Warrington’s Early Railways: Freeling’s Grand Junction Railway Companion (1838)

The search vagaries of Google have thrown up another happy discovery: I was sidetracked from the post I was writing into trying to find out what had happened to Warrington’s medieval fairs – and was presented with an extract from this early nineteenth century railway guide: Freeling’s Grand Junction Railway Companion to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham and Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham Guide.

This proved to be absolutely fascinating – and sidetracked me still further – containing as it does ‘a narrative of the Parliamentary history of the project ; and account of every thing worthy the attention of the traveller upon the line ; including a complete description of every part of the rail-road ; of the noblemen or gentlemen’s seats which may be seen from it ; and of the towns and villages of importance in the neighbourhood ; of the churches, their patrons, and endowments ; the markets, fairs, races and angling stations, to which the railway gives access.

The copy online is a second edition, published by Whittaker and Co London in 1838. The Preface to the First Edition is included, which rather engagingly states that the book has had to be published ahead of schedule, as another work with a similar title, already in circulation, is being mistaken for his and, as it contains a number of serious errors, is doing his public reputation no good. (Railway historians please note that the work by Mr Cornish is unreliable – Mr Cornish states, for example, that Warrington Bridge has twenty arches of sixty five feet span and the same number of feet high, when in fact it has twelve arches, nine of which are only of sixteen feet span and twenty eight feet high.)

This Preface is followed by a fascinating Account of the parliamentary progress of the railway project from its first suggestion in 1823 and its opposition by the Mersey and Sankey Canal companies, until the line was finally opened in 1837. I was particularly interested by how rapidly expertise gained on earlier lines reduced the costs of construction; though the Grand Junction Railway still cost over £1 billion to build in today’s money.

This is followed by a Statement of Receipts and Expenditure to June 30th, 1837, (there’s a useful historical money converter here if you want to know what these equate to today); the Regulations (no smoking in any of the carriages and no tipping railway personnel!) and two Tables of Fares; and then the description of the Journey, starting at Liverpool, begins. A column on either side gives the distance in miles to and from Birmingham at each of the points mentioned in the description.

I have transcribed the entries relating to the journey through Warrington, below:

Two hundred yards after leaving the [Newton Junction] Station, is a line of railroad, turning off to the left ; this is the line from Manchester to Birmingham ; and for about the same distance the carriages travel along a perfect level, but here they begin to descend a plane. At the 151/4 mile-post, an excavation, the first on the Grand Junction Line, commences. We continue to descend what may perhaps be properly called the Bradley Incline, as the village of Bradley lies to the left ; this is the steepest that the locomotive engines travel on during the whole journey. It is rather more than three-quarters of a mile in length, and has as descent of one inch in 85 ; at the post marked 15 1/2, the steep ends, and a gentle declivity of one inch in 476, succeeds, which, with but little alteration, continues to Warrington ; opposite this post the Bradley excavation ends, and a slight embankment commences. To the left is the Vulcan Foundry, a red brick building ; a great many locomotive engines are made here ; the adjoining house belongs to the proprietor of the foundry ; and a little further on, opposite the 153/4 post, are a number of cottages, built of red brick, which are principally, if not wholly, occupied by the families of his workmen.

The country here is a flat valley, richly wooded ; opposite, this post, [16] to the right,, the Sankey Canal flows parallel with the road ; on a fine day, the flats (a class of vessels adapted to this navigation, of from 40 to 80 tons burden) may be seen bearing their burden of merchandize to and from the commercial metropolis of the kingdom, and, with their large red sails, adding much to the picturesque appearance of the scene. On the left, about a mile from the railroad is WINWICK [I have omitted the description of the village] … A little past here (171/2), the Sankey Canal turns to the right, towards RUNCORN GAP, at which place it enters the river Mersey, about 18 miles above Liverpool.

Here ends the Bradley Embankment.[181/4] One hundred yards past here, a single line of rails turn off to the left, towards the town of Warrington. Here are various works connected with the railway carriages. One mile further on, is a bridge across the Line, over which passes the London road ; and just through the bridge is the


                                                    Miles  1st Class. 2nd Class.

Distant from L’pool & Manchester 191/2 miles 4s. 0d. 3s. 0d.

Distant from Birmingham               773/4 miles 16s. 6d. 11s. 6d.

From this Station, Runcorn lies 4 miles west ; Altrincham, 12 miles east. Except, however, he is travelling by a first class train, we should advise the traveller who is desirous to go to Runcorn to alight at the Moore Station.

WARRINGTON. – It is a market town and parish, in the hundred of West Derby ; the population of the parish is 19,155 ; of the town, 16,018. An. Ass. Val. £29,069. Its principal manufactures are, cottons, sail-cloth, hardwares, files, pins, and glass. Its public buildings are, a town-hall, market-hall, and cloth-hall. It has assembly-rooms, a theatre, gas-works, and a dispensary. Its markets are on Wednesday and Saturday ; it has two fairs, for horses, horned cattle, and cloth, viz. on July 18 and November 30, (St. Andrew’s), and a fair every Wednesday fortnight for cattle. It appears probable that the present name was a corruption of the Saxon appellation Woering and Tun, signifying a fortified town. It is situated on the Mersey, over which a bridge was erected in the time of Henry VII. (1496) by the first Earl of Derby, to facilitate the progress of the king, who was about to visit Latham House ; this bridge, after being many times repaired, was pulled down in 1812, and its successor is about to share the same fate, a handsome stone bridge having just been finished. In the time of the Civil Wars, this bridge was frequently the scene of obstinate conflicts, occasioned perhaps by there being on other nearer than Burton-upon-Irwell. In 1643, the town was twice taken by storm by the Parliamentary forces. In 1648, the Scottish army, under the Duke of Hamilton, here made a stand ; General Lambert also here repulsed the Scottish army under the young king (Charles II.); and last, in 1745 it was found necessary to break down the middle arches of the bridge, to check the progress of the Rebels. The livings are, a rectory and two canons, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Chester. C. V. rectory, £40, patron, Lord Lilford ; the curacy of St. Paul, patron the rector, (not in charge) ; that of the Holy Trinity, certified value, £17 10s ; An. Val., P. R. £106 ; patron, Thomas Leigh, Esq. The church, dedicated to St. Elphin, or Helen, is a handsome building, built of red free-stone, probably of Saxon origin, and contains some very curious old monuments ; two ancient chapels remain, in one of which is the magnificent tomb of Sir Thomas Boteler and his lady. Here are also places of worship for most classes of Dissenters, and one Roman Catholic chapel. The schools are numerous, among which are pre-eminent, the Free-school, founded and endowed in 1526, by one of the Boteler family ; and the Blue Coat School, which is richly endowed for the education of 150 boys and 40 girls. There are many charitable institutions in the town. Warrington was the birth-place of Dr. Percival, founde of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester ; of Litherland, the inventor of the patent lever watch ; here the Right Hon, Geroge Tierney received his education ; and its neighbourhood gave birth to John Blackburne, who so successfully cultivated the Cotton-tree, and who was the second person who brought the Pineapple to perfection in England. Warrington gives the title of Earl, in addition to Stamford, to the Grey family.

[I have omitted the descriptions of Runcorn and Altrincham which followed]

We take our departure for the WARRINGTON STATION, and enter upon the Arpley Embankment, small caps which is nearly two miles long, and in some places, from 16 to 18 feet above the fields. The road passes over five bridges, beside the viaduct, in crossing this Embankment. The ascent of the road for the next mile is one inch in 500; then for 21/2 miles, nearly to the mile post (23rd mile), the ascent is scarcely perceptible, being but one in 3474. Looking to the westward, the hight chimneys at Runcorn, and Halton Castle, may be plainly seen. The view from the ruins of this ancient fortress, which was demolished in the civil wars, is very extensive ; we have not room to describe it, but if our readers are about to sojourn for any time at Liverpool, we would recommend them to take the steam boat to Runcorn and promise them much gratification in a visit to the castle and the neighbourhood. To the left is Latchford ; the spire of its church may be plainly seen ; and looking back, the traveller will now have a view of Bank Hall, the seat of Wilson Patten Esq., the member for North Lancashire. Looking forward the Hill Cliff quarry, from whence the stone was obtained for the formation of the bridges and viaducts, is to the south-east. Tradition asserts that the celebrated Nixon prophesied, that when thesse rocks visited Vale Royal, the family of Cholmondely, would have attained its zenith, and much more which this deponent sayeth not.

About forty yards before we come to this post (201/2), the Railroad passes into Cheshire, by crossing the Warrington Viaduct, which has twelve arches, viz., nine land arches of 16 feet span, and 28 feet high from the level of the water ; 2 river arches of 75 feet span, and 34 feet high, and one canal arch of 23 feet high, and one canal arch of 23 feet high from the same level. The river Mersey and the Mersey and Irwell Canal here flow under the road. The Viaduct has a very handsome stone parapet. To the left is Walton Inferior ; a little more to the south-east is Walton Superior. About 30 yards before this post [211/2], we enter the Moore Excavation, which is near one mile and a half in length, and is crossed by five handsome bridges, the first and last of which are built on the skew principle. We now arrive at the


The description of the Journey ends on arrival at Birmingham and is followed by some statistics on the construction of the line. These are followed in turn by a List of Races in the vicinity of the railroad.

The Guides to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham which close the Companion give a wealth of detail on those things deemed useful or interesting for the visitor by rail. After a short outline of each town, the details of delivery times at the Post Office, the times of the dispatch of railway mails; the times of dispatch of letters for India and Foreign Parts; details of foreign packets and steam packets (Liverpool) and details of coach offices, hackney coach fares and the whereabouts of hackney coach and car stands are all given.

There is also a list of the principal hotels, the banks, the theatres, assembly rooms, galleries, parades, public baths, cemeteries (to visit), zoos, botanic gardens, public buildings of interest, markets and places of worship; as well as a list of charitable, literary and scientific institutions, libraries, newsrooms and newspapers. Everything has a little comment on each to assist the reader in enjoying his stay at these towns.

This really is an absolute gem of a find, both for the railway buff and the cultural historian. (If you click on Freeling’s name some of his works on other lines are also available.)


Lancashire Day

There is, I understand, a blogging phenomenon known as ‘newsjacking’, in which you get a post out on the coat-tails of some topical event, thereby (hopefully) sending your views sky high. It is this sort of thing that convinces me I have no journalistic skills: in search of a subject for the New Year I’ve found several half-written posts that might have fitted into that category – if I’d only got round to finishing them at the time. This one is dusted off from November.

Lancashire Day is celebrated on 27th November: founded by the Friends of Real Lancashire (FORL) it was chosen as the date in 1295 when the ancient and honourable county of Lancaster sent its first representatives to the ‘model’ Parliament of King Edward I. It’s the day when we celebrate our county’s history and achievements as well as all those things that makes it both distinctive and individual. All over the historic county, towns and villages will be holding events that mark them out as firmly rooted in Lancashire – whatever local government officials may say.

The reason for this, and the foundation of FORL, is the result of local government re-organisations in the Seventies, which pretty much made a mess of the UK’s 92 historic countiesContinue reading




I have just finished James Rebanks’ The Shepherd’s Life, perhaps the best book I’ve read this year and a beautiful account of the traditional life and perspective of a Lake District fell farmer.  At the centre of the story is a very deep seated attachment to the mountain area where James’ forebears have farmed for six centuries and this has inspired me to write my next blog about the issue of “place.”

As a shepherd James uses a lovely word “hefted” to describe the genetic attachment which a flock of fell sheep have to the particular part of the mountainside where they have grazed for generations of summers.  Place too has an enormous role to play in the human psyche, although increasingly less so since the start of the Industrial Revolution  when the forces of capitalism began to uproot us from the patterns of settlement and work which had…

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What’s Going On in Bridge Street? – Warrington Borough Council’s Compulsory Purchase Order

It’s taken me quite a long time to unravel the 148 pages of Warrington Borough Council’s Compulsory Purchase Order for development on Bridge Street, but what it appears to boil down to is the following:

The Council is calling on its powers under Section 226 (1) (a) and Section 226 (3) (a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) and Section 13 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

Section 226 (1) (a) gives rights to a local authority, on being authorised to do so by the Secretary of State, to compulsorily purchase any land in their area if the LA thinks that by doing so it will make easier the carrying out of ‘development, redevelopment or improvement on or in relation to the land’.

Section 226 (3) (a) gives rights to a local authority, on being authorised to do so by the Secretary of State, to compulsorily purchase any land adjoining the land purchased under Section 226 (1) which is required for carrying out works which will make development or use of the land purchased under Section 226 (1) easier.

Section 13 enables the LA, on being authorised by a Minister of the Crown, to acquire ‘new rights’ that they themselves specify, over the land compulsorily purchased.

(My italics.)

So. The CPO describes 11 rights that the Council wishes to acquire for the following purposes:

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What’s Going On in Warrington??

It’s inevitable I suppose, seeing the way my life’s going at the moment – or should that be ‘not going’ – that no sooner do I feel I’ve wrestled the latest obstacle in the way of working towards a PhD into manageable proportions, than another one crops up in its place.

I wrote the previous post last week and left it on my computer until I could find a space to add in some links. (This also helps with the typos. Being trained to spot them doesn’t stop you making them; it just annoys you even more.) While I was looking for something aposite for the Bridge Street Quarter development Google threw up an article at the local paper, the Warrington Guardian.

It seems to be implying that, as part of the development, the Council is making draconian use of its powers to compulsory purchase most of Bridge Street. Now, to my mind, you don’t compulsory purchase a building unless you’re planning to do something the owners are probably going to object to – like knocking most of it down?? – so this is immediately ringing alarm bells.

More Google searches found the Compulsory Purchase Order offered for consultation on the Council’s website and a‘final’ CPO buried somewhere in its depths, but the Order Maps referred to, outlining the buildings, that would make things clearer, aren’t attached to either. It needs going through in detail but, at nearly 150 pages, I haven’t yet had time. First impressions, though, are that they’re making a clean sweep on the relevant side of Bridge Street.

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Fugitive Time and Shopping in Warrington

Just back from a shopping trip to Warrington, on which more another time, but it reminded me that I haven’t posted on this blog for a while. Life has been getting in the way rather too much for the actual life I am trying to lead – researching, gardening, writing, with innumerable breaks for tea, cake and a middlebrow novel – and I need to get myself back on track.

I decided some time ago that work on my book had become bogged down and that I was merely amassing piles of information as I followed some interesting side-trail. What I needed was Focus and it seemed that the best way of doing this was to turn my book into a research proposal and embark upon a PhD. (As you do.) As each stage of my academic career has been marked by some ridiculously over the top life crisis I was rather reluctant to set the wheels of Fate in motion once more, but went ahead and made enquiries anyway. (Ave, etc. etc.)

Amazingly, I found the right chap at the right place first crack out of the bag but the difficulty now is in finding time for the interview. All my MA work is on obsolete technology (anyone remember those little hard rectangular ‘disks’?) and my potential supervisor, though gratifyingly interested in the research outline I sent, naturally wants to see some academic bona fides beforehand. Earlier in the year, I decided that the way forward was to write some More and Better essays but am now (obviously) looking back at such gay innocence (1930s sense) with the hollow laugh of a Bertram Wooster caught sans Jeeves.

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Writing a Book Proposal for a Publisher

When writing a book, you inevitably feel at some point as though you’re grappling with a large mass of material that’s rapidly getting out of control. I’ve been trying to take a few steps back with my own work, recently, by writing a post outlining my research, how I came to start it and the key points that interest me in comparing the urban development of Warrington and York.

It’s proving a very useful exercise: cutting down my initial 11 pages to just two is helping me focus only on the core elements of my argument; and thinking of what I’m writing in terms of a blog post, rather than an academic essay, is also making me focus on my potential readership.

It was while I was thinking along those lines that I started to wonder what publishers looked for in book proposals and a little internet research threw up these rather comprehensive guidelines from Palgrave Macmillan.

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