Tracco | Railways | Trams
By John C Gillham
"The maximum attempted with the minimum achieved"
It is not generally known, even amongst tramway students, that a tramway operated once upon a time in the Aldershot area. Admittedly it was only a horse operated line, but after its demise several attempts were made to construct an electric system. There had also been several other horse tramway proposals as well as the one that was actually built. The whole story stretches from 1861 to 1919, yet trams actually ran regularly for only about a year. In the annals of tramway promotion Aldershot must surely hold the record for the maximum attempted and the minimum achieved.
It may be of some interest to record all these various proposals. The research for my story was provoked by some excavations for road repairs in April 1953, when a section of electric track which had actually been laid, though never used, was uncovered. A part of this now held by the Railway Enthusiast Club in their clubroom near Farnborough Station (now in Hawley Lane, Cove). Full credit must be given to Messrs. V. Goldberg and D. Tate, who each gave me a substantial nucleus of useful information and aroused in me the urge to dig deeper and find out more.
George Francis TRAIN, famous for his seven tramways of 1860-62 in Bayswater, Westminster, Kennington, Birkenhead, Liverpool, Darlington and The Potteries, was also connected the first 15 Aldershot schemes. Most of the companies included the words "Street Rail" in their titles, and so did the one at Aldershot, where Train worked with James Samuel. Who had in 1857-58 been the engineer of the London Omnibus Tramway Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of the London General Omnibus Co., Ltd., formed for making a Notting Hill Gate - Paddington _ Euston Road - City Road - Moorgate tramway, with a branch from Kings Cross to Ludgate Circus.
The Aldershot Street Rail Co., Ltd., was incorporated on 4th December 1861, limited-liability companies having been allowed in Britain since only 1856. The Memorandum of Association said its objects were: "The laying down of Street Rails or Tram Plates between Farnborough Aldershot and the Camps in the Counties of Berkshire Surrey and Hampshire. The running of omnibuses or other carriages thereon for the conveyance of passengers. Military and mineral traffic and merchandise by horse power. The purchasing or taking of Patent rights and licences to use Patents relating to street rails or tramways and to the Omnibuses or Carriages to be used thereon. The doing all things incidental or conclusive to the above objects. And also all such further or more extended objects connected with the laying down and working of Street Rails or tramways in or near Aldershot, as the Company in general meeting may from time to time determine."
See map of the complete route here (may be a long download on a slow connection).
The nominal capital was to be £20000, in 4000 shares of £5 each, and the following seven each promised beforehand to take one share:-
Henry Potter BURT 2 Charlotte Row, City of London
Samuel Bagster BOULTON 2 Charlotte Row, City of London
George Barclay BRUCE, 24 Great George St, Westminster
James SAMUEL, 24 Great George St, Westminster
William OGILVIE?, 4 Great George St, Westminster
Hew DALRYMPLE, 6 Bridge St, Westminster
William SHELDEN, 5 Peterborough Villas, Fulham SW
The witnesses to these signatures was Charles C. COOPER of 1 South Place, Finsbury, who was to become Secretary of the Company. The registered office was to be in Victoria St, Aldershot. Among the 21 Clauses in the Articles of Association were some giving the company power to alter its name, increase or reduce its capital, to purchase or amalgamate with "any other Joint Stock Company formed for the laying down and working of Street Rails and Tram Plates in or near Aldershot or for any similar objects," and, if agreed by the holders of 3/4 of the shares, to sell its business or property to the Government, the Aldershot Board of Health, the local road authority, or any other company. Clause 2 gave power (as well as what was stated in the Memorandum) for "The laying down Street Rails or Tram Plates along any other roads or streets or places in or near Aldershot. The running of Omnibuses or Carriages thereon for the conveyance of passenger traffic and Coal by horse power. The running of Carts or wagons upon the original or any other Street Rails or Tram Plates for the conveyance of goods. Traffic of all descriptions by Horse Power."
Clauses 12-14 said there must be not less than three nor more than six directors, that each must hold £200 of shares, and that the first four were to be were to be H P BURT, Frederick EGGAR, G F TRAIN and Hew DALRYMPLE. Clause 17 said:- "The Directors may ....enter into any agreements or arrangements with Mr. George Francis TRAIN, the Grantee of a Patent for an 'Improved System of Railway or Tramway to be used with horses or other power and Passenger Carriages for the same,' upon such terms as they may se fit Any if so agreed between them and him allot and issue to him paid-up Shares of the Company to be taken at their nominal amount in payment of all or any sum agreed to be paid to him." Although not stated here, I feel this Patent may refer to the Grice & Long steam car of 1859, from Trenton, New Jersey, which was now working in Philadelphia and Train had patented in England. Or was it Trains famous step rail?
There is no record of the company doing any more for the next 20 years, so on 23rd April 1881, the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies, at Somerset House, wrote, saying:- "I beg leave to inquire whether your Company is carrying on business or in operation. If not, it will be my duty, on receiving a letter to that effect, to publish in the Gazette and send to the Company a Notice that at the expiration of three months from the date of that Notice the Company will be struck off the Register and the Company will be dissolved." This letter was addressed to Victoria Street, Aldershot, but on 6th May, after marking it "Not Known," and sending it also to Farnborough, the Post Office returned it to the Registrar. Hence the Aldershot Street Rail Co., Ltd., was later dissolved under Clause 7 (4) of the Companies Act of 1880, by a Notice in the London Gazette dated 7 March 1882.
The second of the many schemes was one of the most comprehensive of them all, and quite different from any of the later ones. Parliamentary plans were deposited in November 1871, in readiness for the 1872 Session, for the "Aldershot Tramways." A Provisional Order was applied for, under the 1870 Tramways Act, and Aldershot was, in fact, amongst the earliest places to apply for such an Order. I can trace only twelve previous applications, of which eleven were for large cities and one was for an optimistic horse tramway from Ely to Newmarket which finished up as a full size steam railway. So Aldershot would seem to be the first small town to promote a tramway under the 1870 Act.