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The history of the Midland railway online

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Mr. Hudson presiding, and sitting under a sort of canopy, " the
observed of all observers."

Public traffic began next day, Wednesday, July ist, trains running at
various intervals from 5 a.m. till TO p.m. There were no intermediate
stations finished or in use.

On June 3oth, 1845, the Leeds and Bradford Company obtained an
Act to make an extension from Shipley to Skipton, thence turning in
a southward direction to form a junction at Colne with the East
Lancashire Railway Company's system, which was intended to have
direct communication with Liverpool and also with Manchester.

At this period another independent company was in progress, named
the " North Western," which obtained an Act to form a junction with
the Leeds and Bradford extension at Skipton, its object being to run
past Clapham, Settle, and Lancaster to Morecambe Bay; also by
another line to form a junction with the Lancaster and Carlisle
Company's system. The importance to the Midland Company of the
Leeds and Bradford, its extension to Skipton and the North Western,
thence to the Lancaster and Carlisle line, can hardly be overestimated,
as by those connections a direct communication was formed between
the Midland system at Leeds and Carlisle and Scotland.

The Manchester and Leeds Railway Company, which at first had
handed over its traffic to the North Midland at Normanton and
possessed running powers over that line into Leeds, had now become
on very friendly terms with the London and York. It was forming
a junction at Askern, near Doncaster, and consequently giving the
Great Northern access to the Midland district at Leeds. The


Manchester and Leeds Company, no doubt backed up by the
London and York, desired to obtain possession of the Leeds and
Bradford Railway, and was prepared to lease it at a rental of 10 per
cent. In fact, a Bill to amalgamate the Manchester and Leeds and
the Leeds and Bradford was read a second time in Parliament in 1846.
The East Lancashire Railway Company was equally anxious to secure
the Leeds and Bradford Company, as via Colne it would connect the
towns of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, and Bradford, and it was also
prepared to offer 10 per cent.

Mr. Hudson's personal feeling was thought to be that the Leeds
and Bradford Railway should fall into the hands of the Midland ; but
as Chairman of the Leeds and Bradford Railway, and in justice to his
shareholders, he could not of course expect them to accept less than
the 10 per cent, which the East Lancashire and Manchester and
Leeds Companies had offered and were willing to give; and he
contended that if the line was worth that amount to the two com-
panies mentioned, surely it was worth as much to the Midland.

The Midland Board considered the question, and came to the only
possible conclusion, namely, that the line must be theirs ; and a
special meeting of the Midland shareholders was held in July, 1846,
to consider the proposal to lease the Leeds and Bradford line for
999 years at a rental of 10 per cent.

As Mr. George Hudson was so much interested in the Leeds and
Bradford Railway, it was naturally expected that he would either absent
himself from the meeting, or at least if he did attend that he would
not speak on the subject.

Unfortunately, by some error of judgment and to the surprise both
of his friends and his enemies, he not only took the chair at the
Midland meeting, but at once rose to propose that the lease should
be entered into. Almost immediately it was seen that there was about
to be a storm. Voices remarked, "You are buyer and seller too!"
"You are looking after your own interests !" "You have no business
in the chair when we discuss this !"

In spite of these "very straight hints," Mr. Hudson continued to
speak, and gave "a broad denial to the assertion that he had taken
advantage of his position for his own benefit." He " publicly declared
that he had never done so," and called upon any person who could
prove anything to the contrary to come forward and do it at once.
This challenge was received with applause, and the shareholders
anxiously looked round the room to see " who would rise to the
occasion," but all was perfectly quiet; the expected storm passed over,
and the difficulty appeared to be ended. Mr. Hudson, however, con-


tinued to defend himself, and after going over a list of railways
which the Midland had obtained, declared that "he never made
a single penny by any of these purchases," and was concluding the
speech with the remark, "Well, gentlemen, having cleared myself
from that imputation," when a voice remarked, "No, you have

This was certainly very unfair and uncourteous treatment, consider-
ing that a challenge had been thrown down by the Chairman which
no one had attempted to take up. Mr. Hudson then, it would appear,
lost his temper, and the whole tone of the meeting became "very
excited." A shareholder exclaimed, "If you are the Railway King
you are not going to come here and sit upon us," an interruption
which certainly did not improve the tone of the debate, and caused
the Chairman to remark, "All this has been concocted in Liverpool,"
a true but very unwise statement.

With a view to put an end to the uproar and to bring the meeting
back to business, Mr. John Ellis pointed out that "it was essential
to the prosperity of the Midland that they should complete this
purchase. The line was necessary for their protection, and if it fell
into the hands of a company now in existence, namely, the London
and York, where would the Midland be then? Away would go half
their traffic from London to Glasgow and the north." Without question
the view of Mr. Ellis was the correct one, and the meeting was almost
entirely with him.

Mr. Brancker, of Liverpool (who had been a North Midland director
before the amalgamation), moved an amendment that the meeting
should be adjourned for two months, to which Mr. John Rand replied
that the Leeds and Bradford Company, of which he was a director,
would not wait for two months, but would proceed to accept one of
the other two offers. Mr. Hudson stated that if there were a con-
siderable minority who voted against the lease he should at once
withdraw the proposition.

Finally, the amendment having been lost, the resolution was put
to the vote, when only six hands were held up against it. The terms
were that the Midland guaranteed 5 per cent, on the full amount of
the shares, as if paid up, until three months after the opening of the
line complete to Colne or about the beginning of 1848 after which
^90,000 per annum was to be paid, or 10 per cent, in perpetuity
on ,900,000 (the share capital of the Leeds and Bradford), which
was divided into 18,000 shares of .50 each. The Midland Company
were to furnish any additional capital which might be required to
complete the line.


Of Mr. Hudson's energy, business capacity, and hard work in con-
nection with the building up and defence of the Midland Company
there can be no question ; but, on the other hand, there cannot be
a doubt that the events and incidents which occurred at this most
unfortunate meeting (which he would have been well advised not to
have attended) shook his reputation to the very foundation, and proved
to be the turning point, the beginning of the end, of Mr. Hudson's
great and remarkable railway career.



THE railway system of the kingdom had not only been progressing,
but had rather been expanding by great leaps and bounds, and
practically every centre of trade and industry, as well as fashionable
places of resort, were loudly clamouring for the benefits of the new
communication, and railway companies were besieged with petitions
and requests for extension from all quarters. The expansion of the
Midland had so far yielded very satisfactory results, the Company's
traffic continued to increase, and several of the new branches were
giving results even better than could have been expected. Railways
continued to be by far the most important financial and commercial
undertakings of the day, and in the beginning of 1847 the great boom
had not yet expended itself, so that the Midland had still to further
pursue a forward policy to meet rival schemes and to safeguard their
own interests.

This being the position of affairs, further gigantic proposals were
launched by the Midland, and at the meeting of the shareholders on
March 6th, 1847, these proposals, which had been embodied in thirteen
Bills, came before the shareholders. The capital involved was no less
than ^4,680,000, and they included the construction of 251 miles of
new lines. These projects were as follows :

1. The purchase of the Mansfield and Pinxton Company's Tramway;
to alter the same, and to construct a branch from the Erewash Valley
line to join the Nottingham and Mansfield branch at Sutton ; also to
construct branches to Mansfield, and also to the Alfreton Ironworks.

2. To construct an extension at Lincoln to connect with intended
railways to Grimsby and New Holland.

3. The construction of a deviation on the Syston and Peterborough
line, and an approach at Manton.

4. To enlarge the joint station at Normanton, and to enlarge
Masborough Station.



5. To construct a new line from Leicester to Desford, and to double
the old Leicester and Swannington line from Desford to Coalville ; also
to enlarge the West Bridge Station at Leicester.

All the above proposals were sanctioned by Parliament and carried
into effect.

6. To construct lines from Wigston Junction, near Leicester, via
Bedford, to Hitchin, with a branch from Kettering to Huntingdon,
and another branch to Northampton ; also an enlargement of the
Leicester Station (Campbell Street).

Received the Royal Assent July Qth, 1847, DUt afterwards abandoned.

7. To construct a narrow-gauge railway from Gloucester to Standish

8. The extension of the narrow gauge to Bristol.

These two revived schemes were again postponed, pursuant to a
resolution of the House of Lords on June loth, 1847.

9. To construct a narrow-gauge railway from Mangotsfield Junction
to Bath.

This proposal was withdrawn after passing its second reading in
the House of Commons.

10. To construct lines from Sheffield to Barnsley, Doncaster, and

This was withdrawn after an arrangement had been made to give
the Midland running powers into Doncaster over the South Yorkshire
Company's line from Swinton Junction.

11. To construct lines from Worcester to Hereford, Malvern, and

12. To construct a line similar to the above, but having an additional
branch to Ledbury.

Both of the above Bills were withdrawn after the Midland had
secured running powers from Stoke Works Junction to Worcester and
Hereford over the Great Western Company's system.

13. To construct a line from Hampton to Cheltenham, with branches
to Warwick and Leamington.

This was withdrawn after the Midland had arranged to exchange
traffic with the London and North Western Company at Birmingham.

All these proposals were approved by the shareholders. But between
the sanctioning of these schemes and the carrying of them into practical
effect there had appeared on the horizon a little cloud, which warned
prudent men of the probable break in the flow of undreamt of pros-
perity. Cautious men now began to question whether the country
could stand the strain of such unparalleled expansion in the means of


communication, and to ask whether there had not been an over-rapid
construction of railways in advance of the requirements and the
development of the trade of the country.

A spirit of prudence and caution began to creep in, and rival com-
panies became more open to compromise by granting running powers ;
and by this and other means they obviated the construction of many
lines which had already been sanctioned by Parliament, but of whose
remunerative qualities there was some doubt.

This spirit is evidenced in the fate of these and other Bills. Three
Acts which the Midland Company had obtained in 1846, namely, to
make lines from Clay Cross to Newark, from Ashby to Nuneaton,
and a branch from Halesowen were allowed to lapse ; and of the
thirteen Bills introduced into Parliament in 1847 on ly fi ye were
carried into effect.

One of the most noteworthy of these was the purchase of the
Mansfield and Pinxton Tramway for 21,066 13^. <\d. a comparatively
small sum, but giving possession of a very ancient line.

When, as long ago as 1777, the Erewash Valley Canal Company
commenced its water-way from the Trent to Langley Mill, it was
intended to extend the canal from Pinxton Wharf on to Mansfield.
But here history repeated itself, and the same difficulties were experi-
enced as in the case of the Ashby Canal, namely, the expense of
locks, owing to the contour of the land, and the shortness of water
during times of drought, and on these practical difficulties being
pointed out it was found to be inadvisable to construct the extension
from Pinxton to Mansfield. But instead of a canal it was determined
to secure communication by means of a tramroad or railway. Then
came a similar dispute to that which occurred at Ashby : whether the
line should be constructed as an "Edge-rail-way," or as an "Outram-
road." The " Outram-road " carried the day, and it was constructed
under the Mansfield and Pinxton Act, passed June i6th, 1817.

The line was made and opened in 1819, and worked by horse-
traction for very many years. This communication was regarded as
of very little importance, except for its local utility and as a feeder
to the Erewash Valley Canal.

But when the railway mania burst upon the country in 1845 it
suddenly acquired an unexpected value, as likely to be a great feeder
to a railway in opposition to the interests of the canal, and it arose
in this way.

Two so-called independent schemes, which were ultimately amal-
gamated, were presented to Parliament, namely (i) for the construction
of a Boston, Newark, and Sheffield Railway (this was to commence


at Boston, passing the banks of the Trent at Newark, through the
towns of Southwell and Mansfield, terminating at Chesterfield in con-
junction with the existing and projected Midland railways, the capital
being ^1,000,000); and (2) the Nottingham and Mansfield Railway
for the construction of a line to commence in junction with the
Midland railways at Nottingham, passing through Lenton, Radford,
Basford, and by using a portion of the old Pinxton and Mansfield
Tramway to Mansfield, terminating in junction with the proposed
Boston, Newark, and Sheffield scheme at Teversall, with a further
extension to Clay Cross, the capital being ,500,000.

An examination of these schemes showed that their real object was
to enable the London and York Company to extend itself to Sheffield,
Chesterfield, Nottingham, and the whole of the Midland and Erewash
Valley coal districts the richest district covered by the Midland, to
whose interests it was undoubtedly hostile. This would have been
an invasion into the very heart and
soul of the Midland system, which,
as a matter of self-preservation, at
once excited great interest on the
part of the Midland.

So anxious were the promoters of

this Scheme tO Obtain the ancient PASSENGER CARRIAGE, 1848

Mansfield and PinxtOn Tramway, SO (Mansfield and Pinxton Company).

as to give them primary possession

of the communication across to Pinxton Wharf, that they did not even
wait for their Act to be passed by Parliament, but entered into
arrangements to obtain, and did obtain, the control by ownership of
this old artery of traffic, a portion of which was to be used and
converted into their Nottingham and Mansfield scheme.

To meet this difficulty and to resist this threatened invasion by the
"other parties," Mr. Hudson and the Midland Board drew up a rival
scheme to cover practically the same unoccupied ground by extending
its arteries into these unoccupied districts and thus attract traffic to
the Midland instead of having some of it diverted to the London
and York (now Great Northern) system.

A Bill was introduced into Parliament for the Nottingham and
Mansfield Railway by the Midland, and also for the Chesterfield and
Newark line, as explained by Mr. Hudson to the shareholders at their
meeting on May 2nd, 1846.

The result was that the threatened invasion was rejected by Par-
liament and the Midland proposals sanctioned.

But the owners of the invading scheme were in a quandary. They


were in the position of a provisional committee without any par-
liamentary authority, owning a tramway which was useless to them
because they had no parliamentary authority either to own or use
it. In fact, they could not deal with it in any way whatever, however
anxious they might be to sell it for the benefit of their shareholders
and to wind up their venture.

The Midland were anxious to purchase the property, and the other
people were perfectly willing to sell, and at length relief from this
curious position was obtained by the issue on February i5th, 1848,
of a certificate by the Railway Commissioners, to the great delight
of the interested parties, allowing the tramway to be amalgamated
with the Midland Company's system. This certificate had to be
granted by the Railway Commissioners before the Mansfield and
Pinxton Company could be dissolved, in accordance with the Midland
Act passed in July, 1847.

Thus the old Mansfield and Pinxton Tramway became the property
of the Midland, and it had its gradients greatly improved and converted
into a modern railway, and was reopened to Mansfield October Qth,
1849. During the progress of the alterations, on March 3rd, 1849, a
jar containing 500 Roman coins and medals was unearthed near
Hermitage Mills, close to the old line.

At the meeting on August i2th, 1847, a dividend of 7 per cent, was
declared upon the ordinary shares, after the Bristol and Birmingham

6 per cent., Leicester and Swannington 8 per cent., and others had
been duly paid. On February i2th, 1848, the gross receipts for the
half-year amounted to ,586,034, and the dividend was declared at

7 per cent., the Chairman remarking that all expenses that could
fairly be charged to revenue account had been so charged, and that
the renewals had been a heavy item. For instance, he would take
the carrying stock. "It was," he said, "notorious at the time of
the amalgamation that the rolling stocks of the three companies
were in a state of excessive depreciation, that neither their wagons,
carriages, engines, nor anything else were equal to the traffic of
to-day. Without casting reflections upon either of the three com-
panies, they would all agree that each party had been anxious to
economise their expenditure, and that when the stock was handed
over to the amalgamated company it was found to be in a condition
very unlike what it was at present."

The Midland Company in 1848 were stated to have 160 engines
and tenders, averaging 39 feet long, which equals 2,192 yards, and
6,8 1 6 other vehicles, averaging 18 feet over the buffers, the total being
23 miles and 416 yards long, or further than from Derby to Chesterfield.


The fact should here be recorded that Mr. George Stephenson, who,
as we have seen, was a founder of the Midland, died at Tapton House,
Chesterfield, on August i2th, 1848, in the sixty-seventh year of his age.

At this period several important understandings were come to with
other railway companies ; for instance, the South Staffordshire was to
form a junction with the Midland at Wichnor ; the North Staffordshire,
it was arranged, should form junctions with the Midland at Burton-on-
Trent and Willington, and have running powers over the Midland
Railway and use its stations at Burton and Derby.

At Breighton, near Staveley, a junction was to be made to connect
with the Manchester and Sheffield system, and in the west the Oxford,
Worcester, and Wolverhampton Company was to be permitted to put
in junctions at Stoke Prior and Abbotswood, thus giving the Midland
Company direct communication with Worcester. The (little) North
Western Company arranged to use the Leeds and Bradford Station at
Skipton and to work the Midland traffic thence to Morecambe and
Ingleton Junction, and the London and North Western Company
agreed to give the Midland better facilities between Rugby and London
and to avoid as far as possible " delays," of which the Midland passen-
gers complained seriously.

The Midland Company also arranged to "work" the Manchester,
Buxton, Matlock, and Midlands Junction Company's Railway, which
extended from Ambergate to Rowsley, and in which line both the
Midland and London and North Western Companies had considerable



A> previously mentioned, Mr. Hudson ascended to power in the
year 1842, at the time when he and the members of the Share-
holders' Committee took the position of the directors of the North
Midland Railway Company ; and as some of those directors who found
it necessary to resign office were members of the powerful " Liverpool
party," it naturally followed that Mr. Hudson "had no friends in
Liverpool," and it is certainly remarkable that at the time of the
amalgamation in 1844 the Liverpool directors appear to have been
entirely passed over.

This may have been an accident, or possibly it was considered
essential that the directors should reside near to the Midland system,
or probably some of the other directors had greater claims.

Be that as it may, there is no reliable evidence available to account
for the constitution of the first Midland Board beyond the statement
of a director to the author that "we picked out the best men in the
proportion of six, five, and four, from the three companies."

The " Liverpool party," however, considered that its capital and its
importance demanded at least one, probably two, or even three
directors, and it was no secret that the "party," rightly or wrongly,
believed that it was "all Hudson's doings that their members were
shut out."

The opposition to the leasing of the Leeds and Bradford line was,
as Mr. Hudson remarked, "concocted in Liverpool," and a few days
afterwards a meeting of the "Liverpool party" was held, when it
appears to have been determined to attack the Midland system in
general and Mr. Hudson in particular.

It must be remembered that in the early days of railways directors
and officials had no information as to wear and tear or the cost of
renewals, nor did any rules exist as to what sums should be charged to
capital or to revenue.



One company would charge the entire cost of a new engine to
capital, with the exception of the old-iron price obtained for the
previous engine, whereas another company held that the whole cost of
renewals should be paid out of revenue. There was no standard to
follow, and each board of directors used its own judgment. Every
statement of accounts published, therefore, furnished ample material
for some attack. One shareholder would assert his opinion that
sufficient had not been charged to revenue, that the property was
not being properly maintained, and that the dividend was coming out
of the capital ; but another would as strongly hold that the dividend
was far too small in consequence of the directors spending so much
revenue upon permanent improvements.

The " Liverpool party " held meetings in that city frequently to con-
sider the progress of its railway property, and professional accountants
were employed to investigate each half-yearly statement in order to
provide some of the members with materials wherewith to attack at
the next meeting, and the Board of Directors was constantly asked to
furnish some further details not given in the printed accounts.

Mr. Hudson, in the summer of 1848, replied with some warmth to
the letter of a shareholder, and added that if he was to be pestered
with such letters concocted in Liverpool he would leave the Midland.
At the next meeting, in August, the shareholder consequently asked " if
it is true that the Chairman is about to leave the Midland Railway?"
to which Mr. Hudson replied that "he had no intention whatever of
doing so."

The proceedings at this meeting had such an important bearing on
subsequent events that we give a report of the proceedings as published

Online LibraryClement Edwin StrettonThe history of the Midland railway → online text (page 11 of 36)