How Trams created Bath – 1880 – 1939

The above shows the extent of the trams prior to closure in 1939 and replacement with buses.

Prior to the horse-drawn tram, only the wealthy could afford carriages and this permitted the expansion of fashionable Georgian-era housing.  Poor people had to walk and generally didn’t move more than about 1 mile from their houses. The much lower friction of steel wheels on rails enabled the horse to pull more people in a tram hence lowering fares and permitting the less well-off to use them, and so the first horse-drawn Bath tram expanded housing well beyond the medieval and fashionable city boundaries, as per the horse-drawn tram route shown below, from Southgate to Grosvenor, permitting housing to be built out along the route.

Below map of the old horse-drawn tramway from The Bath Tramsways – Colin Maggs:

The introduction of the electric tram in 1904, paid for by the developers of the suburbs, out to Twerton, Oldfield Park, Lower Weston, Combe Down, Wellsway etc permitted not only Bath housing to expand from the Medieval core to all the outlying suburbs but also lead to a spread of shops and schools along the tram lines. This is also how the expansion of the Metropolitan lines occurred. This made Bath a thriving city.

When for complex reasons the trams were shut down, most of the people immediately found that the new buses were unacceptable, as they cannot offer the same frequency, low cost, reliability, and early to late service. Thus they progressively purchased cars. This made the bus service worse and encourage more car driving. this led to traffic-choked Bath today and restrictions on parking which means instead of coming into Bath for a day’s leisure, and enjoyment, families rush in and out to minimize parking costs so causing the commerce to suffer.

The French took all their trams out after the war but had the brains to realize it ruined their cities and put most of them back.  Ditto Spain.

The Germans had the brains not to take them out in the first place, except West Berlin did, East Berlin didn’t, but since re-unification, they have started putting them back in West Berlin too.

See also

Above is a schematic of the old Bath Tram routes up until 1939.

Below are the same old Bath Tram routes in red but  to scale (mainline GWR/S&D) rail in black) which was discontinued in 1939. note the line ran out to the Globe at Newton St Loe.

Below detailed route map from the Tramway Classics book

The evidence of Bath’s past as a tram city is still to be seen  – the pictures here show where the overhead lines were bolted to buildings.


The 4 holes above left,  showing where tram wire support points were once bolted to the wall – New Kings Street. Above right you can see the original fittings.

Tram wire  hanger – Manvers Street, Bath –  the black object to the left of the top of the black drainpipe:


Further info in these excellent books: