A Further Look at Proe and Co.


In a previous post, I had discovered that my English ancestors went all the way back to Wigan during the Industrial Revolution. Since then, I have discovered a couple more interesting details. As shown above from the The London Gazette, December 26th, 1905, not only were they cab proprietors, but also coach builders and funeral undertakers. As seen in the Wigan Directory of 1881, they had three lines of omnibuses within the district:


Wigan to Standish, from the Market Hotel – Monday to Friday, 9 15 a.m., 12 5, 3 30, 5 30, and 7 30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 12 5 and 5 30 p.m. Saturday, 12 5, 3 0, 5 0, 6 30, 7 30 and 8 30 p.m. Sunday, 12 0 noon, 7 45 p.m.

Standish to Wigan, from the Wheat Sheaf Inn – Monday and Friday, 8 30 and 10 30 a.m., 1 45, 4 45 and 6 45 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 8 30 a.m., 1 45 p.m. Saturday, 8 30 a.m., 1 45, 4 0, 5 0, 6 30, and 7 30 p.m. Sunday, 9 50 a.m., 5 50 p.m. – Almond and Company, Proprietors, Standish

Wigan to Platt Bridge – Monday and Friday, 8 30 and 11 0 a.m., 1 0, 4 30, and 6 30 p.m. Saturday, 1 0, 3 0, 4 30, 6 0, 7 30, and 9 30 p.m. – Proe and Co., Proprietors

Platt Bridge to Wigan – Monday & Friday, 9 15 and 11 45 a.m., 2 0, 5 15, and 7 15 p.m. Saturday, 2 0, 3 45, 5 15, 6 45, 8 15, and 10 15 p.m. – Proe and Co., Proprietors

Wigan to Aspull, from the L. & N. W. Railway Station – Monday at 11 0 a.m., 3 0 and 7 30 p.m. Friday at 11 0 a.m., 4 0 and 7 30 p.m. Saturday at 2 0, 4 0, and 7 30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 3 0 and 7 30 p.m. – Wigan and Aspull Omnibus Company Limited, Proprietors

Aspull to Wigan – Monday and Friday, from Lane Ends at 9 0 a.m., 1 0 and 5 30 p.m. Saturdays from Lane Ends at 12 0 a.m., and 5 30 p.m. Saturdays from Finger Post at 3 0 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from Lane Ends at 1 0 p.m., and 5 30 p.m.

Wigan to Ashton, from the Old Market Place – Monday, 11 30 a.m., and 4 30 p.m. Friday, 12 0 noon, 4 30 p.m. Saturday, 3 30, 6 0, and 9 0 p.m. Sunday, 8 20 p.m.

Ashton to Wigan – Monday, 9 0 a.m., 1 0 p.m. Friday, 8 0 a.m., 1 0 p.m. Saturday, 2 30 and 7 15 p.m. Sunday (from Four-footed Cross) 5 0 p.m. – James Rimmer, proprietor

Wigan to Ince and Hindley – Monday, 8 30 and 11 0 a.m., 1 0, 4 30, and 6 30 p.m. Friday, 8 30 and 11 0 a.m., 1 0, 4 30, and 6 30 p.m. Saturday, 1 0, 3 0, 4 30, 6 0, 7 30, and 9 30 p.m.

Hindley to Ince and Wigan – Monday, 9 15 and 11 45 a.m., 2 0, 5 15, and 7 15 p.m. Friday, 9 15 and 11 45 a.m., 2 0, 5 15, and 7 15 p.m. Saturday, 2 0, 3 45, 5 15, 6 45, 8 15, and 10 15 p.m. – Proe and Co., Proprietors

So, the question then becomes, “What is an omnibus?” To get an idea, these videos from the British Film Institute (BFI) can help make a clearer picture:

Another great example is this picture below:


Omnibus ca. 1896,  Upper Richmond and West Hill, Wandsworth.

According to The Geography Of Transport Systems, “Omnibus, London, Late 19th Century” (see underlined type for pertinent information):

Although the first omnibus services appeared in Nantes in 1826 and Bordeaux in 1827, the first wide scale commercial public transit ventures began in 1828 in Paris. Stanislas Baudry, a retired French general, had been experimenting with a scheme to draw new customers to his steam-bath venture outside Nantes. Baudry introduced a type of stagecoach operation, which, as it turned out, did not benefit his steam bath, but did prove popular as a means of transportation. This transport service was given the name omnibus as a play on words. The city terminus for the service was located adjacent to a hatter by the name of Omnes, whose sign read “Omnes Omnibus”. The term seemed appropriate since omni (Latin for all people) could use the service for a fee, regardless of class. These early buses carried up to fourteen passengers. By 1836, there were 16 omnibus operators in Paris, covering 35 routes.

The innovation was carried to London in 1829 by George Shillibeer, a successful English coach maker, who had been working in Paris. As in France, the omnibus was used mostly by middle-class commuters. By 1854, more suburban commuters used the omnibus than steamboat and railroad combined. The North American experience with the omnibus, although less enduring than in France, proceeded at a quicker pace. Abraham Brower, a Manhattan stagecoach operator who had started business in 1827, created the first omnibus venture in the United States. The innovation was soon adopted elsewhere, for example, in Philadelphia and Boston in the 1830s and Baltimore in the 1840s. In Canada, omnibus services also flourished in the larger cities of Toronto, Montreal and Halifax during the middle of the nineteenth century.

The omnibus was first adapted to a fixed rail system in 1832 by John Mason, president of the Chemical Bank of New York and operator of the N.Y. & Harlem Railroad. The smooth ride and low floor of these new horse-cars provided passengers with superior comfort. The widespread adoption of this technology to other cities was limited until engineers were able to design a rail that could be installed flush with the street surface. In 1853 New York opted to replace the elevated rails with this new, obstruction-free design, and other cities followed suit:

  • 1832 New York
  • 1835 New Orleans
  • 1856 Boston
  • 1858 Philadelphia
  • 1859 Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Chicago
  • 1861 Toronto

The adoption of this new technology was less rapid in Europe. Paris approved their first streetcar railway in 1854 after considerable grumbling by skeptical officials. A six fold increase in ridership between 1855 and 1890 eventually confirmed the popularity of the horse-drawn railway among the citizens of Paris. Rail-based horse cars were introduced in England in 1860, but adoption was never widespread. By 1882 the North American transit industry had ballooned to include 415 street railway firms, 35,000 workers, 18,000 cars, 100,000 horses and mules, over 3,000 miles of track and total capital investment of $150 million. The time was right for the formation of a professional trade association to represent the young industry. The American Street Railway Association was therefore formed in Boston in December in 1882 by representatives from across the United States and Canada.

The founding of this new trade organization coincided with a period of technical innovation in public transit. Both San Francisco and Chicago had opened cable-car lines to address the many deficiencies of horse-drawn travel, including the need to have large stables to supply fresh horses and the need to remove both snow and manure from the tracks. Cable cars were quickly adopted in a number of cities. In 1893, cable-car trackage peaked at 305 miles spread among 59 companies operating in 27 cities. No Canadian systems converted from horse-cars to cable-cars, which is just as well since the successful application of electricity quickly rendered the cable systems obsolete, with the notable exception of San Francisco. Within a few of years of its initial introduction in 1888, most major cities in North America had adopted the electric street car including Ottawa (1890); Winnipeg (1891); Toronto, Montreal and Hamilton (1892); and Halifax (1896). Outside North America, the street car is commonly referred to as a Tram.

Prior to the notice of intended dividends above featured in The London Gazette, James Proe was featured in several papers regarding an adjudication (a legal process by which an arbiter or judge reviews evidence and argumentation, including legal reasoning set forth by opposing parties or litigants to come to a decision which determines rights and obligations between the parties involved) around September 3rd, 1904. The first of which is featured in The Solicitors’s Journal:

The specific mention can be found here:

content (3)

The second is featured in The Law Times:

The specific mention can be found here:

content (4)

While the third and final mention I have discovered can be found in the…

…under the Financial and Commercial Information section…

The specific section of mention can be found here:

content (5)

As to why Proe and Co. Proprietors went into debt, I am not entirely sure of any specific details, but it is important to note at this time Herbert Austin designed and built the first all-British 4-wheel car as manager of The Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company. Furthermore, in 1901, backed by Vickers Limited brothers Thomas and Albert starting what became Wolseley Motors Limited in Birmingham and UK’s largest car manufacturer until Ford Motor Company in 1913. Of course, all this is purely speculative until I discover otherwise as it pertains to the company.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s