diamond geezer

 Friday, June 25, 2004

A brief history of public transport down the Mile End Road
(extended to cover the three miles from Aldgate through Whitechapel to my house in Bow)

12th century: The main road from London to Essex passes over the newly built Bow Bridge.
14th century: Small villages grow up along the road, including Mile End and Bow. Nobody has yet invented public transport.

17th century: Stagecoaches depart from coaching inns in Aldgate, each heading out weekly to various destinations in East Anglia. "The Waggons from Chelmsford in Essex come on Wednesdays to the sign of the Blue Boar without Aldgate."
18th century: More stagecoaches run to lots more towns, more often. "Harwich coach, Sarazen's Head Aldgate, Tuesday, Friday." "Barking coach, Three Nuns Whitechapel, every Day."
1837: Charles Dickens was a regular visitor to the Bell Inn in Whitechapel, and it was from here that he sent Mr Pickwick off on a coach journey to Ipswich (poor bloke) in the Pickwick Papers. "And away went the coach up Whitechapel, to the admiration of the whole population of that pretty densely populated quarter. `Not a very nice neighbourhood, this, Sir,` said Sam, with a touch of the hat. `It is not indeed, Sam,` replied Mr. Pickwick, surveying the crowded and filthy street through which they were passing."

mid 19th century: The first horse-drawn omnibuses thread the streets of the capital, run by the London General Omnibus Association. Route 3 (green) runs to Bow and Stratford "from Oxford Street: Regent Street, Charing Cross, Strand, Fleet Street, Cheapside, Bank, Whitechapel. Each omnibus requires 8 to 10 horses to work it. To be readily distinguishable, vehicles are painted in conspicuous colours, and have upon each their destination, and the names of the more important streets in their route."

late 19th century: Horse-drawn trams arrive in London in 1870, and the second route to open runs between Aldgate and Stratford. The tramlines pass either side of Bow Church - photos here. "Colour, Blue. —Route— Whitechapel, Mile-end-rd, Bow, and Stratford-high-st. From Aldgate every 4 minutes from 6.40 a.m. to 12 midnight. From Stratford every 4 minutes from 6 am. to 11.5 p.m. Fares—to Bow Station, 2d. All the way, 3d. Outside, 2d. any distance."

1900-1930: Electric trams and motorbuses gradually replace horse-drawn transport. Bow Garage opens as a tramshed in 1908. Tram route 63 runs from Aldgate to Mile End, Bow, Stratford, Forest Gate and Ilford - photo here.
1931-1958: Trolleybuses and more motorbuses gradually replace trams. Bow Garage is converted to trolleybuses in 1938. Trolleybus route 663 runs from Aldgate to Mile End, Bow, Stratford, Forest Gate and Ilford - photos here. Other trolleybuses down the Mile End Road are the 661 and 695, and buses include the 10, 25, and 96 (withdrawn 1958).
1959: The last trolleybus down the Mile End Road runs on 4 August 1959, to be replaced by bus route 26 and additional Routemasters on route 25. Bow Garage is converted to motorbuses only.

1966: The 26 is withdrawn, leaving just the 10 and the 25, plus new nightbus N98 (Victoria to Ilford).
1988: The 10 is withdrawn, and the one remaining bus route down the Mile End Road (the 25) loses all its Routemasters. Bit grim.
25 June 2004: Today is the last day of double decker service down the Mile End Road, ending about 150 years of history.
26 June 2004: The arrival of the dreaded bendy buses on route 25. Report tomorrow.

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