In September 1826 a 16 mile stretch of horse-drawn tramway was opened between Stratford-upon-Avon and Moreton-in-Marsh with the intention of extending the midlands canal freight system into London.
The tramway was used to carry Black Country coal to the rural districts of southern Warwickshire via the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal, and limestone and agricultural produce northwards. The parliamentary act for the line was passed in 1821 and construction was completed in 1826, the route having been surveyed by the railway promoter William James and engineered by John Urpeth Rastrick. A branch to Shipston-on-Stour was built in 1836.
James Rudge, born 8th July 1809, submitted plans for a house on the Shipston Road in 1851. Records from 1856 show his house existing alongside the tramway and by 1865 granted an alcohol license and converted into a pub called The Railway Inn.
The pub was operated by James & his son until 1877 when the building was sold to H. Perkins who developed it a little more into the building we see today.
With The Railway Inn now trading, the northern section of the line from Shipston to Stratford continued to be used as a horse-drawn branch-line carrying lime until the 1880s, when it fell into disuse. The tracks were lifted in 1918 as part of the war effort, and the line was formally abandoned in 1926, exactly 100 years after it had been opened.
As far as the pub was concerned, other than a name change, the premises have been used as a public house ever since 1865. The former tramway track bed now forms a pleasant walkway into Stratford town centre. A staircase at the bottom of the pub garden will lead you onto the embankment.
The tramway bridge across the River Avon remains in use by pedestrians and one of the horse-drawn wagons, which belonged to Thomas Hutchings of Newbold Lime Works, is preserved alongside the Bancroft Gardens.
In the more recent history, the front garden of the pub is reported to have been a small petrol station and remains of the concrete apron can be found under the lawn which validate this claim. In 1981 the pub was extensively but sympathetically redeveloped by Davenports. This included some internal structural iron works carried out by Ball Bros. of Stratford-upon-Avon.
The Old Tramway Inn is now lovingly cared for by its current owners and their dedicated team of staff. The team are passionate about their little piece of Victorian pub heritage and work hard to preserve it for the future generations.