Hartlepool Borough, on a promontory north of its larger West Hartlepool neighbour, was originally served by the steam trams of the Hartlepool Steam Tramways Company, although the line closed in 1891.
Four years later the disused line was acquired by the General Electric Tramways Company, who re-equipped and opened the line for electric traction.
In 1911, neighbouring West Hartlepool purchased the tramway track within its own boundary, whilst the section within Hartlepool remained owned by the Company, which leased it back to West Hartlepool, who thus provided all the tramway services in the two boroughs.
In 1923 it was decided to abandon the tramway system in favour of trolleybuses, but this did not meet with the approval of Hartlepool Council, who wished to substitute motorbuses instead.
The Corporation obtained powers to operate motorbuses in 1925, but after protracted negotiations a compromise was reached, which involved Hartlepool purchasing the Company owned tramway within its boundaries and instead obtaining powers to operate trolleybuses.
On the 1st March 1927 the joint service between West Hartlepool and Hartlepool commenced with vehicles nominally jointly owned by each party.
These were twelve Straker-Clough vehicles (Nos. 8-19), which, as a consequence, carried the armorial devices of both authorities, but bore the livery of West Hartlepool Corporation.
In 1939, eight Daimler CTM4’s (Nos. 32-39) were purchased jointly to replace the ageing Straker-Clough’s. They were all garaged and maintained by West Hartlepool, although, in return for 50% of the revenue, Hartlepool Corporation paid 50% of the running costs.
After the end of World War II, West Hartlepool decided to replace the trolleybuses with motorbuses.
The operating agreement between the two boroughs expired in April 1953, and, since a new agreement could not be negotiated, Hartlepool Corporation exercised its operating powers obtained in 1925.
A protective clause in the original 1925 Act, which prevented Hartlepool from operating along Cleveland Road in its own borough, was removed, and the way was now open for joint operation of the service connecting the two boroughs.
Hartlepool’s licence required them to provide half the buses needed to operate the service between the two towns. This presented a further problem, since the Corporation owned no buses!
Initially an agreement was reached with the United Counties Omnibus Company, who would purchase and operate the four buses needed, but, because of the demands of United’s road staff, the Company had to withdraw from the agreement.
As a result, a similar agreement was reached with Bee Line Roadways, a local coach operator, who ran the service on Hartlepool Corporation’s behalf from the 1st August 1953.
Hartlepool Corporation was thus distinguishable for being the only non-operating tramway owner to become a bus operator.
The Hartlepool Corporation bus fleet, consisting of four (Nos. H1-H4) ex-London Transport Bristol’s liveried in blue and cream, was garaged at the Bee Line depot in York Road, West Hartlepool, with any vehicle shortages being met from Bee Line’s own fleet.
In 1956, the ageing fleet was replaced by four (Nos. 1-4) new AEC Regent V’s with Roe H35/28R bodywork, which, at the time, constituted Britain’s smallest municipal fleet.
Although three Bristol RE single-deckers, for operation on the joint route, were ordered in 1966, they were not delivered until after the 1st April 1967, by which time the bus fleets of two boroughs had been merged into the County Borough of Hartlepool Transport Department under local government re-organisation, bringing the short 14 year existence of the Hartlepool Corporation Transport Department to an end.
This history covers the period of municipal operations of Hartlepool Corporation from 1953 to 1967 when the merger with West Hartlepool Corporation took place, and in preparing this history reference has been made to the following sources:
The Directory of British Tramways (Keith Turner; PSL, 1996); PSV Circle; Fleet History PA15 (1984); Municipal Buses in Colour (Reg Wilson; Ian Allan, 1997), Buses (various editions), Hartlepool Transport (Buses Extra 1, G. Coxon). Some of these publications also draw on material from earlier works which are acknowledged in the relevant publication.