The South Lancashire Tramways system of electric trams was authorised by the South Lancashire Tramways Act of 1900. The South Lancashire Tramways Company built more than 62 miles (100 km) of track to serve the towns in south Lancashire between St Helens, Swinton, Westhoughton and Hulton Lane where it met the Bolton Corporation system. The system was the largest standard-gauge electric tramway outside London.
The company found it difficult to raise capital, and at the end of November 1900 its shares were acquired by the South Lancashire Electric Traction and Power Company, which also acquired the shares of the Lancashire Light Railways Company and the South Lancashire Electric Supply Company. Construction began in late 1901 and in October 1902 the first section from Lowton through Leigh and Atherton to Four Lane Ends at Over Hulton opened.
Atherton became the centre of the system and the tram sheds, power station and offices were built on the north side of Leigh Road at Howe Bridge (grid reference SD 6624 0203).
The unrestored tram body of No 65, built by the Brush Electrical Engineering Company in 1906, is in the collection of the Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester.