Tatham area railways 1845-1914

Facebook page

Network Origin

The building of the railways in the Wenning and Lune valleys, in the ancient parishes of Tatham and Melling (Arkholme, Hornby, Melling, Wennington), was part of the “Railway Mania” which characterised the early Victorian period, during which a large number of small companies built lines with more regard for competition then co-operation or efficiency. The local lines formed part of a network whose complicated evolution over the period of 1840-1905 is discussed in several well-illustrated books (unfortunately without much source information).4,5,3 The final layout in 1905 shown below is based on the maps produced by the Railway Clearing House, which was tasked with sharing out the rail income arising from the complex, multi-company passenger and goods journeys.2,18

Map of railways in the Tatham area of north Lancashire

In 1850, a railway down the Wenning and Lune valleys was opened to traffic, connecting the region to Leeds in the east and Lancaster in the west, marking an important stage in the transformation of the rural society and economy. It was the result of a much modified plan by the North Western Railway Company (NWR) to connect the Leeds and Bradford Railway at Skipton to the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway (L&CR) at Lowgill (near Tebay), via Ingleton, and at a number of other more southerly points, first proposed in 1845 and approved by Parliament in 1846.4 By then, Lancaster was well connected by rail to the south via the Lancaster & Preston Junction Railway, opened in 1840, and to the north, by the L&CR using the new Castle Station at Lancaster, opened in 1846.

In the event, what was built by the NWR was the northern route from the junction near Skipton to Ingleton only, with a branch from this line at Clapham to Lancaster (Green Ayre Station) which then became the main line with a length of 39.1 miles, from Skipton to Lancaster. The NWR also linked up with local interests to obtain a bill for the Morecambe Bay & Harbour Railway in 1846, which extended the line from Green Ayre across the Lune by a wooden bridge to Poulton-le-Sands (Morecambe), a distance of 3.4 miles.5 The main station there was in Northumberland Street, with a Harbour Station on the stone jetty serving the Irish steamers. The Morecambe Bay section of the scheme was the first to open on June 12th 1848, followed by a short link between Green Ayre and Castle Station, Lancaster in 1849 (which needed a separate agreement), and then the Skipton to Lancaster section opened fully on May 2nd 1850.

The Midland Railway (MR), which had been closely involved with the Leeds & Bradford Railway from its inception (and had absorbed it by 1853), was interested in direct access to the Irish traffic from Morecambe. Consequently, when the NWR was looking for a financial partner to aid running its lines, the MR agreed in 1852 to work its lines and port. This developed into a lease in 1859 and, finally, in 1871 to the purchase of the NWR Company, which then ceased to exist.11 In 1867, the MR in a joint project with the Furness Railway (F&MJR) opened a nine-mile branch from Wennington to Carnforth, connecting with the Furness Railway line to Barrow, its docks and industry. The last development by the MR was the construction of a new deep-water dock at Heysham, served by a short spur from the Lancaster to Morecambe line, which was opened in 1904.5

Another major railway company that developed an interest in the area was the London & North Western Railway. They leased the L&CR in 1859 and finally absorbed it in 1879.5 Construction of a short branch from Hest Bank to Morecambe then gave the LNWR direct access for its traffic from the north east via Tebay. These passengers shared Northumberland Street Station until the opening of a new one at Euston Road in 1886. With the growing local involvement of the LNWR, the NWR became informally known as the “Little” North Western.

Two other developments of interest occurred on the margins of the local area. Firstly the LNWR inherited from the L&CR the completion of the unfinished NWR Ingleton Branch to Lowgill (Tebay), which opened in 1864.4 Theoretically, this should have given the MR its desired free access to Carlisle and Scotland but they were never able to co-operate fully with the LNWR and so completed their own route in 1876 - the Settle to Carlisle line, which branched off the old NWR line near Giggleswick.

Local Construction

Public awareness of the NWR scheme began in 1845 with newspaper adverts, calling for £1 million of capital in the form of 50 000 £20 shares, issued by a provisional committee which comprised leading landowners and gentry in the parishes to be crossed by the line, including Pudsey Dawson of Hornby Castle (who became chairman of the ensuing company until 1851); Reginald Remington, Melling; Hornby Roughsedge, Bentham; & John Edmondson, Grassyards (Gresgarth), Caton.11

Newspaper advertisement of North West Railway share offer
Heading of the initial advert for the NWR scheme11
Click the image to see the full advertisment.

The scheme’s published aims were to link the manufacturing areas of Yorkshire with Scotland, Ireland and NW England for the reciprocal benefits to be gained from export of goods and import of raw materials. The latter supposedly included slate from the Lake District, stone and coal from the Lonsdale area and flax from Ireland and, for the former, Lancaster was identified as the port for Ireland, which was to be improved to become the most accessible port on the west coast! All of which was somewhat fanciful and soon amended in practice. The overall construction cost was put at £16 000 per mile for 60 miles and the daily income was estimated at £4 10s per mile, giving a net income of 6 %. By 1846, a Bill had been obtained from Parliament which enabled the scheme to proceed.

The minutes of the shareholder meetings, published in detail in the local newspapers, record the progress and setbacks of the project.11 Two particular developments were to result in the line through the Lune valley becoming the main concern of the NWR. First, the northern branch was discontinued at Ingleton in 1848, because of “the state of the money market”. Second, was the recognition in 1846 that Poulton / Morecambe was a much better site than Lancaster for the development of port facilities, which led to enhanced Irish traffic and to the development of the Morecambe excursion traffic.

Interesting details of the construction of the railway through the local parishes is recorded also in the diary of George Smith, a land agent of Wray who was had been clerk to George Wright, the agent of Hornby Castle Estate before that changed hands.8 He, at least, recognised the potential importance to the area of the Railway Era and records its first triumph and tragedy:

  • 1830 Wednesday September 15th Opening of the Railway from Liverpool to Manchester & Mr Huskisson killed

and of more local significance:

  • 1840 Thursday June 25th Railway opened from Lancaster to Preston

Within a month his wife Mary had travelled by it to Liverpool and, for the next few years, he and his family regularly travelled to Lancaster by horse drawn carriage and then used the train south for business and family visits.

Eventually he had his first professional contact with the NWR concerning its construction:

  • 1845 Monday November 17th Mr Martin & another gentleman came by the Mail [coach] to our house & left with me 6 plans & 5 books of reference of North Western Railway containing parishes of Clapham, Bentham, Tatham and Melling.

This started a lengthy period of consideration of the route to be taken by the railway through his client's properties and, doubtless, also of discussion of the ensuing compensation. This process would have been facilitated by a major local landowner being chairman of the NWR, i.e. Pudsey Dawson of Hornby Castle. Actual groundwork on the railway began at the Settle end and reached their land nine months later:

  • 1846 Thursday December 31st Taking up first sod of North Western Railway by Lord Morpeth at Chatap [sic] near Settle. Very misty.
  • 1847 Monday September 27th I went with Mr Watson, engineer, Mr Edward Sharp & Thomas Beckbeck [Birkbeck?] to Graystone Gill [Bentham] where the tunnel under the railway in Mr Wright’s land etc was fixed [an underpass].

Money for the estate was also to be made from the supply of stone for construction purposes:

  • 1848 Thursday January 20th I went by the Mail [coach] in the morning to High Bentham & met Mr Thomas Murphey railway contractor, at the stone quarry in Mr Wright’s allotment [Bentham Moor]. We then adjourned to Hodgson’s The Royal Oak [Hornby], when he took it for two years @ £30 a year subject to conditions & to his finding a surety. I walked back.

The local Chairman of the NWR was involved in the celebrations associated with the project:

  • 1848 Thursday September 28th I rode with Mr J R Marshall to Bentham where we witnessed the cutting of the first sod for the railway by Pudsey Dawson Esq who presided at the luncheon of which we & about 150 partook. We got home a little after 6 o’clock

The Lancaster Gazette provides a fuller account of the “gala” proceedings. Pudsey Dawson was presented, by the contractors for this section (Coulthard & Allen), with a miniature silver spade, an oak barrow and an ornate navvy's hat. After the sod cutting ceremony, he gave a speech which listed the advantages to be gained from the railway: development of “near dormant resources”; opening of new fields of enterprise; provision of new markets for products; and it would “place more nearly in reach necessaries, comforts and luxuries of foreign climes. (Cheers)”. (Flamboyant optimism in politics and business has a long history). This was followed by the dinner at the Royal Oak for 150 people, mainly tenants along the line, and then “rural sports”.

The negotiations over the compensation for the land taken by the railway continued for some time, with Smith acting on behalf of several local landowners:

  • 1848 Wednesday October 4th Mr Marshall [Wray] & I went to Robert Townson’s, Mewith where Mr Talbot & Mr Bradshaw met us. We then looked over the land required by the railway for which & for part of Thomas Walker’s farm in the parish of Clapham, we agreed £370 including the wood
  • 1848 Thursday October 5th This forenoon I went to Tatham Rectory & consulted Mr Wright [Rector & son of George Wright] about the proposed new agreements offered [by] the railway company for the land at Graystone Gill.

Smith was obviously fascinated by the novel spectacle of the railway construction and generally kept an eye on activity as well as attending more particular events:

  • 1849 Saturday June 30th I was at the railway bridge at Sandy Hill [Hornby] where they were hoisting up the iron girders.
  • 1849 Sunday August 5th I went on the railway to Farleton Beck where iron tubes are being put in the ground to convey the water under the railway.

One notable feature he surprisingly did not mention seeing was the bridging of the Hindburn at Wray, by a wooden trestle bridge.9

Gradually sections of the line were completed and opened piecemeal for traffic:

  • 1849 Thursday September 13th Engine first ran on the railway from Hornby to Farleton Beck
  • 1849 Saturday October 13th In the afternoon an engine with carriages came for the first time from Lancaster up to the Hallbarns land [now Tatham Hall].
  • 1849 Wednesday October 31st North Western Railway from Lancaster to Tatham Bridge opened. I had a card of invitation but did not go.

Perhaps his decision was wise. An alternative view from Lancaster records (paraphrased): “a train of decorated carriages pulled by 2 locomotives, with upwards of three hundred people in and on the carriages, together with a band, left Lancaster Green Ayre at 1 pm, accompanied by bells, trumpets & drums and small arms fire, and arrived back at 3 pm”. They continued to Poulton and all three hundred had a “splendid collation” at the Morecambe Hotel. Many of the visitors also attended the Mayor’s dinner in the evening!11

  • 1849 Saturday November 17th Railway opened for traffic from Lancaster to Wennington.

Finally, the eastwards connection was completed, delayed somewhat by gale damage:

  • 1850 Wednesday February 6th The wind blew a hurricane this morning - blew over the two station houses [wooden] at Wennington, blew over trees etc.
  • 1850 Wednesday May 1st The North Western Railway from Wennington Station to High Bentham examined & passed by the Government Inspector.
  • 1850 Thursday May 2nd The trains ran through to Bentham for the first time.
  • 1850 Saturday June 1st North Western Railway opened through from Lancaster to Skipton, that part from Bentham to Clapham being last done.

The railway initially had been built as single track for financial reasons but was very gradually doubled, with Clapham to Hornby first (and Hornby to Lancaster the last, in 1889).8,13

  • 1850 Tuesday October 15th James Kearns horses & men ballasting the second line of rails near Wray Station & Coultherd & Allens horses doing the same near Tatham Bridge.
  • 1850 Tuesday November 19th The trains began running on the south line of rails for the first time.

The joint proposal by the FR and MR to build a branch line from Wennington to Carnforth was first referred to in the minutes of a NWR shareholder’s meeting in 1863 and the Bill for it received assent the same year.11 Uniquely in the local rail network, the 9 mile route involved a 0.7 mile tunnel between Wennington and Melling. The beginning of the construction phase seems to be marked by an advert for a meeting of residents of Melling to form a committee to deal with the FR in 1864.11 Otherwise, the construction process does not seem to have been reported. The line opened in June, 1867.

MK 2010
Page created 10-7-2010. Latest update 15-7-2010

Click here for further authorship and copyright information