At the Depot

Abbey Park Road Depot:

Drivers stand proudly outside Abbey Park Road depot alongside the Corporation's brand new tram cars in May 1904.

Abbey Park Road depot was built in 1904 as the main depot housing the original 99 tramcars ordered for the City. The depot was built to hold 200 cars and there was ample room for the fleet which peaked at 178 passenger cars and 3 works cars. In September 1926 a large garage was constructed next to the tram sheds to house the City’s growing motor bus fleet and this garage was doubled in size with another extension in 1934. A seperate building served as the transport Head Office and this was opened in 1937. The depot had state of the art workshops and was able to construct brand new tram cars from a kit of parts supplied by the United Electric Car Co.

After the closure of the tramway system, the tram bays were converted to house the Corporation’s new replacement bus fleet.

At its height in 1968, 263 vehicles were based at the depot, which was operated by Leicester City Transport, Leicester CityBus, GRT and finally First Leicester.

In the 1990’s the original tram paint shops that ran parallel to Abbey Park Road were demolished to make room for storing buses in front of the original tram sheds and  in 1999, a fire destroyed much of the canal end of site, no attempt was made to restore the destroyed sheds and many buses were later stored in the open air.

January 2010: The last remaining bays of the depot stand firm before demolition crews move in.

In May 2007, the last bus pulled out of the gates when First Group Ltd, which had operated buses from the depot since 1996, moved to a custom-built modern depot in nearby Abbey Lane.

The site was then sold for development and the Metropolitan Housing Trust had planned to build 700+ homes on the land but with the economy and housing market dwindling rapidly the developer pulled out in 2009.

With no hope of preservation, demolition of the original tram and bus depots began in anger early in February 2010 and 8 weeks later the site was completely clear. Presently an application has been lodged to extend the time limit associated with the planning permission on the site in relation to 727 flats in 8 blocks ranging from 5 to 12 storeys high with parking, landscaping and some open spaces. The application is presently being processed with a decision still to be made.

Central Depot (The ‘Hole in the Wall’)

The single track entrance to the 'Hole in the Wall'. Note the City Transport offices to the left and the extreme edge of the First World War Memorial.

In addition to the main depot at Abbey Park Road, the tramway system had storage in Humberstone Gate, for cars stored in service or between shifts. Next to the depot could be found the main enquiry offices for City Transport.  Out of view to the general public there could be found several sidings; convenient for strategic placement of cars for early starts and busy periods.

It was a particularly tight squeeze through the entrance and staff were quick to give the depot the nickname ‘The Hole in the Wall’!

On the frontage of the enquiry office could be found a memorial dedicated to the Corporation’s transport staff who gave their lives in the First World War. This memorial was relocated at Abbey Park Road upon the closure of the Central Depot and subsequently is now in the care of the Leicester Transport Heritage Trust following the demolition of the Abbey Park Road depot.

Today the Haymarket Shopping Centre occupies this site with the Humberstone Gate shopping entrance approximately located where there was once a single track entrance to this depot.

Narborough Road Depot

The former Narborough Road depot, now a privately owned retail outlet had it's inspection pits filled in during the 1980's, a mezzanine floor installed to create a 2 storey building and glazing where the original roller shutter doors were once.

A 1920's advert on the side of the depot is still very legible and advertises 'Mack's Garage, Automobile Engineers - Telephone Aylestone 44' .

Stoneygate (London Road) Depot

Like the Narborough Road outstation the Stoneygate Depot also held 6 cars and was used from 1904 until 1922 when both Narborough Road and Stoneygate were replaced by the Central Depot (the Hole in the Wall). After closure the tramway company removed the track leading to the building but not the rails within the depot.

This view shows a digital 3D representation of the building during the pre-1912 period. It is our intention along with our lead partners the Leicester Transport Heritage Trust that we may be able to transform this building into a transport museum and heritage resources centre.

(See our news entry for April and May 2013).

Ultimately of course, we would like this to be the home of our Car 31.

2 thoughts on “At the Depot

  1. in 1965/66,i was employed as a young electrician on the extension to the lewises store opp the “hole in the wall” in humberstone door was the “bell hotel”where we all used to drinking at dinnertime or have our strike meetings.i offten used to gaze at the small narrow entrance and wondered how trams ever went in there.i returned to blackpool in 66 but always will have memories of my time in leicester,most of which was spending a couple of hours in the manchester working mans club next door to the store celebrating my 21st birthday on my own with beer and crisps.

  2. My grandfather Arthur Kilby drove the trams, after he was gassed in the first world war and advised to get work out-of-doors. I believe that the tram depot that he was assigned to was replaced by the Charles Keene College and the family story was that he drove the last tram from that depot; but I don’t know how true that was. I remember the tram line down Melton Road and Belgrave Road.

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