The Huddersfield Tram Post

Back to Trams Homepage

Introduction

In 1877, the London Tramways and General Works Company promoted a private Parliamentary Bill enabling them to construct tramways within Huddersfield. This was opposed by Huddersfield Corporation and defeated. However, the Corporation then obtained the Huddersfield Improvement Act on 2nd August 1880 (43 & 44 Vic, Ch  xcix) which enabled them to build a tramway system themselves. The intention was to lease it to a private operating company, but when it was ready, in 1882, nobody wanted to take up the lease (apart from one offer from the Nottingham Tramways Company for the most profitable section only)! This may have been partly due to the restrictions imposed by the 1870 Tramway Act. So, the Corporation had to include in the Huddersfield Corporation Act of 1882 (45 & 46 Vic, Ch  ccxxxiv) powers permitting them to set up a municipal transport department and operate the trams themselves (though the Board of Trade kept powers to compel the granting of a lease of the line should a suitable offer be made).

The tramways were placed under the control of a subcommittee of the General Purposes Committee, chaired by Councillor Armitage Haigh, who was appointed when it was set up on 13th November 1882. He was the prime mover behind the successful start-up of the steam tram system. On 26th November 1885, the subcommittee was 'promoted' to a full Committee of the Council; Councillor Haigh continued as its Chairman. He was with his father and brothers owner of Priestroyd Iron Works in Huddersfield, and reputedly combined business ability with tact. He was elected as Alderman in 1887; in July 1901 his firm became a limited company with himself as Managing Director and he resigned as Transport Committee chairman that October (when he was aged 71!).

The first route was from Lockwood through the city centre to Fartown; the first tram ran on 11th January 1883. The trams ran initially on steam, covering at their peak 29 track miles with a fleet of 30 steam locos and 26 double-deck cars. The system was converted to electric traction in 1901-2; this peaked at 39 track miles and 140 cars and ran until 1940. The last steam tram was a football special on 21st June 1902, and the last electric tram ran on 29th June 1940. The gauge was originally advertised and authorised as 4'  8", but (as was first discovered in Glasgow in 1871: see 'Tramways, their Construction and Working', by D K Clark, 1878 edition) it has to be 4'  7" to permit standard railway wagons to run on the tram rails. No connection was ever actually made between the tram and the railway networks; cross-running had been part of the original 1880 Act, but this also imposed a duty to lease the system should a suitable lessee ever turn up. As part of a later negotiation to remove this duty, powers to run railway wagons on the tram tracks were relinquished, and the gauge was legally redefined to agree with reality.

[For fuller details of the Huddersfield Trams see (a) 'Tramways of Huddersfield', by Roy Brook: a history of Huddersfield Corporation Tramways, written 1959; references are to the 1972 hardback edition; and (b) 'Huddersfield Corporation Tramways', by R Brook, Jan 1983; ISBN 0 9508589 0 0, written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of public transport in Huddersfield; references are to the paperback edition. Mr Brook's helpful advice is gratefully acknowledged.]

Development of the idea

Alderman Charles Glendinning JP of Huddersfield Town Council raised the subject of tram car mail at the monthly Town Council meeting in May 1891. He has been described (by W G Stitt Dibden, 'Tram Car & Bus Post', Postal History Society Newsletter 82, 1955, p  70) as inspired by a visit to Brussels, though he himself openly stated that the idea originated with Mr Dugdale, the borough surveyor. The Minutes of Huddersfield Town Council for May 1891 (day unknown), pp 667-8 as printed, state as follows. [Here & below, the text of the actual minutes is printed in italics. They were supplied by Kirklees Metropolitan Council Cultural Services Department, alias the Local History Library of Huddersfield Central Library. The punctuation is that of the originals!]

Minutes of Huddersfield Town Council, May ?, 1891

Alderman Glendinning said he should like to make a suggestion to the Tramways Committee, a suggestion that he believed to be of great public importance. He was in conversation recently with the borough surveyor, Mr Dugdale, as to the better utilisation, for the public convenience, of the tramway service, and Mr Dugdale made a suggestion which he (the speaker) believed would prove, if tried, of great practical service to the public without any inconvenience to the service. At the present time the scheme, if carried, would not prove a source of revenue, but, perhaps, at no distant time it might prove a means of adding to the revenue in Huddersfield, and in other towns as well. The suggestion was that a slit letter box should be allowed to be placed in each of their trams with a view of making them a kind of travelling postoffices. Now that the Tramways Committee were covering the outside districts of the borough, such a scheme, if carried out, would, without detriment to anyone, place postal collecting boxes at the service of the inhabitants of the most remote parts of the borough, and enable people living in some of those places to post their letters as late as nine o'clock for the last clearance at Huddersfield. The postal authorities had made great concessions to the outer districts by the establishment of pillar boxes. But now that the trams were going to Salendine Nook, Waterloo, and other places the scheme would prove of great benefit to the people living there, and would tend to develop the use of the Post Office. He expressed a strong hope that the committee would make an effort to secure the sanction of the Postmaster-General to the establishment of such a service, and added that if success attended it the credit would be given to the tramway department in the same way as they were praised for their success over the establishment of the eight hours' system in the service. (Hear, hear.)

Alderman Haigh asked if the suggestion was that the post boxes on the trams should be open continuously, and the guards deposit the letters so received at the Post Office?

Alderman Glendinning replied that he made a suggestion in principle, and did not go into the details. There would be many matters of detail to settle, but he was quite sure the committee could overcome any difficulties they might meet with in those details. Even if the boxes proposed to be placed in the trams were open continuously it would be easy for a messenger from the Post Office to clear the boxes as the trams arrived in the Square.

The Mayor remarked that to him the idea seemed a capital one, and he trusted the committee would give it their best consideration.

Alderman Haigh promised to bring the matter before the committee.

The matter was referred (presumably by the Tramways Committee) to the Tramways Management Sub-Committee, who at their meeting on Wednesday 27th May 1891 promptly set up a Tramways (Post Boxes) Sub-Committee to look into the details. This latter sub-committee consisted of the Mayor, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Transport Committee, and five other councillors: new-fangled ideas were evidently not to be adopted without proper consideration!

Tramways Management Sub-Committee, Wednesday 27th May 1891

POSTAL BOXES - The Subcommittee considered the Borough Surveyor's suggestion mentioned at the last Council Meeting by Mr Alderman Glendinning, of affording additional postal facilities by fixing a letter box on each car to be cleared on the arrival of the car at St George's Square. Resolved that the following Subcommittee be appointed to consider the question of affording additional postal facilities by means of the cars, and to confer with the Postal Authorities if thought desirable: The Mayor, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Councillors Ainley, Broadbent, Jordan, George Mellor, and Pullon.

The Tramways (Post Boxes) Subcommittee duly met on Wednesday 23rd September 1891, and resolved to write to the Postmaster General. This was done on 17th Aug 1892 (according to Stitt Dibden, but all his dates seem to be a year late); June 1892 (Farrugia); or after 23rd Sep 1891 but before 1st Jan 1892 (by inference from the minutes)

Tramways (Post Boxes) Subcommittee, Wednesday 23rd September 1891

POSTAL BOXES - The Subcommittee met to consider the subject referred to them by resolution of the Management Subcommittee of the 27th May last, with reference to the suggested fixing of Postal Boxes on the Tram Cars, and a report prepared by Mr Pogson upon the matter was read. Resolved that the Town Clerk communicate with the Postmaster General with a view to obtaining the views of the Department upon the proposal of the Committee.

[Mr Pogson was the Tramways Manager.] New Year's Day 1892 saw yet another Subcommittee examining a sample Letter Box, but deciding to wait for the Postmaster General's reply (which implies they had by then written to him).

Tramways (Permanent Way & Works) Subcommittee: Fri 1 January 1892

POSTAL BOXES - The Manager submitted a sample Letter Box which had been sent to him for approval. Resolved that the consideration thereof be deferred pending the receipt of the reply from the Postmaster General.

Six months later, Mr Alderman Glendinning himself was requested by the same Subcommittee to stir up the Post Office.

Tramways (Permanent Way & Works) Subcommittee: 15 June 1892

TRAM CAR POST BOXES - Resolved that Mr Alderman Glendinning be requested to confer with the Post Office Authorities as to the adoption of a system of Postal Collection Letter Boxes upon the tramcars of the Corporation.

Mr Alderman Glendinning reported back in October 1892:

Tramways (Permanent Way & Works) Subcommittee: 12 October 1892

POSTAL COLLECTING BOXES - Mr Alderman Glendinning appeared before the Committee with regard to certain queries addressed to him by the Postmaster as to the proposal to have Postal Collecting Boxes provided for the tram cars running in the Borough, and particularly whether the Corporation would bear the cost of providing the boxes. Resolved that the collecting boxes be provided at the expense of the Corporation.

This must have expedited matters: a General Post Office report by a Mr Crabb (written in early 1909: see below) states that Huddersfield Corporation.. volunteered to provide and convey, free of charge, Letter Boxes affixed to the tramcars.. in consequence of the interest displayed.. by the Corporation authorities, and of the strong recommendation of the Postmaster, it was decided by Mr Lewin Hill that the experiment should be made.

It has unfortunately not been possible to find the contemporary correspondence in the Post Office Archives. File index POST30 covers 1900-1940ish; POST29 covers 1860-1900 but has no reference to Huddersfield, Letter Boxes, or Trams. The MINUTES file contains all matters that came to the Postmaster General's attention, but again there is no reference in the index (which indexes all matters even if the paper was subsequently discarded). It is possible (though unlikely) that the matter was decided at Huddersfield or at Leeds: the PMG in 1908 seems to have known nothing about it - see 'Mr Crabb's Report' below.

The Huddersfield Postmaster now got involved in the details.

Tramways (Permanent Way & Works) Subcommittee: 14 December 1892

POSTAL LETTER BOXES - Read letter of 23rd November 1892 from Mr R W Mason, Postmaster, Huddersfield, stating, in reply to the application respecting the clearance of letter boxes attached to the tramcars, that the Post Office Department will supply the notice, plates, tablets, locks and keys for the boxes, and clear the same hourly from 8-30am to 9-30pm, and at 11-00pm on Saturdays, conditional upon the Corporation providing suitable boxes, and that the servants of the Corporation convey the boxes into the Tramways Office at the corner of Northumberland Street, for clearance by postmen at the time stated, and asking when the form of letter box has been decided upon to be furnished with a plan thereof, so that the kind of locks and tablets may receive consideration. The Manager submitted a sample letter box which had been made under his directions. Resolved that the same be approved and submitted to the Post Office Department for their sanction, and in order that the making of the locks and tablets may be proceeded with.

The contract for making the letter boxes was put out to tender.

Tramways (Permanent Way & Works) Subcommittee: 8 February 1893

POSTAL BOXES - Tenders (three in number) were submitted for the making of the Postal Boxes proposed to be attached to the Tramcars on the various routes. Resolved that the tender of Messrs Atkinson and Sykes, of 4s6d exclusive of painting, be accepted.

Messrs Atkinson and Sykes were tinners, of Market Walk, Huddersfield. According to 'The Letter Box' by Jean Farrugia, chap 16 page 134, the final cost was one guinea [1.05] each, for boxes made of stout block tin and painted vermilion (alternatively described as Post Office Red, which is not quite the same colour). The door was made of cast brass, and had a caution plate and an indicator tablet giving the hours of the next collection. Below the posting aperture was the inscription LETTER VR. The boxes were 13" high, 7" wide, and 6" deep. In addition 31 locks (supplied by Chubb and Sons at half a guinea [55p] each), 2 keys, 30 caution plates and 232 indicator tablets (giving the time of collection at the GPO) were provided by the Post Office. The enamelled tablet appears to have been produced in quantity to a Post Office standard.

System details

The boxes were attached by Mr Pogson's 'automatic spring lock' to a special bracket on the outside dashboard of the tram. The box was placed at the conductor's end of the tram (as was normal - but not universal: compare Liverpool, where it was in front of the driver). The 'blueprint' for Huddersfield trams in the P O Archives clearly shows the post box bracket (see 'end elevation' illustration showing a hand-written annotation 'The box is fixed here') as do other contemporary drawings and photographs. Post boxes were fitted on all routes, which ran between the suburbs of Huddersfield and the town centre tram terminus in St Georges Square (a few yards from the Head Post Office) where they were cleared by a postman. Anybody could use them - there was no restriction to fare paying passengers - but in the steam tram period the usual penny was charged if you stopped the tram solely to post a letter, the coin being dropped into the conductor's fare box (made, Brook notes, of brass with a window at the front). Tickets were introduced when the steam trams were replaced by electric ones, and the penny fee was dropped. Elsewhere, so probably here too, the opportunity was taken to introduce formal tram stops, indicated by signs on lamp-posts or poles, instead of the arrangement inherited from horse coach days that intending passengers might stop the tram wherever they pleased.

blueprint for Huddersfield trams

According to Stitt Dibden, boxes arrived once every hour on five of the routes, once every 40 minutes on two routes, and once every 30 minutes on a further five routes. The service was provided Monday to Saturday between 7am and 11pm (or as proposed by the Postmaster and recorded by R Brook 8.30am till 9.30pm). The service brought many advantages. Boxes cleared at 8.30pm included letters posted at the outlying termini of Lindley, Bradley, Almondbury, and Crossland Moor after 8pm, all in time for the London, Midlands, Scottish, and Irish mails, for which the box at the Huddersfield Central Office closed at 8.45pm. The cost of the time of a postman to clear the boxes was stated (in Mr Crabb's report ) to be 7/6d [35p] a week (his weekly wages at that time would have been around 1). It is not known what other tasks he had; with the tram schedules as above he would have had little free time to attend to any other task at all. However, R Brook (the Tramways of Huddersfield, pages 25-6) states that the boxes were only cleared every two hours, which would explain matters - the timings above agree with the tram service frequencies.

The letter and memorandum by the Postmaster to the GPO dated 12nd December 1908 (see below at 'Mr Crabb's Report') probably provides the answer to these inconsistencies, as does a report by the Postmaster to the GPO dated 12th April 1927 which encloses a memorandum of the same date from a Mr Hyde (an Inspector; whether of trams or posts is not stated) saying essentially the same.

The tramcar letter-boxes are housed in three centres, ie (i) the Tram Office, (2) Station Road, (3) Wood St. Shelves on which the boxes are placed are provided at each centre. The boxes are numbered in duplicate, the full boxes (ie those into which postings have been made) being on the top shelf and the empty ones on the lower. The tram conductors remove the boxes from the trams and convey to the centres as follows: (1) Tram office: all the cars having their termini there. (2) All the cars for Waterloo, Moldgreen, Outlane, Marsh Lindley having the town termini at Station St. The others ie Almondbury, West Vale, Edgerton, Elland in (3) Wood St. Lockers are provided at Station St and Wood St. The boxes are cleared by Postmen each hour from 9.0am to 8.0pm. S Hyde, Inspector.

Operation

The first posting was on 20th March 1893, and the scheme met with enthusiastic acclaim by the public and the Post Office surveyors. A constant supply of letters for local delivery was most helpful. The Surveyor, in his second report on the scheme made on 14th April 1893, said .. a satisfactory feature of the return is the large proportion of letters for local delivery, about 37% last week .. An analysis of the first week is as follows:

Number of letters for: Town Sub-office Cross-post Total
Mon 20 March 1893 114 33 270 417
Tue 21 March 1893 94 40 319 453
Wed 22 March 1893 348 78 584 1,010
Thu 23 March 1893 195 86 477 758
Fri 24 March 1893 210 60 557 827
Sat 25 March 1893 58 32 395 485
Total 1,019 329 2,602 3,950

During the second week the Surveyor realised that although many letters were being expedited by this novel means, letters were finding their way into the tram boxes which would normally be posted either in roadside pillar boxes or at sub post offices. He accordingly made a census of these forms of collection. In a return to the Postmaster General for the period up to 28th November 1893, he compared the collection of mail by the 'normal' methods of the previous year with that by the 'new' method. His conclusion was that of some 71662 items, 4736 were new business created by the tram car boxes. A decrease of 1.2% in mail collection by the normal methods was therefor offset by the new trade, which after a long and involved argument with figures led him to conclude that an average of 3300 new letters or items of mail were brought into the Post Office by this novel means of collection.

Weekly totals were given from the 25th March 1893 to the 2nd September; the highest total was 5747, for the week ending 15th July. The "Customers" were not supposed to stop the trams to put in a letter, but a great many persons jump on while the cars are in motion just to post their letters, and then jump off again; they are allowed to do so without the 1d payment. (A report in the Post Office Archives on another town (Croydon?) dated in the 1920s quotes legal opinion that the fee was for stopping the tram, not for posting the letter, and thus was permitted by the bylaws of the council concerned.) The Tramway Manager's report for 1901 states that over 600,000 letters had been carried. A typical improvement in service to the public was at Linthwaite: extension of the tram service gave the area a travelling post box every 40 minutes instead of two collections daily from the fixed boxes.

It is often asked 'What happened to the post-box at the terminus when the tram reversed?' A photograph taken at Almondbury terminus around 1914 provides the answer: it shows the conductor walking round the tram with the trolley boom rope in one hand and the post-box in the other (Huddersfield Corporation Tramways, page 94).

Developments

On 28th April 1893, the ubiquitous American inventor Mr George Bailey McAllister appeared before the Tramways Committee of Huddersfield Council, and offered them his plan for a special design of tramcar letter box which enabled a letter to be posted while the tramcar was in motion. McAllister had obtained British Patent 6821 on 23 April 1889 for his invention, which seems according to the detailed specification and drawings to have consisted of (a) a box installed inside the tram, underneath the last seat (which was often a sideways-facing bench), with a waterproof cover mechanism, and (b) rails along the side of the tram to enable the user to allow the forward motion of the tram to guide the letter to the slot, avoiding the problem of having ones feet run over by the wheels while one tried to insert the letter into a moving slot. His presentation seems to have annoyed the Committee, as the minutes are uncharacteristically brief!

Tramways Committee: 28 April 1893

POSTAL BOXES - A gentleman named Mr McAllister appeared before the Committee and showed a patent Postal Box for the tram cars, with a view to its adoption if the committee thought desirable, and after hearing his statement it was Resolved that the same be not entertained.

They are said (by Farrugia) to have expressed the opinion that it was dangerous to invite the public to approach the side of a moving steam tramcar; their concern for safety being perhaps sharpened by the number of claims recorded in the minutes for injuries to people and horses allegedly caused by their tramcars. The postmaster is reported as observing that McAllister had been advised to say only two things: that the facilities for posting would be increased, and that no danger attended the use of his box. However he talked for half an hour about the history of the Post Office, and so wearied the committee .. that .. the Chairman was obliged to pull him up and bow him out!

The Huddersfield tramway system was kept up-to-date with new and improved cars; it also carried parcels, and operated self-powered wagons which delivered coal from the coal chutes at the railway sidings to several mills in the town, and also took domestic rubbish from the Sanitary Department depot to a tip (over 20,000 tons between December 1896 and March 1899). However, the track inevitably began to wear out, as indeed did some of the older streets! The first to go was the Almondbury route; from 5th December 1932 a temporary motor bus service replaced the trams (R Brook, private communication), in preparation for the start of the trolley bus service on 4 December 1933.

Brook states that the post-box service on the trolley buses was curtailed to two boxes per route each day, and terminated as elsewhere in 1939 when war began. Stitt Dibden suggests that the service was withdrawn on 3rd May 1933: this is incorrect. This date appears to be when the transport manager recommended to the Transport Committee the conversion of the Outlane and Linley routes to trolley bus operation. Negotiations at that time (Brook, private communication, quoting from unpublished Corporation archives) led to the introduction of two post boxes per day on trolley buses leaving suburban termini around 9pm. Trolley buses which entered service from 1937 showed POSTAL in red lettering instead of white on the lower destination indicator when carrying the box. This even applied to the new trolley buses built immediately after the war in 1947, which also had brackets at the back for the post box. The author has a friend from Huddersfield whose father remembered being sent out by his mother to wait for a tram then post a letter on it.

Brook (HCT p 36) records that Alderman Glendinning was presented on 22nd April 1896 with an Illuminated Address, one page of which was devoted to tramway letter boxes and the part he had played in their introduction. An engine and car are shown in Trinity Street with the bright red letter box standing out against the darker Indian Red of the tramcar.

Mr Crabb's Report of 4 March 1909

This report was prepared by a Mr Crabb, who seems to have been a (or maybe the) Head Office Surveyor. See Post Office Archives reference Post 30/3510-3511 Eng 22075/1915. The file contains an informal letter from the Huddersfield Postmaster to Sir Henry B Smith (possibly the Postmaster General), dated 2 December 1908 and accompanying a formal hand-written Memorandum explaining the workings of the tramcar letter box system. A scribbled note from Sir H B Smith on 4/12 instructs 'Mr Crabb The Surveyor' to investigate, which he evidently did with extreme thoroughness! The letter:

Huddersfield, 2nd Dec '08
Dear Sir Henry B Smith,
I send you herewith an outline of our system of Tramcar Letter Boxes, which works without a hitch and appears to excite the admiration of everybody.
Curiously enough it occurred to me in 1883 that such a system would work well on the London cars, but I did not then realise how very useful it would be and I had neither the experience nor the enterprise to make the suggestion officially.
I hope that these details may be of some use in reference to other towns. The success of any such scheme must depend upon the spirit in which it is taken up by the Corporation or Company concerned. The absolute success of the scheme in Huddersfield is attributed to the fact that at the time of its introduction one of the Councillors watched it with eagle eye and made vigorous scenes in the Council Chamber when any portion of the arrangement seemed to be escaping attention. Now of course all conductors inspectors and managers are accustomed to the details and attend to them as quite an accepted part of their duties.
Yours Faithfully, George W Treble

The memorandum follows. The filed original is damaged; gaps are shown ...

Huddersfield Tramcar Letter Boxes - memorandum

The arrangement is dealt with in papers 86196/95. The Corporation provides all letter boxes and accessories except locks and plates. The Department pays 25 a year to the Corporation in respect to the arrangement. All the cars pass one of three centres, near which locked cupboards are placed for the reception of the letter boxes. These cupboards are provided by the Corporation ... divided into two compartments ... upper and lower. A Postman clears ... boxes at 8.30am and at intervals of an hour up to 10.30pm. 82 boxes are in use ... in pairs up to 41. All cars (... special ones) carry letter boxes ... each car passes the centre ... last time before the time of ... the conductor detaches the letter ... and places it in the upper compartment of the cupboard. He then takes the correspondingly numbered letter box from the lower portion of the cupboard and places it on his car. The Postman clears the letter boxes in the upper compartment and transfers them to the lower compartment. Over 13,000 letters a week are ... in the tramcar letter boxes, the heaviest collection being that made at 10.30pm. The public are at liberty to .. a passing car in order to post a .. at any of the stopping posts. ... service is highly appreciated ... public as it affords great facilities ... particularly in the outer ... districts, and gives later times ... than are afforded by the ... official letter boxes. ... clearance connects with the ... dispatch which in turn connects ... Irish Night Up and secures delivery ... districts 8-9am. There have been no complaints .. missing letters from these letter ...

G W Treble, Postmaster, Huddersfield, 2nd Dec 1908.

Mr Crabb's Report:

The arrangement referred to by the Postmaster of Huddersfield is a matter which has engaged the attention of the Post Office for some years past. The experiment of affixing letter boxes to Tram-Cars for the purpose of accelerating the collection of correspondence has been tried at various towns and, with few exceptions, has proved unsuccessful. So far as can be ascertained form the available records, a Mr Noblett of Dublin first suggested in 1889 that Tram-Cars running on various systems throughout the United Kingdom should have Letter Boxes attached to them in which the Public could post letters etc. The suggestion was carefully considered but it was not deemed practicable to adopt it. In the following year Mr. MacAllister - a resident of New York who was over in this country - made a similar suggestion and submitted plans of Letter Boxes which he had invented for the purpose. After careful consideration this suggestion also was rejected as being impracticable for adoption in London, but the question of giving the scheme a trial in Glasgow was favourably reported upon. The Glasgow trial was not however pursued. The prominence which had been given to the matter in the Public Press led to the question being extensively discussed in various provincial newspapers, and the Department was exhorted to try the experiment in a number of towns. No further action appears to have been taken. In 1891 the London General Omnibus Company suggested that their omnibuses might be utilised for the conveyance of Letter Boxes after the manner of the practice in vogue in Paris and other Continental towns, but the then Postmaster General decided that it was inexpedient to adopt the suggestion. In 1892 however, the Huddersfield Corporation - who owned the Tramway System in that town - volunteered to provide and convey, free of charge, Letter Boxes affixed to the Tramcars if the Department would only consent to the experiment being made. The conditions appeared to be most favourable for making a trial, and, in consequence of the interest displayed in the matter by the Corporation authorities, and of the strong recommendation of the Postmaster, it was decided - by Mr Lewin Hill - that the experiment should be made. The arrangement at Huddersfield proved to be a complete success and an extension of it in other directions was approved from time to time. The accompanying tabular statements A & B show the various experiments which have been made since then, and the degree of success or failure with which they have been severally attended, together with the result of fresh enquiries which were recently instituted.
A short statement containing fuller details of each case will be found attached to the relative file of papers. It may be observed that in 1904 the Controller of the London Postal Service and the Surveyor of the Home District were asked to report upon the feasibility of utilising the Tramcars running on the various routes of the London United Electric Tramways Company (outside the Metropolitan district) but, from the reports which were made, it appeared that the use likely to be made of the boxes would not be sufficient to justify the expense of their introduction. The matter was not pursued.
It should, perhaps, be explained that the essential factors governing the adoption of the Tram Car Letter Box scheme were generally, moderate cost for conveyance (where such was incurred) moderate cost for collection services, and the proximity of the Tramway terminus or principal routes to the Head Post Office. This latter consideration was necessary in order to avoid heavy expense for the transfer of correspondence from the Tramcar Letter Boxes to the Post Office. It is a matter for some surprise that, on the whole, the Public have responded to the experiments made with such little enthusiasm - the general results being disappointing - and it can only be assumed therefore that the facilities which had already been afforded for the posting of correspondence (by means of Pillar and Wall Boxes) were generally regarded as meeting all reasonable requirements.
(Initialled) 4 March 1909

There is a manuscript note 'Read \ HBS \ 4/3'. There is one table, with three notes:

  Huddersfield Stockport Bradford Swansea Coventry Sheffield Halifax Bradford
(note 3)
Northampton
Experiment first made In 1892 1893 1893 1894 1907
(note 2)
1902 1902 1903 1909
No. of letter boxes conveyed 28 4 10 4 3 15 14 16 5
Cost of conveyance Nil 10 a year 10 a year Nil 20 a year Nil Nil Nil Nil
Cost of collection 18 a year 10 a year Nil Nil Nil 31 a year 29 a year 23 a year 10 a year
No. of letters posted during first week of trial 4,000 6,250 1,060 660 600 (note 2) No return No return 1,714 Service not yet commenced but postings estimated to be 300.
Later particulars of service furnished (1901) (1901) (1901) (1901)   (1908) (1908) (1909)  
Cost of conveyance 25 a year 30 a year
(note 1)
25 a year Nil   26 a year 47 a year 52 a year  
Cost of collection 18 a year 10 a year 28 a year 10 a year   26 a year 47 a year 52 a year  
Weekly no. of letters posted 9,800 1900 (900 in 1905) 3,400 900   7,266 1,280 3,330  

Notes:
1: Reduced to 15 in 1905
2: This arrangement has been in force at Coventry for some years; when it started cannot definitely be ascertained, but it first came under official notice in 1907, when the payment of 20 a year was authorised.
3: Fresh arrangement made in 1903 under which one collection only - at about 10.00pm - was made from the Tram Car Letter Boxes.

Extensions and charges

The GPO files for 1900 onwards contain many examples of correspondence between Huddersfield Council and the Post Office, sometimes concerning extensions of the service to additional or changed routes, but mostly about the fee which by then the Post Office were paying the council. No record had been found of when a fee was agreed, but the GPO Archives contain many lengthy contracts in one of which it is presumably recorded. The pattern is depressingly repetitive: the Council ask for more; the Post Office refuse; the Council observe that their costs are rising, the service is useful to the populace, it brings revenue to the Post Office, and they (the Council) are minded to abolish it; there is a flurry of internal Post Office correspondence, usually the Huddersfield Postmaster saying it's really very cost-effective and the GPO saying it's no use to the Post Office; then an offer is made to the Council and a compromise negotiated. A typical letter was written on 30 March 1972 by 'W Y D' at Leeds to 'The Secretary'.

Corporation apply for increased payment for conveyance of Posting Boxes on Tramcars.
At present posting boxes (152 in number) are conveyed under Contract on all Tramcars at Huddersfield between the hours of 8am and 9pm on weekdays, and for one hour on Sundays for the sum of 25 per annum. The Tramways Committee now consider this sum inadequate but have not stated what amount they are prepared to accept.
The boxes are supplied by the Corporation. They are placed on and taken off the Tramcars by Corporation officials and are stored in a central depot provided and maintained by the Corporation. Collections are made hourly from the depot by a Postman from the Head Office.
The weekly number of items posted in the boxes (taken during the last Annual Return) was 16,993 of which it is estimated that 2064 items were accelerated more than one hour but less than three hours, and 6358 items were accelerated 12 hours.
The present annual cost is:

 sd
Annual payment to Corporation for conveyance2500
Postman collector 28hrs weekly = 28/48 of 83p.a. (mean)4884
Bonus3910
1 hour Sunday @ 1/10 (52 weeks)4154
 11748
The estimated revenue is:   
2064 items @ 1/8d55180
6358 items @ 1/4d344710
 400510

The Postmaster of Huddersfield states that the Corporation will probably accept 100 per annum for the continuance of the service (though no definite amount has been stated) but if the Secretary is averse to the payment of this sum the question of reducing the services will be considered. It should however be pointed out that in view of the length of time the present system has been in use - it commenced in 1893 and papers Regd. No. 168683/94 and 593451/02 are thought to refer - strong public complaint may be anticipated if facilities are in any way restricted.
There is, moreover, advantage to the Department in the regular receipt of correspondence at a Central depot as against posting in isolated boxes and the possible increased cost of collection by Postmen, and practically half the items posted throughout the day are received at the depot between the hours of 8pm and 9pm thus facilitating staffing arrangements at the Head Office.
The local correspondence is enclosed
.

Added in manuscript:
In view of the exceptional arrangement at Huddersfield, it is considered that the Secretary should see the case at this stage. L Stirling for Surveyor.

Photographs

'The Tramways of Huddersfield' has many photos showing tram post boxes, or the brackets on which the box was hung (eg pp 44, 71, 89, 95, 102). In 'Tramway Heyday' by J Joyce (published by Ian Allen; undated, but text references and issue date of an ex-library copy imply it was published after 1962 and before June 1970), there are two photographs (ex R Brook!) of Huddersfield trams with post boxes attached. An early electric tram is shown in a leafy suburb (page 37; tram 19 at Longwood terminus) and two later ones at a misty hilltop terminus (page 49; tram 89 and another at the West Vale terminus of route  7; note also the trolley bus wires, implying that the photo was taken in 1939 as trolley buses replaced trams on this route on the 28th of May that year).

'Classic Tramcars' by R J S Wiseman (pub. Ian Allan, 1986. ISBN 0 7110 1560 0: see it for a comprehensive account of the trams themselves) shows on page 50 (yet again ex R Brook!) tram number 108 (which entered service in 1919 or 1920) at the Sheepridge terminus of route 10, with the post-box hanging on its bracket. There is an oddity here, as G Kerr says the box carries a King George VI cypher, not K G V, which puts a very narrow limit on the date of the photo, ie 11 December 1936 (accession) to 18 June 1938 (last tram on this route).



Back to Trams Homepage Back to Top

©Andy Taylor. Last updated 16 Aug 2000.