Museum of Transport, Greater ManchesterMuseum of Transport, Greater Manchester  


Bury Corporation Transport




3 June 1903

Transfer of Operation

1 November 1969

Head Office

Market Place, Bury

Operational Location(s)

Rochdale Road, Bury


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways Company Limited


SELNEC (South East Lancashire and North East Cheshire Passenger Transport Executive)



Image library


Image library


Bus services



A Bury Corporation PD3 ©GMTS Collection





Bus Services Operated



1969 Map of Bus Routes



List of Bus Routes in 1969


Service Number


Monday - Friday Daytime Frequency
1 Walshaw - Bury - Radcliffe (via Warth) every 30 mins
2 Ainsworth - Bury - Alfred Street every 20 mins
3* Bury - Edenfield - Rawtenstall - Water every 30 mins
4* Bury - Ramsbottom - Edenfield - Rawtenstall every 15 mins
5 Whitefield - Radcliffe - Ainsworth every 20 mins
6 Bury - Radcliffe infrequent
7 Bury - Whitefield infrequent
9 Jericho - Bury - Tottington every 15 mins
12 Bury - Dow Lane or Starling infrequent
14 Bury - Heywood (Direct) infrequent
16 Bury - Radcliffe - Stopes infrequent
18 Bury - Topping Fold hourly
19 Bury - Rochdale (Direct) every 30 mins
21T* Bury - Heywood - Rochdale every 10 mins
22 Bury - Jolly Carter infrequent
23T Bury - Breightmet - Bolton every 10 mins
25 Bury - Radcliffe (Bus Station) infrequent
26 Bury - Breightmet infrequent
29 Bury - Bullfinch Drive every 30 mins
30 Bury - Walmersley infrequent
31 Bury - Wolstenholme Avenue infrequent
32 Bury - Chesham Road hourly
33 Bury - Tottington infrequent
35* Bury - Heaton Park - Manchester every 20 mins
36 Walmersley - Bury - Sunnybank hourly
37 Walmersley - Bury - Whitefield every 15 mins
38 Bury - Unsworth - Whitefield every 30 mins
47 Bury - Radcliffe - Whitefield (Sundays) no service
48 Bury - Darn Hill - Heywood ( Furness Avenue) hourly
49 Bury - Nangreaves infrequent
52 Bury - Radcliffe - Farnworth - Bolton every 15 mins
53 Bury - Calrows infrequent
55 Bury - Radcliffe (Town Hall) infrequent
65 Whitefield - Stand - Radcliffe (Morley Road) every 30 mins
 * Joint service


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The history of public transport in Bury began in 1880 when the Council resolved that it was desirable to introduce a scheme of tramways in the town. On 16th December in that year the General Purposes Committee gave to the agent of Charles Philips and Company of 20 Bucklersbury, London, consent for an application to the Board of Trade for a Provisional Order authorising the construction of a system of steam tramways within and in the neighbourhood of Bury. The Provisional Order was granted and was confirmed by Parliament in 1881. An extension of powers was obtained in 1882. A Company was formed under the title of the Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways Company Limited and in September 1882 construction of the first length of line in Bury was commenced. This was a line of 4ft. 8 1/2 ins. gauge between Blackford Bridge and the Market Place, and was opened for traffic on 12th March 1883. Lengths of line of 3ft. 6ins. gauge were also constructed to Limefield, Tottington and Heap Bridge. On the Limefield section the Company had to employ horses to draw the cars until 1886 when powers were obtained to work steam vehicles on that section.


The steam tramways had not been working long before there were frequent complaints about the nuisance caused by the emission of noxious fumes and smoke from the engines, and the poor condition of the permanent way paving. Relations between the Corporation and the Company deteriorated: repeated appeals were made to the Board of Trade for action to be taken to reduce the nuisance, and the licence of the Company was renewed for limited periods only.


In March 1896 the Company asked the Corporation if they would approve an overhead system of electric traction. The Sub-Committee set up to consider this proposal not only approved it but also reported that the time was opportune for the Corporation to consider acquiring the steam tramways.


The first Tramways Committee was appointed in November 1899 and Councillor Hutchinson was elected Chairman. This Committee decided to draw up their own scheme for the introduction of an overhead power supply system. When this scheme had been prepared a Bill was deposited for the reconstruction and conversion to electrical equipment of the then existing routes of the Steam Tramways Company in Bury, Tottington and Unsworth. Provision was also made for additional routes in the Borough to the Barracks in Bolton Road and to Fairfield: for a short length in Dumers Lane, and along certain other roads in the town centre area. Differences of opinion arose about these proposals, the estimated cost of which was £285,000. At a public meeting the scheme was rejected by the ratepayers, and later a new Committee was formed with Councillor Sykes as Chairman.


In April 1902 an amended scheme was laid before the Council, the estimated cost of which was £186,000. The New Committee also considered adoption of the surface contact system and entered into an agreement with the Johnson-Lundell Electric Traction Company Limited for the working of a short experimental length of track in Rochdale Road. However, this was unsuccessful and the Johnson-Lundell Company finally abandoned the idea of laying the experimental track. At this time it was thought that there would be no difficulty in arranging terms with the Steam Tramways Company for the purchase of their Undertaking, and in anticipation of this contracts were entered into for the supply of the requisite materials and cars, and for the construction of the permanent way on the portions of route not being used by the Steam Tramways.


The foundation stone of the Rochdale Road Depot was laid by Councillor Sykes on 23rd July 1902. The first section of permanent way to be completed was between Moorside and Jericho and this was opened for traffic on 3rd June 1903. On this date Bury Corporation Tramways commenced operations on its own account with six employees; the total wages bill for the first week amounting to £10 17s. 8d. In November 1903 Alderman Sykes resigned from the Council because of ill-health, and was replaced as Chairman by Councillor Hall.


Meanwhile, the Local Authorities interested in the purchase of the Steam Tramways Undertaking had been unable to reach a settlement with the Company. Finally it was decided to fix the value of the Undertaking by arbitration, and the amount decided upon by the Arbitrator was £162,675 - Bury's share of the cost being £45,546 5s. 6d. The value placed on the Undertaking was unrealistically high. Some of the depots and equipment were not required by the local authorities: these had been valued at £76,000 but when sold realised only £6,286.


On 24th February 1904 agreement was reached for the several local authorities to take possession of any section of the Company's line within their districts. No time was lost in taking over and commencing reconstruction of the lines in Bury, a start being made on the following Monday, 29th February 1904. Rapid progress was made with the construction and opening of the electric tramways, and within five years the number of employees had risen to 243.


Much of the credit for the Department's successful start and quick expansion was due to Councillor Hall who was Chairman from 9th November 1903 to 22nd April 1908 and to William Clough who was General Manager at the time.


Dates on which electric tramway routes were opened for traffic:


- Jericho to Moorside: 3rd June 1903
- Moorside to Bury: 21st May 1904
Extended to Smethurst Hall: 24th February 1915
- Heap Bridge to Bury via Heywood St, Spring St and Frederick St: 21st April 1904
- Bury to Rochdale Road (Heywood St) via Princess St: 29th April 1904
Extended from heap Bridge to Heywood Market Place and Hopwood: 17th November 1905
- Bury to Limefield: 20th May 1904
Extended to Walmersley (New Inn): 24th February 1915
- Bury to Unsworth boundary and Whitefield Station: 20th July 1904
- Bury to Barracks (Bolton Rd): 10th August 1904
Extended to Breightmet: 20th May 1907
- Bury to Tottington: 16th September 1904
- Radcliffe Bridge to Whitefield: 4th January 1905
- Radcliffe Bridge to Stopes: 18th April 1905
- Radcliffe Bridge to Black Lane: 5th May 1905
- Bury to Radcliffe Town Hall: 24th June 1905


Parcels Service


A parcels service was commenced on 1st December 1904 and although revenue earned from this was never very substantial it proved a useful facility. Its use declined as more businesses acquired their own delivery vehicles, and it was finally abandoned in 1948.


Early Co-ordination and Joint Operation


When the Steam Tramways were purchased from the Company Bury had agreed to pay the amounts due from Unsworth (which was not then part of the Borough) and Tottington, and at the same time accepted responsibility for provision of services in those districts.


On 29th March 1904 an agreement was reached with Radcliffe Council for the working of the tramways in Radcliffe, and during the financial year 1904-5 joint running agreements were made with Salford Corporation for the routes from Bury to Whitefield Station and from Radcliffe Bridge to Whitefield Station.


Further Agreements for through running were put into operation as follows:


- 17th November 1905 between Heywood and Bury


- 20th May 1907 between Bury and Bolton via Breightmet


- 1st August 1909 between Bury and Rochdale via Heywood


Motor Buses


Motor buses were first used on a new service between Bury and Walshaw which started to operate on 18th September 1925, one-man operated, 26-seater, single deck Leyland buses being used.


During the next few years motor buses were used to provide new services to other parts of the area, including Ainsworth and Brandlesholme Road, which were not served by tramways. From the early part of the century development had been spreading out from the town centre in Bury as in most other towns. The tramway services had helped to make this possible and the introduction of the more flexible motorbus increasingly encouraged people to live further out of town and at greater distances from their places of employment.


Development of new routes progressed steadily and inter-running arrangements were made with neighbouring operators. Before 1930 services were running through to Rawtenstall, Burnley, Rochdale, Manchester, Stockport, Farnworth, Bolton and Ramsbottom. Joint Services were also run with Ribble Motor Services Limited. Some of the more ambitious long distance service later had to be abandoned because of restrictions imposed by the 1930 Road Traffic Act.


Owing principally to the growth of heavy vehicular traffic the cost of maintaining the tramway permanent way was becoming increasingly expensive, and in March 1933 the Council approved a scheme for the gradual replacement of trams by buses. Because the war intervened the tramways were not finally abandoned until 13th February 1949, the Walmersley section being the last to operate.


Although services were curtailed and no new routes developed during the wartime period, passenger loadings increased. This trend continued in the early post war years when there was a fairly rapid extension of the route network to serve housing estates.


Passenger loadings began to diminish from 1951 onwards, and although service frequencies have been reduced on some of the established routes, new facilities have been introduced where these have been justified. In the main these have been special services for works or schools or to new housing developments.


In 1959 some of the major routes which terminated in the town centre were linked in pairs to provide through cross-town facilities, and to help to reduce congestion by eliminating many of the bus turning operations formerly carried out in the town centre.


The Department's policy was always to keep in the forefront of technical development, and it could fairly claim to have been a pioneer of the compression ignition oil engine, having adopted this type of power unit in 1931.


In the first full year of operation, 1904-5, just over 4 million passengers were carried. Numbers of passengers continued to increase year by year until 1949-50 when over 42 million journeys were taken on the Corporation's vehicles. The use of public transport declined steadily in Bury as in other towns, mainly because of increased private car usage. In the year ended 31st March 1969 just over 25 1/2 million passengers were carried.


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