for the smaller more efficient vehicles. These larger vehicles were often reserved to serve local villages, where their larger carrying capacity gave them a premium.
As if the licensing restrictions weren’t enough, the waggonettes also seemed to be particularly disliked by the Hackney Carriage Committee who were ruthless in their pursuit of the last detail of the regulations, and prosecuted on a regular basis. At their fortnightly meetings they frequently suspended licenses for such misdemeanours as shouting, foul-language, insolence to policemen, cruelty to their horses, racing their waggonettes and overloading. As well as this their livelihood was further threatened by the constant moving of their stands – in 1891 three stands were even closed – Savile Street (shown right), George Street and St John Street. Even whilst abolished, the area around the stands continued to be used, the waggonettes simply crawling along enabling the passengers to leap on and off without the vehicle actually stopping and thus breaking the law. In 1893 even more bye-law restrictions were placed on the embittered owners when waggonettes were forced to run on designated routes and pick up only at certain points, as they were seen to be unfair competition for the cab-men.
The horse tramways were finally taken over by the Corporation in 1896, who leased them temporarily to a local cab proprietor, and from June 1898 the system was gradually taken apart in preparation for the new electric system. The first two routes of the new electric system (Hessle Road and Anlaby Road) were opened on 5 July 1899 and the horse-tramways shut down from 1 October the same year.
By the middle of 1899 there were 410 waggonettes licensed in Hull, plus 86 contract carriages and 16 omnibuses but their days were numbered. The new electric trams were superior in many ways and charged the same fare as the waggonettes – just 1d. As 1900 drew to a close there were just 261 waggonettes and 19 omnibuses still in operation. Even in the one area in which the waggonettes were still supreme, the end was near; by December 1903 electric trams were running on Hedon Road – where the waggonettes first gained their foothold all those years ago. As the Edwardian era continued the waggonettes diminished to an extent that they were usually only seen when the trams had shut up for the day – generally after 11 pm. Hessle Road often remained a good daytime haunt for the waggonettes as they were popular with the fishermen who returned from sea ‘flush’, and used them to go from pub to pub, and in the side-streets off Holderness Road such as Southcoates Lane and Dansom Lane they also hung on. As the First World War came to an end the number of waggonettes had dwindled into single figures although an odd one or two remained into the 1920s.
The following short article was published by tramway worker Charles Dyson as an illustrated booklet and recalls his 26-year career. It contains information I believe to be of general interest and not just to those who have an interest in trams, it being illustrated by several of his photographs taken at the time, and serves as a personal record of the passing of one age and the beginning of another. I have added illustrations of my own where I feel appropriate, or where Charles’ photos have been reproduced poorly, and further notes of my own at the end concerning modes of transport in Hull at the time. His spelling and punctuation etc are unchanged and my comments are in [brackets]. The small 24-page booklet was filled-out with local advertisements and originally printed in Hull by A Brown & Sons Ltd., 40 George Street and the half-tone blocks were ‘originally executed by The Hull City Engraving Co., 7 Dock Street, Hull’.
The twenty-six years’ reminiscences of a tramwayman - Putting up the shutters of the old horse system, by Charles Dyson
Some time ago, in connection with the Tramwaymen's Band Fund, I brought out a Souvenir Post Card entitled ‘Progress of the Hull Tramways’. [see right] These Postcards soon found a ready sale, and the stock became exhausted, to the disappointment of many kind enquirers for more. However, in aid of the Sick Fund, I am partly devoting the result of this book. I trust those kind enquirers of my last effort will find my new issue useful to them. The production is a rather costly one and therefore only a limited number of copies will be available. Charles Dyson
My twenty-six years experience of Tramway Work has been a varied and interesting one. It seems but yesterday when, a clerk, I entered the services of the late Hull Street Tramways Company. At that time the Company was not in a very prosperous position. I do not really know whether my engagement in I893 was to put the shutters up or not. But it eventually fell to my lot to sound the Last Post and run up the black flag as the photograph [right] shows. This being the last Horse Car that ran in Hull. My first duties in the office commenced on a Sunday (my pen wobbles as I write this). But, nevertheless, Sunday work had to be done. My first instructions in the Cashier's Office was to count money to recognise the sixpence from the shilling etc., also bad from good coin. After watching operations from my instructor, who had a fair good loose shake of the fingers and could soon run over the coins with lightning rapidity, my first attempt was rather different, I think, in counting; more coins fell to the floor than into my band. But as time passed that quick movement of the hand soon came upon me. Myself being rather short in stature, and the counter high, matters were soon adjusted by the aid of a stool to stand on.
On the following day, my duties were extended in the Managers’ Office to assist in the Book-keeping Department. The Manager himself seemed to be a genial sort of a man (kindly disposed), and myself then a boy, I believe several times I took rather an advantage of his kind nature. However, before many days had elapsed I had got settled in my new calling and became more interested.
The Horse Car routes were Hessle Road, Anlaby Road, Spring Bank, Beverley Road [right], Holderness Road and Victoria Pier (via Whitefriargate). The track was a single one, with loop lines at various positions on the route. Double horse cars ran on all routes with the exception of Spring Bank (it having single horse cars). About twenty-two cars completed the full daily service, maintaining an average of fifteen minutes' service. I believe Hessle Road had I0 minutes' interval. The Pier Service was made up of two cars from Anlaby Road and two cars from Beverley Road. The Transfer System was then in operation, thus enabling passengers to transfer from and to any route by the Pier cars. This system was rather a troublesome one, and often brought about Police Court proceedings with passengers who had lost their tickets and picked up a wrong one. The horses (some horses) were changed twice daily if they were awake. But I think the horse knew how many runs it had to do, because I recollect one of these had the habit of turning round in its traces and facing the driver, if an extra journey had to be done, to argue the point, I suppose, with the driver. There were three depots to accommodate cars and horses, Hessle Road, Beverley Road, Holderness Road; Hessle Road depot being the main one for Stores and Workshops ; also Warehouse for forage. Many people will remember often seeing the poor animals after their day's work going to their beds upstairs at Hessle Road Depot. By means of a sloping gangway the horses could run up and down to and from their stables.
Each depot was in charge of a foreman, who had the care and attention of all horses in the depot. His duties were to see that health and cleanliness were maintained, to administer tonics to those in need, and only in very bad cases the Veterinary was called in. The stablemen and washers were under the foreman's ruling hand. Of course, the depots were the power stations of the system, where the store of energy had to be maintained. On one occasion I had to deliver a message to the foreman, who was busily engaged administering a tonic to a horse On my approaching rather too near this animal gave me the glad eye, and fortunately for me, being on the small side I missed a pair of its clean heels by inches. After this I carefully took its name and number for future reference. When one is connected with so many horses' it is surprising to see their different temperaments and how to deal with them. Some horses would break loose and help themselves to another horse's ration, whilst others would prefer to come out and have a trot up and down the stable and perform tricks. In fact, one old charger was off the stage, I believe. As a rule, the same pair of horses were harnessed to a car together; the reason being that it was found they worked better and got used to one another, and also was easier for is the driver. As soon as the conductor rang the bell to start, the horses were ready to pull together, and also observed the bell to stop without much help from the driver.
The paving being granites setts were very had for the poor horses, especially in frosty weather, and many times the whole track resembled a sheet of glass. The practice of salt as a remedy was a source of discomfort to the animals' cracked heels. The rails were made of a lighter character than those used at present, and after a time in use, had a tendency of lifting up at the Joints. This often brought in claims for damages to vehicular traffic and cost the old company a good deal of expense. The loop line (or sidings) then in use were a source of trouble and delay. As a rule, if two cars were stood in their respective sidings nearest each other, it was a ‘toss up’ as to which car should take the single line first. It usually happened in the toss up, both should start off and meet about half way. After heated arguments one would have to turn back, in fact, passengers in those days would advise as to which car was right or wrong. The fares on the old system were at one time as high as three pence, which caused discontent, and eventually the waggonette soon settled the whole problem, bringing the tram fare down again. But even the reduction of the fares to a penny did not make the old Company any more prosperous, and as time passed, the Waggonette increased in such large numbers that the irregular tram service was outclassed in competition. No matter how new schemes were tried by the company each one failed, and gradually the horse car was a thing of the past. The shareholders were soon clammering for their shares, but, alas! the bank was closed. This was the state of things when I first joined them; and on July 5th, I899, we saw the new Electric System installed. The first car driven by the Chairman of the Corporation Tramways Committee, the late Alderman F. Larard.
[Shown above and below is the first day of the electric trams, with a new tram and a waggonette on the far right, in St John Street.]
Some interesting incidents have been witnessed in the old days. It wasn't a strange sight to see a pair of tram horses galloping away with only their draw gear dangling behind them. Perhaps to dissolve partnership at the nearest lamp-post, but nevertheless, their object in view was the quickest route to the depot to pay an earlier visit than was expected by those at the depot. On one occasion I remember seeing a car standing at Newland without horses or even the front footboard attached, these missing parts having been too closely associated with a steam roller. But upon looking down the road, two struggling horses were observed moving townwards with the front part of the car.
The drivers and conductors had no time off, took their meals on the cars and seven days a week. Their daily work commenced 8 a.m. to about I0 p.m. Only once a year at New Year did all the men gather at a Social Gathering to turn their thoughts to merriment on this occasion, the service finished in time to allow every employee to attend.
The men were not overpaid for their week's work and had to provide their own clothing, £2 deposit to lay down and had to get a license before starting duty. In those days the driver was able to sit on a stool to do his work, and when ready for action with the bell strap and reins in one hand and brake handle in the other, he looked a busy man. We knew the car would start off on rails on its journey, but it didn't follow that the car would maintain that portion of the track to the other end. Often part of the journey would be smooth, and then the passengers would feel the bumping over stone setts (offrails). Perhaps when you alighted at your destination the car would have taken a fancy for the gutter and you simply put your foot on the pavement, and then walked home.
In snowy and frosty weather the journey was a rather long and tedious performance, and after you paid your fare you were entitled to the privilege of getting out of the car and help to push it along when the horses got stuck. I believe this was counted as winter sport in those days. Everyone seemed to enter into the game with interest.
In the year I896, the old company was transformed and bought up, and the business carried on lease until the new system was ready to start. This new life to the old system brought improvements in the shape of new horses (fresh and fit). the old crocks were sold, and then the horse breaking-in business started, the old drivers having an anxious time. But the old cars, that had seen years of service, refused to be roughly used by young horses, and got their backs up and gradually fell to bits. When the last day of the old horse cars arrived I believe they seemed to be held together with their advertising tablets and boards, which were plastered all over the cars. However, the early part of November, I899, the last car did its final, and to commemorate that event I placed a black flag over the front of the last car and took a snap shot as illustrated. Afterwards a number of buses were run to keep a passenger service going until all the routes were completed for the new system.
Then came the mighty sweep; buses and waggonettes were soon cleared off the roads to allow the electric cars to take their places. By the latter part of I900 I had to help to arrange ‘A Sale of Work’ (not a Bazaar). The remains of the old company had to be put under the auctioneer's hammer. Horses, Cars, Buses and equipment; in fact, everything except the few remaining tramwaymen. I recollect the weird assembly of goods, etc., at the Hessle Road Depot for sale.
Old cars were sold for Cricket Pavilions and Greenhouses, and horses went off quickly. The Auction being over, I gave a last glance before leaving and with a sigh my first thoughts were the start of Tramway life, and now realised that I really had stood by to put the shutters up of the old company. My services were finished, and work had to be found, and eventually I secured a position on the new system, and since then I must have travelled roughly speaking one-and a half-million miIes as Conductor, and must have earned for the Corporation £50,000, although there are a few older servants in the tram service than I. We have one motorman who in different departments of the Corporation has to his credit nearly forty years' service and still going strong. But I hope that some kind of superannuation scheme will be formed for the old servants after a long lifetime spent in the cars.
With reference to the men, I must admit that as a whole we have amongst us some of the best, and in various directions they seem always to show their best, though it be Music, Singing’ Swimming, Hyacinth Growing, Football, Cricket, their Band, and also their famous Tug-of War Team, which has brought valuable prizes to Hull from all over England. They have pulled some of the champion teams in England, and have in their possession a very fine collection of shields and cups, and they intend to stick to them. In all their organisations they are loyal. With men of this type I am always convinced that the Hull Tramway System can always be counted as having first place and second to none Some years ago I read an article in a paper ‘How to Advertise Hull’. In tramway work, the Hull tram-men have done a bit in this direction, even though it be their Tug-of War Team. I think London knows them; Manchester and Liverpool does, because they have lost their cups which are in Hull, and going to stay, too.
With reference to the Steam Cars on the Hedon Road, they came to the same end. The three systems were running at one time, and like the Horse Cars, their fuses blew and were settled for ever. With this company my duty was of short duration. It was to just sit on the scat and pay my fare. That's all.
The booklet Charles Dyson produced is not dated but several of the advertisements within it give a clear indication of when it was first published. Hammonds opened their new Paragon Square store in 1916 and it is advertised as a new way of shopping on the back cover of the booklet. Also Sydney Scarborough are listed at several addresses on the Anlaby Road, which they only occupied from c.1920, so I would say that it was almost certainly published around 1920. Charles would have been aged 41 years when he wrote it suggesting he started in the tram offices at the age of 15 if my genealogical research is correct, which appears to be confirmed in the opening paragraphs where he states that he started work there as ‘a boy’.
Charles Dyson was born in Hull in 1879, and the 1881 Census listed his family at no.9 Brighton Terrace Hopwood Street, when he was aged two years. He was one of five children to James Dyson (aged 44 and born in Elloughton) and his wife Maria. The 1901 Census listed him as an ‘Electric Car Conductor Man’ resident at no.6 Chestnut Grove, Park Road with his wife Livinia Maria Dyson aged 25 (born Leeds). They had no children at that time. The Kelly’s directory for 1916 listed Charles Dyson as a tram guard living at no.68 Marshall Street, and the 1921 and 1926 Kelly’s directories listed him as a motorman at no.90 Alexander Road. He was no longer listed from c.1929.