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Welcome to the Stratford Society
Your Local Civic Society
The Stratford Tramway Wagon
Stratford and Moreton Tramway

The Society played an active part in getting the vandalised Tramway Wagon re-instated. Stratford District Council’s WCS team managed the rebuild under the direction of a small technical panel comprising Ian Heggie (chair), Tony Bird and Miles Macnair. Ian Heggie prepared the working drawings to guide the rebuild, while Miles Macnair – an authority on William James – advised on historical matters and played an active role in giving talks about the tramway to local schools. The Society also organised the launch event at the Town Hall on the evening of 8 th December 2010 and sponsored both the launch event and some of the publicity materials.

The Significance of this Tramway Wagon and its Track-bed

A modern railway requires a suitable route, effective motive power and a track-bed. The route to Moreton-in-Marsh, which is 16 miles away on your right, offered such a route and by the early 1800s many others had been surveyed and mapped. Motive power was originally provided by horses, but their power was limited. However, by 1808 steam traction had been developed and demonstrated as a viable alternative. Finally, there was the track-bed. Early versions used cast iron rails, but they were brittle and kept breaking under the load of the locomotive. It was widely recognised that “as long as rails were of cast iron, the locomotive had no practical future.” This is where William James, who lived in Wilmcote, stepped in. He was the visionary who saw that the solution lay in malleable iron rails (we now call it wrought iron) which he adopted for this 1821 tramway from Stratford to Moreton. With these three ingredients – a route, a steam locomotive and a flexible rail-bed -- the age of the modern railway had dawned.

Who was William James (1771 – 1837)

William James was a remarkable man. Trained as a lawyer, he became a land-agent and, in the context of the unfolding industrial revolution, started exploiting the natural resources – mainly coal and iron ore -- on his client’s land. This led him to conclude that the country’s inland transport system – primarily muddy roads and canals -- was strangling industrial development. At a time when his contemporaries viewed long-distance rail travel as fantastical as space travel, he developed a clear vision of England criss-crossed by railways. Although the Stephensons got most credit for developing the modern railway, after his death Lord Redesdale told William James’s family that, “Your late father had a greater claim to the title of ‘Father of the Railways’ than ….. George Stephenson.”

Early Transport in Stratford

Stratford, or “Street Ford”, began life in 1196 as a market town set on the Roman road from Alcester to the Fosse Way. Most people travelled on foot while a few rich people rode horseback. Roads were dirt tracks that turned to mud in winter. Travel stayed much the same until the 18 th Century when turnpike trusts were set up. They charged tolls to improve and maintain the roads. Canals were also built to transport heavy, bulk materials and, in 1793 work started to build a canal from Birmingham to Stratford. It was completed in 1816. This meant that coal and lime stone could now be moved cheaply around the country. The industrial revolution had begun. It was in this context that, in 1821, the horse-drawn tramway was built to Moreton-in-Marsh. It then took over twenty years before a railway connection was built to the south. A further line to the north was added in 1860 and another was added to the east and west in 1873.

1. Tramway Wagon 2. Bancroft Gardens 3. Tramway Viaduct 4. Cox's Yard/Toll House
5. Tramway Inn 6. Tramway Bridge 7. Springfield Bridge 8. Trackbed Stone Blocks
9. Newbold Wharf 10. Junction House 11. Longdon Road Station 12. Shipston Station Site
Please note that those in grey background are on private land



Richard Gibbon and Miles Macnair

Stratford-upon-Avon TOWN HALL

Free Admission

6pm Wednesday 8th December

As Stratford welcomes back its carefully reconstructed tramway wagon to its former place next to the Bancroft gardens, Stratford District Council and the Stratford Society  are joining forces to present this unique opportunity for you to hear from experts the truth about William James and how significant his plans for the Stratford & Moreton Tramway were in developing railway technology

Click Here to download a more detailed flyer about the event.