Some lovely footage of the last tram journey in London coming to an end at New Cross depot on Saturday 5th July 1952. But wait was it really the last tram?
Apparently the one featured in the film was a “ceremonial tram” bringing Lord Latham, Chairman of London Transport and other VIPs from Charlton to New Cross depot. Thousands turned out on the streets to cheer.
But, according to the Kentish Mercury, the last tram from New Cross to Abbey Wood (the 72 route) actually left later at 11:33, driven by ‘William Crosk (28 years service) of 140 Dursley Road, Blackheath’ with ‘His conductor… Mr John Whitehead (33 years service) of 131 Alabama Street, Plumstead’.
The last tram was burnt on a “funeral pyre” at Penhall Hall Depot at Charlton on Wednesday 15th July (sources: from Kentish Mercury, 4th July 1952; 18th July 1952).
This is how the US Time Magazine reported in July 1952:
‘One day last week, as a fierce hot wind swept the city, London’s last regularly scheduled tram made its way along the Old Kent Road to New Cross Depot. Old passengers, some in nostalgic fancy dress, lined the route to bid the old red double-decker farewell with chalked signs, “We Want Trams.” Pennies were placed in the tracks to be flattened as souvenirs. Others crowded aboard for a last ride. “They are all mad,” screamed the conductress at Motorman William Fitzpatrick. “They have taken the light bulbs; they are ripping up the seats. Why don’t you stop when I ring the bell?” But the bell had been stolen as a keepsake. On ran the tram, heady and glorious. It was clanking along at 40 m.p.h. when a motorcycle cop threatened a summons. “We were driving 50 easy,” boasted the driver.
When at last the tram reached New Cross, every one of its windows was shattered, every loose object was gone. It didn’t matter. The whole thing was soon to be burned, its metal sold for scrap. A transport inspector pocketed the driver’s rear-view mirror. Motorman Fitzpatrick sighed. “I’ll have to be getting home,” he said. “Tomorrow at 9 I’m driving a bus.”‘.
All very sweet, but let’s not make a fetish out of reviving bygone transport vehicles let alone vote for a candidate for London Mayor because he panders to some nostalgic fantasy of the good old days of routemasters buses!
*Thanks to Transportine for this lovely article.