History of Wallasey Tramways

Wallasey Horse Tramways

Part One

The need for purely local transport in Wallasey had first arisen during the 150 years that Wallasey was host to one of the country's earliest racecourses which ran for five miles from Wallasey Village across the windswept dunes to Leasowe Castle and back. Between approximately 1635 and 1770 carriages and wagonettes conveyed punters from the ferry at Seacombe to the course by way of a track which hugged the north shore of Wallasey Pool crossing its many tributaries by tiny wooden bridges. In 1732 the principal event was transferred to Newmarket where 'The Wallasey Stakes' survived for some years. Excursions continued to be provided to Leasowe Castle, being publicly advertised by the owners of the Seacombe ferry and hotel in 1840. In February 1847 they obtained four hackney carriage licence's from the Town Commissioners to carry ferry passengers to any part of the district at 3d for the first 1000 yards and 6d for any distance beyond.

On 1 August 1861 the Wallasey Local Board assumed control of the three Wallasey ferry stations, Seacombe, Egremont and New Brighton and on 10 October the Board's Works and Health Committee received notification that James Hall, employed by them to carry goods and luggage to and from Seacombe, had started a bus service between Seacombe and New Brighton, with double decker's at a fare of 3d inside and 2d outside. Owing to the paucity of roadways, the buses probably went via Victoria Road (now Borough Road), Liscard Road, Liscard Village, Rake Lane and Rowson Street. On 31 October 1861 the same committee rejected a proposal to extend the Birkenhead Street Railway from Birkenhead to New Brighton via the Dock Estate and Seacombe Ferry.

By the terms of the Wallasey Improvement Act 1867, the Local Board obtained general powers "to lay down, maintain and renew" tramways "provided always any such rails, plates shall be laid along the middle of the street so that the upper surface of the rail, plate or tram shall be even with the upper surface of the road". This proviso had been inserted to guard against the step rails which had caused so much trouble at Birkenhead. Winter receipts on the two northern ferries, Egremont and New Brighton, were poor and the Board's Surveyor was asked to submit estimates for a tramway running from Seacombe to Trafalgar Road so that Egremont could be suspended between October and March each year. Quoting a figure of £4,446 the Board now sought legal advice as to whether they could close both northern ferries either permanently or temporarily and replace them by tramways to and from Seacombe. They were informed that they would require Parliamentary approval and that they themselves were not permitted to operate trams. By 1868 several bus operators were serving Seacombe most of them running to New Brighton. However, Adam Fox of Church Road, Seacombe wrote to the Board complaining that his bus had been prohibited by the Wallasey Pool Bridge Company from plying between the ferry and Docks Station. Fox may well have been one of the operators who stepped into the breach when the Hoylake railway was curtailed in 1870.

Sufficient numbers were using the Seacombe boats to encourage a syndicate of business men headed by Algernon Warner, Joseph E. Dowson and Charles P. Gibbons to promote the Wallasey Tramways Bill in 1870, the object of which was to form a Wallasey Tramways Company, with powers to build just over five miles of route. There were to be two main lines linking Seacombe and New Brighton - one would run from the Marine Hotel along Victoria Road, Liscard Road, Liscard Village, Rake Lane and Magazine Lane where it would meet the other route which would travel from the ferry via Brighton Street, King Street and a private reserved track (Seabank Road at this time was not built throughout). They would descend into New Brighton by "an intended street to be called Grosvenor Street". A third route would link the others by way of Manor Road. A maximum fare of 6d was proposed. A powerful lobby of local landowners stifled the project.

Using the less costly procedure permitted by the newly passed general Tramways Act 1870 a second attempt was made in 1871. After the local enquiry, the Wallasey Tramways Order 1871 authorised the construction of certain lines by the Wallasey Tramway Company Ltd, registered on 8 May 1871 with a nominal capital of £30,000 in £10 shares. The shareholders were Messrs, Glen, Lucas, Smith , Harvey, Larson and Gratham. The controversial private track was replaced by a line up Trafalgar Road, Stringhey Road and Manor Road where it joined the other main route again as in the 1870 proposal running via Liscard Road and Rake Lane. This time a line the length of Penkett Road connected the two routes. Nine passing loops were included and at Seacombe the cars could approach the Marine Hotel either via Church Road or Victoria Road. Victoria Road, Seacombe was later renamed Borough Road to avoid confusion with Victoria Road with Victoria Road, New Brighton and will referred to as Borough Road thereafter. The company also sought powers to operate omnibuses and railways advising prospective investors of the potential for "considerable freight and animal traffic". The requisite capital failed to materialise and the company was dissolved on 23 February 1874. The only creditor was William Morris, who received the entire assets of £911.

In 1876, the Local Board embarked upon the complete rebuilding of Seacombe ferry. The existing facilities were all swept away in a major land reclamation project, the boats being transferred to a temporary stage in a former shipbuilding yard off East Street. It was from this stage that the ferry boat 'p.s Glen' set sail one foggy morning in November 1878 and collided with the 's.s Bowfell'. Although never in danger of sinking, panic ensued and several passengers were drowned.

It was against this background of despondency that the new terminal was opened to the public on 5 January 1880. It was an ideal gateway and gave birth to several thoroughfares including the extension of Seabank Road in the same year. Travel patterns changed. Hundreds still walked to one of the three ferry stations but the improving road system and the eventual housing boom demanded improved transport.

Anticipating theses trends, a delegation consisting of Messrs. William and Daniel Busby and Charles H. Beloe had approached the Local Board on behalf of Messrs. Wright, Hackley and Beckett on 10 October 1876 with a view to building a tramway from Seacombe to Upper Brighton. Upper Brighton was a fashionable residential district but also a thoroughfare (later incorporated into Rowson Street) running between Field Road and Mount Pleasant Road. The Board rejected their first proposals, the Busby's returning on 10 July 1877 this time on behalf of the Wirral Tramway Company. A special sub-committee was appointed to advise on the practicality of laying tramways in the districts proposed. In mid October the Busby's presented detailed plans for a single track tramway with passing loops running from Seacombe to the Assembly Rooms, New Brighton via Church Road, Borough Road, Liscard Road, Rake Lane, Earlston Road, Sandrock Road, Mount Pleasant Road, Mount Road and Albion Street, at its junction with Montpellier Terrace. The sub-committee recommended acceptance providing the promoters also included a line from Seacombe to Liscard via Brighton Street and Church Street which would cover for Egremont ferry in the event of it being closed as proposed in 1867.

Having agreed, the Busby's, anxious to tap the wealthy middle-class residents living in Upper Brighton, announced plans to build a two-way steeply-graded loop from the Assembly Rooms along Albion Street, Atherton Street, St. James' Road, Rowson Street, Upper Brighton and Rake Lane to Earlston Road where it would rejoin the original route.

On 24 November 1877, Beloe presented his detailed Parliamentary plans for lines estimated to cost £20,999. They were fiercely opposed, so a Select Committee of the House Of Lords sat to hear evidence from both sides. In his submission, Beloe stated - "The object of the tramway is to bring residents of New Brighton, Liscard and Egremont, which are all in the district of Wallasey, to the Seacombe Ferry, which is the shortest ferry across the Mersey to Liverpool and generally to facilitate intercourse in the district". The residents of Upper Brighton clearly wanted intercourse with no one, as they vigoursly opposed the building of the tramway claiming it would destroy the exclusively of the neighbourhood. Their Lordships were unimpressed but recognising the strength of feeling allowed the promoters a maximum of four years to complete the loop instead of the two years for the remainder of the system.

The Wallasey Tramways Act 1878 received the Royal Assent on 16 August and authorised the Local Board to lay the following tramways to the gauge of 4ft 8½in, the outer rails to be never less then than 9ft 6in from the kerb:

click to enlargea) From Seacombe (Church Road) along Victoria Road (Borough Road) and Liscard Road to Falkland Road (Tramways 1, 1A, 2, 2A, 2B);
b) From Seacombe (Church Road) along Brighton Street and Church Street to Liscard Road (Tramways 3,3A, £b) plus a line along Falkland Road (Tramway No. 4);
c) From Falkland Road along Liscard Road to Liscard Village (Tramways 5, 5A, 5B, 5C);
d) From Liscard Village along Rake Lane to Earlston Road, with an alternative single line in Manor Road and Queen Street, Liscard (Tramways 6, 7, 8, 8A, 8B);
e) From Earlston Road along Rake Lane and Upper Brighton to Dalmorton House (Tramways 9, 10, 10A);
f) a loop in Upper Brighton via Atherton Street, Mount Road, Mount Pleasant Road, Sandrock Road and Earlston Road to rejoin Tramway 8 in Rake Lane (Tramways 11 - 14).
Passing places, of which there were to be eighteen, were designated by the letters suffixes (1A, 2A, 2B, etc.); the seven not listed above were on the Upper Brighton loop. The course of all these proposed lines is shown on the map above which can be enlarged if you click on it.

The tramway was to be operated by the Wallasey Tramways Company, with its head quarters at 6 Lord Street, Liverpool, the centre of the Busbys' tramway empire. The directors were Daniel Busby, William Busby, John Carson (a Liverpool omnibus proprietor), Harry Sheraton (timber merchant) and Thomas Russell Lee J.P who was elected chairman. The company Secretary was accountant William Knox, whose name appeared on the sides of the cars. The capital of £30,000 was divided into 3,000 £10 shares. The Act authorised the company to borrow a maximum of £7,500 restricted to £1,250 for every £5,000 of subscribed capital, providing that they did not borrow £5,000 before 30 May 1879.

The Local Board had the right to purchase the company and all its assets after 15 years providing they gave six months' notice in writing, Should the dividend exceed 7½%, the Board was entitled to demand 50% of the surplus profits (minimum £100) for highway improvements, priority to be given to the train route. If the company became insolvent or ceased operation for more then three months, the Board was authorised to take over all assets without compensation. The Company was prevented from seeking powers for further lines until five years had elapsed, they had to seek permission to abandon all or part of the system, and they had to pay two thirds of any road widening undertaken. Once the tramway had been constructed, the Company had to pay the Board an annual rental of £100.

The Company guaranteed to provide a regular service "at the same time as the ferry boats" between 8am and 7.30pm on weekdays and from 10am to 8.30pm on Sundays. Provision was also made for operating early morning and late evening cars for artisans at fares not to exceed ½d per mile. This statutory obligation was ignored, the Company stating "Wallasey had no work people".

The Board whilst generally welcoming the tramway had been determined throughout to protect their own interests. Their solicitors had explained to the Select Committee why they were insisting upon precise fare details being incorporated into the Parliamentary Bill. They argued that if the Company charged less than 3d it would jeopardise the future of the New Brighton ferry. They wanted the combined train/Seacombe ferry rate to be 4d, a penny more then the New Brighton boat. Parliament fixed only the maximum fare the Company could charge :-

1. From Seacombe to Upper Brighton or vice versa a sum not exceeding 3d
2. From Seacombe to Liscard or vice versa a sum not exceeding 2d
3. From Liscard to Upper Brighton or vice versa a sum not exceeding 1d
4. Beyond the above distances, for every mile or part of a mile a sum not exceeding 1d
5. From any distance less than 2 miles, any sum not exceeding 2d
6. Between 9pm and 5am double the above rates
7. Children in arms under 3 years of age - free

The Act authorised 5.48 miles of track of which 0.61 miles would be double; however, only 3.26 miles was actually built, giving a total route length of 2.70 miles. The powers for the alternative line to Liscard via Borough Road lapsed after two years and those for Upper Brighton loop after four, although various attempts were made to revive the idea. However, in 1883, the Company declared their outright opposition, dismissing the area as undeveloped.

click to enlargeThe route had been planned to link Seacombe ferry to the growing communities of Liscard and Upper Brighton but it also passed through several sections of open country with impressive Georgian villas, ancient cottages, fields, brickworks and quarries. The line started in Church Road, Seacombe (at its junction with Fell Street) then proceeded via Brighton Street (a major shopping thoroughfare), Falkland Road (outbound), Church Street (inbound), Liscard Road past Liscard Hall and Central Park into Liscard Village with its flour mills, slaughter house and Welsh speaking community, then Queen Street/Manor Road (outbound), Rake Lane (an extremely narrow road skirting a quarry) and Upper Brighton, terminating at its junction with Field Road. Eight passing loops were built, of which two fell into disuse; the main loops were one in Brighton Street, three in Liscard Road, one in Rake Lane and one at the junction of Mount Pleasant Road and Upper Brighton.

Beloe's estimates were based upon his own method of track construction which he had employed at Southport and Birkenhead. However, the board advised that they wished the Company to use the Benjamin Barker system used in Leeds and Manchester and against Beloe's advice, the Company acquiesced. On 29 October 1878 the Board gave permission for the Company's contractor, Mr Hawkes to stack setts along the length of the proposed route. Hawkes intended to employ direct labour thus providing work for local men. On 13 November the Company approved the appointment of Mr E. Cornish to act as the Board's supervising engineer at a fee of £5-5-0d per week to be paid by the Company. He was later accused of spending insufficient time on site but the Board declared themselves satisfied with his bi-monthly reports.

Excavations began on 16 December 1878. Barker was the first engineer to employ cast-iron longitudinal sleepers to afford a continuous bearing for the rails and adjacent paving. He used grooved rail, the lower surface being indented longitudinally and formed with a central flange or web by which it was fastened to the sleeper by a cotter-pin or hardwood edge. The Company adopted the lightweight version of Barker's system, the rails weighing 34lbs and sleepers 90lbs per yard; they were 10in wide and lay 5in below the level of the rail. The Board insisted that they should rest upon a one-inch layer of rough mortar to provide adequate packing. The evacuations were to a depth of 8in and a width of 8ft except in passing loops, where the width was 17ft. The road surface was reinstated to the statutory 18in either side of the outer rail with 4in by 6in granite setts. The Company was responsible for the subsequent upkeep of the track and paying within the 18in limit. The rest of the road was often left unmade, encouraging other traffic to use the tram track and subjecting it to extra wear and tear. Work proceeded well, over a mile of paving and track being in position by 11 March 1879.

Two places presented the engineers with difficulties, particularly both ends of Falkland Road where the Company was forced to acquire land to allow curves of sufficient radius. When completed they were said to be "easier that those in Birkenhead". Secondly, there was the sharp-angled curve from Manor Road into Queen Street, which the Company sought permission to abandon on 22 April 1879. William Busby and John Carson personally attended the Board's Works and Health Commission explaining that due to acute clearance problems they wished to replace the outbound avoiding line by a passing loop in Liscard Village. Following an on site inspection, the Committee whilst refusing the deviation from the approved Parliamentary plan, agreed to delay construction until the remainder of the line was completed.

The passing loop in Liscard Road immediately north of Church Street was deemed unnecessary as the decision had been made not to proceed with the line via Borough Road. Permission to omit this loop was granted on 25 March 1879. In late April, a short extension to the Marine Hotel, Seacombe and a spur from Upper Brighton to the depot site on Field Road was approved by the Board. Cars, Depot and Stables

click to enlargeThe line was to be operated by seven Starbuck built single deck cars, seating 18 plus two seated on the platform. They had seven windows per side, and were very similar to those employed on the Wirral Tramway in Birkenhead. In view of the close connection between the two companies, it is considered that it is likely that these cars were those built by Starbuck in 1877 for the Wirral company and subsequently replaced by larger cars. They were given numbers 1 to 7 and were painted in red and ivory lined out in black. Their relatively low price of £1,152 (£167 each) further supports the connection that they were transferred from the Wirral line.

The depot and stables were built in Field Road, New Brighton and although extended in 1884 and 1888, additional stables for the bus fleet was acquired at 20 Egerton Street, off Rowson Street. Five staff houses built along side the Field Road premises in 1891 were named Busby's Cottages and still remain today. The first cars were delivered in late 1879 and 48 horses were acquired at the same time. A good tramming horse cost approximately £25 with a working life of about five years on a relatively flat surface like Wallasey. Feeding and grooming cost 7d per mile compared with 1d for track maintenance and ½d to maintain the cars. The capital outlay on the trams had been £1,540, the horses £1,250 and the track, depot and stables £17,000. A mile of Barker track had cost £3,784 - concrete bed and rails £2,031, granite setts £1,144 and paving £609.

The company engaged a complement of coachmen (drivers), conductors, horsemen (stablemen), coach builders, farriers, yardmen and tip boys. The crews worked seven days a week for anything up to 15 hours for 25s a week (coachmen) or 9s 6d (tip boys). Horses worked up to a maximum of four hours. No uniforms were issued, the men wearing the warmest possible clothing. Although offering regular employment, turnover was high and drunkenness was a perennial problem. Another member of the Busby family, Henry Busby, was appointed Manager.

The Board Of Trade inspections were necessary before the line was declared safe for public use. Both were conducted by Maj. Gen C.S Hutchinson. On 28 May 1879 he toured the system and inspected the depot and stables accompanied by Mr. Skinner, Chairman of the Board's Works and Health Committee, committee members Messrs. Alltree, Stillitoe and Walmsley, directors of the Company and the engineers, Beloe and Cornish. He listed a number of faults which needed rectifying. Two weeks later on 10 June, he again listed further deficiencies but agreed the line could open if notification was received in writing that all faults had been rectified.

Large crowds assembled to watch the official opening ceremony which took place at 11.45am on 28 June 1879 when two decorated and heavily laden cars left Church Road, Seacombe for Field Road and then to Concert Hall, Liscard for a lunch at which hopes were expressed that the line would stimulate high-class housing development. Free rides were offered until public service began at 2pm.

Regular service began on Monday morning 30 June with five cars operating every 15 minutes between 8am and 8pm; shortly afterwards the schedule was extended to 11pm but at reduced intervals. Although not advertised to connect with the boats, there was usually a car waiting at Church Road - sometimes two. The journey to Rowson Street took 25 minutes, at an average speed of 6mph. There was no fixed stopping places, passengers flagging the cars anywhere en route. Parcels were transported free except between 28lbs and 56lbs for which the charges ranged from 3d to 9d according to weight and distance. No unaccompanied goods or livestock could be carried and large accompanied items could be conveyed at a pre-determined price.

The carnival atmosphere surrounding the opening quickly evaporated as loadings failed to match expectations. The tram terminus was half a mile from the temporary ferry stage which was used during a major reconstruction of the ferry between 1876 and 1880.

On 11 September 1879 Maj. Gen. Hutchinson revisited Wallasey and passed for immediate use the short extension to the Marine Hotel, now situated at the top of Victoria Place, the new ferry approach road. Anxious to serve the terminal buildings, the company entered into a long and outspoken negotiation with the local Local Board each accusing the other of deliberate provocation. As the company had no powers to operate into Victoria Place which was privately owned by the Board, it was agreed they should pay an annual rent of £1 providing they maintained the track and the surrounding surface. The agreement was signed on 23 October 1879 but it is not known when the short 150 extension was opened. It comprised a single line and a one car spur normally used for housing a spare tram for use as a waiting room.

The pull up from the ferry was one of only two taxing grades on the line; both required the use of a "chain", "trace" or "tip" horse. One was permanently stationed at Seacombe to assist all afternoon and evening departures as far as St. Paul's Road where it would be unhitched from the front or side of the regular team by the tip boy who would then lead or ride it back down to the ferry. The other grade, from Upper Brighton into Rake Lane, demanded an extra horse only at peak times.

In the course of his inspection on 11 September Maj. Gen. Hutchinson had again examined the track along Rake Lane and advised that the loop along its narrowest parts should be confined to emergency use only. The points at the Quarry loop were set so that all cars used the outbound track, the inbound line eventually being lifted in 1882.

The Eades Cars

Despite poor loadings during the day, larger capacity vehicles were required to handle the increasing number of commuters. On 15 May 1880 The Birkenhead Advertiser reported "The Wallasey Tramways Company has just introduced onto their line several new patent cars fitted with outside seats on the roof. They are handsomely constructed and will doubtless be appreciated." These cars, five in number, were of the Eades Patent Reverible type; the first two cost £210 each, and were followed in 1883 by more at £208 each.

William Busby was a director of the Ashbury Carriage and Iron Co. whose chief designer, John Eades, had patented a new type of lightweight double-deck tram in 1877. First used in Salford, it had been developed in an effort to reduce operating costs. Being single-ended, construction costs were lower but the biggest saving was in horse power, each vehicle requiring a daily stud of eight, as opposed to the more usual 12 horses per day. The cars incorporated a turntable underframe whereby the body could be reversed on the truck frame, eliminating the need for pole-shifters at each terminus. Wallasey's Eades cars were 17ft long overall with a 12ft x 6ft 6in saloon with six windows a side. The two axle truck had 30in diameter wheels with cast iron naves, wooden spokes and rims and flanged steel tyres. One wheel on each axle ran loose. A tare weight of only 34cwt was achieved. They seated 18 inside and 20 outside, probably on knifeboard top deck seating, and were allotted the numbers 8.12.

Initially, the Company was able to pay a reasonable dividend - 5% for the year ended 31 December 1880 (gross receipts £2,526, expenditure £1,862), 6% in the first half of 1884 and 4% in the second. However, these payments were only possible because the Company neglected to maintain the tramways in a proper state of repair. The demands of the shareholders forced the Busby's to cut corners, and relations between Company and Local Board were hardly amicable.

By 1882 much of the line was in poor condition as the lightweight Barker system had proved inadequate. The cotter pins had worn or fractured but replacement often resulted in cracking the iron sleepers. Furthermore, the road metal trapped between the rail and sleeper and crushed into abrasive powder causing erosion. The loose rails combined with defective joints were having a disastrous effect on the cars, which were described as deplorable. In places the rails protruded above the road surface, elsewhere they had sunk below. The Board and the company blamed each other. In October 1882 they jointly inspected the track in Liscard where it was discovered that the foundation were of sand and not good concrete as specified. Accepting liability, the company undertook immediate repairs.

Another grievance was overcrowding, and there were several reported instances of conductors being fined for allowing too many passengers on board. The fleet of 12 cars was probably never all in use together. In November 1884 licence's were obtained for 12 trams of 5s 6d each but the application named right coachmen and conductors. As the depot could only house nine cars, the others must have been stored off the tracks. The Board of Trade returnes, which indicated the number of cars in use (not those in stock) showed seven cars from 1879 to 1881, five in 1882-3 and eight in 1884-7. The stud of horses varied from 42 in 1880 to 66 in 1885.

Expanding The Routes

In 1883 the Works and Health Committee of the Wallasey Local Board issued individual licence's to all the bus and tram operators. Various earlier applications had been made for services between Docks Station and Seacombe, and locally in New Brighton, but records are scant and some may not have started.

The Tramways Company failed to respond to an 1883 request from landowner Edgar Swinton Holland to provide a bus service along Seabank Road, which had been completed through from Trafalgar Road to Molyneux Drive by February 1880. Holland then approached fellow landowner Henry Gardiner and persuaded him to set up the Magazines Omnibus Company. The object was to provide a direct route to Seacombe and to stimulate house-building.

On 26 April 1884, this company was re-registered as the Magazines, New Brighton and District Omnibus and Carriage Company, with two buses and a capital of £5,000 in £1 shares. There now followed a period of intense competition. With the assent of their shareholders, the Tramways Company started running buses over the same route as Gardiner in November 1884. By 1885 Gardiner's yellow buses and the Tramway's Company's red buses were both offering a 15-minute service with four buses each.

Mr Holland, having deliberately acquired shares in the Tramway Company, challenged the legality of their action, forcing them to withdraw their buses on or shortly after 29 July 1885. Undeterred, the Busbys launched the Seacombe and New Brighton Omnibus Company in August with a nominal capital of £5,000. This company's articles empowered it to operate buses along Seabank Road, as well as tramways, railways and omnibuses within the County of Chester or elsewhere in England. The shareholders of the new company were the same as those of the Tramways Company. The service started in early September 1885, worked by four-window knifeboard-seat double-decker's manned by separate crews under an independent manager.

The rivalry between the two main operators and with others who joined in the increasingly lucrative trade in summer continued unabated until a price cutting war which reduced the through fare to one penny forced Gardiner to sell his assets to the Seacombe and New Brighton Company in December 1887. Newspapers of the day were full of accounts of excessive speeding, dangerous races and cruelty to horses, several of which collapsed in harness. Local sympathy was strongly in favour of Gardiner's original yellow buses but there had been increasing public concern over the tactics employed by both companies. Gardiner's buses had never descended into New Brighton, always turning at Molyneux Drive, but Seacombe and New Brighton buses, anxious to capture additional seasonal traffic, went down Rowson Street (gradient 1 in 15) to the junction of Victoria Road.

The Battle For New Brighton

The miles of golden sand stretching from Egremont to Harrison Drive were a magnet for hundreds of day trippers from Liverpool. In 1863 the Hoylake Railway had had ambition of serving the resort and capturing some of the lucrative summer trade, then the monopoly of the Board’s ferry boats. Powers to build a line to serve both New Brighton and Harrison Drive had been allowed to lapse but the Railway’s successor, the Seacombe, Hoylake and Deeside renewed them in 1882, announcing their intention to start construction work in 1886. The Board and the Tramways Company feared the competition, especially as the trains would connect with the new under-river Mersey Railway which had opened on 1 February 1886 with a service from Liverpool Central to Green Lane, Birkenhead.

Abortive attempts had been made to reach the shore by tram, the Board having refused an application from a Mr Millward in 1879 and from another application in May 1884 who had proposed a route from Wellington Road to the Springs, a local picnic spot. The last attempt was linked to the Tramways Company’s expressed wish to extend their route, Wellington Road being close to the new railway station. In July 1885 they formally applied to extend to Molyneux Drive and in October to Wellington Road. In November, Robert Busby deposited plans for the extension including two mid-way loops at Molyneux Drive and Pickering Road at an estimated cost of £2,181.

The Board rejected the application due to the steepness of Rowson Street and the preponderance of omnibuses and William Busby, supported by Carson, Knox and Lee, personally failed on 24 November to persuade them to reverse their decision. However, two weeks later the Board did authorise the short length down to Molyneux Drive, providing the buses running into New Brighton were withdrawn. The company refused. Despite a number of subsequent proposals, the horse trams were never extended, being confined to their somewhat remote terminus at Field Road. The railway eventually reached New Brighton on 30 March 1888, offering passengers a 25 min journey to the centre of Liverpool with one change at Birkenhead Park.

Company versus Board

By 1884, relations between the Wallasey Tramways Company and Wallasey Local Board had become extremely poor. For the 18 months to December 1884 the company refused to pay the £100 annual rental on the track in Victoria Place, Seacombe, dismissing the sum as “unfair”. The Board’s repeated demands for payment were ignored. In retaliation, the Board threatened to order the Company to remove their rails from Victoria Place, which would have denied the trams access to the ferry buildings. The two sides finally agreed on 5 January 1885 that the Company should pay £50 per year in two equal half-yearly installments.

Trouble flared again in May 1886 when the Board threatened legal action unless the track in Brighton Street was repaired. This dragged on until July 1887, when following an inspection the Company agreed to rectify the faults. The old loop outside St. Paul’s Church was removed during 1885.

Seabank Road

Several attempts were made in the 1880s to obtain powers for a tramway along Seabank Road, the route which was eventually to carry Wallasey’s heaviest electric tram service. The Busby’s, through their various representatives, sought powers for a line from Molyneux Drive to Egremont and their solicitors, Wright and Beckett, deposited a parliamentary bill seeking powers to operate steam compressed air, mechanical or electrical tramways in Wallasey. The initial intention to use compressed air trams was dropped in favour of steam.

On 8 December 1885 the Local Board gave permission for the use of a steam tram and trailers on the line, but allegations were made of corruption and that a Board member had been “got at”. The Board thereupon reversed its decision and a period of prevarication followed whilst the Board considered seeking powers to operate tramways in their own right.

When on 16 September 1886 the Board announced that they intended to seek powers to build a publicly owned line along Seabank Road, the Tramway Company directors reminded them that they had been refused a similar line in 1877 and that such a move would represent unfair competition. On 7 October 1886 Wright and Beckett renewed their own application for a horse line along Seabank Road, this time on behalf of the Seacombe and New Brighton Tramways Company, and continuing through to Seacombe by way of a new line on the river side of Brighton Street. The Board refused the application because of the threat it posed to Egremont Ferry, and took no further action.