LUT horse tram

Postcard of the Month

West Metropolitan Tramways, LUT horse tram at Richmond Depot

The West Metropolitan company operated several horse tramways in West London including the line from Kew Bridge to Richmond as described elsewhere (see Postcard). This section was completely isolated from the rest of their network and so had its own depot at Richmond. It was built in 1883 in time for the tramway opening and can be seen behind the tram in our postcard from an unknown local publisher. The London United Tramways (LUT) took over the company in 1894 and their name can be seen on the depot façade. After closure of the system, the depot became a fire station and later much modified as a school, which it still is.

From April 1901 onwards, London United electrified the rest of their tramways, but not the Kew Bridge-Richmond route. The tram on the postcard was one of ten built in 1896 by the London United themselves at their works in Chiswick to a design by James Clifton Robinson, their Managing Director, for use on the main routes. They were probably on the running gear from earlier Stephenson cars. On electrification of the other tramways, some were transferred to Richmond and when the Kew Bridge-Richmond line closed in 1912 three were sold to the City of Oxford's tramways.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this postcard though is its date. This same view, slightly less cropped, can be found as a larger photographic print in several archives, including that of the London Transport Museum, and has appeared in many books. It is usually captioned as "the end of the LUT horse trams" or even as the "last day" and most have accepted that as fact. However it most certainly is not. Our postcard is very clearly postmarked as December 24th 1903. Also, by way of confirmation, it is an undivided back card (no message, just address) typical of the earlier date, but not for very much later.

So what is the special occasion then? The photographer not only thought it important enough to be worth capturing, but also reproducing it in postcard form in addition to the larger prints. We know that it must have been taken after April 1901 when that type of tram started to be used there, and some time before December 1903 when the card was sent. It appears to be in the summer months and the passengers are in their "Sunday best". There is no bunting or flags on the tram, so probably not the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902. The man in the frock-coat and with walking cane, standing in front of the tram's dash, looks like he is in charge of the party, but we have not managed to identify him. Not a clergyman anywhere so not a Sunday School or church outing. Possibly a works outing, with the tram being hired to take the participants to the nearby Kew Gardens, from which it has just returned (it is facing the end of the line). I guess we will never know, but it does look like they enjoyed themselves whenever it was.


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Postcard of the Month is created by John R. Prentice © Copyright 2020