Bristol's Tramway Centre

A Memory of Bristol

I wonder just how many romances started after meeting under Bristol's old Tramways Clock, the time-piece once at the heart of George White's electric transport system? The mock Tudor facade to which it clings officially Nos 1-3 St Augustine is a familiar landmark on the Centre even today.

It was the home of Bristol's tram and bus company and its enquiry office from 1896 until 1978 when the doors were finally locked by Senior Inspector Jack Warren. The Inspector was then presented with the key by General Manager Ken Wellman to commemorate his 47 years with the company.

At the time Bristol Omnibus Company which was jointly owned by the City Council, was losing money hand over fist. The following year it lost an estimated £1 million. The old St. Augustine's Place building had been the Registered Offices of the Company from 1935 until 1970, which is the year that it moved to the spanking new six-storey Berkeley House at Lawrence Bill.

Electric trains had started to take over from horse buses in 1895. The first line ran to St. George. The Centre which derives its name from the Tramways Centre, and which was known to the previous generation as The Drawbridge, (because of the narrow bridge which straddled a then uncovered River Frome) became the place where this transport was co-ordinated. An accurate, clearly visible clock, was, of course vital both for drivers and passengers. When charabancs became really popular in the 1920s. taking trippers to such places as Cheddar Caves and the Wye Valley they would leave from under the clock.

Bristol's 237 trains housed in seven depots around the city were phased out between 1938 and 1941 in favour of motorised buses. None was saved. The archival picture was taken in the summer of 1959. just a year after the new bus station had opened near Broadmead for Express and Country services and two years since the name of the company had been changed from the old fashioned Bristol Tramways and Carriage Company to the new style Bristol Omnibus Company.

It was in July 1959 that 'Day-Out' tickets were introduced for the first time. allowing unlimited travel on all the company's city and country services. It cost 10 shillings (5Op) and for this an ardent traveller starting very early in the morning could travel over 300 miles.

A memory shared by Paul Townsend , on Dec 28th, 2009.

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