Local Trams

Horse Tram High Street Gravesend c.1900

The first trams to be seen in the area arrived in June 1883 with services provided by horse drawn vehicles between the centre of Gravesend and the Olde Leather Bottel Northfleet. Electric traction arrived with an experimental electric system in 1889, including an extension to Northfleet High Street. This system, utilising an underside pick-up arrangement with leather sealing flaps was not a success, and the system reverted to horse traction in 1890.

Next on the scene in 1901 was the British Electric Traction Company who converted the system to standard gauge using overhead supply electric trams.

By 1903 they had extended the system to incorporate routes to Denton, The Old Prince of Orange, Swanscombe and Pelham Road, with a route provided along Dover Road. Double deck trams with both driver and conductor were provided, services being managed by Gravesend and Northfleet Electric Tramways Ltd from a new tram depot constructed off Dover Road.

There were plans to extend the system to Rochester with its the 3’-6” narrow gauge system, but gauging issues at Strood prevented this. Another extension from Swanscombe to Dartford was projected by  Dartford Council, but this was thwarted by the Gravesend Tramway. They planned the running of motor buses in the 1.5 mile gap between Horns Cross, where the Dartford service terminated, and Craylands Lane Swanscombe where the Gravesend system terminated.

The system was not the financial success hoped for, and by 1906 the larger double decked vehicles had been sold off. In an effort to make economies, single deck one man operated cars were introduced on the loss making Pelham Road and Windmill Street routes. By 1915 however, the life expired single decked cars were once again replaced by  double deck trams.

By the late 1920’s, the system could no longer compete with the then new motor buses, and despite attempts to improve passenger comfort by fitting top deck roofs and a new brighter livery of cherry red and ivory, the system finally closed on 28th February 1929 when the tram routes were taken over by the motor buses of The Maidstone and District Motor Services.

Derelict tram bodies were sold off at the depot for £5 for a single deck and £10 for double deck cars.

Some relics of the system exist, such as a tram pole at Denton, and the retaining wall for the carpark above the station in Rathmore road is constructed with the granite setts used on the tramway, complete with tar still adhering. A former junction box can be seen at the chalk pits museum at Amberley, Sussex.