Writers are conducting a history of trams in Norwich
- Credit: Mike Adcock Collection
Top-selling authors Frances and Michael Holmes of Norwich Heritage Projects are embarking on a journey – by tram and they would like your help. Derek James spoke to them
They have produced some of the best and most popular local history books in recent times and during the lockdown they have been looking through the vast collection of material collected over the years.
This involved researching rare and historic slides and photos collected by a former Blue Badge Guide and Norfolk historian Mike Adcock.
They included some rare images of Norwich streets – and the way they were changed to make way for the trams 120 years ago.
The age of the tram may have been short, from 1900 to 1935, but the impact they made on the city was immense.
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Frances and Michael soon had a lot of questions.
Why were the tramways built in Norwich?
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How did the streets change to accommodate this new form of transport?
How involved were the people of Norwich?”
Using the photographs as a starting point Frances and Michael are now putting together the fascinating story of the trams in Norwich and they want to know how they changed our streets and perhaps more importantly how they changed lives.
For the first time people had a cheap and efficient public transport system. It really did change lives.
Frances and Michael can find much information through historical records and documents but they are now reaching out to people for their personal memories.. Yes, they ran out of road at the end of 1935 but if you have memories of the trams, or have relatives, stories or even photographs, Frances and Michael would love to hear from you to complete the story.
Your memories are important as a major part of the story of the trams.
“We would also love to hear from anyone who has discovered a tram driver or conductor whilst doing their family research, and we also welcome photographs,” said Frances.
If you can help with stories or pictures contact email@example.com or call (01603) 455798.
Tram history: It was our own Jonathan Mardle who wrote so splendidly of his love for trams in the Eastern Daily Press of almost 70 years ago saying: “I often wish Norwich had kept its trams.”
In a piece for the paper in December of 1951 you can imagine what it was rolling around on the top of a tram trundling through the city.
“The favourite Sunday afternoon ride of the citizens, from Orford Place to the Cemetery was, I used to feel, as important a manifestation of the local character as for instance the Sabbath promenade of the townspeople of Lowestoft around the fish market.
“Trams promoted a decent leisure in our proceedings. They rebuked and restrained the scurrying of impatient motors cars. There was a sense of continuity about them. The swaddled drivers, with their red noses and walrus moustaches, might have been directly descended from the drivers of horse omnibuses.
“And on the open stretches of their routes they could give you all the elation of speed with none of the risks.
“A tram, pitching and rolling along Newmarket Road, with its iron wheels bumping and banging, its pole sparking and swishing along the wires.
“The driver turning his handles with glorious abandon, could give you a greater sensation of speed than a motor car travelling at 60 miles an hour.
“The tram may have only been doing 15 miles an hour, but it let everybody know it was putting its heart into the job,” he wrote
And added: “It is sad that our trams were taken away before we had learned to value our Victoriana. One day, somebody will form a society to preserve trams, just as we now seek to preserve windmills and wherries.”