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The history of the Midland railway online

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of two lines of railway from the present main line of the Company one
commencing near Swinton, and proceeding by Doncaster, Bawtry,
and Gainsborough to Lincoln, the other commencing at Nottingham,
and proceeding through Newark to Lincoln. The object of these
lines was to connect Lincolnshire and the whole of the adjacent
eastern district with the West Riding of Yorkshire and Lancashire,
on the one hand, and with Birmingham, Staffordshire, and the
midland and western parts of England on the other. The resolution
also proposed to obtain powers for extending the Midland system
from Lincoln to the Eastern Counties Railway at March via Boston,
and northwards from Lincoln to the York and North Midland Railway,
thus supplying to every important town in the Eastern Counties good
local communication, and also convenient access to London and the
north and west of England. The proposed line from Swinton to
Lincoln had been some time under consideration ; the only new part
was that from Lincoln to March. The line from Swinton to the
York and North Midland Railway would be made, if agreed to, by
that Company. He believed these extensions would bring a large



amount of traffic upon the Midland Railway, and in making them
he thought they would be acting wisely and prudently. They had
undergone the most attentive investigation by the Board of Directors,
who were unanimous in recommending their adoption by the pro-
prietary. All that was then asked was power to make the necessary
surveys. He had no doubt of the lines paying a fair dividend, and
was sure they would better accommodate the districts passed through
than any local company could do.

A discussion ensued, in which the projects were warmly defended.
They were deemed necessary as a protection against other undertakings,
and were considered, independently of that, likely to be most beneficial
to the Midland Company. When completed the whole of the eastern
part of the country would be amply provided with railway accom-
modation. The Great Western Railway was pointedly alluded to as
resorting to the plan of making extensions on the ground of protecting
the interests of that line. The Chairman further said that " the days
of discount" had, as regarded the Midland line, gone by.

The resolution empowering the directors to take the necessary steps
as to the proposed extensions was carried with only one dissentient.
One of the first steps after the amalgamation was the construction of
a curve north of Derby, which enabled through trains from Leeds and
the north to run to Leicester and Rugby without entering the station
at Derby. Further, by adopting the shortest route to Rugby, the
Whitacre and Hampton Branch became of little use, and this branch,
which played such an important part during the early struggles, is now
of so little practical utility that the entire service consists of one
passenger and one goods train in each direction per day. The
passenger service closes at 9.30 in the morning for the day, and
there are no trains whatever on Sunday, the line being closed from
9.30 a.m. on Saturday till Monday morning.

To fully appreciate the position of the Midland Railway as it was
at the time of the amalgamation, and to understand the policy which
was followed by the Company in after years, we must carry our minds
back to May loth, 1844, and examine the circumstances as they then

The London and Birmingham, Midland, and other railways working
in direct connection, regarded the main line from Euston Square to
Rugby as the great trunk of a vast tree, whose branches and con-
tinuations should extend north, east, and west, and cover the country
to Edinburgh via Leicester and York, Glasgow via Stafford and
Carlisle, and Ireland via Crewe and Holyhead. In fact, maps existed
upon which were drawn the proposed branches, extensions, and new


railways which would give communication with every part of the
north of England via that great railway centre, Rugby.

Here was a clearly defined policy for supplying railway communica-
tion which had been carefully worked out and drawn up by the best
railway and business men of the day. We may, therefore, ask why
the plan should be upset or why it should not be carried out com-
pletely ? The answer to these questions will be found in the fact that
in the autumn of 1843 the money market was easy; money was
abundant, many investments proved unfruitful, and the attention of
the "City" began to turn to railway promotion as a branch of specula-
tive finance. " City " men studied the railway map of England to look
out for a route for a railway that would be likely to pay them as a specu-
lation ; and certainly in 1843 there was ample scope for financiers to
make lines to large towns which were then unprovided with any railway
communication without entering into schemes which were purely
competitive and speculative in their character.

The London and Birmingham and Midland Railways were well able
to carry their traffic, but the " City " men decided to get up a London
and York scheme, and introduced a Bill asking for powers to make
a new main line from London, King's Cross, which should run
practically side by side with the Midland and flank it from one end
of its length to the other; and from which railway it was intended
to make branches, or other lines promoted in its interests, to extend
into all the centres of the Midland traffic. Railway speculation quickly
developed into the "railway mania" which commenced in 1843, was
continued in 1844, and arrived at its height in 1845, during which
thousands of persons were ruined by the absurd rush for shares.

Speculators promoted companies to make, or pretend to make, rail-
ways in every possible direction and to attack every existing company,
especially the London and Birmingham and the Midland.

Under these circumstances the Midland Company saw that there
could be but one policy, namely, a bold fight for existence, and that the
only course left open to them was to defend their property to the
utmost of their power, firstly by offering the most strenuous resistance
to the London and York Bill in Parliament, and secondly by the
construction of branches extending to Lincoln, Peterborough, and
other districts through which the London and York scheme desired
to pass. The parliamentary battle was a furious and most expensive
one. Mr. Hudson, the Midland Chairman, very properly left no stone
unturned to protect the interests of the Midland. It was stated before
the Commons Committee that Mr. Hudson was working with a "twelve-
counsel power." This, however, was not a fact, five being the number


which watched the London and York Bill. It became known to
Mr. Hudson that ,29,000 worth of London and York shares had
been signed for by persons who did not exist or could not be found,
and that "44,500 was signed for by men of straw, possessing no
money or property, and who had been paid a small sum to lend
their names.

Look at the matter how we will, the transaction was " not straight,"
and the House of Lords Committee evidently came to the conclusion
that it must "draw the line somewhere," and consequently most
properly reported that the London and York Bill should not be read
a second time in that House until further investigation had been made
into the contract, and the Bill was therefore held over until the next

Mr. Hudson, on behalf of the Midland, expressed the strongest
indignation against the London and York Bill. He fought with a
united Company behind him to the full extent of his power, but he
was perfectly aware that the " financiers " had powerful friends and
interests in Parliament, and it was no secret at Derby and on the
Midland that the London and York Bill would be passed, or, more
correctly speaking, be "forced through the House." Consequently
it was no surprise to the Midland shareholders to learn that on
June 26th, 1846, the Royal Assent had been given to the London
and York Bill. The Great Northern Company afterwards constructed
under the powers conferred by this Act a railway commencing at
King's Cross Station, London, passing Hitchin, Peterborough,
Newark, and terminating in a field about four miles north of Doncaster
and about 1 60 miles from London, at a point now known as Askern
Junction, where it joined, or was to be joined, by the Wakefield,
Pontefract, and Goole Railway, now a portion of the Lancashire and
Yorkshire system.

The delay of a year which took place in the passing of the Great
Northern Act enabled the Midland Company to push on with two of
its extensions, both of which received the Royal Assent on June 3oth,
1845. One of these was the Nottingham and Lincoln line, which was
a continuation of the Trent and Nottingham section of the old
Midland Counties. This extension passed Rolleston Junction, Newark,
and terminated at Lincoln, a distance of 33 miles. There was also
constructed a short branch of about 2\ miles from Rolleston to

At Lincoln it was intended, either by extension or by another
system, to continue the communication to Grimsby and New Holland
for Hull. The Nottingham and Lincoln line was formally opened


on August 3rd, 1846, and it is a strange fact that Parliament ever
permitted the Great Northern to afterwards make the unsatisfactory
level crossing at Newark which exists to this day, instead of passing
over the Midland by a bridge, as it should have been required to do.

On Monday, August 3rd, 1846, the Midland directors, with a large
number of friends and proprietors, opened the Lincoln line. Special
trains ran from Derby and Leicester to Nottingham, the former starting
at 8 a.m. They left Nottingham at 9.26 and 10.15, tne fi rst reaching
Lincoln at 10.51 after calling at Newark. These trains left Lincoln
again about 12 and 12.30, consisting respectively of thirty-five carriages,
of which sixteen were first-class. They reached Nottingham about
1.30, where a luncheon was provided, ''combining every possible delicacy,
with a profusion of champagne and other choice wines." It was
laid out in the engine-house, which had been enlarged and beautifully
decorated. George Hudson presided at the lunch, " which was a very
gay affair." At 2.50 and 3.15 the trains went down to Lincoln for
the second time amidst a violent storm, which continued almost
all the way. In the evening there was a dinner at Lincoln, at which
Hudson again presided and the Lord Mayor of York and the mayors
of Nottingham, Newark, and Lincoln were present. The return train
left at 9.10, reaching Nottingham at 11.10 p.m., whence expresses ran
to Derby and Leicester. The line was inspected by General Pasley
on July 3ist, whose report as to the construction was highly gratifying.
Nevertheless, a bad accident happened near Gonalstone crossing,
between Lowdham and Thurgarton, a few days after, clearly due
to the breaking of an engine spring owing to the sinking of the
road. The engine was upset in a ditch and the fireman killed.

The festivities at the opening passed off well, though the weather was
very bad and a man received fatal injuries at Lincoln from the bursting
of a cannon. The line was constructed in eight months, by John
Craven and Sons, contractors, of Bingley. Public traffic commenced
on the following day, August 4th.

The extension to Lincoln necessitated the construction of new station
buildings at Nottingham, which was previously a terminal station. The
buildings, although then regarded as fully adequate for all requirements,
in the course of time required considerable extensions, and after having
been in use for over half a century, they are now being replaced by
a handsome and very costly structure.

The other Act of June 3oth, 1845, gave power to construct the Syston
and Peterborough branch, which was to commence by north and south
curves at a point about five miles from Leicester, thence bending in
various directions to catch the towns, namely Melton Mowbray,


Oakham, Luffenham, Stamford, and most important of all, to form
a junction with the intended Eastern Counties Railway at Peterborough,
the Midland trains to have running powers into that Company's
passenger station and goods yard there. The projected Syston and
Peterborough line was intended to run through part of Lord Har-
borough's Stapleford Park at Saxby, but that nobleman objected to
the railway coming through his estate ; and further, he was considerably
interested in the Oakham Canal, which was originally opened in 1800,
and which he feared would be injured or rendered useless by the
railway. Notice was therefore given that "surveyors would not be
permitted to enter upon his land."

The surveyors, however, proceeded along the canal bank, but one of
Lord Harborough's keepers stopped the assistant carrying the chain.
This person produced a pistol and threatened to fire, to which the
keeper replied, "Shoot away!" This terminated in what is known
as the " Battle of Saxby." The surveyors were put into a cart to
be conveyed before a magistrate, but ultimately the cart was tipped
up and they and their instruments were shot out, and it is said that
some of the surveyors were conveyed to the gaol at Leicester.
Ultimately it was found necessary to collect a strong gang of navvies,
who, headed by two or three prize-fighters from Nottingham, walked
through Lord Harborough's estate, followed by the surveyors, when
no resistance could be offered by the keepers.

It appears that this memorable trouble began on a small scale on
November i3th, 1844. Lord Harborough and his steward, Mr. Fabling,
had given notice to the Railway Company that they would not permit
anyone to enter Stapleford Park and lands to survey. The railway
men were seven in number, and were about to approach the forbidden
ground by the Oaknam Canal towing-path. Lord Harborough's party
of nine met them and took them prisoners. They were conveyed, with
their flagstaff's, chains, and spirit-level, towards Cold Overton Hall, the
residence of T. F. Turner, Esq., a magistrate. Mr. Turner was from
home, but the head keeper informed his prisoners they might separate
for the night, which they did.

Another skirmish, however, took place next day, November i4th.
The scene of action was Saxby Bridge, adjoining Lord Harborough's
park. A renewed attempt being expected, by 9 a.m. between thirty
and forty of the Earl's men assembled there to prevent it. Very soon
parties of gentlemen in the employ of the Company arrived in chaises,
etc., from Melton and Oakham, heading a number of "reckless-look-
ing vagabonds," carrying flagstaffs, etc., looking in the distance very
like a regiment of soldiers coming to take the place by storm. A


lengthened parley took place on the bridge between his lordship's
steward and solicitor, the clerk and treasurer of the Oakham Canal
Company, and the solicitors of the Midland Railway, as to the mode
of proceeding to be adopted. Meantime, Lord Harborough's men
prepared for a determined stand by fencing the paths with drays, etc.,
close to the water's edge. An attempt was then made by the surveyors
to force their way through the party stationed on the Oakham side of
the bridge, but the barrier was too firm to be broken, and they had to
retreat. After this some delay took place, during which both sides
received reinforcements. Four or five of the County Police also came
up, and stated that they should arrest the first person who committed
an assault. Both parties were then desired to lay aside their weapons,
which consisted of stout shillelaghs, and ordered not to strike any
blows, but to try their relative strength by pushing. A grand stand
was then made by Lord Harborough's party below the bridge, and
nearest Melton, who stood wedged together and forming a living and
very formidable barrier. The surveyors next placed rows of their men
with their backs to the faces of the Earl's party, and set others in an
opposite position to force the way. An almost indescribable scene
now took place. The railwayists exerted their utmost strength, but
so firmly did his lordship's party retain their ground that more than
one was actually forced up high in the air, rolling over the heads of the
contending parties. Others were forced through the hedge, tumbling
over each other and nearly filling the ditch beneath, amidst the shouts
of the leaders and the laughter of the numerous spectators. Great
confusion now ensued, the two parties mixing together and in the
tumult and dirt becoming almost undistinguishable by each other.
In the midst of this confusion the surveyors succeeded in getting the
chain on the forbidden ground. Lord Harborough's men then took
forcible possession of it, and in the scuffle to recover it, it was broken
in one or two places. A fine chase was then had for about a quarter
of a mile down the tow-path, affording the spectators as much amuse-
ment as a fox-hunt. Another barrier was then about to be formed,
when a truce was shouted by the railwayists, and it was finally agreed
that each party should withdraw their forces, and that the matter
should be judicially brought before the magistrates by issuing a
summons for assault against one or two of the men of each party,
which it was understood would be heard at the Petty Sessions at
Melton on November iQth, the solicitors and surveyors of the Com-
pany pledging themselves that no further attempt should be made in
the meanwhile.

The clerk and treasurer of the Oakham Canal Company were


present during the whole of the skirmish, sanctioning Lord Har-
borough's proceedings, they having some time previously given his
lordship an exclusive right to the towing-path.

In spite of the above arrangement for a truce, the existence of which
was denied by the railway party, a fresh attempt took place about
7 a.m. on Saturday, November i6th. Mr. William Latham, Lord
Harborough's solicitor, hearing it was likely to happen, wrote informing
the Railway Company's solicitors that he had barricaded the towing-
path, and had in readiness a few cannon from Lord Harborough's
yacht. About 7 a.m. a small party of railway men, about ten in
number, attempted to take the tow-path at one point, whilst nearly a
hundred more climbed over the palings nearer to Oakham and com-
menced measuring with three or four chains. Lord Harborough's men
were dispersed, watching various parts of a park 800 acres in extent,
and could not oppose them. They had got opposite his lordship's
beautiful cottage, where he resided, when Mr. Fabling, the steward,
came up on a pony, with some of his "troops." Mr. Cope, one of the
railway party, told him to retire if he did not wish to be hurt. On
refusal, his men were ordered to remove him. Mr. Fabling ordered
the measuring chain to be taken up. Then followed a general free
fight. Brown, the lock-keeper of the canal, a powerful man, rendered
great assistance to his lordship, sending his opponents head over heels
at every blow ; the noise was so great it was heard in the villages two
miles off. The spikes of the railway party were thrust into the sides
of the defenders of the park, and after a battle of several minutes,
and many broken heads, wounded faces and sides, the lower grade of
the intruders gave way. At this moment his lordship appeared,
accompanied by Lady Harborough, but being weak from a very severe
illness, was not able to get near the scene of action. The noise
having brought together more parties of his lordship's men, it was
evident the railwayists must beat a retreat, their staves and chains
having been broken into many pieces. Ten persons, whose names
were taken, were not allowed by Mr. Fabling to leave till they had
given them. Three navvies from Oakham were then brought up,
after the hearing of the principal case at Melton, charged with having
engaged in the affray on behalf of the Railway Company, but were only
bound over to keep the peace for three months. Some other parties
from Stamford were also bound over. As regards the main case, the
Bench unanimously sent it to a higher court. "Thus terminated for
the time the eventful contest between Lord Harborough and the
Midland Railway Company."

Three cases arising out of this were tried at the Assizes at Leicester,


March 26th, 1845, before Lord Chief Justice Tindal and common juries.
In the first case it was stated that on Saturday, November i6th, 1844,
whilst it was yet dark in the morning, the defendants, with seventy or
eighty people, came to the Earl of Harborough's park with measuring
chains and flagstaffs, etc., and distinguished by white badges, with
the evident determination to proceed with their survey. They were
resisted by a considerable number of Lord Harborough's people,
and after a severe struggle and fight were compelled to retreat. The
Lord Chief Justice summed up with great clearness that parties
assembling in the manner and under the circumstances shown were
guilty of a riot, and were properly resisted by Lord Harborough's
people, who were justified in using force to eject them from the
park. The jury, without much deliberation, returned a verdict of
guilty of an assault against all the defendants, who were sentenced to
be imprisoned for one month and to pay a fine of \s.

The second case, Ward v. Lord Harborough and others, was an
action for trespass and false imprisonment and for damaging a
theodolite. Lord Harborough's servants, after warning plaintiff and
his followers off the canal tow-path, took him into custody, under
a mistaken impression that they had power to do so. They permitted
him to go away in his own carriage and used no violence, but the
theodolite was pitched out of a cart and broken. The jury found
a verdict for the plaintiff; damages, ^8.

The third case, Lord Harborough v. Ward and Cope, was an action
for trespass on the occasion of the riot. A juror was withdrawn on
each side by agreement. The Lord Chief Justice then sentenced the
defendants as stated above, the imprisonment to be in Ward No. i, so
that they would have no unnecessary hardship. He expressed his
regret that persons of their education and profession should be engaged
in a transaction which was quite unjustifiable in law, and which he was
bound to visit with punishment.

All these proceedings were for trespass in connection with the
attempts to make a preliminary survey and plans for Parliament ; but,
notwithstanding all these objections and obstructions, the Company
succeeded in securing parliamentary sanction by their Act of June 3oth,

During the passage of the Bill through Parliament, in order to
appease Lord Harborough's objections, the Midland entered into an
agreement with the proprietors of the Oakham Canal, of which Lord
Harborough was a large shareholder, to purchase that undertaking.
The agreement, which was dated April iQth, 1845, was incorporated
in an Act of Parliament passed July 27th, 1846 ; and the proprietors of


the canal received " 26,000, together with 200 of the newly created
40 shares, making a total of ^"34,000."

By the Syston and Peterborough Act of 1845 tne Company were
empowered to make a tunnel under the Cuckoo Plantation in Staple-
ford Park. But immediately after the commencement of the con-
struction of the tunnel, the object of which was to preserve the trees
and the plantation, it was found to be too shallow, and the cutting
of the tunnel destroyed the roots of the trees, and suddenly a large
portion of the works fell in, dragging the trees with the debris. Sixty
trees were thus uprooted and destroyed. The engineers were not
to be blamed, in view of their having been prevented from making
a proper preliminary survey, and they decided, as it was impossible
to make the tunnel as sanctioned, to form an open cutting. This
Lord Harborough resented, and he brought an action against them
for cutting down about sixty trees, oak, elm, and fir, of twenty-five years'
standing, forming what was called Cuckoo Plantation, in Stapleford
Park. By their Act the Company had power to make a tunnel at
this point, without shafts, but proceeded, instead, to make an open
cutting 1 06 yards in length. An injunction to restrain them was
granted in the Vice-Chancellor's court, by Sir L. Shadwell, July 8th,
1846, his lordship considering this "a most oppressive case."

The Company were thus at an impasse they had powers to
construct a tunnel which could not be made and at the same time

Online LibraryClement Edwin StrettonThe history of the Midland railway → online text (page 7 of 36)