[Source: Nick Catford & Brian Hart]

The line down to the Imperial Hotel from Hythe station never saw passenger traffic as it was far too steep to be negotiated by horses. The physical connections with the SER at Hythe and Sandgate were used only when the cars were sent to Ashford works for servicing. The headshunt into the approach road at Hythe station is believed to have been removed around 1900, but the rest of the track to the Imperial Hotel remained in place until the summer of 1911 when the rails were dug out of the road.

A gun is seen being drawn along the tramway through Hythe during WW1 - at this time the tramway was closed. The tram shed and stables are seen to the rear. Note the stone facia below the gable with impressed lettering which reads 'S.E.R FOLKESTONE, HYTHE & SANDGATE TRAMWAY 1894'. The building is still there although much altered.
Photo from John Alsop collection

On 7 August 1914, just three days after the First World War began, the tramway service was suspended, its horses requisitioned for military use, whilst the depot at Red Lion Square is understood to have been taken over by the Canadian Military Police. The tramcars were put in store, and those members of staff who had not enlisted filled vacant posts in the railway’s service elsewhere.

In the spring, following the armistice, it was proposed to restart the tram service, but this was easier said than done as the tramway’s own horses had all died in action and replacements could not be found. In order to reinstate the service as quickly as possible ex-army mules were acquired, and the service resumed in May 1919.   The stubborn mules were not an outstanding success when it came to hauling trams. In spite of persistent coaxing from the drivers and conductors, the animals generally tended to begin the journey when it suited them. Once in motion it was equally difficult to get them to stop when required.  They sometimes also attempted to pull the trams along roads without tram lines! Suitable horses were eventually found to replace them.

Two mules are seen trotting along Princes Parade towards Hythe in 1919, shortly after the
service was reinstated.
Photo from John Mann collection

The tramway was now regarded solely as a holiday attraction and ran only during the summer season; after five years without the service local people were now accustomed to using buses. After three years, the track was in very poor condition and was not properly repaired after damage caused by winter storms. Despite complaints from Hythe Council the SE&CR did nothing to remedy the situation. 

The 'Toast Rack' on Princes Parade in front on the Imperial Hotel in 1921.
Photo from John Mann collection

At the end of the 1921 summer season (the last tram ran on 30 September) the horses were employed elsewhere and the tramcars were put into the shed for storage. During the winter of 1921 the track deteriorated still further and, having inspected the track in January 1922 with the District Engineer of the SE&CR, the Chairman of Sandgate UDC declared the tramway was no longer of any use and should be closed and the track removed as quickly as possible.  The SE&CR was in full agreement and closure notices were issued that April. The SE&CR optimistically suggested that the council might like to exercise their option under the Tramways Act of 1870 to buy the line, but this was declined and demolition started in the first week of June. All five tramcars were taken into the stock of the Southern Railway at amalgamation in 1923.  They were, however, never used again, and after a period of storage at Ashford works they were broken up.

A tram bound for Hythe waits in the loop along Princes Parade for an eastbound tram to pass. The photo was taken in the 1920s shortly before the service was discontinued.
Photo by HC Casserley

Once the track had been removed and the road had been reinstated the only evidence that the tramway had ever existed was the tram shed and stables in Rampart Road. The building was initially used as a furniture and antique warehouse. In 1947 the stables and offices became a repository for Newmans removal business and the tram shed became a restaurant. An Indian restaurant was still in business into the 2000s and tram tracks could still be seen embedded in the forecourt of the old tram shed. The restaurant eventually closed and the timber building remained empty until it was badly damaged in a fire in 2010. The roof was shored up with scaffolding after the fire but it was subsequently partially demolished. The stables and offices at the rear are brick-built and were undamaged; the building has been radically altered over the years and has now been converted into an office. There is an impressed stone facia just under the roof level which reads 'S.E.R FOLKESTONE, HYTHE & SANDGATE TRAMWAY 1894'.

Following the fire and subsequent demolition of the tram shed; in 2011 planning permission was granted for a new two storey building on the site. Objections were received from local residents as the new building would obscure the view of the stone facia. It has been agreed that anyone wishing to view it will be able to do so from the upper floor of the new building. The embedded tram rails will also remain in place. The site is currently boarded up.

The tram shed in July 2009. Having been used as a restaurant for many years the building was empty at this time. A year later it was badly damaged in a fire and subsequently demolished. The stable with its inscribed facia is seen to the rear.

The impressed words on the facia below the roof of the tramway office building and stable in November 2010, seen after the tram shed had been demolished.
Photo by Kim Abbott

Route map drawn by Alan Young. Tickets from Michael Stewart.

Click here to see a series of nine 1:2,500 OS maps from 1898 showing the complete tramway system.

Special thanks to Brian Hart for photographs and information and for answering my numerous questions about the Hythe & Sandgate tramway.


Special thanks to Brian Hart for photographs and information and for answering my numerous questions about the Hythe & Sandgate tramway.

See also: Sandgate Hill Lift

Sandgate branch railway: Click on the station name:
Sandling Junction, Hythe & Sandgate

Red Lion Square on 1966. At this time the tram shed (seen on the left) was used as a
restaurant and snack bar.

The Hythe tram shed in July 2009, a year before it was badly damaged in a fire. The tram tracks can just be made out in front of the building.

Hythe tram shed in June 2014. The shed has now been demolished and the site is awaiting redevelopment. The much altered stable and office are seen to the rear.
Photo by Nick Catford

The much altered stable and office building on Rampart Road has now been converted into an office.
Photo by Nick Catford

Looking east along Princes Parade, Hythe in June 2014. The tramway ran along the parade passing the SER built Seabrook Hotel (now the Imperial Hotel) which is seen on the right.
Photo by Nick Catford




[Source: Nick Catford & Brian Hart]

Last updated: Thursday, 18-May-2017 17:21:20 CEST
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