Thomas Tilling

Thomas Tilling was a pioneering bus operator, becoming a ‘job master’ in 1847 with a horse and carriage for hire, and acquiring his first bus in 1849. By 1900, the business owned 7,000 horses and 250 buses.

The Company also hired horses to haulage businesses, taxis and even the competitor South London Tramways Company.

        photo: Grace's Guide


Thomas Tilling Ltd’s motor buses started operation on route 47 between Shoreditch and Bromley on 20 July 1912, replacing a horse bus route from ‘The City’ to Lewisham. Joint working with the London General Omnibus Company, London’s principal bus operator, began in 1908, and came to route 47, by then extended south to Farnborough in 1913.

This first timetable has the title "Country Breezes for City Workers". There were no less than 15 fares to choose from. From Farnborough a journey to Locksbottom cost one halfpenny, while the fare for the whole route was 11 pence. 

The service interval was about 8 minutes.  Unfortunately there is no indication how long the journey was expected to take.

Alternate buses coming from London continued to Farnborough, and for many years before and immediately after the Second World War the route was further extended on summer weekends to Knockholt Pound.

The 47 operated continuously with minor changes in route through to 1980s, from when the terminus was gradually cut back from Farnborough to Bellingham. It was replaced by new routes 208 and 261.  These photos were taken of buses on the 47 route in or near Farnborough at various times from introduction through to the 1970's.

photos: Bromley Borough Local History Society

photos: London Transport Museum

Farnborough was also the terminating location for Route 51 from its introduction in April 1949. The destination point was at various times, Sidcup, Blackfen, Charlton and Woolwich. In 1977 the terminus for route 51 was changed to Green Street Green, and is now Orpington Station. The former bus turning area in the centre of Farnborough was landscaped in 1985.

Since 1985 there has been a night bus route N47. Between 1989 and 2000 this came through, but never terminated at, Farnborough. It currently runs from Trafalgar Square via Bromley and Orpington to St. Mary Cray.

Tram Proposal

There was also a proposal to establish a tram route from London along the line of the Hastings Road via Bromley to Farnborough. Where Coates Bros. was on the left entering Gladstone Road (now dwellings) was a "huge iron constructed building", which was to be the tram terminus.

The tramway was built as far as Catford and Downham but the powers of the day in Bromley refused to allow the tram lines to be laid through the town centre and on to Farnborough, so the idea for the route extension was abandoned.

Later the line was extended from Downham eastward to terminate at Grove Park.  This survived until trams were withdrawn in London in 1950s.
Tram at Lewisham c 1906
photo: Old UK Photos

Trams ceased running in London by 1952, although of course there has been a modern revival to build the new system centred on Croydon. 

A Contemporary Account

The trams started at Victoria and finished their journey at Grove Park. On Downham Way there were two sets of tramlines and at Bromley Road there were two sets of three tramlines.  This was because on Downham Way the trams got their electric power from the overhead cables and on Bromley Road the power was in a conduit under the third track.

When the trams reached Bromley Road the driver would get out of the tram and manually disconnect the overhead power and then slip a large electrical conductor, which was called the “shoe”, under the tram and connect it to the middle track.

When the driver did that the locals called it the Changeover.  
Trams were not comfortable to ride in. They rocked from side to side and to get on a tram one had to walk into the middle of the road in order to board.

Downham Hall Community Centre

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