The Tramway Stables...

In 1877, original tramway owner-operator Thomas Lightfoot purchased a house with a rear yard and a 'little' stables building at the northern end of Queen's Promenade where the tramway first terminated, near to the bottom of Summer Hill road (formerly known as Burnt Mill Hill) and adjacent to the then Crescent Hotel.
 
 
He quickly proceeded to develop a much larger stables building to the rear of the site, and replaced the house with a terrace of three rather plain cement rendered three-storey houses, retaining an under-cartway to the rear.

The Lower Stables (as they became known) and the already existing Little Stables together accommodated up to 31 tram horses after the addition of a rear lean-to extension in the 1880s.
 
The adjoining Upper Stables with rear lean-to Blacksmith Shop were later additions by Douglas Corporation in the early 20th Century to house up to a further 45 tram horses after it acquired the tramway in 1902.
 
Prior to that, Isle of Man Tramways Ltd, who themselves had acquired the tramway from Lightfoot in 1882, had also purchased nearby No.1 Strathallan Crescent with its garden in 1891 and developed the site for their offices, additional stabling and a temporary storage yard for tramcars, known as "The Brig". By 1902, this site stabled up to an additional 21 tram horses, much to the annoyance of and complaints from neighbouring private residences regarding 'air pollution' from stable manure, although an independent inspector disagreed and found no 'nuisance' caused!

At the peak in the 1930s, there were 135+ tram horses, further stables were in use at the Queen's Hotel, Fort Street and on Lake Road.
 
 
In more recent times, a programme of 'modernisation' was undertaken by Douglas Borough Council starting in 1996 with the re-roofing of the lower stables. In 2000, the 45 wooden stalls in the Upper Stables were removed, the building re-roofed and strengthened, new flooring and drainage laid, and 15 loose boxes constructed in two bays as seen today.

The Lower Stables received further attention in 2004 when the building was strengthened with upper floor and roof supports, 14 of its wooden stalls were removed and replaced with the 8 loose boxes seen today.
 
 
In 2005 a new roof with skylights was fitted to the Little Stables building, a harness room created in its loft space and an outside staircase installed. The original wooden stalls and cobbled flooring in the Little Stables remain in situ to preserve a visual history experience for visitors within an Exhibition Room and Gift Shop.    

The combined capacity of the lower and upper stables today is greatly reduced to a maximum of 23 horses, with loose boxes large enough for heavy horses to easily turn and lie down. The positions and layout of the historical wooden stalls are shown on the accompanying Tramway Stables site plan for interest and comparison.
 
https://sites.google.com/site/douglasbaytramwayheritagetrust/tramway/stables/stables_layout.jpg
(click image to enlarge
)
 
A working original Victorian stable tucked away in a modern urban environment, complete with smithy, feedstock rolling machinery, hay loft and cobbled washyard, is a rare treasure to find in any developed country.

The acquisition of the Summer Hill Stables by the Isle of Man Government in April 2018 for continued occupancy by the tramway horses was welcomed by the heritage-supporting community, including the addition of the older stables buildings, the smithy and Tramway Terrace onto the IOM Protected Buildings Register in June 2018.

Always popular, the Summer Hill Stables undoubtedly add significantly to the heritage attraction and experience that the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway is able to offer visitors, quite comparable with elements of Cregneash village so highly prized by Manx National Heritage



'Meet the Trammers'... 

Visitors are most welcome to call in at the Tramway Stables when the Tramway is operating and the stables are open. Carrots (broken or chopped please, not whole) are particular favourite treats for the Tram Horses, as are polo mints, but please check with stables staff on arrival in case any dietary restrictions are in force. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult and sturdy footwear is essential.
 
 
Guided 'Meet the Trammers' tours of the stables are available on selected dates throughout the operating season led by knowledgeable guides. Visitors can explore the stables, meet and feed the Shire and Clydesdale draught horses, learn about their lives and discover the full story of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway. There are also a heritage exhibition room and gift shop within the stables.

The tours are free, however places are limited. For more information and to book a tour space, please visit the MER Ticket Office at Derby Castle in person, or phone 01624 614687, during seasonal open hours.

Tours may be subject to late change or cancellation due to weather or other circumstances, so we recommend you check with Isle of Man Transport (/IoMTransport or call 01624 662525) to confirm the tour event / time before setting out.

Please also note that at certain times during the Tramway operating season, individual horses are moved out to grazing fields and therefore may be absent from the stables when you visit.


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