Accrington women work on the trams, 1918

WWI accelerated Accrington women’s suffrage and more women were employed on the transport network. Accrington Corporation Tramways employed women conductress’s. Many women already worked in the mills and some shifted to munitions production. A significant site being the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company’s works at Horwich near Bolton. This was a dangerous occupation mainly due to the toxic nature of the materials used in shells.

Accrington’s trams go electric, eventually.

Accrington Corporation Tramways were one of the last tram operators in Britain to use steam trams. Conversion to electricity did not happen until 1907. The tram’s livery was maroon and cream.

WWI women in transport

During WW I many men of military age were away at the front. As a result, women were employed in many previously male dominated roles. one of these was as tram conductress’s. Moreover, this also led to women gaining the vote in 1918. Accrington Corporation Tramways also employed women.

Women conductresses in 1918. The online tank museum
A world war I conductress, Image Imperial war Museum.

During the war women became bus conductresses, ticket collectors, porters, carriage cleaners and bus drivers. Moreover women workers on the railways rose to more than 50,000.

However, after the war many of the roles reverted to men. And by 1919 600,000 British women were unemployed.

The main employer in Accrington at the time was the Globe Works where 6000, mostly men, worked. The 52 acre site was owned by Howard and Bullough and was the worlds largest producer of ring spinning frames. The Globe Works did not close until 1993.

Additionally women also worked above ground at coal mines. Here they sorted coal and moved heavy tubs. This was heavy and demanding work.

End of the line for the trams

A motorman and a conductor with a tram decorated to help raise funds for an extension to Victoria Hospital — August 1926. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

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The tram lines in Accrington had been laid in 1888 and by the late 1920’s they were wearing out. The cost of replacement was prohibitive and Accrington Corporation decided to use busses on the former tram routes. However Blackburn continued to run trams until well after WW II. The last Accrington tram ran in 1932. The depot off Hyndburn Road, survives as a builders merchants

Read more on Accrington’s history here

Sources and further reading

Accrington Corporation Tramways on Tramway systems of the British isles