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The Haslar Tramway

Recently at the museum we have been looking into the history of our local sites.

With Halloween coming up, the more weird and wonderful stories start to come out of the woodwork across all of our museums.

One of the first stories we came across was the haunting history of The Haslar Tramway which has the local gruesome nickname of ‘the river of blood’

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport has a section of land that runs from HMS Alliance right up to the site where the Haslar Hospital used to be.

There was a rumour circulating that sailors were moved from the harbour up to the hospital along this track along a railway line. Naturally, we decided to look into it and see if it was true.

Within the museum team Senior Curator Victoria Ingles was consulted along with Eric Birbeck, a local historian, from the Haslar Heritage Group.

Victoria explained that Haslar was built in 1753 and gave a brief history of what the road was used for. It turns out that sailors did arrive by water from the Haslar Jetty. The wounded and sick were carried along the road, that later became a rail track, which goes through the Royal Navy Submarine Museum to the main hospital block at Haslar.

She said: ‘I’ve not heard it referred to as a river of blood. In reality it would be several days or even weeks before war causalities arrived. They were more likely to have died from infected wounds and disease by that stage, which is still pretty gruesome.’

Eric Birbeck from the Haslar Heritage Group added to this explaining that in 1877 The Haslar Tramway was built. It connected the Haslar Jetty to the main hospital with a single track.

At either end of the track, there were two junctions both with a shed providing storage for the ambulance trams built by the London and Midland Rail way.

When the fleets anchored at Spithead or at the dockyard, hospital boats known as ‘cutters’ would collect the sick and ferry them to Haslar Jetty. From there they would then board the ambulance tram.

Later on in 1910, the tramway was extended to reach Fort Gilkicker and Fort Blockhouse for the transfer of munitions. A relevant note given its proximity to Priddy’s Hard, the Second World War munitions factory and store.

The remains of The Haslar Tramway tracks can still be seen in sections along the track, and at the entrance to The Royal Navy Submarine Museum. Take a look when you next visit.

What an interesting history The Haslar Tramway has, one we are sure not many people know about. A big thank you to Haslar Heritage Group, Eric Birbeck and Victoria Ingles for sharing their research and this captivating story local to Gosport.

Images - All images are courtesy of Haslar Heritage Group

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