Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company Limited

Scope and Content

Corporate and shareholding 1881-1951; Finance 1916-1927; Legal papers 1841-1949; Miscellaneous papers 1885-1894; Glamorgan Ordnance Survey Maps showing tram routes, late 19th century-early 20th century

Administrative / Biographical History

The company was registered as a limited company on 22 Oct 1873, by its founder George Grant Francis. The company constructed and improved streets and operated tramways leased from Swansea Corporation. It was incorporated as a statutory company by an act of 16 Jul 1874.

In 1877 the company began to work the Mumbles Railway, under an agreement with the owner George Byng Morris, dated 9 Jun 1877. They built a connecting tramline to a junction at the slip and trialled steam engines. This tenancy was rebutted in 1879 when ownership of the railway had changed hands, to John Dickson, a railway contractor, and his company Swansea and Mumbles Railway Co Ltd. This led to a lengthy legal and financial battle between the two companies over Swansea Improvements' right to run steam vehicles over the railway. In 1896 an agreement was reached with Swansea and Mumbles Railway which meant they stopped running services on the line in return for certain payments.

The company passed into the control of the British Electric Traction Company Limited (BET) in 1898, and by 30 Jun the street tramways were run by electric traction. The company entered into an agreement with Swansea and Mumbles Railway Company, and Mumbles Railway and Pier Company to lease the railway and pier for 999 years. The railway continued to be driven by steam. It wasn't until 1924-1925 that the company applied, and had approved, an order to convert the railway line to electric traction. This order was not taken up until a few years later when the lease of the Mumbles Railway and Pier was transferred to the company's associates at BET, the South Wales Transport Company.

The company was taken over by South Wales Transport Company in 1930, although both continued to be wholly owned by BET, with the same management and directors. The Swansea and District Transport Act 1936 gave power for the two companies to abandon the tramways which were becoming seen as obsolescent due to their lack of speed and hindrance to other traffic on narrow streets. With the permission of Swansea Corporation, who owned the routes, the Act allowed for the tramways to be abandoned and replaced with bus services for 21 years. After this time, the Corporation would have the right to compulsorily acquire all local services. Swansea Improvements remained in business, nominally running buses over the old tramway routes. It was dissolved on 30 Sep 1953.

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