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Tramways staff check out a newly refurbished tram, 1933

Tramways staff pose for the cameras in a newly refurbished tram, 1933
Reference SC/PHL/02/0617/74/13509

​The records held at London Metropolitan Archives offer a fascinating insight into the development of the roads, rail and public transport infrastructure that exist in London today. Some of the public authorities represented within the archive have helped to shape what we know today. The records of the Greater London Council (GLC), the London County Council (LCC), Middlesex County Council (MCC) and the City of London Corporation contain swathes of records including details of planning, architectural and engineering reports, images and other documents. Predecessor bodies like the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) also contain similar details for specific projects.

River

The movement of goods and passengers along the River Thames has been central to the City of London's development. This trade has largely been controlled, since the sixteenth century, by the members of the Watermen and Lightermen's Company. The Company's records reflect its rich and diverse history. As well as court and committee minutes, financial records and letter books, there are records of the company's estates and charities, in particular its almshouses at Ditchling, Sussex and its former almshouses at Penge, Kent.
Further records relating to the Company of Watermen and Lightermen can be found the City archives (COL/CP/02 and COL/CC/17).

Roads

The early years of the LCC saw a continuation of the Victorian policy of road improvements in central London. Kingsway, linking the Strand with High Holborn, was one of the first great works to be completed in the twentieth century. There are numerous reports and vivid plans describing such schemes (LCC/CL/IMP). Other bold projects undertaken by the LCC, such as the building of Waterloo Bridge in the 1940s, and of the Hammersmith flyover a decade later, are recorded in detail (ref. LCC/CE).

Similarly the MCC undertook a range of major works projects. The development and management of roads, such as the North Circular, and bridges, like that at Twickenham, is fully documented in the archives (ref. MCC/HY).

The GLC inherited the highways responsibilities of the LCC and MCC. Its work, carried out on a larger scale, as perhaps more prosaic but had equal significance. Its involvement in the construction of the Westway and Rochester Way relief road, for example, contributed to dramatic improvements to the capital's transport infrastructure and is well represented in the records. These are classified according to departmental structure as it was on the eve of abolition. The papers of the transport and development departments have largely been fully catalogued and the relevant lists are available in the reference room (ref. GLC/TD).

Bridges

The City of London is responsible for some of the major bridges across the Thames. Records can be seen relating to Southwark Bridge (CLA/019), Tower Bridge (CLA/020), Blackfriars Bridge (CLA/021) and London Bridge (CLA/022).

Public Transport

During the early part of the 20th century the LCC ran many of the tramlines and associated electricity generation in and around the County of London as it existed at the time (Ref. LCC/TWYS).

In 1929 the London County Council tramways, the Underground railways and the London General Omnibus Company proposed to coordinate their services, and in 1933 the London Passenger Transport Board, commonly known as London Transport was established. Many of the records of London Transport are with Transport for London, but records of some predecessor companies such as the Metropolitan Railway Company (See LMA/4029, ACC/1297 and ACC/1307) and early London Transport Board Minutes at LMA.

From 1969 the GLC was responsible for managing London's public transport system, and policies on Tube and bus provision feature in the transportation and development department records. The removal of this function in 1984 was part of the sequence of events that led ultimately to abolition.

Records and sources

Leaflets

Cities: Traffic and Pollution  [LMA reference: GLC/DG/PRB/11/16/07]
This 1973 film explores the problems that face a city, including traffic, pollution, water and rubbish. Noise pollution is examined first, with a look at the varying degrees of noise created within a city, how it affects the body and how it is measured. Traffic issues are then shown using footage of Routemasters, cars and other forms of transport on London streets. This film is available in the Mediatheque at LMA.

Further information

You can find out more about accessing London Transport records at the Transport for London website. Some of the records of London Transport, as well as many of the buses and trains themselves can be found at the London Transport Museum website

Published:
28 March 2012
Last Modified:
28 August 2018

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