Horse buses were operating in Stockport from at least 1830, when a service between Manchester and the Warren Bulkeley Arms Hotel is known to have commenced, although the passage of stage coaches through the town, on route to London, is recorded as early as 1786.
On 9th January 1878, the local Council met to consider proposals for the operation of a horse tramway in the area.
By April 1880, a line from Manchester to the George Hotel in Mersey Square, operated by the Manchester Carriage and Tramways Company, had been constructed and was ready for a Board of Trade inspection. On the 7th May 1880 the first horse trams commenced operating.
In 1889, the Stockport and Hazel Grove Tramways Order authorised another horse tram line from the Rising Sun, Hazel Grove to St. Peter’s Square, with a branch line to Edgeley, terminating at Dale Street, although, in the event, the line was constructed only as far as the Bulls Head Hotel, Torkington Road.
Operations commenced on the 4th April 1890 by the suitably named Stockport and Hazel Grove Carriage and Tramway Company Limited.
The Stockport Corporation Act of 1899 empowered the Corporation to purchase the line of the Manchester Carriage and Tramways Company, electrify it and lease it back to the Company.
An Act obtained in the following year also authorised the Corporation to construct and operate further electric tramways in the town, which it subsequently did.
The first new line opened on the 26th August 1901, running from Lancashire Bridge to Ashton Street, Woodley, followed on 31st August by a short branch line from Lancashire Bridge to Sandy Lane.
The initial rolling stock consisted of ten (Nos. 1-10) Dick Kerr-built open-top double-deckers, which were housed in a newly constructed depot in Mersey Square.
The following year new lines were opened connecting Lancashire Bridge to Mersey Square, via Prince’s Street, with Mersey Square and St. Peter’s Square being connected via Daw Bank by the end of the year.
In August 1903 a single-track line along Stockport Road to Cheadle Heath was opened, which was extended on 26th January 1904 to Cheadle Church, and on 25th March to the Horse and Farrier at Gatley.
The branch from Lancashire Bridge to Sandy Lane had been extended through Reddish to the Old Bull’s Head Inn on Gorton Road on the 25th November 1903, where it finally connected with the Manchester Corporation system in 1908.
As the system was extended more tramcars were required to operate the services and Dick Kerr supplied more open-top double-deckers (Nos. 11-30) in 1902 and 1903. In 1906 and 1907, the United Electric Car Company supplied top-covered double-deckers Nos. 41-50.
On the 24th January 1905 the Corporation completed the purchase of the Stockport and Hazel Grove Tramway and by 5th July 1905 the line had been converted to electric traction. The final extension to the system opened on 2nd October 1906 from Torkington Road to the Rising Sun Hotel.
In 1911, the Corporation considered services to the expanding suburb of Offerton and the adjacent Marple Urban District Council.
Extensions to the tramway system were considered too expensive and, after inspecting the trolleybus systems at Leeds and Bradford, it was decided to operate trolleybuses.
The system chosen was the Lloyd-Kohler system, which was relatively cheap to install since there was only one set of overhead wires.
The vehicles were connected to the overhead through a small truck (known as a ‘monkey’), although these had to be exchanged when vehicles met since they were incapable of passing each other on the single overhead.
Three vehicles were ordered from the Brush Company, being delivered in 1913. On the 10th March 1913 the first trolleybus route from Mersey Square to Hempshaw Lane, Offerton was opened. In the event the vehicles proved troublesome.
One was sold in 1916 and the other two soldiered on until 1919, at which point one was cannibalised to keep the other going. On the 17th June 1919, the remaining vehicle broke its back axle and Stockport’s trolleybus operations ceased.
The service was not re-instated until 8th October 1919 when Stockport’s first motorbuses, two AEC YC chassis (Nos. 101-102) with British Commercial B30R bodywork, arrived to take over.
Stockport Corporation continued to develop their bus network alongside the tramway system, and, in 1922, another route from Manchester Road to Bank Hall Road, in Heaton Mersey, was opened.
On 9th May 1923 this route was extended to Reddish, and, on 31st March 1924, the original Offerton route was extended to Dialstone Lane. A batch of Vulcan single-deckers (Nos. 104-107) was delivered in 1924 to implement the new services.
In 1926, ten Leyland Lion PLSC1’s with Leyland B29D bodywork were delivered and a second garage for the increasing bus fleet constructed on the Heaton Lane corner of Mersey Square, some 200 yards from the existing tram depot.
The arrival of these vehicles enabled Stockport to commence a new circular service via Turncroft Lane, Mile End Lane, Woodsmoor Lane, Cale Green and Greek Street, which came into operation on 4th January 1926.
The following year new routes to the Farmers Arms, and via Lancashire Hill, to the boundary with Manchester at Lloyd Road, commenced, and were joined to form a cross-town route on 9th January 1927, extending as far as Cheadle Heath, to replace the trams, which were cut back to the boundary.
In the late 1920’s a number of express services commenced. On the 19th September 1927 a service from Stockport to Bury, via Manchester, commenced, followed by another between Hyde and Stockport a few weeks later.
In 1929 express services to Heywood (cut back to terminate in Manchester a few months later) and from Worsley to Dialstone Lane were inaugurated. The following year the Manchester to Reddish express service was extended to serve Stockport.
Local services continued to be introduced and improved. A new bus service to Gatley (in lieu of the tram service, which ceased to operate to Cheadle Green at the same time, eventually being cut back to the boundary on 19th September 1931) commenced on the 28th December 1930, and two routes serving Aldswood, one via Edgeley (which ceased to operate in February of the following year) and another via Shaw Heath were brought into operation.
By this time the bus fleet consisted of Leyland and AEC vehicles, all of which were single-deck. In September 1930, however, the first double-decker, an AEC Regent with Short Brothers H24/26R bodywork was registered by Stockport Corporation.
Although it was only on loan, it was given the fleet number 153 (JA1291) during its stay. It was to be another 4 years before double-deckers were introduced permanently into the Stockport fleet.
Although the bus routes operated by the Corporation bore route numbers, the tram routes had never done so.
In keeping with the practice adopted for buses (and the services to Manchester, which had displayed them since 1914), route numbers were allocated to each service. The local routes became:
1 Reddish to Cheadle Heath,
2 Edgeley to Hyde,
2A Edgeley to Bredbury Bar,
2B Edgeley to Brents Lane,
3 Reddish to Hazel Grove,
4A St. Peter’s Square (Stockport) to Hazel Grove,
4B Crossley Road to Hazel Grove.
The Manchester Corporation trams were already carrying the numbers 33 to Reddish, 35 to Hazel Grove, 35A (from Exchange Station) to Mersey Square, 35B (from Albert Square) to St. Peter’s Square, and 35C (from Piccadilly) to St. Peter’s Square, and now Stockport Corporation cars were equipped to display the numbers as well.
In 1936 the first hint of tramway abandonment came when the Tramways Committee passed a resolution to dispense with the track between Wellington Road South and Edgeley, when it became due for renewal.
However, the decision was rescinded on the 4th January 1937 and the trackway was renewed.
With the onset of War in 1939, the tramway became a valuable asset as petrol and diesel supplies dwindled.
However, the lack of spares and maintenance led to the gradual deterioration of neighbouring Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley & Dukinfield’s tramcars and they were unable to continue to operate the joint service between Edgeley and Hyde after 19th May 1945, and Stockport Corporation took over completely.
Plans to abandon the Manchester tram service had been put forward by Manchester Corporation in 1938, but had been delayed by the onset of hostilities.
In 1946 the service from Manchester (Exchange Station) to Reddish was converted to motorbus operation, although Stockport continued to run trams over part of the track in peak periods.
On 2nd March the service between Edgeley and Hyde was curtailed to Vernon Park, and a new bus service from Mersey Square to Hyde Market Place was introduced to replace the withdrawn trams.
Two months later, on 3rd May 1947 the rush hour trams to Woodley were withdrawn, replaced the following day by a new bus service to Bents Lane with rush hour extensions to Woodley.
Early the following year the final tram to Manchester ran, and this influenced Stockport’s decision to abandon the remainder of the tramway.
In June 1949, the Town Council passed a resolution to abandon the remaining tramway routes, and on 14th January 1950, the Crossley Road to Hazel Grove route was closed.
Just over one year later, on 3rd March 1951, the Edgeley to Vernon Park route closed, with the remainder following closely, until on 25th August 1951, the final service tram (No. 82) ran on the Reddish route, followed closely by ceremonial cars 57 and 53, and, after 50 years of operation, the tramway in Stockport closed.
To assist in the tramway abandonment plans, new buses had been ordered for delivery in 1949 and 1951. Leyland PD2/1’s formed the bulk of the order (Nos. 265-308), with Crossley supplying DD42/7’s for the remainder of the order (Nos. 309-332).
Although local routes continued to be developed, the basic route network had been established and a period of consolidation followed.
No more new buses were ordered until 1958 when another batch of Leyland PD2’s (Nos. 337-346) joined the fleet. No. 335 (NDB369) had the last body built by Crossley Motors Limited, who were now under the control of AEC.
The Corporation was involved in a long running feud with the North Western Road Car Company over a new estate being built at Brinnington, and again over express services from Cheadle Hulme into Manchester, although eventually everything was settled.
A local service to Woodbank Estate commenced in 1957, with another to Bridge Hall Estate starting in 1960.
In 1967 a new joint service to Manchester via Green End and Kingsway commenced.
The old Mersey Square depot was replaced by a new maintenance depot and headquarters at Daw Bank at the start of 1968, just over a year before Stockport Corporation became one of a number of local municipal operators amalgamated to form the South East Lancashire and North East Cheshire Passenger Transport Executive on the 1st November 1969, bringing to an end almost 70 years of municipal services in the borough.
In preparing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
Stockport Corporation Tramways (Maurice Marshall, MTMS 1975), The Directory of British Tramways (Keith Turner; PSL, 1996); PSV Circle; Fleet History PC5/PC5A (1968); Municipal Buses in Colour (Reg Wilson; Ian Allan, 1997), Buses (various editions). Some of these publications also draw on material from earlier works which are acknowledged in the relevant publication.