On 3rd January 1882 the construction of a horse tramway, to be operated by the newly formed Exeter Tramways Company under the 1881 Exeter Tramways Act, commenced.
Four lines were planned, although only three were laid (the proposed branch line from the Obelisk to the Royal Albert Museum was never constructed), all radiating from London Inn Square.
The first route ran to St. David’s Station via New North Road, Obelisk, Hele Road and St. David’s Hill; the second to Livery Dole via Paris Street and Heavitree Road; the third terminated at Mount Pleasant via Sidwell Street and Bath Road [later Blackboy Road].
All were built to the narrow 3ft 6ins gauge. On the 5th April 1882, following a Board of Trade inspection, authority was given for services to commence on the London Inn Square – Heavitree Road section at 08.00 the following morning.
The initial rolling stock consisted of three (Nos. 1-3) single-deck cars and painted in a yellow and chocolate brown livery, housed at the depot in New North Road.
By the 1st August 1883, authority had been given for all the routes to be brought into operation, necessitating the purchase of three more tramcars (Nos. 4-6), with two more (Nos. 7-8) arriving in 1884.
In 1889, the company introduced horse-bus services, which eventually served the nearby villages of Alphington, Kennford, Topsham, and Broad Clyst, and reached as far afield as Exminster.
By 1892, however, the company was in financial difficulties and control passed to a group of London financiers, who formed the Tramway Purchase Syndicate.
Two double-deck cars were added to the fleet in 1896, to replace some of the ageing single-deck cars, and a further two ex-Plymouth Corporation cars were purchased in 1900.
The Tramway Purchase Syndicate, mindful of the electrification of the tramways beginning to take place in other towns and cities and not wishing to incur the expense of conversion, offered to sell the tramway system to Exeter Corporation, but the offer was declined.
In 1902, the Corporation reconsidered the position and made an offer that the company deemed derisory.
The matter went to arbitration before a satisfactory agreement could be reached and it was not until 1st February 1904 that the tramway finally passed into Exeter Corporation ownership, the arbitrated price being £6,749.
The rolling stock consisted of five trams (four double-deck and one single-deck), a number of horse-buses (which were handed over although the original agreement did not include them), and some thirty horses.
Operation of the horse-buses was soon discontinued and they were sold just three weeks later on the 16th February 1904.
The horse trams continued to operate under Exeter Corporation ownership whilst the track was relayed for electric working, the final horse trams running on the 4th April 1905.
Horse Drawn Cars
|1-3||Single-deck||Bristol Wagon & Carriage Works Co.||16|
Nos. 1-3 had seats for 12 inside the saloon with an additional 4 seats on the platform at either end, which had to be vacated when the platform was in use by the driver, so that effectively they seated 16.
|4-6||Single-deck||Bristol Wagon & Carriage Works Co.||16|
Nos. 4-6 had seats for 12 inside the saloon with an additional 4 seats on the platform at either end, which had to be vacated when the platform was in use by the driver, so that effectively they seated 16.
|7-8||Single-deck||Bristol Wagon & Carriage Works Co.||16|
Nos. 7-8 had seats for 12 inside the saloon with an additional 4 seats on the platform at either end, which had to be vacated when the platform was in use by the driver, so that effectively they seated 16.
Two of the double-deck vehicles were purchased in 1896 (Nos. unknown).
|Bristol Wagon & Carriage Works Co.||28|
|Bristol Wagon & Carriage Works Co.||32|
(No. 4 – 26 seat)
|Bristol Wagon & Carriage Works Co.||24|
Two unknown cars ex-Plymouth Corporation (Nos. ?, new ?).
All cars withdrawn by 1905.
In preparing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
The Directory of British Tramways (Keith Turner, PSL 1996); Exeter – A Century of Public Transport (RC Sambourne, Glasney 1976).