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where it was to form a junction with the Leicester and Swannington
Railway, the design being for the Leicestershire coal to be conveyed
from the Leicestershire coalfields district to London, King's Cross,


via Leicester and Hitchin. The Leicester and Swannington line at
that time was quite isolated, and had no communication with any other
railway company ; and was, of course, consequently without railway
connection with London, the whole of the coal having to be forwarded
to the Metropolis by canal from Leicester, with an alternative canal
route from Ashby.

The Leicester and Bedford scheme, of course, "received the cordial
assistance " of the Great Northern Company, as it naturally would,
considering that it was to provide railway communication extending
into the very centre of the Midland district, with the further possibility
of greater developments, which would have been a serious menace
to the Midland.

The counter moves to this scheme were (i) the purchase by the
Midland of the Leicester and Swannington Company; (2) the purchase
of the Ashby Canal Company and its tramroads : and (3) the formation
of a so-called independent company known as the South Midland,
of which Mr. Hudson was Chairman, which proposed to run over
the very same route from Wigston Junction to Hitchin Junction,
and this scheme, of course, "received the cordial assistance" of the

The Leicester and Bedford and South Midland each took great
pains to disseminate the notion that the other was a "sham line."

Each one stated that the other was not an "independent company";
that the other was got up to serve the interests of the Midland or
the Great Northern, as the case might be; that one was for the
purpose of upsetting the other.

At a meeting of the South Midland Railway Company, held at
Derby on May 2nd, 1846, Mr. Hudson, the Chairman of that line,
explained that their main line was to extend from Leicester to
Hitchin, and had two branches, which formed the subject of separate
Bills, namely, the Huntingdon branch and the Northampton and
Bedford line.

He hoped that it would not be disagreeable to the proprietors;
but the directors were unanimous in the opinion that they should
proceed with the Bills, as nothing had occurred to alter their views
since they first embarked on the undertaking. They were satisfied
that that district required to be supplied with railway communication,
and had received the sanction of the proprietors of land on the
line, as well as of towns in its neighbourhood. Earl Fitzwilliam,
Lord Northampton, Earl Spencer, and others were strongly in its
favour. The line would go through an agricultural country, and
would give the Midland Company a communication with the south.


He did not think anything had occurred to induce them to abandon
an undertaking which had been so well considered and approved
of by people locally interested. They had received notifications
from holders of 36,000 shares in favour of continuing, and only of fifty
declining to proceed.

Mr. Knight said he, as a promoter of the South Midland, could
contradict the story that it was promoted by the Midland for the
purpose of upsetting the Leicester and Bedford.

The Chairman stated that some arrangement for working the South
Midland line might be made with the Midland Company, they having
themselves an interest in it, and therefore being likely to meet the
proprietors in a manner satisfactory to all.

The resolution in favour of proceeding both with the main line and
the branches was carried.

On the other hand, at a meeting of the rival Leicester and Bedford
Company, Mr. Whitbread, the Chairman, declared his belief that the
sole object of the South Midland scheme was to floor the Leicester
and Bedford, and that they were quite content to be floored themselves
so long as the other line was floored also. This was met by "flat

After considerable fighting it was found that the honours rested with
the Midland, who, by the purchase of the Leicester and Swannington
and the Ashby Canal, played trump cards, which secured the very
traffic which the Leicester and Bedford scheme was specially designed
to obtain. It was arranged first that the South Midland should take
over the Leicester and Bedford scheme, and afterwards that the two
independent companies should be dissolved, and that the Midland
should obtain an Act for carrying it into effect.

The Leicester and Hitchin Act was obtained in 1847, but was after-
wards abandoned, as at that period the line was not considered neces-
sary in view of the better accommodation which the London and
North Western agreed to give the Midland over the line from Rugby
to Euston ; and thus the South Midland Company had attained its
object, which was to keep the Great Northern Company and its friends
away from Leicester.

The powers obtained in 1847-8 for the formation of this line having
lapsed, it became necessary to obtain a new Act, which was passed
in 1853.

Under this new Act the line commenced at Wigston North Junction
near Leicester, on the Company's Leicester and Rugby section, con-
tinuing thence to Great Bowden Junction, where it joined the Rugby
and Stamford (single line) branch of the London and North Western


Railway. It used this line, which was doubled for the purpose for
a distance of sixty-six chains, to Harborough Junction, the station there
being also granted for the use of Midland traffic. This arrangement
continued for many years, but was subsequently altered, Market Har-
borough being made a joint station with independent lines for both
companies ; and this vastly improved arrangement came into operation
on June 28th, 1885.

The original Midland main line continued from Harborough Junction
up the Great Desborough Bank, on to Kettering and Wellingborough
(where a branch was made to the London and North Western system),
and forward to Bedford. Here a branch was made to connect with
the London and North Western Railway, and a short distance farther
on the Midland crossed the London and North Western Bletchley to
Cambridge line on the level at right angles, after which it runs forward
to Hitchin Junction on the Great Northern system. The total distance
from Wigston to Hitchin Junction was 62 miles 9 chains. It may be
stated as a curious fact that the mile-posts on this section of the line
have never been altered, but up to the present date show the distance
from the Great Northern Junction at Hitchin.

At Hitchin the Midland Company provided their own goods station,
but they used the Great Northern station for passengers.

The Midland Company further obtained running powers over the
Great Northern system to King's Cross, and also by agreement the use
of the Great Northern coal sidings at London ; but the Midland built
its own goods station at St. Pancras, with a short connecting line
to the Great Northern.

In case of any block or interruption to traffic on the Hitchin line,
a curve was constructed, 23 chains in length and known as the North
London incline, which enabled the Midland to send its goods to
the docks served by the North London Company, and also rendered
it possible still to send goods and traffic via Rugby to Camden Station
and thence over the North London Railway to the incline junction. The
Leicester and Hitchin line was opened for mineral traffic on April i5th,
1857, and on the 22nd of the same month it was opened for goods
traffic, and through trains ran to the Midland goods station, London,
via the Great Northern Railway.

The Leicester and Hitchin works and stations were completed by
Mr. Brassey for the official inspection of Colonel Yolland on April 29th,
1857. The formal opening took place on May 7th. The first train,
of eighteen carriages, left Hitchin at 7.33 a.m., passed Bedford at 8.15,
and reached Leicester at 10.50; it was distinguished by a red flag.
At Bedford immense crowds were waiting at the station from as


early as 7 a.m. to take their places, nearly three thousand tickets
having been issued. All the shops were closed and business suspended
by order of the Mayor. Children from the schools and many inmates
of the workhouse were treated to a trip. The first train, consisting
of sixteen first-class and fourteen second-class carriages, started at
9.2 a.m. The second train, of thirty thirds, left at 9.16, both reaching
Leicester "without the least accident or delay." These trains were
distinguished by white flags. At Kettering and Market Harborough
also the day was observed as a holiday. A train of twenty-nine
coaches, of all three classes, left at 9 a.m., Harborough at 9.40, and
got to Leicester at n, marked by green flags. Though there were
more than one hundred coaches and six engines to return from Leicester,
" they all reached their destinations without anything occurring to mar
the pleasure of the day." Nearly 5,000 tickets were taken for this
trip. Regular public traffic began next day, May 8th, 1857.

At first the Midland did not run any through trains, the passengers
having to change into Great Northern trains at Hitchin, which took
them on to King's Cross. This was found to be a serious in-
convenience, and the Midland, having running powers, began on
February ist, 1858, a service of through trains to and from the Midland
system from King's Cross. Thus the Company obtained its first direct
hold on London traffic, which has since had such a marvellous

In consequence of this opening, the Wigston and Rugby line, which
had been a main passenger route of the country, now sank into the
position of a purely local branch.

At the Midland meeting, February i8th, 1858, Mr. Ellis stated that
the construction of the Leicester and Hitchin line was the wisest piece
of policy the Company had ever pursued. Never was a million of
money laid out to better advantage. If they did not earn a shilling
on the line, it was worth all the money laid out upon it, because
it placed them in an independent position.

Mr. John Ellis, who, as we have seen, was a founder of the line
from the earliest commencement, and as Chairman since 1849 had
carried the affairs of the Company safely through very troubled and
difficult times, desired to resign his position. Mr. G. B. Paget, on
December 2nd, 1857, accepted the office, but before he was able to take
the chair at a meeting he was unfortunately struck down by a serious
illness, and died January 25th, 1858. Mr. Ellis, therefore, under these
sad circumstances consented to hold the office until March 3rd, 1858,
when Mr. Samuel Beale, of Birmingham, was elected Chairman of
the Company.


To mark their high appreciation of the services of Mr. Ellis the
shareholders voted a sum of one thousand guineas, part of which they
expended in a service of presentation plate, and also the splendid
portrait of Mr. Ellis, who is portrayed standing near to the Glenfield
Tunnel on the Swannington Railway, which picture is now preserved
in the shareholders' room. His busy and useful life terminated on
October 26th, 1862.

One part of the original South Midland scheme of 1846 was the
making of a branch railway from Kettering to Huntingdon with a
view to joining the Eastern Counties Railway ; but this having lapsed
and not being included in the Midland Act of 1853, it was left "open
territory " till years after, when a private company undertook the work.
The Kettering, Thrapston, and Huntingdon Railway Company con-
structed under an Act of 1862 a line 26 miles in length, commencing
at the Kettering Junction with the Midland main line and extending
to Thrapston, and thence to its termination in junction with the Great
Eastern Company's system at Huntingdon, over which latter line it
had running powers to Cambridge. By agreement it was arranged that
the Midland should work the new line, and by this means direct
communication was obtained between Cambridge and all parts of
the Midland system. This important link was opened for goods
traffic on February 2ist, 1866, and for passenger traffic on March ist
of the same year, when Midland passenger trains commenced to run
between Kettering and Cambridge.

This railway passes through valuable beds of ironstone, which
provide a considerable traffic. The Kettering, Thrapston, and
Huntingdon Company finally terminated its existence on August 6th,
1897, when the Act was passed to vest the undertaking in the Midland

The town of Northampton, from the time when the Midland
Counties Railway was made, desired to be placed in communication
with the Midland system, and a good chance presented itself when the
London and North Western Company informed the Midland that it
would, under the common law right, run over the Midland rails from
Wichnor Junction, of the South Staffordshire Railway, and Burton-
upon-Trent. The Midland simply replied that it would claim a
similar right and run over the North Western Railway between Welling-
borough and Northampton. A local railway company also obtained
powers on July 5th, 1865, to construct a railway direct from Northampton
to join the Midland main line at Oakley Junction, north of Bedford.
This railway was opened on June loth, 1872, being worked by the
Midland Company. Finally, on December 3ist, 1885, the Bedford and


Northampton Company ceased to exist, its railway having at that date
become the property of the Midland.

At Ravenstone Wood Junction, situated about fourteen miles from
Bedford, on the Northampton branch, communication is made with
the East and West Junction Company's line, which in its turn works
the Evesham, Redditch, and Stratford-upon-Avon Junction Railway,
which was opened on June 2nd, 1879, from Stratford to Broom Junction,
where it joins the Evesham and Redditch line ; and in connection
with the Barnt Green and Redditch system (both of which have been
acquired by the Midland), in addition to the Evesham and Ashchurch
branch constructed by the Midland Company, forms an alternative
route between London, Bedford, and the Midland Company's western

Unfortunately, the through communication between Ravenstone
Wood and Broom has not been developed as it might have been,
owing to the fact that the affairs of the East and West Junction
Company are in the unhappy position of being under the supervision
of the Court of Chancery, which appoints directors (one being a
representative of the creditors), managers, and receivers of the

The Hemel Hempsted Railway Company, in 1863 and by subsequent
Acts, obtained powers to construct a local line, commencing at Boxmoor,
on the London and North Western, and extending past Hemel Hemp-
sted and Redbourn to Harpenden, on the Midland, and also to the
Great Northern system at the same place. The prospects of this little
line were far from satisfactory, and the promoters found that their
scheme could not be of any value unless worked by one of the large
companies. They therefore approached the Midland Company, and on
July i6th, 1877, the line from the junction near Harpenden to Hemel
Hempsted was opened for traffic, the railway being worked by the
Midland Company, the communication between Boxmoor and Hemel
Hempsted remaining unopened.

In 1886 the small company was dissolved, and the Hemel Hempsted
line became the property of the Midland Company.



AT various times extending over many years the administrators of
the Midland had sought to obtain communication from Amber-
gate to Manchester, but however much they longed for this, the nature
of the intervening ground the rocks, the severe gradients, and the
Peak of Derbyshire formed a well-nigh insuperable barrier. It
required a man of great determination and of great engineering ability
to force a passage through these fastnesses, and that man was Mr.

Mr. Allport, having been General Manager of the Manchester,
Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway, was in the best position to know
the great value of Manchester and its traffic, and he had no difficulty
in convincing the Midland Board that they must, at any cost, find
access to Manchester. He was also aware of the difficulties of the
task by a consideration of what others had tried to do and had failed.

Jessop, the great canal engineer, had set out to make a canal from
the Cromford Canal to Whaley Bridge, where it would join another
canal near Manchester; but the great number of locks required,
together with the want of water in the summer time with which to work
them, put an end to his enterprise.

After this he fell back upon a railway from Cromford to Whaley,
which he constructed, and is known as the High Peak Railway, and
it is one of the oldest lines in the kingdom. But what sort of a line
was it ? It went up and down just as the land lay ; it had gradients as
steep as the roof of a house, which were worked by fixed engines and
ropes, and was altogether unsuited for speedy traffic.

The owners of the Manchester and Crewe line at this time were
seeking other communication south just as the Midland were desirous
of securing communication north, and therefore they jointly agreed that
a line was necessary to connect the two systems together by means of
lines from its Stockport Station to the Midland system at Ambergate.
The Manchester and Crewe line, with this object in view, secured the



High Peak line, so that they had with the exception of a short con-
necting link railway communication, of a sort, from Manchester to
Cromford. Both companies also favoured the construction of a con-
necting line from Cromford to Ambergate, which would, of course,
establish rail communication throughout, but it would have required an
enormous expenditure in improving the gradients and working of the
High Peak line to make it anything like a success. This scheme for
the construction of a line from Ambergate to Cromford, and the
improvement of the High Peak road, or alternatively the formation of
a new route to Manchester via Matlock and Buxton, was too great for
either company or both combined to carry out.

The result was that both companies became parties to the formation
of an independent company to carry out the work. This company was
named the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock, and Midlands Junction Rail-
way. There was a Board of twelve directors, which included the Midland
Chairman and Vice-Chairman and also representatives of the Manchester
and Crewe line, the Chairman being the Hon. G. H. Cavendish, M.P.,
who represented the Duke of Devonshire and the local interest. This
company was incorporated on July i6th, 1846, and the Midland and the
owners of the Manchester and Crewe line both subscribed largely to
the undertaking.

But suddenly there was a great change of policy on the part of the
owners of the Manchester and Crewe line, for on the very day that the
new company came into legal existence the Manchester and Crewe line
amalgamated with the London and Birmingham and the Grand Junction
Railway, the three companies becoming incorporated as the London and
North Western Railway Company.

So that at one stroke the Midland way to Manchester was barred, for
not only did this change of policy interfere with the Midland aspira-
tions, but it handed over the line from Manchester via the High Peak
to Cromford to their London and North Western rivals.

The London and North Western, who had, of course, taken over the
financial interest of the Manchester and Crewe line in the new scheme,
Ambergate to Manchester via Matlock, now wanted nothing to be done.
The Midland, on the other hand, who had subscribed ^285,000,
wanted the undertaking to proceed according to the original design,
which was to construct a line 45 miles i furlong 6 chains, extending
from Ambergate via Matlock, giving communication with Manchester.

George Stephenson, who had planned the line, was to be the
engineer. The sum to be raised by shares was ;i, 650,000 and by
loan or mortgage .550,000.

The main line was to have a length of 42 miles 2 furlongs, com-


mencing with a junction with the Manchester and Crewe line at
Stockport, passing through the valleys of the Wye and the Derwent
and through the towns of Ashford, Bakewell, Chatsworth, Matlock,
and Cromford, and terminating in a junction with the Midland Railway
at Ambergate. It also had branches to Norbury Collieries and to
Chapel-en-le-Frith. The steepest gradient was i in 100, the smallest
radius of curve 16 chains; it had fifteen tunnels, with a total length
of 11,574 yards.

All this grand scheme, which received the Royal Assent on July i6th,
1846, and which promised such great things for the Midland, was
suddenly dashed to the ground; and instead of this great through


line only a little bit of local railway extending from Ambergate to
Matlock and Rowsley, about n miles in length, was constructed.

This greatly reduced line was made, and opened for traffic on
Monday, June 4th, 1849, the Midland Company having agreed to work
the line and provide the whole of the plant on equitable terms. This
state of things continued until this very much shrunken Company,
which we will now refer to as the " Little " Matlock Company, obtained
in 1851 possession of the Cromford Canal; and in the following year
(1852) the Ambergate to Rowsley line and its canals were leased to the
London and North Western and the Midland Companies jointly for
nineteen years from July ist, 1852.

This lease would have terminated in 1871, and in 1853, when Mr.
James Allport became General Manager of the Midland, he expressed
his opinion that the Matlock line should be extended in accordance



with its name; in fact, that it should become a real Manchester,
Buxton, Matlock, and Midlands Junction Railway. In other words,
that the grand original scheme should be carried out. There was,
however, the great difficulty that the London and North Western had
the joint lease of the Ambergate and Rowsley portion until 1871, and
in view of the termination of the lease, Mr. Allport had to carefully
consider the Midland position in case the Midland should lose the use
of the line after 1871 ; and this was the reason why he devised the
alternative Duffield, Wirksworth, and Rowsley scheme, which would
have placed the Midland in a perfectly independent position.


The interests of the two leasing companies were thus opposed to
each other, and it cannot be a matter of surprise that the London and
North Western Company declined with thanks the suggestion that it
should find a portion of the capital to extend the line to Manchester,
the sole object of which extension would be to bring the competition
of the Midland into that city.

This refusal immediately caused Mr. Allport and the Midland Board
to decide that they must make a line of their own from the Duffield
Junction to Manchester. However, it was thought better to make two
bites at this cherry, by at first only going from Rowsley as far as
Buxton. The London and North Western on the one side, and


the Great Northern and the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire
railways on the other, naturally viewed with alarm the prospect of
a third or middle course between London and Manchester. They
entered into " arrangements " " three - company agreements " and
mutual understandings between themselves with the sole object of
keeping the Midland away from Manchester.

However, in spite of all these devices the Midland Company ob-
tained its Act on May 25th, 1860, to construct an extension fifteen
miles long from Rowsley to Buxton. The tunnels and other engineer-
ing works on this section were unusually heavy owing to the hilly


nature of the ground. The views, however, to be obtained from the
carriage windows in the district of Chatsworth Park, Haddon Hall,
Monsal Dale, and Miller's Dale are most picturesque, and indeed the
whole district may be regarded as the " Switzerland of England."

The London and North Western Company constructed a line from
Whaley Bridge to Buxton, in order to occupy the country through
which the Midland desired to traverse on its way to Manchester, but
the gradients were so very severe that it was useless as a through

The Midland Company, however, was determined that this local line

Online LibraryClement Edwin StrettonThe history of the Midland railway → online text (page 14 of 36)