Selsey Tramway, the last days
By the 1930s the Hundred of Manhood & Selsey Tramway was on its last legs. In 1934 the Southern Railway become interested in the possibility of taking over and commissioned a report by Edwin Cox, their Traffic Manager. In the event the Southern did not proceed and the line closed in 1935. Stephen Garrett has edited the report, which provides a fascinating insight into the history of the Tramway and its operation.
MEMORANDUM: E. C. Cox, Esq. C. B. E., M. V. O.
THE HUNDRED OF MANHOOD AND SELSEY TRAMWAYS COMPANY LIMITED
History and Legal Status
The Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramways Company was registered as a limited liability company in 1896 with a nominal share capital of £12,000; it was promoted largely by local interests and the first subscribers thereto, with the exception of Colonel Stephens the Engineer, were all residents in Sussex.
It is understood that the Lewes firm of Estate Agents, Messrs. Powell & Company, secured the land for the line between Chichester and Selsey by private treaty and also negotiated the crossing of the public highway at several places with the County Council.
Although there is a provision in the memorandum of Association of the Company to the effect that authority is given "To apply for, promote and obtain any Act of Parliament, Provisional Order or Licence of the Board of Trade or other Authority for enabling the Company to carry any of its objects into effect," there is no knowledge that any such authority has ever been obtained by the Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramways Company Limited, and apparently operations commenced in 1897 without any legal status and have continued to the present time except in so far as they may be covered by the West Sussex Railway Certificate, referred to below.
In 1899 an increase in share capital from £12,000 to £16,800 was authorised but of this amount £2,400 remains unissued. At the commencement Debentures at 4% amounting to £7,000 were issued and a mortgage of £1,000 was obtained on certain property at Selsey. Between 1911 and 1924 a further £5,000 of Debentures were issued at 5% and owing to the impossibility of redemption those previously issued in due course were raised to 5½%.
In due course Colonel Stephens became the Chairman of the Limited Liability Company and steps were apparently taken to give the Tramway some legal status. With this in view a certificate under the Railway Construction Facilities Act 1864 was secured from the Ministry of Transport, the order being known as the West Sussex Railway Certificate 1924 (Statutory Rule and Order 1924 No.935). This Certificate authorised inter alia the following powers:-
a) The incorporation of a Statutory Company known as the West Sussex Railway Company of which Lt.Col.Stephens, Messrs Henry Bates and Luther Clayton, were to be the first directors.
b) The construction of a railway on the lines of the Selsey Tramways between Chichester and Selsey.
c) The purchase by the West Sussex Company of the existing undertakings by the Tramway Company, together with any debts and liabilities.
Under this order regulations were made regarding the crossing of the public roads at various places and the maximum axle load and speed. It further empowered the West Sussex Railway Company to enter into agreement with the Southern Railway with regard to the re-construction, working and management of the line. On and after the appointed date the charges to be made by the West Sussex Company were to be determined by the Railway Rates Tribunal.
At an extraordinary General Meeting of the Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramways Company Limited held on the 17th December 1923, the order which was not made by the Ministry until 15th July 1924, was approved, and the directors of the Tramway Company were empowered to make such arrangements for carrying out the powers granted by the certificate as they thought fit. This resolution was confirmed at a further Extraordinary General Meeting held on the 2nd January 1924.
On the 10th October 1928 the West Sussex Railway Company entered into an agreement with the Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramways Company Limited to take over, reconstruct and maintain its undertaking and to pay the debenture interest and other interest for which the Tramway is liable as and when demanded, or make other arrangements for the exchange of debentures. The West Sussex Railway Company also undertook, if requested, to exchange shares in the Tramway Company for shares in the Railway Company, and also take over all the debts and liabilities of the Tramway Company.
In the returns rendered by the Tramway Company to the Registrar at Somerset House an item "Light Railway Order-£181.8.3" appeared as an asset and in successive years this item was increased until it stood at £453.9.4 in 1925. It is understood that the amount refers to expenditure incurred in connection with proposed extension to Patcham and Bognor and also Wittering, but the Order was never issued. It appears that the expenditure in obtaining the West Sussex Certificate, which is not a Light Railway Order, was borne by Col. Stephens out of his private resources.
Though the nominal capital of the West Sussex Railway Company under this certificate was £45,000, only £150 has ever been issued, and this is held equally by Mr Austen, Mr Luther Clayton and the executors of Mr Macveagh. The provisions of the agreement of 1928 have never been carried out, and according to Section 22 of the Railway Construction Facilities Act 1864 the certificate expired except as to so much of the railway as was then completed, 5 years after the date of commencement. Although, of course, the matter is one for the Solicitor to decide, it does appear that there arises a strong presumption that the Tramway Company is operating without any status whatsoever. The decision of the Railway Rates Tribunal (S.R. & O. 1929 No.148) referred to later is, however, somewhat at variance with this view.
The principal features of the line, including all public road crossings, are set out hereunder, with the approximate distance from Chichester shewn at the left
Chichester. The Selsey tram station is situated to the south of the Southern Railway coal yard. It consists of the passenger station with run-round facilities and also a goods siding. There is a connection to the Southern Railway, and other sidings serving Messrs. Sadlers and certain oil companies tenancies (see Section 7). From Chichester the line curves sharply in a southerly direction (radius 6 chains) and crosses an occupation road leading to Messrs. Sadlers.
Stockbridge Road Crossing. This is a public road carrying appreciable traffic. From this point the line runs in a direction parallel to the City of Chichester Canal, until it crosses it at the drawbridge.
Canal Drawbridge. The Canal, which is the property of the City, has ceased to be used for commercial purposes. At a point further down the Canal the County Council have recently abolished a road bridge and substituted therefor an embankment with culverts for the water; there seems no reason why this course should not be followed with the Tramway.
Hunston. The main public road from Chichester to Selsey is crossed here, and on the south of the crossing there is a station and siding. The station is at the south end of the village.
Hoe Farm Private Halt and Siding. These were provided as part considerations in the conveyance of land for the tramway.
Chalder Station and Siding. The village of Sidlesham is really in two parts, and Chalder Station, which is named after an adjacent farm, serves the north part of the village. This station is within 1/4 mile of the Sidlesham Church and about 1/3 mile from the main road from which access to the station is obtained by the private farm road, the user being covered by an agreement the Tramway Company paying £2 per annum.
Church Farm Private Siding. Provided when the line was built.
Mill Pond Halt and Public Road Crossing.
Sidlesham. Station, siding, crossing place and public road crossing. The station is in a good position to serve the south part of the village. Between Sidlesham and Ferry the line skirts Pagham Harbour, being carried on an embankment constructed after the sea breach in 1910.
Ferry. Halt, siding and public road crossing over main Chichester-Selsey road.
Golf Club Halt.
Selsey Bridge. The main Selsey road crosses the line by means of an overbridge. There is here a halt, the ballast pit of the Company and a private siding serving the Trojan Brick Works.
Selsey Town Station. This is situated about ½ mile from the centre of the town, ½ mile from the East Beach and fully 1 mile from the West Beach. The Loco Depot is here, and the yard holds approximately 50 wagons.
End of Line. The line originally proceeded for another ½ mile in an easterly direction to Selsey Beach Station but about 1912 the line between Selsey and Selsey Beach ceased to be worked and the land was sold.
The country for the most part is flat, in no place rising above the 50ft. contour. Unfortunately the line had to be constructed to conform with the strips that had been acquired by private treaty and possibly the best layout for a railway from Chichester to Selsey was not obtained. However, the sharpest curve is that leading from Chichester Station and is of 6 chains radius, and apart from this there is nothing under 10 chains radius. No gradient profile of the line exists but it is understood that the steepest gradient occurs for a short distance of 1 in 50 in both directions south of Hoe Farm.
Way and Works.
The line was originally laid with flat bottom rails weighing 42 lbs. to the yard; many of these remain in use and it is doubtful if weighed today whether they would go to 36 lbs. to the yard. The standard of maintenance is poor. Mr Austen has given notice that he can accept no vehicle with an axle load exceeding 10 tons on the line. No fixed signals are provided and the whole of the points are hand worked on the ground without facing point bolts in the running line. Presumably if the West Sussex certificate were in force and the line inspected by the Ministry - which it never has been - this requirement would have to be met.
Cattle guards are provided at the public road crossings, but many of the accommodation gates are in disrepair. The fencing is extant, but needs strengthening.
The station buildings are of corrugated iron and the platform faces in concrete. The halts are elementary timber structures.
The Company's rolling stock appears to have little value beyond scrap judged by S.R. standards and brief particulars are set out hereunder. It should be specially noted that the stock marked thus * does not belong to the Tramway Company but to the executors of Col. Stephens. It is on loan, but no recompense is received. At the present time the locomotive and rail cars are working the traffic and if withdrawn the line could not carry on without further acquisitions.
Name Type Approx. Date Remarks
Selsey 2-4-2 T 1897 Beyond repair
Maraus (?) 0-6-0 T 1883
Ringing Rock 0-6-0 T 1883
(ii) Rail Motors (Converted 'Bus Chassis and Body type).
(a) Ford Twin In poor condition
(b) Shefflex Twin *
No. Type Remarks
4 Bogie tram (original) Hopeless condition
3 4-wheeled Hopeless condition
3 * 4-wheeled Bad condition
2 6-wheeled Recently purchased from S.R.
4 Open and 4 covered
1 Special truck for Shefflex unit.*
The census particulars in respect of the three places served are set out in the table hereunder :-
Civil Parish Population Structurally separate dwellings occupied.
Civil Parish Population Structurally separate
1921 dwellings occupied. 1931
Hunston 307 359 95
Sidlesham 801 878 240
Selsey 2307 2514 677
The increase was, however, larger than might be thought from the figures as the 1921 census was taken in June and included certain people on holiday, whereas the 1931 census was taken in April.
The country between Chichester and Selsey is for the most part pastoral in character, though beet sugar is grown.
In addition to the agricultural population at Hunston and Sidlesham, there are certain residents of the artisan classes who work either in Chichester or on certain building developments at Selsey.
In view of its position Selsey is isolated to a great extent to the east and west, and the main road from Chichester runs right to the coast at Selsey, serving en route the villages of Hunston and Sidlesham. Selsey itself has many attractions as a holiday resort; the sands are very good and well suited for bathing, and boating, fishing and golf are available. Up to the present the best class of development has taken place on the West Beach which, as previously explained, is farthest from the Selsey Tram Station. Schemes have been considered from time to time to divert the line so as to adequately serve the West Beach. On the East Side, however, development is now proceeding. Adjacent to the station Mr W. Hobbs of Sutton is opening an estate of small houses and, in addition, Messrs. Selsey Estates Ltd. And Messrs. Duncan Gray and Partners are offering land for sale.
A holiday camp consisting of brick buildings to house 300 people is being erected on the Bill at Selsey.
The occupants of the property on the West Beach appear mostly those of the classes owning private cars, but the development on the east side appears to cater for a less wealthy clientele. It therefore seems that the station as at present positioned will be suitable for serving that part of Selsey to which most traffic will go.
The lobster pot fishery at Selsey is not unimportant and most of the traffic emanating therefrom is at present conveyed by rail.
It must not be overlooked that Selsey is the nearest seaside town to Chichester which has a population of 13,912 and beside being a cathedral city has certain industrial activities, including a sausage and potted meat factory of Messrs. Shippams, a tannery and dye works, and an ice and cold storage works. Moreover, the huge population of 249,000 centred at Portsmouth is only 23 miles away from Selsey by rail.
There has been some discussion respecting the erection of a sugar beet factory adjacent to the Selsey tramway near the Stocksbridge Road Crossing at Donnington.
The crossings of the various public roads are only provided with cattle guards and the usual notices but according to Section 17 of the West Sussex Certificate the Ministry of Transport at any time after the completion of the railway may require the Company to erect and maintain gates across the railway at each side of the road. The Certificate further provides that the speed of trains within a distance of 200 yards from a level crossing over a public road without gates shall not exceed 10 miles per hour. About 1932 an accident occurred at the Stocksbridge Road Level Crossing and the scene was visited by one of the Ministry's Inspecting Officers. The City of Chichester proposed that colour light signals should be provided and actually an estimate was obtained from Messrs. Tyers & Co. Ltd. Shewing how such signals could be provided at a cost of £39.10.0. In view, however, of the financial position of the railway this course could not be followed and ultimately it was agreed that trains should actually come to a stand before crossing the road. This additional provision as well as applying in both directions at Stocksbridge Road also applies in one direction at Hunston and in both directions at Ferry. Apart from certain other restrictions with regard to speeds on gradients and curves the Certificate provides that otherwise the speed shall not exceed at any time 25 miles per hour.
The line is nominally worked by staff and ticket, the crossing place being at Sidlesham, the automatic brake is not employed and the mixed trains work without any goods brake van at the end, in fact, it appears that the line does not possess such a vehicle.
The present timetable is as shewn hereunder together with the connections from and to London. The whole of the service is worked by rail motors with the exception of the trip marked "Mixed" :-
Mill Pond Halt
Wed & Sat
Mill Pond Halt
It will be observed that the connections with London are in a number of cases not satisfactory and the general goods traffic does not reach Selsey until the mixed trip arrives at 12.12 p.m. There is no Sunday service although this was tried a few years ago but the receipts did not meet the expense.
The average speed of the rail motor services is 14.7 miles per hour, whilst the mixed train travels at an average speed of 10 miles per hour. Despite these low average speeds the trains are not infrequently late.
In Summer the service is increased to 7 trains each way each weekday and one additional train on Wednesdays and Saturdays only, the total train mileage run in 1933 being as under :-
If an up-to-date rail car were provided with good acceleration and braking power it might be possible, whilst observing present restrictions, to perform the journey between Chichester and Selsey, calling at the stations but not the halts, in 23 minutes. Although this estimate is on a mathematical basis it has not been submitted to the Locomotive Department. It therefore appears that it might be possible to run an hourly service over the line with such adjustments as are necessary to make connections with services at Chichester.
If colour light signals were provided at the public road crossings and the track put into a good state of repair, there is some reason for believing that the Ministry would sanction a speed of 40 miles per hour with a restriction of 10 miles an hour over the public road crossings.
The traffic in Summer tends to be heavy on those trips connecting with the principal London services and a fair quantity of accompanied luggage is conveyed, the special truck in the Shefflex unit sometimes being full to capacity. The following figures are extracted from the records for two Saturdays in August last year :-
TRAINS EX CHICHESTER TRAINS EX SELSEY
No. of passengers No. of passengers
It should be pointed out that on these particular days three trips each way were worked by steam engine and there may be some difficulties at peak times if a Sentinel Rail Car were employed seating 44 passengers with only very limited luggage accommodation.
So far as goods traffic is concerned it is probable that provided the road were in good condition that a Southern Railway engine could be found to work a trip from Chichester to Selsey though additional staff expenditure would be incurred.
Rates and Charges.
in which the Court of the Railway Rates Tribunal state that they are satisfied that the West Sussex Railway is a Railway Company other than an amalgamated company, a Light Railway Company or a Company whose powers of charging have since 14th August 1919 been increased by special Act and have applied the schedule of standard charges of the Southern Railway company to the West Sussex Railway. It appears that the Tribunal have applied a scale of charges to a Railway Company which has but little more than a fictitious existence.
So far as freight traffic is concerned, the standard charges are observed but passenger fares are in many cases on a very low scale, as is shewn below in a table giving the Chichester figures :-
Of course, the standard scale for the journey from Chichester to Selsey would give 11½d single, and even on through fares the West Sussex Company only get 8d single and 11d on third class summer tickets. The cheap day return ticket between the terminal points is 1/-, whereas on the Southern Railway possibly 1/3d would be charges.
Traffic and Revenue.
In the table set out below will be found particulars of the receipts from the various sources showing local separate from through traffic :-
The revenue from merchandise, minerals and parcels has been fairly well maintained, the receipts for 1931 being £2,019; 1932 . £1,818; 1933 . £1,931. The revenue from these sources in 1920 was £2,316. The passenger traffic, however, has fallen off considerably and pots of interest in respect of the different classes of revenue are dealt with hereunder.(a) Goods, etc.
£ s d
£ s d
£ s d
Coal and Coke
Mails and Parcel Post
381. 2. 3.
6 . 17 10.
78. 11. 4.
16. 4. 0.
11. 1. 9.
46. 7. 8.
638. 1. 3.
166. 17. 9.
692. 3 .6.
241. 1. 9.
45. 9. 9.
427. 9. 11.
6. 17. 10.
716. 12. 7.
166. 17. 9.
692. 3. 6.
257. 5. 9.
56. 11. 6.
41 7. 9.
3. 17. 1.
493. 17. 2.
1830. 17. 2
2369. 18. 1.
The total tonnage conveyed over the line in 1933 is made up as follows :-
Coal and coke
Coal and coke
Of these tonnages the following originated on the Selsey Line :-
As is shewn in certain particulars set out later in the report, there are a number of traders served from the property of the tramway at Chichester and the Company receives a good proportion of its goods revenue from such traffic, earning in respect thereof the standard R.C.H. terminals. This traffic, except for passing the exchange points and being shunted into position by the tram engine, does not in fact go down the Selsey Line at all. The tonnage of traffic dealt with at Chichester tram station in 1933 was 3,417, the receipts amounting to £399. With the exception of the very small amount of goods traffic local to the Selsey Line, the receipts for which were £78 in 1933, the whole of this sum may be taken as traffic for the various traders served by the West Sussex at Chichester.
Apart from Chichester the most important station for freight traffic is Selsey, though there is some coal traffic to Chalder and a small tonnage of general goods to Sidlesham. The traffic to the Selsey Gas Works amounts to more than 1500 tons per year and has to be carted from the station. Over 1,000 tons of beet sugar was carried by the tramway last year; this tonnage comprising largely the figures shewn for minerals in the statement above and this, for the most part, was loaded at Ferry Station.
Cartage is performed at Selsey by an agent ( Mr Wingham ). The arrangement is covered by an agreement which also stipulates that Mr Wingham shall provide suitable conveyances for passengers and meet every tram at the station. The expenses in connection with this cartage which are debited against revenue, amounted to £156 in 1933.
The statement below shows the number of passengers conveyed and the passenger revenue for every year since 1919.