The Coventry and District Tramways Company was established to run a tram service between Coventry Station and Bedworth as a result of parliamentary powers obtained between 1880 and 1883. They operated open-top, double-decker tramcars hauled by steam locomotives on a 3ft 6in gauge track. The narrow gauge was designed to cope with the narrow streets in the centre of the City, but prevented the use of larger, totally enclosed tramcars. A tram depot was built at Foleshill. The service was unreliable and the locomotives encountered great difficulty ascending the relatively steep hill of Bishops Street.
The first electric tramcars were delivered in 1895 and, by 1912, there were 42. A further ten were ordered in 1913, plus one more in 1915 to replace Tramcar No 5, which was badly damaged by fire. This made a total of 52 tramcars. A further 5 were delivered in 1921, when the total number of tramcars in service reached 57. A further five were purchased in 1925 to replace tramcars Numbers 1 to 6 (the remains of No 5 had already been cannibalised to build a motorised hopper car). Five more replacement trams were delivered in 1929, replacing tramcars Numbers 7 to 10, making a total of fifty eight. The final five tramcars were delivered in 1931, but two more (Numbers 24 and 33) had been withdrawn by then, so the peak number in service between 1931 and 1934 was 61. Between 1934 and 1937 fourteen tramcars were withdrawn and the remainder were withdrawn when the tram network was abandoned after the November 14th air raid in 1940.
By 1926 the development of the tramway was almost complete. The original route from Coventry Station to Bedworth divided at Hales Street, with a service via Jesson Street along Stoney Stanton Road to Bell Green and one via White Street, Primrose Hill Street, King William Street, Berry Street and Paynes Lane to Gosford Green and then along Binley Road to the Bull's Head. There was an alternative loop to Gosford Green via Ford Street, Lower Ford Street and Far Gosford Street. In the other direction, there was a branch at Broadgate via Smithford Street, Fleet Street, Spon Street and Spon End to Allesley Road (later known as Allesley Old Road). This divided at Spon End, where the Earlsdon route ran via The Butts, Albany Road, Earlsdon Street, Radcliffe Road and Rochester Road to its junction with Beechwood Avenue. 1926 saw the opening of the tramway loop from Greyfriars Green to Albany Road, the final link in the tramway network. The Earlsdon Service was re-routed via the new loop because of the congestion in Smithford Street. In 1930 the final extension of the tramway was opened, running further East along Binley Road to the New GEC factory.
In 1932 trams were withdrawn from Smithford Street because of congestion. As a result, the Allesley Old Road tram route was decommissioned and replaced by a bus service. In 1936, the Ford Street loop was decommissioned. A year later, trams were withdrawn from Hertford Street because of congestion and the route to the Station and the Earlsdon route were both decommissioned. The routes were replaced by bus services. The following year the Stoke service ceased, although it was not formally abandoned until 1940. Finally, after the November 1940 air raid, the entire tramway network was abandoned and Coventry Corporation Transport became entirely bus operated.