CASTLEFORD AND PONTEFRACT TRAMWAY
few days ago there occurred a notable local centenary. On 29th October
1906 the Normanton, Castleford and Pontefract Tramway opened to public
service. Although operating for only nineteen years, it made an
important contribution to transport in the Five Towns area and, along
with the railways, enabled people to travel around the local district
with relative ease.
the second half of the nineteenth century many of our cities and large
industrial towns were experiencing severe congestion due to population
growth. On routes not served by local railways, the normal mode of
transport was by horsepower but this was slow and cumbersome.
order to solve this problem of congestion, two important pieces of
legislation were enacted by Parliament. In 1870 the Tramways Act was
passed with the purpose of simplifying procedures for the construction
of street tramways which would otherwise require many separate Acts.
Large municipal schemes were encouraged for the bigger cities, but for
smaller towns, grouping of separate authorities to form a joint
authority could be the solution; otherwise, private companies could
apply to construct a tramway network for a particular district. Under
the 1870 Act, in earlier days, trams were usually horse-drawn or
steam-hauled by tram-engines.
1896 the Light Railways Act was passed which further eased the
conditions under which railways and tramways could be constructed, but
it was under the former Act that the Normanton, Castleford and
Pontefract line was proposed.
this time, advances in the technology of electric motors had made it
more or less obligatory to design systems using electric traction where
the lines ran along urban streets.
the more populous parts of the West Riding to the west of Pontefract,
the construction of tramways got underway late in the nineteenth century
but it was at the turn of the twentieth century that proposals emerged
to construct a tramway system for the Pontefract area.
In November 1900 notice was given in the local press of a proposal by the
United Kingdom Tramway, Light Railway and Electrical Syndicate to seek a
provisional order under the 1870 Act to construct and maintain a tramway
between Normanton, Castleford, Pontefract and Featherstone. By April of
the following year under the West Riding Tramways Order of 1901, the
Board of Trade published its Order authorising the construction of these
lines and confirmed it in August of that year.
At this stage of development the eastern terminus of the proposed line was
not the one eventually built, but was situated at the junction of
Monkhill Station Road and North Baileygate. To accomplish this, the line
would have taken a sinuous course from Market Place, through Woolmarket,
Bridge Street, Finkle Street, Northgate and North Baileygate.
By 1902 the suggestion had been made to extend the line to Knottingley and
this was supported by the Town Council in January. In August of that
year, powers were obtained by the West Riding Tramways and Electricity
Supply Company to construct the line to Knottingley which would have
terminated at the Town Hall, having traversed the main Weeland Road from
Pontefract. As might have been expected, the Lancashire and Yorkshire
Railway Company objected to the tramway schemes, as they carried much of
the local traffic in the area and the tramway was seen as a threat.
Although not strictly relevant to this article, it was pointed out in evidence
given to the House of Lords Committee in June, that the L & Y
Company had not in fact provided a very good railway service between
Pontefract and Knottingley, nor did they provide adequate accommodation
at Monkhill Station. The L & Y Company’s response indicated that
they were planning to commit considerable expenditure to a scheme to
provide a large new station at Monkhill with much improved facilities.
In the event, the plan was not implemented.
At this stage (1902) the gauge envisaged for the tracks was 3ft 6ins but,
by September, this had been changed to the standard railway gauge of 4ft
8 ˝ ins. At the same time as matters were proceeding in the Pontefract
area, the Wakefield and District Light Railway Company was developing
lines in Wakefield and it made a successful take-over bid for the
company developing the Pontefract and Castleford Lines.
Further consolidation of these various ventures took place between 1902 and 1903
in stages. A company named the Ito Syndicate Ltd came briefly into
existence with the intention of buying up the tramway powers so far
existing in the Wakefield and Pontefract areas, amalgamating them and
then selling them at a profit.
PART ONE |
Also by Peter Cookson:
Pontefract King's School Song