THE Bargate and surrounding areas have gone through many changes over the years and 90 years ago a short but important chapter in the monument’s long history was written.

On May 27, 1932, trams were able to travel around the east side of the Bargate for the first time rather than make the perilous journey through the archway.

It seems that as early as 1872 the ancient Bargate had been considered an awkward obstruction to trams that rattled and shook their way along Southampton streets.

To ease this problem, at one time it was suggested that the central arch of the Bargate could be widened.

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Alternatively there was a proposal to sell the structure to the Americans.

This latter idea caused such a loud outcry, including the whole subject being highlighted in the now defunct Punch magazine, that the corporation was forced to think again.

The Bargate in the days where tram lines scarred the roads around it and Burger King was a far off prospect. November 1, 1948. Then and Now. THE SOUTHERN DAILY ECHO ARCHIVES. HAMPSHIRE HERITAGE SUPPLEMENT. Ref: 4162.

The Bargate in the days where tram lines scarred the roads around it and Burger King was a far off prospect.

Trams were then ordered to have special features incorporated, including low bodies and knifeboard top deck seats, to allow them to travel through the Bargate.

These arrangements were sufficient for a number of years but in 1912 the Southampton council debated the idea of removing the Bargate to form an entrance to a proposed new town hall at West Marlands.

Again the matter was dropped until two years later when local councillors voiced the idea of moving the Bargate but the Ancient Monuments Board stepped in and again the plans were shelved.

Heritage. Bargate with tram.

Bargate with tram on the East side.

Local tram expert John Horne, writing in the 1979 publication 100 Years of Southampton Transport, wrote: “In September 1923 the general manager, Mr PJ Baker, introduced the tramway’s own solution to the problem.

“With the introduction of the new Car No. 12, the first ‘top-coveredBargate’ tram permitted the use of an enclosed double deck car through the ancient arch.

“The need was to get more people using the service in inclement weather and the solution was unique.

Pics of Bargate tram which ran through Bargate from 1922 to 1938. To go with PL Tourism Feature..

Pics of Bargate tram which ran through Bargate from 1922 to 1938. 

“Using a combination of lowwheeled truck with high-speed traction motors and a specially-designed body with a roof moulded to the contours of the arch he produced a tram which became as typically Southampton as it was unique in the tramway world.

“To make sure of the necessary clearance the roadway underneath the arch was slightly lowered and finally some secretive late-night work with hammer and chisel made sure the cars got through.’’ Finally in 1932 the eastern road by the side of the Bargate was built, while six years later the road on the west side was completed.

The last tram went through the Bargate arch on June 4, 1938 after 60 years of problems for the passenger service.

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