Ashton-under-Lyne (hereinafter just Ashton) is a medium-sized town historically in south-east Lancashire although today is in the Metropolitan Borough of Tameside, Greater Manchester. The town lies on the north bank of the River Tame and is about six miles east of the city. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Ashton became an important mill town (as did other nearby towns) which led to an increase in population and hence the need for cheap transport for the workers.
By the early 1880s, a horse tramway was running between Stalybridge and Audenshaw, passing through Ashton, which was later extended into Manchester. In 1899, the Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramway Limited opened its electric lines on a generally north-south alignment, also passing through Denton between Ashton and Hyde to the south.
Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation opened its own local tramway of just over 5½ miles of route on 16 August 1902 with 12 trams (both single- and double-deck) and soon had connections to other local systems, which were all on standard gauge, with joint working arrangements. In 1904, the clumsily named Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield Tramways and Electricity Board (SHMD) opened its routes that extended the network to Mossley, north-east of Ashton, and Mottram to the south-east.
Once the network was completed, Ashton trams could be found way beyond the town boundaries on Oldham Corporation and Manchester Corporation tramway tracks.
Our postcard view shows Ashton balcony tram 22 on the Ashton to Mottram route, on SHMD tracks, in early 1910 outside the Star Inn*, Stamford Street, Stalybridge. (* Not to be confused with the Star Inn, Old Street, Ashton, which still exists in the town centre). A poster on the pub wall advertises a function at the White City (an amusement park opened in 1907 in Manchester) for Saturday May 7th and, in the early part of the 20th century, only 1910 had such a date. The pub licensee from 1909 to 1912 was Charles W. Sharples and his name is also prominently displayed on the pub wall. The steep road up to the right with the railings is Cocker Hill. The pub was demolished many years ago to be replaced by - trees. The indistinct buildings in the background have all been demolished and replaced by more modern constructions. The postcard is unposted but was produced by J.Hallas of Stamford Street, Stalybridge. Sadly, we have no idea who the tram crew are.
Ashton 22 was one of a batch of three (20-22) delivered new, as balcony cars, in 1908 by the United Electric Car Co. of Preston. It had a Preston 21E four-wheel truck with two DK 25A 25hp motors and was fitted with DK DB1 Form G1 controllers but was upgraded with DK 30B 40hp motors and K3 controllers in 1920. The livery was predominantly dark blue and light cream.
Ashton's trams disappeared from the streets on 1st March 1938 to be replaced mostly by trolleybuses that had first been introduced in August 1925. In turn, the trolleybuses were replaced by the all-conquering diesel bus in December 1966. However, 75 years after the last tram had run, trams returned to Ashton in the modern form of Manchester Metrolink in October 2013 when the East Manchester Line was extended to the town. There is now a direct tram link to Manchester city centre.
One small mystery remains. The destination board on the side of the tram says 'ASHTON & MOTTRAM' and the tram is heading in the direction of Mottram, but the destination blind on the front of the tram says 'ASHTON'. Did the crew forget to change it?
(With grateful thanks to Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre, Ashton-under-Lyne, for researching the location of this photograph.)
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