The modern world started here: Rainhill, Part 2

Previously I visited Rainhill to give some contemporary context to the 1829 Rainhill Trials whose 190th anniversary is celebrated in 2019. In this belated follow-up I expand coverage to the running grounds east of the Skew Bridge. As ever, much conjecture, work-in-progress, etc…

About the Trials

The aim of the Rainhill Trials was to test steam locomotives under tightly controlled conditions on a simulated journey from Liverpool to Manchester and back again. A prize of £500 would be given to the winner deemed to have advanced the then state of locomotive development. Opinion among the board of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) was divided as to the best means of hauling trains with locomotives favoured by the Prinicipal Engineer, George Stephenson. However, others such as Cropper, a sceptic so far as Stephenson was concerned, preferred an unwieldy series of stationary winding engines. The Trials (0r Ordeal as they were also known) would resolve the pressing question of motive force with (rather optimistic) hopes of at least a partial opening in January 1830.

As the track was incomplete in 1829 the distance was achieved by locomotives running a 1.5 mile course from Rainhill to Lea Green, reversing back to the start and repeating the journey 10 times in the morning and a further 10 times in the afternoon. Engines were required to pull a load three times the weight of the engine. A weighbridge was provided at the start to determine the load which was made up of the fuel, water and crew as well as wagons containing variable amounts of stone. The course had the advantage that it was level and complete (apart initially from track) although it was bounded at the western end by the Whiston inclined plane and, more distantly, at the eastern end by the Sutton inclined plane. Both were candidates for stationary engines and it appears a start had been made on housing for the western one.

This post will focus on the context of the Trials rather than the day-by-day events which have been well-rehearsed elsewhere.

The seven bridges

Rainhill at the time was a small village, albeit with some industry (a glassworks) and a stable for some 240 horses used in coaching by the company of Bartholemew Bretherton. The part of the village adjacent to the course already lay at the intersection of two turnpike roads, the Liverpool-Warrington and Eccleston-Cronton, at Kendrick's Cross.

The best-known feature of the Rainhill course was the Skew Bridge carrying the Liverpool-Warrington turnpike but this was just one of four bridges shown on the late 1840s map, one of which was probably a footbridge off what is now Kendrick's Fold and Dee Road but then mostly a rough track. Although there were some 65 bridges and tunnels in Henry Booth's official list footbridges were included only under an aggregated head.

The bridges (in order, west to east): Stone(y) Lane, unnamed footbridge, Spring (Old) Lane, Rainhill (Skew) Bridge.

One discrepancy is that the map shows all apart from the Skew Bridge as being wooden while Booth states that the Spring (now Old) Lane bridge was ashlar, stone and brick. The Stone(y) Lane bridge was wooden with brick piers.

An 1831 engraving by Isaac Shaw shows two of the bridges west of the Skew Bridge in the background. The bridges are very different in appearance with the nearmost looking decidedly unwooden (and hence in accord with Booth's account) and the more distant looking like a footbridge (as expected). Whether you could really see all three from that vantage point is moot as another view, albeit from the other side of the track, shows only two bridges. The parsimonious Bury gives us only the Skew Bridge from his perspective (presumably looking east-to-west). In any event there is far more trackside vegetation now to obscure any comparable view.

Fig: Rainhill Bridge by Shaw (Science Museum CC NC-BY-SA 4.0). Looking west towards Liverpool, locomotive Planet pulling a luggage train. The bugle may be signalling the approach to the level crossing and adjacent station some 200 m further on.

rainhill skew bridge looking west.jpg
Fig: A similar, if more distant, view taken from the barrier at the end of the station platform

Shaw's print also reinforces the fact that the track ran in a gentle curve through a cutting on its way into Rainhill. While the Trials were held at Rainhill because the track was level, this was only because some 220,000 cubic yards had already been excavated. Moreover, east of Rainhill there is now a low embankment on the way into Lea Green.

An external assessor, Josiah Jessop, had recommended a deep cutting at Rainhill to avoid the 1:96 gradients at Whiston and Sutton but Stephenson was against this on grounds of cost and delay. This meant that a decision had to be made to manage the inclined planes by means of either stationary or banking engines, locomotives that would push or assist braking from the rear of large luggage (goods) trains. On the first morning of the trials the directors assembled at Huyton and travelled up the Whiston incline to Rainhill in a train hauled by Rocket with Stephenson at the controls. The decision in favour of banking engines was as good as made.

As far as the bridges are concerned, all but the Skew Bridge appear to have been subsequently replaced. Stoney Lane became a skew bridge to avoid the awkward Z curve otherwise imposed on the road while the Skew Bridge itself was widened by 4 feet in 1963 to add a second footpath. Three additional footbridges now lie east of the Skew Bridge, including one on the station and one at the junction of Victoria Street and Tasker Terrace, the site of the first station and former level-crossing. A final footbridge appears to maintain a right of way between Ritherup north of the track and the recreation ground to the south although the footpath itself is hard to discern.

These days the footbridges allow visitors to see something of the track, the remaining road bridges having had their sidewalls raised following overhead electrification.

The crowd

The Trials had been widely advertised and according to reports there were something like 10-15000 people watching. The spectators were presumably concentrated to the east of the Skew Bridge, the nominated running grounds. If we take the lower number as more probable and assume they were present on both sides of the track for a distance of 1 mile, we would expect a density of about 3 people per metre. Talk of crowds suggests, however, that spectators may have been concentrated at particular points and hence to a degree managed.

Only part of the course has been modelled in OpenSim. The model shows the permanent way as being fenced off as it presumably was when the railway opened in 1830. This would be to keep animals off the tracks as well as humans. We know, however, that some 300 company employees acted as stewards, i.e. one every 20-ish metres if evenly distributed, so it is is possible that fencing was either partial, absent or thought likely to be ignored. Nevertheless, spectators were not allowed to cross the track unless authorised by the directors. Stewards are notably absent from all supposed images of the Trials. Newspaper reports suggest they were largely ineffectual.

The start of the course

The course started to the west of Rainhill where there was a small depot comprising a weighbridge and associated shed together with supplies of fuel, water and stone as makeweight.

The course itself was double track with one track extending down the Whiston inclined plane to Huyton. The trains under test did not turn so used just a single line. Famously, one engine over-ran the designated stopping-place on the return journey and continued a short way down the incline beyond. It seems likely that the second track provided logistical support for the depot as well as serving as backup for the trial runs and for exhibition, testing and "pleasure" rides.

The exhibition at the Rainhill Library has a useful map (the original dates to the 1929 centenary) of the start location in a cutting between the Stone(y) Lane and Spring (Old) Lane bridges. This is bisected by a footbridge with the starting post to the west and the first time point 220 yards further to the east.

The cutting at this point is substantially wider than elsewhere. It later included a siding with a watering station on the south side and to the north a passing siding used by banking engines assisting trains up and down the Whiston inclined plane. Given that these engines were mostly constrained to the incline, it makes sense that the location was relatively self-sufficient. The 1840s map shows a terrace of three cottages west of Stoney Lane Bridge and it seems likely that these were for railway workers associated with the watering station. However, the locomotives used for banking were housed at Whiston at the foot of the incline. The terrace had disappeared by 1850 when permanently stationed banking engines were presumably no longer required or located elsewhere.

Although the width of this area in 1829 is unclear, any extra space would doubtless have come in useful for the depot during the Trials and one can imagine space being required for the shed and associated materials and perhaps even for an additional siding. Once weighed, the engine and load were pushed to the running-in point. There was then a 220 yard run-in to the actual first post on the other side of the footbridge during which time the engine had a chance to get up to speed before timing began. There was a judge's tent located at the start line with Rastrick stationed at this end.

Caveat on post locations

The guidance to spectators specify that the running would take place on the Manchester side of the bridge which for the most part is true. The course was marked out by posts at 440 yard intervals. One was located at "the bridge" and it is assumed that this refers to the Skew Bridge. However, a contemporary account states that the course ended at the 10 mile post which suggests that the course was based in part on these prexisting markers. If their position was the same as in the 1840s, the bridge post would be more than 100 metres west of the Skew Bridge and could even refer to the Spring Lane bridge.

Either way, the track would pass under the Skew Bridge, the most acute on the line and the fourth most expensive to build after the two viaducts and the bridge in Manchester over the River Irwell. The Skew Bridge featured prominently in pictures by both Bury and Shaw. Given that it carried the Liverpool-Prescot-Warrington turnpike over the railway, it offered artists a chance to juxtapose the old and the new with stagecoaches passing above the trains.

Entertaining guests and locos: the grandstand area, buffet and local inns

Fig: The conjectural view of the grandstand

The next interval post was at the grandstand, a further 440 yards east of the Skew Bridge. However, the most common view of the Trials shows a grandstand next to the Skew Bridge. Thomas (1980) accordingly describes this image as conjectural and, indeed, It seems unlikely that it is contemporary, more an attempt to cram as many points of interest together as possible. Related images, possibly derivatives, show the same content from slightly different angles. It is generally hard to discern the angle of the skew and hence determine whether the grandstand is on the north or south side of the tracks although on balance the north side seems more likely.

The provenance of the image is unclear although it is included in the 1868 US edition of the biography of the Stephensons by Samuel Smiles. Others have assigned it to the Illustrated London News. This was first published in 1842 so again it is unlikely to be a contemporary record of events. Newspaper reports indicate that the grandstand was equidistant betweeen the two ends of the course and on the south side, in other words not by the bridge.

The grandstand (also referred to as a booth) was apparently provided for ladies only, presumably by invitation, with a band present to entertain them. The number accommodated is unknown. It is plausible that the grandstand was reserved for the wives of engineers, proprietors and select local dignitaries. On that basis its capacity might have been 150-200, i.e. relatively small.

rainhill french print.png
Fig: A copy of the "French print", probably a reconstruction but notably lacking the distant Skew Bridge.

A corner of the grandstand also features in a supposedly contemporary French engaving reproduced c.1902 by Nansouty. While there are again questionable details, it usefully gives a reverse view that is consistent with some textual descriptions. We know, for example, that there was a maintenance workshop, sheds for the engines (presumably behind the vantage point) and probably a tent for refreshments. The location is plausibly on the meadow to the east of the crossing with Eccleston Hill in the background. This places the grandstand south of the permanent way on what is now the recreation ground or, more likely, on the eastern edge of the adjacent cricket field.

This area is flatter than the northern side of the track and it would seem more likely that both the workshop and sheds were on this side. Whether invited guests crossed the track to a tent is plausible only if running ceased at lunchtime (as, admittedly, it probably did).

While the French print is consistent with the position of the marker post, it does have some issues. The image of Rocket is similar to that shown in the Illustrated London News save for the presence of a tender lacking a water barrel, an innovation more commonly associated with the Northumbrian locomotive of 1830. The 6-wheeled coach is somewhat incongruous as most carriages at the time seem to have had four.

The locomotives are also somewhat mysterious. While Sans Pareil can be made out on the other side of the track (with its leading tender), other obvious candidates are missing (Novelty, Cyclopede, Perseverance) and some unidentified, possibly generic, locomotives substituted. Of course, It is not unlikely that others might have been present, e.g. Lancashire Witch, Twin Sisters, although no sources mention this.

Accordingly, it seems unlikely that the French picture is contemporaneous although it has sufficient merit to suggest that it may portray either a reconstruction or a reenactment.

According to some accounts, the food provided was distinctly simple, just bread, cheese and beer. Small wonder then that the few local venues, the Rainhill Tavern presumably amongst them, did excellent trade and the latter (termed Railway Tavern by Thomas) set aside a room for the "better class of person" (it is now the Victoria Hotel). Nicholas Robinson, former Liverpool mayor and owner of Sudley, was commended for his foresight in renting a farmhouse in which to entertain his friends, possibly the nearby Ritherup Farm.

Other accounts suggest that Melling's works was hired for use as a workshop. A later photograph of the works bears some resemblance to the structure in the French picture but Melling's works was, in fact, located adjacent to the level crossing some 200 m west of the grandstand. It was in any case only opened in 1840 when the L&MR made Melling redundant. Prior to that it had been a glassworks.

A second inn or tavern is also mentioned in some accounts but not named. Whether this was the nearby Coach & Horses, if extant, or the more distant Ship Inn, the focus of Bretherton's coaching business, is unclear. Curiously an inn called the Coach & Horses features in the background of a sketch published in 1884 supposedly by James Nasmyth which, according to Anthony Dawson, shows the post-Trials Northumbrian mis-identified as Rocket. Although Nasmyth indeed claimed to have sketched the locomotive during the Trials, this version is presumably later and based on a sketch of Northumbrian made by Nasmyth on the day before the opening in 1830. The inn and branchline therefore probably represent later artistic embellishment.

The OpenSim build

The build is very provisional as almost no local research has been done and few contemporary resources are available online. However, one potentially useful image is derived from a 3D model built by a local primary school which shows part of Rainhill as it was in 1829.

rainhill recreation ground.JPG
Fig: Rainhill recreation ground, formerly a meadow, from the railway footbridge. Looking west, the grandstand area may have been beyond the hedge and trees to the left, now part of the cricket club. The meadow may have been used by spectators in addition to the area by the Skew Bridge (and probably others).

rainhill opensim model.jpg
Fig: OpenSim build of Rainhill at the time of the Trials based on the French print. Looking west, the Skew Bridge is in the far distance beyond the level crossing. A gatekeeper's lodge has been included. Although there is no evidence of one being built by this stage, the need to manage the crossing would become increasingly important. The minutes of the Board of Directors indicate that Stephenson was asked to move the gatehouse near Bourne's Colliery, presumably at Lea Green, on 12th July 1830, the reason being that it was too close to the track. It seems likely that the gatehouse at Rainhill would also have been in place by this time. The early station (which this became) was partially destroyed in a serious accident and subsequently rebuilt in the present location by the bridge.

rainhill opensim model from bridge.png
Fig: OpenSim model seen from the Skew Bridge looking east. The gates of the level crossing are evident and the grandstand area lies beyond and to the right. The glassworks are to the left and the Rainhill Tavern to the right.


While the locomotive performance at Rainhill was recorded in considerable detail, the visual record of the event appears generally suspect. The French print may be more compatible with what little was written at the time and is the basis for the current OpenSim build. However, additional sources are required for purposes of cross-checking and local archives may prove valuable in that regard.

Pictures of the Past: educating future railway engineers in late Georgian Liverpool

Pictures of the Past is the autobiography of railway engineer Francis H Grundy, better known to his brother-in-law at least as Henry. It describes his early years in Liverpool around the time of the construction of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) which opened in 1830. While many books mention the railway in passing, few describe in any detail the principal characters engaged in this groundbreaking enterprise. While there are likely many errors in Grundy's recollections, the book also provides some curious insights.

Oh yes, spoiler alert…

Introducing Henry

Grundy writes his story in 1879 from the perspective of a civil engineer who emigrated to Australia 20 years previously after spending some 23-26 years in the UK (the experiences in Australia are discussed in the book but not here). This suggests that he was born in 1833 which does not fit with the events covered. It is possible that the period in the UK excludes his education and upbringing which would perhaps put him in his early or mid-teens in 1833. Unfortunately, Grundy is evasive as to the date and place of his birth, although it seems reasonably clear that his formative years were spent in 1820s/30s Liverpool after his family moved from Manchester with Henry aged two.

We are told that he lived on Parliament Street in a large house overlooking St James' cemetery and that his father was associated with the church. Indeed, the 1829 edition of Gore's directory shows the Rev John Grundy living at 45 Upper Parliament Street. Rev Grundy preached at the Paradise Street Unitarian Chapel with the more famous James Martineau who was greatly admired by Henry (he was somewhat intimidated by equally renowned sister Harriet). In 1835 Rev Grundy retired to Bridport, Dorset due to ill health. Henry had four sisters and three brothers.

Liverpool St James bury 2.png
Fig: St James's cemetery in 1831 by Thomas Talbot Bury. Stephenson's house on Upper Parliament Street is third from left in the distance. The Grundys may have lived in the large house first on the left.

Grundy's schooldays

Grundy talks of "returning from school down the long vista of Old Parliament Street" and of his teacher at the age of 6 as being a "Miss Hurry". Fast forward to 1831-2 (probably earlier, in fact) and Miss Hurry is teaching chemistry, biology and astronomy with memorably dramatic practical demonstrations. Henry regards her as a "good soul" (perhaps suggesting a relatively mature woman) and "ahead of her years" as far as her teaching methods were concerned. There is a letter mentioning a Miss Hurry written to her mother in 1829 by 9-year old Elizabeth Jane Roscoe, granddaughter of William Roscoe, and alluding to a ball at school.

Gore shows that in 1829 a Miss Jane Hurry taught at a boarding school at Windsor, a district on the edge of Toxteth Park which is indeed uphill from the house on (Upper) Parliament Street and close to the station at Crown Street. The school is associated with several teachers named Bradley who give their address as 1 Crown Street, Windsor. One of these may be a John Bradley who compiled school textbooks on astronomy and geography.

Crown Street at this time crossed Upper Parliament Street and ran a short distance along what is now Kingsley Road. Swire's map of 1823 shows just two buildings on Crown Street, both in this area and to the rear of where Windsor Terrace would shortly be. By 1854 the Bradleys have moved to a school and seminary in Whitfield Street off Park Road.

Fig: Henry Grundy's school may have been located behind Windsor Terrace which formerly extended into the space occupied by the new build shown here on the corner of Upper Parliament Street and what is now Kingsley Road but was then an extension of Crown Street.

Miss Hurry's celebrity lodgers

For Henry, however, the most remarkable lessons are those given by one of Miss Hurry's lodgers, the L&MR engineer Joseph Locke. In what was surely a piece of improvised pantomime, Locke would sit behind Miss Hurry and mimic her movements during a lecture demonstration until in exasperation she quit the room at which stage he would take over the class, typically with disastrous results. Miss Hurry would then return and scold him for endangering her students after which Locke would declaim loftily that they would all have died for science and announce a half-day holiday. Locke's amusing interventions were necessarily infrequent as he was mostly working "double tides", i.e. day and night, on completing the L&MR.

Locke was responsible for the western end of the L&MR but resigned in December 1829 to undertake work on other Stephenson projects, notably in Stockport. This was probably a consequence of the discovery by directors that L&MR staff were working on Stephenson's non-L&MR projects in the Clayton Square office. Locke was replaced by Stephenson's personal secretary and draughtsman Thomas Longridge Gooch. Grundy identifies Gooch as another of Miss Hurry's lodgers which is curious as most accounts state that he lodged with the Stephensons. However, his replacement, Frederick Swanwick, presumably took Gooch's place in the Stephenson household in early 1830.

The only address in Gore for Miss Hurry is the boarding school so presumably she was resident on Crown Street and, if Locke were her lodger, this would provide an alternative explanation for Locke's earlier use of Crown Street as address in a letter to William Roscoe (who would now be a relatively near neighbour in Lodge Lane). This assumes, of course, that Locke stayed on in Liverpool while undertaking the work in Stockport. Clearly a location so close to the station would have been of considerable interest to the engineers who may also have benefited from arrangements for meals and laundry in what was probably quite a new build.

Grundy's opinion of Gooch is a little lukewarm, calling him a good, painstaking man though lacking in the originality and ambition shown by his younger brother, the more famous Sir Daniel. Once he qualifies as an articled engineer, Grundy encounters Gooch again in Yorkshire where both are working on a new railway. Grundy indicates that by this stage the somewhat staid Gooch was not averse to "a little jollity", i.e. drinking, in the evenings (an occupational hazard for railway engineers at the time) but on this occasion suffered a monumental hangover.

The Stephensons

The Grundys must have been near neighbours of George Stephenson at no. 31 (now 34) Upper Parliament Street. While "Old George" is mentioned several times, it is not clear that he was close to the Grundys while in Liverpool as Henry recounts a story of George in later years attempting to eject him from a train. Recognising George, Henry had deliberately acted as though he had no ticket and, while being thrown from the train, protested both his innocence (he had a ticket) and that George had failed to recognise him from a previous meeting three years previously. Although Grundy never visited George after he retired to Tapton House, the book has an interesting chapter by one of George's (unnamed) personal secretaries from that era. He confirms that George's limited literacy did not prevent him giving fluent and accurate dictation.

George Robert Stephenson, son of George's elder brother Robert, also appears to have been a pupil of Miss Hurry at this time though whether he was boarding or living with George or his father (an engineer on the Bolton & Leigh Railway) is unclear. Gooch's enforced departure may suggest that space in the Stephenson household was limiting and that there was indeed an additional resident (there was probably also a guest room for the likes of George's son Robert who visited Liverpool not infrequently). Grundy later worked closely with his former schoolmate over a three year period in Yorkshire. George Robert Stephenson would go on to run Robert Stephenson & Company following the demise of George's son Robert.

The opening of the L&MR

Grundy's father was on one of the trains on the opening day but hired a driver and carriage to take seven of the family, including Henry, somewhere around midway and hence near to Parkside where Huskisson was struck and fatally wounded by Rocket. Grundy's recollections of the day are incorrect in several significant details but he adds some interesting colour to the published account. He claims that virtually all the horse carriages from four counties were parked three-deep along the length of the railway. As those awaiting the trains engaged in a picnic it resulted in a cold collation some 30 miles long! It also meant that news of Huskisson's accident spread rapidly in advance of any official announcement and that drivers were alerted to stand to their horses' heads as the unfamiliar and noisy engines approached.

Grundy claims to have seen his father pass by in advance of the incident at Parkside and to have later seen distant figures on the track. Of course, the accident delayed all the trains which were spaced out over a distance of more than a mile. Members of each crew would likely have left their train to find out what had happened and what was to be done. On the other hand Grundy claims to have witnessed an engine, presumably Northumbrian, speed to Liverpool (he means Manchester) for medical support. This suggests, somewhat improbably, that he was beyond Eccles where Huskisson was being cared for in the vicarage. An alternative explanation is that this was one of the engines that had gone from Manchester to Eccles to take on water and fuel only to have to backtrack to near Huyton (the first place beyond Manchester where they could change track) on encountering the ducal train which had departed Manchester earlier than anticipated on the same line.

In the evening the Grundy family had engaged a balcony on Williamson Square from which to view an assembly intended originally to celebrate a successful opening. Instead they saw Lord Stanley, later Earl of Derby, address a large crowd with news of the day's sad events,

The family also watched the funeral from their house on Upper Parliament Street although I suspect the procession came up the parallel Duke Street. This might explain why young Henry failed to see the coffin, the procession on Upper Parliament Street simply being crowds heading to vantage points in and above the cemetery from which to observe the interment.

The Edge Hill stations

Grundy recounts two stories about the environs of Edge Hill station (at that time meaning Crown Street). One happens on a Sunday morning when crowds have come to see trains start out from the Chatsworth Street cutting where the locomotives were connected to the carriages that had gravity run down through the short tunnel from Crown Street. According to Grundy, the cutting had a small footbridge, possibly the one that can be observed in Bury's print of the Moorish Arch, that was overloaded with people and failed. I have no independent verification for this apart from Bury's print which indeed shows the footbridge as though it might be damaged (compare with later edition).

Fig: Bridge collapse at the cutting? A distant footbridge can be seen through the Moorish Arch.

The second story concerns Henry stowing away on a train to Manchester with classmate Will Booth, son of L&MR Treasurer and Secretary Henry Booth. Young Booth allegedly had free run of Crown Street station and was allowed by the stationmaster, an otherwise unknown Mr Hilbries, to sit in an empty compartment of one of the departing carriages running through the small tunnel to the cutting. On the day in question he was joined by Henry and the pair, for once evading the stationmaster's attentions, travelled through the tunnel as usual. However, instead of returning to Crown Street by pony, they hid under the carriage seats and went on to Manchester.

This sounds like an improbable counterpart to the Stephenson story but there are one or two points that lend interest if not credibility. Firstly, as expected for a first class closed carriage, the train stops just once. Although the guard calls this as Newton, it is in fact the watering station at nearby Parkside where, unusually for that time, a passenger gets into their compartment. Tickets having been checked on departure, the boys are able to leave the train at Manchester without hindrance.

The return journey, however, is more problematic as they are challenged while climbing the stairs from the booking hall to the first class waiting-room and platform (the geography here is correct). Unknown to staff at Manchester and without the means to pay (normally seats are booked in advance), they are required to quit the station. Deciding to walk to Liverpool, they get lost and, somewhat improbably, the first person offering assistance turns out to be a relative of Will Booth, namely Tom Potter (later Sir Thomas Potter, MP and Mayor of Manchester). Tom takes them for a brief sojourn at an unspecified "big house" after which they catch the 11pm mail train back to Liverpool where their respective families await them. Presumably this fortuitous reunion is either due to inspired guesswork or to news of the two strays being transmitted back from Manchester via the earlier train.

Fig: The first class booking hall at Manchester Liverpool Road station. The boys would have entered by the door on the right and needed to get to the platform at first floor level via the staircase on the left.

There's more…

While the above description covers Grundy's time in Liverpool, the book also follows his career as a engineer during the early days of the national network. Written for general interest and, perhaps, to cash in on the jubilee the following year, there is much on what had been casual practices such as alighting from moving trains as well as a firsthand account of a serious crash. The extent to which the drama and colour has been embellished is, of course, unknown. People encountered are discussed in varying levels of detail, notable examples being poet and essayist Leigh Hunt and the ill-starred Branwell Brontë. Doubtless the Australian chapters will be of interest in those quarters as well.

Incidentally, there are, sadly, only word pictures.

A round trip with Rocket

Earlier this week Stephenson's Rocket arrived at Manchester's Science & Industry Museum and, of course, I went to see it.

rocket et al sim.jpg
Fig: Rocket in its modified post-Rainhill form at SIM Manchester

At the same time the Science Museum released a downloadable 3D scan (CC BY-NC 4.0) on Sketchfab. It was too complex to import directly to OpenSim so these are the steps I took (as a relative mesh novice) to bypass this issue.

rocket et al opensim.jpg
Fig: The Science Museum Rocket mesh after import to OpenSim with prim-built models of Rainhill Rocket, Novelty and Sans Pareil

  • Firstly, I used IrfanView to scale the texture provided down to 1024x1024 px, the largest that Firestorm will import, and then imported this to OpenSim.
  • I then loaded the mesh into Autodesk Meshmixer (available free as part of the Feedback programme) and used Edit > Plane Cut to divide the mesh into smaller pieces. These were then exported in .obj format and imported into MeshLab.
  • In MeshLab I used Filters > Remeshing etc > Simplification: Quadric Edge Collapse Decimation to reduce each piece separately to 21500 tris before exporting in .dae format
  • The separate pieces of mesh were then imported into OpenSim, scaled, combined and textured using drag-and-drop. Finally they were linked and (optionally) made phantom.
  • The final product can be exported via the righclick menu (3rd level) and reimported if required.

At this stage I thought it would be interesting to test Convoar. This is an amazing utility by Robert Adams (aka Mr Blue) that converts OpenSim Archive files into glTF format. Austin Tate has a useful blog on glTF, including Convoar.

  • I downloaded an OAR file of the region I wanted to convert. This contained the Science Museum Rocket together with simple prim-built models of Rocket, Novelty and Sans Pareil locomotives (permissions were not an issue).
  • I downloaded the Convoar distribution from Robert's Github repository and unzipped it. I copied the OAR file to the dist folder.
  • I opened the Windows 10 CMD utility, navigated to the Convoar dist folder and invoked Convoar as "convoar rocket.oar". Use of the -m flag, i.e. "convoar -m rocket.oar" groups meshes with shared materials and accelerates loading. In my limited experience this worked best with widescale architectual builds while the simple rocket.oar was most satisfactorily handled without the flag.

rocket et al post convoar.png
Fig: Model viewed in Windows File Explorer after conversion to glTF format by Convoar. Good fidelity with the OpenSim model.

The glTF file (together with a number of buffer files and images, the latter in a sub-folder) that could be previewed in Windows File Explorer and loaded into Windows 3D Builder. However, for some reason I was unable to export from 3D Builder in glTF format (Sketchfab also generated an error from the original Convoar file; however, it may simply be a glitch with this particular scene) so I exported from 3D Builder in the binary GLB format and then uploaded the resulting file to Sketchfab. It is consequently now available for viewing via the web as well as various HMD options, including Cardboard.

rocket et al 3d builder.png
Fig: Convoar model imported to Windows 3D Builder. This seems to be where some of the glitches were introduced (I have negligible knowledge of 3D Builder).

The end-product is not without issues, some of which may be due to my ad hoc style of building. For whatever reason after exporting from 3D Builder some colours appear not to have been applied that were used to tint textures. In the interests of efficiency in loading and rendering Convoar also does some downscaling so Rocket's textures are not as well-defined as the original 1024x1024 used in OpenSim. Bear in mind also that I am very new to this at present.

That said, I am massively impressed with the ease with which content with suitable permissions can now be generated in OpenSim and exported for use on the web. Kudos to Robert who has his own viewer, Basil, together with a range of pre-converted content. However, it should also be possible to use the models in VR/AR development environments such as A-Frame as well as Sketchfab.

rocket et al sketchfab.png
The GLB model imported and annotated in Sketchfab

A visit to Melling

This Spring I made a brief visit to Melling to see the church of St Thomas and the Holy Rood, architect John Whiteside Casson. Sharples credits Casson with Sudley House (its owner, National Galleries & Museums on Merseyside, is not entirely convinced) and, early in his career, Gladstone's house on Rodney Street. I reckon he either designed or inspired Liverpool Crown Street station, the first and, for some, archetypal railway terminus. Quentin Hughes called Sudley "a strange austere classical building" whereas I find it simple, refined and surprisingly modern. So how would I respond to the unequivocally Casson-designed church of St Thomas (and bearing in mind I saw the exterior only)?

Melling church from gate.jpg

Well, my first thoughts were entirely positive and that, if Casson was going to design a church in 1834/5 (sources differ), this is how he would have done it. It is built from local stone probably mined from a quarry called the Delph just across the road. Huge windows, especially on the tower, ensuring the inside is as well illuminated as the prevailing light permits. Not much by way of ornament besides some blind windows, crenellations on the tower and repeated use of bold, almost ironic, drop-ended hood moulds. Everything seems to me beautifully proportioned, perfectly balanced but perhaps a little less reserved than Sudley and Crown Street. It's a pity Hughes never made the comparison. Pevsner merely remarks that it is a Commissioners' style church so basic, designed to a tight budget and, the only additional epithet, "tiny". As a complete idiot in such matters, I shrug and think maybe it benefits from Casson's years of designing subtly distinguished country houses for the gentry.

Melling church from churchyard with sundial.jpg

Side-on we get the full impact of the windows and hood moulds. Hood moulds were a staple of gatehouses on the estates of the landed gentry and by extension railway gatekeepers' cottages and the wayside stations that evolved from them.

Melling church from churchyard closeup.jpg

Completely different window design to Sudley and gently pitched to collect light for as long as possible across the day. Someone else who appears to have liked hood moulds is railway director and banker John Moss; they figure prominently on Otterspool House, his residence on the banks of the River Mersey.

Melling church from churchyard later additions2.jpg

As at Sudley, there are later additions but perhaps they are a little more sympathetic than at Sudley.

Melling church resized door.jpg

And the doorframe shows signs of being adjusted downwards. I suspect Crown Street and Sudley both had immense entrance doors, Sudley's being similarly downsized. Impressive but not very practical.


The church at Melling is Grade II listed and a full description is available if you wish to go beyond my untutored eye. I am obviously an enthusiast for Casson's understated style of architecture so find the church very pleasing and entirely consistent with his efforts at Sudley House.

Casson vs Carson

The idea that the architect for Sudley was John Whiteside Casson derives largely from a family biography of the Robinsons (Nicholas was the first occupant of Sudley c.1824) which says that the architect's name was "Daddy" Carson. No Carson is listed under the heading of Architect in the contemporary directories but there is a Casson. Some people, myself included, think this is near enough.


This came to mind when I found the gravestone of (probably unrelated) Betsey Caſson in St James's cemetery, her name apparently halfway between Casson and Carson. So which is it?

IMG_20180829_115940 (2)_LI.jpg

Well, it turns out that early C19 English (and other languages) were still using something called the long s (highlighted in the closeup) which looked like a stretched r and was generally used as the first character in a double-s (other usage also applied). The practice largely died away by the mid-C19 but it may well be the source of confusion at Sudley over spelling Casson (and, elsewhere, Moss).

The eye at White delf and the Wapping tunnel

When Thomas Talbot Bury visited in Liverpool in 1831, he sketched not only the new railway for his famous Ackermann prints but also St James's cemetery (in the old usage) for ladies journal La Belle Assemblée. The better known of the two cemetery prints shows a man pointing at the tomb of Mr Huskisson, the Liverpool MP who died on the opening day of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in September the previous year. A public subscription was raised to provide a mausoleum and statue but this came into effect only in 1834 for the mausoleum and 1836 for the statue. An additional melancholy feature not mentioned by the journal is that the cemetery, if not the grave, would have been visible to George Stephenson from his house on Upper Parliament Street.

Liverpool St James bury 2.png
Fig: St James's cemetery in 1831 by Thomas Talbot Bury. Hope Street above left with inclined planes and catacombs. Stephenson's house on Upper Parliament Street is third from left in distance. The lodge on far right is part of Foster's design and extant. The man in the centre is pointing at Huskisson's grave.

The cemetery, along with the earlier non-denominational Necropolis, was a significant innovation and mentioned in contemporary guidebooks to the city. Legend has it that Mrs Huskisson visited it prior to the opening of the railway. It would become invaluable with the cholera pandemics that would commence from 1832.

Liverpool St James bury 1r.png
Fig: Same artist, this time looking towards Hope Street with unfinished Gambier Terrace (possibly by Foster) and, beyond, St Bride's (by Rowlands). Part of the Oratory (mortuary chapel) by Foster to right.

The Mount Quarry and gardens

The cemetery was created to a design by Corporation Surveyor John Foster Jnr when the quarry became exhausted of stone in 1825. However, the quarry situated on a roughly north-south ridge above Liverpool had been active since Norman times and is believed to have been the source of stone for Liverpool castle. In Stuart times there were prosecutions for unauthorised removal of stone. In late Georgian times streets to the east would have been laid out but largely unbuilt with the ridge itself flanked by windmills on either side. In 1767 mayor Thomas Johnson established a public garden and walk at the top of what became known as Mount Sion as a means of generating employment during a harsh winter. With wonderful views of Wales and Cheshire, it became a popular spot for recreation and a bowling green and tavern/coffee shop were established nearby.

liverpool st james mount litho.png
Fig: The Mount by Troughton in Corry's The History of Liverpool, 1810. Nightime scene but probably looking north towards Duke Street across the ridge with the original quarry on the right. The gardens were closed on Sundays which suggests that they were fenced as seen here. Maps (see below) suggest the possible presence of a large house, again as seen here to the right.

The site only became known as St James's Quarry when the church of that name opened off Parliament Street in 1775 (the church also had its own graveyard). In 1800 permission was given for the quarry to be connected to the docks by a "railed road" with wagons taking stone down Parliament Street for use or onward distribution. Unfortunately little is known of its operation and much stone destined for the city was also carted down Duke Street on the opposite side of the ridge.

The British Geological Survey has published a useful analysis of building stone in Liverpool. The stone from the quarry is known as Toxteth Park sandstone. While yellow and soft when first cut, it hardens subsequently and the strong yellow colour diminishes on working. It was used for construction of many of Liverpool's docks, churches and other prominent public buildings such as the Exchange. Curiously it was not used for buildings now on the site such as the Oratory, the mortuary chapel. This as well as the nearby Custom House were made of Storeton stone from the Wirral. Movement of stone from the quarries there took as long as three weeks just to reach the coastal jetty with significant cost in terms of damage to roads. Eventually, as at Liverpool and Helsby, a tramway was established, now long gone.

The small quarries

When the quarry east of the mount was about to run out of stone, two smaller quarries were established to the west off Rathbone Street. Two letters in proceedings of the Liverpool Geological Society provide some useful context. The quarries were operated from Rathbone Street by John Tomkinson Snr and a Mr L(e)atham. Excavation took place from Rathbone Street and reached a maximum depth of 50 feet under the Mount. Notable product included stone for Great George Street Congregational Chapel (the Blackie). The pillars at the front of the church were placed on trolleys in the quarry and lowered by rope down the street under gravity.

liverpool st james cemetery map with 2nd quarry.png
Fig: Undated map, probably c1825, showing the small stone quarry now on opposite side of mount (the adjacent parcel on Washington Street may have been the site of the second quarry). The original quarry was in the blank area below the ropery on Hope Street. The windmills originally on either side of the ridge are no longer evident. Duke Street is just off the map on the left.

It is conceivable that Crown Street station (probably built 1828-9) also used stone from this quarry. The Moorish Arch looks a similar colour in Bury's print but was actually brick and stucco, stone being in short supply when construction commenced in 1829 (it was still unfinished at the opening).

The White Delf eye

Update 24/04/19: Paul from the L&MR Trust has digitised Telford's section which includes details of the Wapping tunnel. It supports the view that the eye and an accompanying air shaft were in the base of the quarry and not at the level of Duke Street.

The 1826 tender document for the Wapping tunnel (which carried freight down to the docks) mentions the White Delf and I suspect this is the northernmost of the two small quarries. It seems unlikely that the old and new quarries were connected as the letters make it clear that the new quarries were served by Rathbone Street and worked progressively from there. However, the old quarry has three tunnels and my guess is that one may have played a subsidiary role in excavation of the Wapping tunnel. Tunnel numbering is consistent with that used on the St James's Cemetery website.

liverpool st james opensim 1.jpg
Fig: Rough OpenSim model of small quarry with eye in quarry and horse gin on land parcel on Duke Street. Grey track leads to tunnel 3 (red) under St James's Row and perhaps then into tunnel 3 under the mount. The position of the Oratory is marked by the windmill although this would likely have been demolished by this stage. Although the quarry is shown fully excavated, it continued to operate for some years subsequently (it is absent from Gage's 1836 map) so this is unlikely. The present-day cathedral is off to the right.

liverpool st james cemetery tunnel herdman.png.jpg
Fig: Herdman sketch looking from tunnel 3 into the original quarry. Looking up, Hope Street would be above the rock face in the distance, a windmill to the left (site now occupied by the Oratory) and to the right pleasure gardens (site now largely occupied by the cathedral).

Tunnel 3: The exit to Duke Street

This may be the oldest tunnel and is the setting for the Herdman sketch above. The present site of the Oratory on the left above the quarry was occupied by a windmill as shown in a lithograph from 1821 by S & G Nicholson. Tunnel 3 ran throught to Duke Street and provided reasonably level access to the quarry for carts and workers and also separated quarry traffic from those coming to enjoy the view and gardens on the Mount. Later, as the website suggests, the tunnel may have been used for funeral processions, perhaps where a horse-drawn hearse would be unable to negotiate the narrower tunnel 1 that visitors continue to use to the present day.

Liverpool St James tunnel 3.jpg
Fig: Tunnel 2 (left) heading on the skew under the mount and tunnel 3 (right, behind tree) heading to Duke Street. Note that the ground level now is much higher than in 1830.

However, the tunnel may have had another use in the meantime, namely to remove spoil from the eye at White Delf. The land parcels on Duke Street appear to have been preserved on the edge of the new quarry and the vacant central parcel may have been the exit point for tunnel 3 from the original quarry.

The eye was in the quarry and 30 feet above the intended tunnel roof. However, one possibility is that some of the material excavated from the tunnel was removed from the site on a light railway that ran through tunnel 3 and into the large quarry where it was used for construction of the catacombs or landscaping of the new cemetery. Accordingly, the lifting machinery (probably a horse gin) may also have been located on the Duke Street parcel.

Under the conditions of the tender the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) company was required to provide both the lifting machinery and railed access for the removal of stone and spoil. We know that stone from the tunnel was of inferior quality as contracts had to be renegotiated on the basis of diminished value (tunnel contractors had the rights to the stone). Of course, for other uses the stone and spoil could simply have been carted via Rathbone Street or, if the parcel was used, Duke Street. Use of the parcel may also have reduced interference with normal operation of the remainder of the quarry.

Liverpool St James litho oratory duke st detail.jpg
Fig: The Oratory by John Foster Jnr. To the right could these be the two buildings at the top of Duke Street between which Tunnel 3 may have emerged?.

Tunnel 2: Under the mount

Liverpool St James tunnels 1 and 2.jpg
Fig: Tunnel 1 (above) for access on foot to the gardens/former cemetery and tunnel 2 (below), skewed and leading under the mount.

According to the cemetery website (citing the book "The Building of Liverpool Cathedral"), Tunnel 2 was built in the C18 to provide access to the quarry. It is not visible in the Nicholson lithograph although it may be obscured by an outcrop of rock. Its exit point is, however, unknown although it appears to have an upward slope and may have emerged onto a terrace, now landscaped, partway up the mount and facing the Huskisson mausoleum. This seems not especially useful unless perhaps there was a site office or residence there. The precarious walkway in the Herdman sketch may have had a similar destination and, as maps and Troughton's sketch show, there was at least one building on the Mount and later a terrace called Mount View with subsidiary burial plots beyond.

Plans on the cemetery website seem to suggest that the tunnel originally followed a channel in the rock, the later brick-built tunnel being subsequently covered with spoil. During construction of the cemetery and Wapping tunnel it may have provided access to a useful tipping point for spoil brought through Tunnel 2. The possibility of a continuous tramway up to the terrace would explain the pronounced skew towards the exit from Tunnel 2.

The Wapping tunnel was completed in 1828 and the cemetery opened in early 1830 (Huskisson was not the first burial).

The role of John Foster Jnr

Corporation surveyor Foster was the lynchpin of Liverpool's development during this period. He was architect both of the cemetery and the nearby Custom House. Although best known for classical designs such as the Oratory, he was also appointed by the L&MR as engineer with immediate responsibility for the entire Wapping tunnel (the actual work was done by contractors). This was, however, a post he held for only a short time, his resignation coinciding with the arrival of the very young Joseph Locke as his immediate superior. While there is some suggestion that he may have seen this as an insult, it is just as likely that he had too many other projects underway to be able to give sufficient attention to issues concerning the Wapping tunnel.

The present day

If the hypothesis above is correct, the exit from Tunnel 2 onto Duke Street would nowadays be under the LIPA primary school and the eye possibly in its courtyard to the rear. Both tunnels supposedly supporting the light railway are now bricked up.

Aerial photographs from 1949 show how exploiting the small quarry levelled that part of the hillside; by 1836 it was the site of a cooperage but now it is landscaped and occupied by student accommodation. The eye (and quarry) are on the opposite side of Rathbone Street from the ventilation shaft introduced in the late 1890s to permit working of the Wapping tunnel by locomotives. Rathbone Street, named for the family of philanthropic merchants, has itself disappeared.

Liverpool St James aerial photo 1949.jpg
Fig: The flattened area to the bottom left is presumably the floor of the small quarry. The Anglican cathedral can be seen under construction on the right and the Oratory overlooking the cemetery is top right. Rathbone Street runs diagonally across bottom left, Duke Street is on the far side of the quarry. Thanks to Britain from Above for the 1949 image which has been cropped to highlight the pertinent area. Fun fact: the former quarry features in 1950 film The Magnet as the scene of an informal cricket match.

Plausible exit point for tunnel from St James' cemetery as of 1924 annotated.png
Fig: Arrows show plausible exit point for tunnel 3 and associated gate from St James' cemetery as of 1924. The ornaments atop either side of the gate are likely carved lions. Thanks to Britain from Above for the 1924 image which has been cropped to highlight the pertinent area. (Updated: 20/10/18)

The cemetery finally closed to burials in 1936 by which time almost 58000 burials had taken place. It became a public garden c.1962 and present-day visitors to the Anglican cathedral on the mount above may also follow a path via Tunnel 1 through the rock down to the gardens below.

The archway at Liverpool Crown Street station

liverpool crown street entrance gate 3.jpg
Liverpool Crown Street station, a familiar scene but viewed from beyond its boundary we also see an entrance block and an archway. Much conjecture follows…

The two tunnels from the Cavendish cutting were complete by mid-1829 and their owner, the Liverpool & Manchester Railway Company, decided to open them to public viewing for a small fee. Three sessions were arranged on Fridays in late July/mid-August so it appears that there was significant interest. The tunnels were whitewashed and lit by gas, the number of lights being doubled by the time of the third viewing. According to the advert in the Liverpool Mercury for the third and final "exhibition", visitors were charged a shilling (accompanied children free) and could access the tunnels either via the company premises at Wapping (the goods station) or at Crown Street where access was via the archway.

What little we know of the appearance of the Liverpool Crown Street station comes from early railway artists Thomas Talbot Bury and Isaac Shaw who both present roughly the same view of the station building and train shed looking east towards the little tunnel. On opening there was no train shed, confirming that both pictures date to 1831 (the shed is unfinished in the earliest variant of Bury's print). Other published images are from the same perspective. We know from maps, however, that there was an entrance building as well other structures behind the station. We now know there was also an archway.

crown street by shaw and bury.png
Fig: Liverpool Crown Street station by Thomas Talbot Bury (left; Wikipedia) and Isaac Shaw (right; Yale/Public Domain)

The rationale for the archway

In 1829 there were few, if any, buildings on Crown Street apart from the station. There were, however, two entrances to the yards south of the station. The yards were largely hidden from passenger view by the screen wall supporting the train shed (there may also have been iron pillars beyond the wall). An arch may therefore have been used to draw attention uniquely to the passenger entrance. Entrance arches would subsequently become iconic railway structures for large stations and especially termini. Though not strictly an arch, Hardwick's Euston Arch for the L&BR is the archetype but in Liverpool the gates to the 1836 Lime Street station were positioned in the roman arches of Foster's facade a year before Euston opened.

Another possibility, of course, is that the arch referred to in the advert was the tunnel portal where the underground visit would necessarily commence. This, however, was offset some distance from Crown Street and probably not visible from the street given the high walls likely surrounding the station yard. A final possibility is that the arch refers to the so-called Moorish Arch that Foster designed to act as a gateway as well as hiding the engine houses either side of the Cavendish cutting. However, this was even less accessible than the tunnel portal and permission was only given for construction to start on 28th June 1830. As Isaac Shaw's famous print shows, the arch was still incomplete when the railway opened on 15th September 1830.

It is possible that the entrance arch was a temporary wooden structure for the viewings but the need to distinguish the passenger entrance would be enduring so I think this is unlikely. An arch at the Crown Street entrance would also have given the station a little extra refinement and it is tempting to suppose that it resembled similar structures at nearby country estates. Its height and width would allow safe passage of a horse-drawn omnibus from the coaching office in Dale Street.

The conjectural OpenSim build

The actual form and composition of the archway is unknown so the present structure in OpenSim is simply a placeholder as is the adjacent entrance block. Was the archway made of stone or brick or perhaps a combination with a metal or wood arch on stone pillars? Pillars without arches are seen at later entrances to two yards north of the passenger station which survive to the present day.

Fig: The old pillars at entrances to two of the northern coalyards, now student accommodation

In the absence of more detailed plans or images, we can only guess how the archway might have appeared. It seems unlikely that it was architecturally remarkable as it was sited in a cramped space. Among contemporary work by architects associated with the station, Foster's south entrance to St James's cemetery (opened 1829) is distinctive but surely something like that, or indeed something moorish, would have been noted by the press and travellers. It would also be at odds stylistically with the station building beyond.

IMG_20160831_135833 (2).jpg
Fig: Foster's gate to St James's Cemetery, Liverpool. In the OpenSim build it is used as a surrogate for the portal of the little (Stephenson) tunnel.

The OpenSim build envisages a simple arch with supporting stone pillars. As with the later Lime Street facade, the company crest is on the top and the word RAILWAY is engraved on the stone. Of course, it may have been RAILWAY STATION or LIVERPOOL CROWN STREET or some combination thereof (or none at all) but a simpler term may have sufficed under the peculiar pioneering circumstances.

The nature of the gates under the arch, if any, is necessarily uncertain. As at Lime Street, wooden hinged gates are perhaps a more natural complement to an arch but would occlude part of the entrance block when open. Ironwork (as at the cemetery) would be an alternative. Hulton's coalyard on Crown Street had a sliding gate with embedded pedestrian entrance. The gate was actually external to the yard which would spoil the appearance of the station entrance.

What became of the archway?

It appears that passengers to the first proper railway station entered via an archway opening into a yard. The purpose of the archway may have been both aesthetic and navigational. Judged by my amateur efforts with OpenSim, the arch would have given the entrance a degree of gravitas appropriate to the country-house ambience of the station building itself. Its absence from artwork of the period may reflect a degree of artistic control exercised by the railway company but plausibly also constraints on perspective if the station is viewed through the arch.

Once Lime Street station opened the station building at Crown Street appears to have been largely demolished with remnants reused for loading pigs and cattle into wagons for shipment to Manchester. How long the arch survived is unclear. With the advent of the 1846 tunnel to the Cavendish cutting, coal wagons could go directly into the northern coalyards without the use of turnplates. Ultimately track also crossed the street immediately adjacent to the archway which may have been demolished at that stage if not earlier. There is no sign of it in the panoramic view of Liverpool published by Ackerman in 1847. However, I suspect the view is necessarily somewhat simplified when it comes to the station area. The only relic of the original yard that L&NWR Northern Goods Manager Braithwaite Poole considers retaining in the 1849 "push for coal" report is the "obelisk", presumably the tall, exotically shaped chimney towards the south of the station seen in the panoramic view and Herdman's painting of Smithdown Lane.

Crown St map.png
Fig: The evolution of the central area of Liverpool Crown Street station

There was no archway at Manchester but the situation there was very different, the under-stated two-storey departure station being an answer to the elevated track crossing the Irwell and entering the station on a (largely hidden) viaduct in close proximity to the street.

Of course, for travellers there was nothing new in accessing transport via an archway. Inns had long served as stations for stagecoach travel and the coach frequently started from a courtyard accessed from the street via an arch of sorts, generally integrated into the building. Inns also served as coaching offices on the Stockton & Darlington Railway.

Arches were a prominent feature of the facade of the original Lime Street station, both for decoration and for entry to the station beyond. The grandeur of the early mainline termini may owe much to the collective aspirations of directors and corporations but, as pointed out by Meeks, the important components were already present at Crown Street, including, most likely, a subdued but decorative archway entrance.

liverpool crown street entrance arch closeup.png
Fig: Was the archway omitted from pictures because it limited the view of the trainshed?

Early railway architect Joseph Franklin

Liverpool Crown Street station, western terminus of the 1830 Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR), is arguably the first modern railway station but its architect remains unknown. Many opinions have been voiced with candidates proposed including George Stephenson, John Foster Jnr, John Whiteside Casson (previously in this blog) and Joseph Franklin, the subject of this post. As ever, much conjecture…

Colvin, the standard reference work on British architects, has little to say about Franklin in terms of biography. He was born c. 1785 in Stroud, Gloucestershire, possibly the son of a monumental mason of that town. He retired in 1848 and died in 1855. There is a commemorative tablet in a chapel in Stroud.

Much of his work was done in conjunction with Thomas Haigh, architect son of contractor Bartin Haigh who also did work for the L&MR, for example variously repairing and demolishing houses on Crosbie Street by Wapping goods station. Franklin acted as witness at Thomas Haigh's wedding.

Franklin's architecture

manchester mosi 1830 warehouse.jpg
Fig: 1830 warehouse at Manchester Liverpool Road

Franklin and Haigh were responsible for the 1830 warehouse at Manchester Liverpool Road although it was built to tender by David Bellhouse Jnr rather than the Haigh family company (Bellhouse was also responsible for building the Manchester station, architect unknown). The requirement for a warehouse at Manchester was only determined in early 1830 and the building erected in just 4 months. This was only possible because a timber frame was used despite being non-fireproof.

Manchester 1830 warehouse interior.jpg
Fig: The interior of the 1830 warehouse at Manchester

Franklin & Haigh were also architects for the 1836 Edge Hill station, arguably the oldest station in continuous use.

Liverpool Edge Hill from carriage ramp.jpg
Fig: Edge Hill station from the carriage ramp

However, the formal partnership with Haigh had been dissolved in 1835 when Franklin became Corporation Surveyor in succession to John Foster Jnr, an event marking an end to the Fosters' influence with a dramatic change from a Tory to a Whig administration in Liverpool. Hollinghurst's account of the Foster dynasty fails to name Franklin but records that he received half the salary of his predecessor.

Franklin subsequently contributed designs for the arrival station at Manchester and the offices of the Grand Junction Railway Company (GJR) at Lime Street. He also designed the screen-wall for GJR's Birmingham Station adjacent to the more famous Curzon Street building Hardwick designed for the London & Birmingham.

Fig: Screen-wall at Birmingham terminus of GJR (ex Wikipedia)

Inevitably much of Franklin's Liverpool work away from the railway has faded into obscurity or been demolished. The latter category includes Pembroke Baptist Chapel, Pembroke Place, Crescent Congregational Chapel, Everton Brow, and the Paul Street public washhouse. However, there are two significant buildings that may be familiar, firstly the "Blackie" or Great George Street Congregational Church as it was in 1840-41 when it was built. Sharples (2008) describes it as "outstandingly good" and, according to Quentin Hughes (1999), Reilly considered it one of the best classical buildings in the city. The adjacent minister's house is more of a scale with Crown Street but is obviously intended to blend with the church. Colvin also draws attention to Franklin's accessory role in the design of St George's Hall.

IMG_20180822_110150 (2).jpg
Fig: "The Blackie" with the minister's house to the left.

Sharples attributes 75-79 Bold Street to Franklin (c.1833), an elegant building encompassing a row of shops whose upper floors are easily missed. One signal feature is the presence of paired pilasters. Present in somewhat different forms at both Crown Street and Liverpool Road stations, this was the feature identified at Sudley House as a possible signature used by Casson. However, we now see that Franklin, a contemporary of Casson, also used it both in Bold Street and at Birmingham. The screen-wall at Birmingham is curiously reminiscent of the subsidiary L&MR offices on Smithdown Lane so Franklin is a candidate there as well as for Windsor Terrace (close to Crown Street) and Eastwood's Royal Hotel, the location of the Dale Street booking office of the L&MR.

IMG_20180822_105452 (2).jpg
Fig: 75-79 Bold Street.

Others have championed Franklin's claim to be architect of Crown Street and he merits serious consideration. Clearly when the opportunity arose he was given to greater decoration than Casson but in the absence of design briefs this argument is necessarily of dubious merit. None of Franklin's work resembles Crown Street to the same degree as Casson's Sudley House, albeit that Crown Street does indeed have marginally greater elaboration, e.g. architraves around the windows as at Bold Street.

While no evidence exists, it is intriguing to suppose that the similarity between Sudley and Crown Street may have led Sudley's owner, Nicholas Robinson, to modify Sudley's main entrance by the addition of a rather ungainly portico (possibly by Thomas Harrison) about which Hughes is somewhat scathing. Later owners, the Holts, subsequently abandoned this door for one with better access to the driveway, adapting the rather splendid staircase accordingly.

sudley door size for blog.png
Fig: Paired pilasters around the door at Crown Street (left) and Sudley (right) where they are obscured by a later portico with Doric columns.

Evidence from the L&MR minutes

A cursory inspection of the minute books of the L&MR in the National Archives did not shed any further light on Casson's claim beyond payment of two invoices for iron bookshelves to "Casson Company", almost certainly a different entity. There are payments to the practice of Foster & Stewart, and particularly to John Stewart for surveying, but John Foster Jnr appears to have been tardy in submitting claims to the extent that he seems to have been arbitrarily awarded a sum of £200 by the Finance Committee for his contribution to Lime Street. Franklin by contrast appears to submit claims punctually, suggesting that if he was the architect for Crown Street then his name would appear in the minutes. These were, however, Foster's wilderness years and during the design phase for Lime Street Foster does appear before the Board of Directors, presenting plans for the facade and seeking feedback.

The minutes do show, however, that Nicholas Robinson, owner of Sudley, was promoting railways in 1830 (he tried unsuccessfully to solicit Stephenson's assistance for a side project). He was not only Liverpool mayor in 1828 but in attendance at the Rainhill Trials in 1829 and later a director of the L&MR. Some interaction with Stephenson or other board members leading to adoption of Sudley as a template for Crown Street remains a possibility even if Casson was not involved directly and more interested in designing somewhat austere country houses. The same logic cannot necessarily be applied to the station at Manchester and Franklin also seems a more likely candidate in Liverpool for the Royal Hotel on Dale Street and possibly Windsor Terrace.

That said, investigation of the minutes has not been comprehensive and focused in particular on the 1826-7 period on the assumption that Crown Street was built early (Liverpool Road is known to have been built late). A recent investigation of a candidate for the shaft (eye) used in construction of the Wapping tunnel suggests on the basis of its proximity to the station building that construction of the station may not have started until the tunnel was completed in mid-1828. Nevertheless, a clear, unequivocal answer seems unlikely or it would have been found already. Thomas (1980) in particular has used the minute books extensively as a primary source material.

The ongoing debate continues

My preference for the architect of Crown Street remains Casson or possibly Stephenson with a design "after" Casson. The situation with the other buildings is less clear cut, not least because there are so few authenticated Casson designs. The probable attribution for the Manchester station I would put at 50:50 Casson:Franklin (with or without Haigh). On limited evidence I would be biased towards Franklin (with or without Haigh) for the other railway buildings mentioned were it not for the lack of the anticipated positive evidence from the Finance Committee. Research is, however, necessarily incomplete and ongoing.

Colvin's biography fails to mention any of Franklin's seminal railway work and Thomas (1980) only references him in the context of Haig & Franklin, a misspelling that presumably explains the error on the plaque at Edge Hill. Nevertheless he is acknowledged with both a Grade II building (the Blackie) and a Grade II* (Edge Hill). His role in post-Foster Liverpool also merits further consideration.

Edge Hill station plaque.jpg
Fig: Plaque at Edge Hill station referring to architects Franklin & Haig (sic)

The Eye at Millers Close

Liverpool Crown Street station was the western terminus of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) which opened in 1830, arguably the first modern railway. While looking for parch marks at Crown Street recently, an intriguing depression was noted that raised the possibility that this was the site of the shaft or eye used to construct this section of the Wapping Tunnel. This famous tunnel took wagons down to the Park Lane goods station close to the Mersey docks. The start of the tunnel was in the Cavendish cutting east of Crown Street where the stationary engine in the Moorish Arch was used to pull the wagons back up.

Liverpool Crown St depression (3).jpg
Fig: Crown Street park looking towards the entrance on Crown Street and the adjacent ventilation tower which stands above a shaft down to the Wapping tunnel. The depression is highlighted and a curved parch mark can be seen between the depression and the tower.

The tunnel

There were some eight shafts (or eyes) used to construct the Wapping tunnel and conventional wisdom suggests that the LNWR reused five of these when they built the ventilation towers in the late 1890s so that locomotives could work the tunnel. The ventilation tower at Crown Street was built in 1899 and is one of the few visible reminders of Crown Street's connection with the early railway. On the opening day on 15th September 1830, the trains started at Crown Street but on their return went down the Wapping tunnel.

The tunnel was built by contractors working in either direction from each eye, normally some 200-300 m distant. The call for tenders went out on 23 August 1826 and closed just over a week later on 2nd September. However, purchase of the field at Crown Street was not agreed by the Board until 15 Jan 1827 so there may have been some delay in starting there unless special arrangements were made with the owner of the field and nearby mill, Stephen White. .

Work had, however, started some time before 19th Feb 1827 as at the Board meeting that day the Principal Engineer George Stephenson recommended that the price of most contracts be increased due to the poor quality of the stone extracted (contractors were allowed to sell the stone they quarried and the return was presumably lower than anticipated). Stephenson listed six shafts particularly affected rather than the eight in the tender document:

White Street
White Delf
Yellow Delf
Mosslake Fields (Copelands [the contractor])
Millers Close
Penitentiary Drift

They appear, however, to be in the same numerical order with the former White Street shaft being closest to Park Lane/Wapping. Millers Close presumably refers to the parcel purchased from White.

Penitentiary Drift may refer to an additional shaft required to correct for an error of 13 feet made in surveying by Vignoles or, more specifically, to the person he delegated to do the poling while busy elsewhere. In 1824 the Liverpool Female Penitentiary was located at the corner of Mulberry Street (which extended much further than now) and Crabtree Lane/Falkner Street (27 on map) which is on the general line of the tunnel and presumably close to the site of the supplementary shaft. The source of the error was discussed at some length in a letter from Vignoles to his sponsor Riddle. Stephenson made a considerable fuss and, disregarded, Vignoles reluctantly resigned on 2nd February 1827 although he subsequently went on to a distinguished career in civil engineering.

The eye at Crown Street

The tender document specifies that the shaft should be "at the centre of the lot they contract for" and, although unstated, close to the line of the tunnel. Even allowing for a less well defined boundary, the Crown Street ventilation tower is decidedly off-centre while the candidate eye is in the expected location. Of course, the definition of a specific "lot" might have a bearing, in this case it simply being "field E(ast) of Crown Street".

If Gage's 1836 map is accurate, then the Wapping tunnel runs roughly parallel to the station with its western edge coinciding with the wall dividing the passenger station from the adjacent Millfield station as seen in Bury's print. If we assume that the northern face of the eye was 30 feet from this dividing wall and the tunnel below, it would place the eye close to the station platform/verandah.

Two consequences arise. Firstly, the eye may have been contiguous with a basement level in the station building. Perhaps more significantly, it makes it less likely that the station was built at the same time as the tunnel excavation was taking place or, indeed, at the same time as the workshops, stores and stables. The latter were completed by July 1827 when payment of the roofer was agreed by the Finance Committee. This may in turn make it less likely that Stephenson and Gooch designed the station as part of the first tranche of buildings (there is no specific mention of it) although the general position of the station was necessarily determined at an early stage.

The LNWR plans for the Crown Street ventilation shaft and tower make no obvious mention of a preexisting shaft but do provide interesting data. The depth of the shaft above the tunnel is of the order of 18 feet which, when added to the height of the tunnel (16 feet), gives a total of 34 feet compared to the 30 feet mentioned in the tender document. This difference may be accounted for in part by the distance between the two and the gradient of the tunnel (1 in 48); there may also have been some exploratory work in advance of the tender. In any event it does suggest that the ground had been levelled by this stage instead of sloping up to Smithdown Lane and adding to the depth of shaft required. The tender document refers to the use of wagons and rails to move the stone, clay and spoil away from the eye which also suggests that the ground would need to be reasonably level.

The eye itself was only 6 feet x 10 feet in cross-section. The depression in the ground at Crown Street has an oval shape elongated towards the tunnel suggesting that the passage to the tunnel, some 20 feet away, was only 6 feet wide although Engineering Timelines suggests a passage nearer 8 feet square. Even so, it is possible that there might have been "rooms" off this passage way, most notably stables for the ponies responsible for hauling wagons on the temporary narrow gauge railroad extending into the tunnel. According to Thomas (1980), these animals only emerged into daylight once passage to the surface via the tunnel was possible. Proximity to the air intake might have made their situation marginally easier to bear.

Although stone and clay had some value, general spoil was carted either for immediate use to fill holes or make embankments or for temporary storage prior to such use. R Gladstone in the Board minutes of 8 Oct 1827 suggested that stone etc from the Millfield shaft be transported by a temporary railroad in front of the Botanic Garden to the low ground between the front of the Botanic Garden and Abercromby Square.

Telford's cross-section (Update 23/04/2019)

Paul from the L&MR Trust recently posted a cross-section from Telford's survey of the tunnel as it passed under Liverpool. Although subject to interpretation, it appears to suggest that there were TWO shafts at Crown Street, an air shaft roughly in the position of the existing vent and which may have been reused in its construction and a shaft termed "boring #17" which presumably represents the location of the eye. The latter appears to be roughly 48 m east of the then Liverpool boundary which is roughly the position of the depression/candidate eye discussed above. The section suggests that the top of the tunnel was 27.5 ft below the surface although it erroneously states the tunnel was 15 ft high (16 ft is more commonly accepted).

liverpool manchester section telford crown st
Fig: The relevant part of Telford's section courtesy of ICE and Liverpool & Manchester Railway Trust.

The Close

liverpool crown street eye with vent2.png
Fig: Schematic model built in OpenSim looking through the Crown Street gates towards Smithdown Lane at the top of the escarpment. Part of the surface has been made semi-transparent so that the eye and connecting passage can be seen. The tunnel can be seen at the bottom right. The tower is shown in grey and would not have been present at this time.

In the schematic I have interpreted the Close as being a cul-de-sac. Although the majority of notable parch marks oriented with known sidings, there was one curved mark that is not readily explained from known configurations of track and paths. While there may have been additional unknown features, it is also possible that it marks the location of the pathway into the close or alternatively was used during construction of the nearby tower.

Liverpool Crown St station opensim model with eye highlighted.png

Fig: The approximate position of the shaft highlighted on the OpenSim model


The tunnels from the Millers Close/Millfield and Mosslake Fields eyes met on 26 November 1827 and completion of the tunnel as a whole was reported to the board on 9 June 1828. At that stage the eye would have been superfluous and presumably backfilled and bricked up. It would be interesting to know whether there is any trace in the tunnel itself.

A case can be made for the depression seen in today's Crown Street park being the site of the original eye, albeit with its connection to the tunnel bricked up once it was no longer needed. Engineering Timelines suggests that the eyes were positioned south of the tunnel rather than north as here. However, a northerly location at Crown Street would afford a slightly shorter distance to the gates for removal of spoil.

The question then arises as to why the LNWR chose to ignore the eye rather than having it form the basis of the shaft for the ventilation tower. The answer here may be unique to Crown Street which by the end of the century had become a busy depot for coal and agricultural goods. Putting a tower in the centre of the plot would simply be too disruptive in terms of blocking track from the tunnels going to more distant parts of the site. The situation would be different at the other sites.

An alternative possibility alluded to by Thomas (1980) is that the depression was the result of a widely reported collpase of the tunnel due to use of too few props. However, it seems odd that it should have survived landscaping of the station and subsequently the park as well as being some distance from the tunnel itself.

If the depression could be proven to be the eye, it would form the sole surface feature presently visible in Crown Street that derives from the 1830 railway, albeit only from its construction phase. Even so it would be a testament to the courage of the men who built the first railway tunnel to pass under a major town and which played a significant role in the industrial revolution in the north-west of England. It also forms a valuable marker for the station itself.

Thanks to the Liverpool & Manchester Railway Trust for making available the tunnel tender document and tower plans

Last updated 23/04/19

A tour of Lime Street and its first railway station

Lime Street station before the first upgrade

The iconic Lime Street railway station underwent a major upgrade in 2018 and was closed for long periods as a result. Looking back, however, the station itself first opened on August 15th 1836 as the city centre terminus of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR). This had started services almost six years previously as arguably the first modern railway. The Victorian era was still one year in the future but railway development was so successful that the station was subject to its first upgrade just 10 years later in 1846. This took some five years to complete by which time the L&MR had merged into the London & North Western Railway Company (LNWR). The upgrade is famed for its innovative iron roof, the first of its kind, but I thought it would be interesting to look back at the original 1836 station and to do an OpenSim build both of the station and the surrounding streets with a view to better understanding its context. As ever, much conjecture ensues.

The original station was built on the site of a cattle market bounded by Great (now Lord) Nelson Street, Duncan (now Hotham) Street, Gloucester Street (the present main entrance) as well as Lime Street itself. The 2.2 acre area was actually smaller than the core of the Crown Street site (2.9 acre) which was, however, an inconvenient (and, for the company, costly) 20 minute carriage ride away. Other changes included relocation of the L&MR carriageworks from Crown Street and subsequently closure of the nearby Dale Street booking office.

Lime street opensim v1.jpg
Fig: Foster's facade seen from the New Haymarket. Lord Nelson Street would be to the left and Gloucester Street to the right of this view. Only two of the four large gates were actually used in 1836; the road coach entrance is on the far left and the exit on the right where the avatar is standing. The gates are shown with fanlights as in Herdman's later painting but in the build are presently too low relative to the height of the facade.

Getting trains to the centre of the burgeoning town without disrupting street traffic was problematic and the answer, as at Crown Street, was to tunnel from Edge Hill where the present-day station was now established (architects: Haigh & Franklin). It was the completion of the new tunnel and necessary machinery to haul trains up the gradient to Edge Hill that determined the opening date in 1836. At this time carriages minus locomotive ran under gravity into Lime Street. The station was not finished when it opened, some buildings being extended subsequently, not least to accommodate the Grand Junction Railway (GJR) which commenced operations from Lime Street to Birmingham the following year.

Planning and construction

(Expanded 15/8/18 after reference to the minutes of the Board of Directors)

The Lime Street site was originally a cattle market owned by the Corporation and negotiations for its acquisition were somewhat protracted, the Corporation ultimately agreeing that work could commence subject to a 4% interest charge (minutes of the Board of Directors [BoD], 6th May 1833). On 4th March 1833 chairman Charles Lawrence was directed by the Board to offer £8500 for the site, the value determined by surveyor John Stewart, partner in architect John Foster Jnr's practice. The Corporation returned with an offer of £3 per sq yd plus buildings (BoD, 18 Mar 1833) and the sale was finally agreed at £9000 for the site and buildings but excluding the weighing machine (BoD, 14 Oct 1833).

Attempts by the company to sell off the old cattle market buildings for recycling of materials generated little interest in terms of revenue and so the company itself demolished the buildings. Contractors for the "coachmakers' workshops" were provided with recycled bricks and slates for construction purposes, all other materials to be new (BoD, 24 Aug 1835).

Although the Land Committee had been asked to commence planning the station on 2 Dec 1833, It was not until 20 April 1835 that Foster presented multiple plans for the facade to the Board, their choice being Elevation No. 2. This was made of Welsh limestone backed with brick. Grey marble was considered as an alternative but was ruled out as it would have doubled the cost (BoD, 24 Aug 1835). Foster presented final plans for the facade and general offices to the Board for approval on 13 Jul 1835. Contracts for building the facade and entrance were awarded to George Robinson of Toxteth Park (£4500; BoD, 17 Aug 1835) although Robinson later appealed for losses of £500 accrued during construction (BoD, 5 June 1837. The contract for company offices "immediately behind" the facade was awarded at the same meeting to John Kilshaw for £1795 (architect not specified).

The decision to open Lime Street station was taken by the Board on 25 July 1836. There was remarkably little fanfare, the minute simply reading: "ORDERED that the new station in Lime Street be opened for general business on Monday the 15th August". The new station at the other end of the tunnel opened on the same day, of course, but nearby Wavertree Lane, now redundant, lingered on for a further week before it closed.

In fact, the Lime Street facade was only finished by May the following year (BoD, 8 May 1837). Even then a contract was agreed with James Munro of New Scotland Road for the final external touches, iron palisades and gates for a total of £148. Developments inside the station continued with plans submitted for further offices at the corner of Lime Street and Gloucester Street.

Instructions to collect the £2000 contribution promised by the Corporation toward building costs were made at this meeting but somewhat surprisingly had to be repeated a year later (BoD, 19 July 1838). At the same meeting Joseph Franklin submitted his claim for £191 to cover the new arrival station at Manchester and the Lime Street coach house and general offices of the Grand Junction Railway Company. Almost as if Franklin's claim had jogged their collective memory, the Board determined to pay Foster a somewhat arbitrary £200 fee for his contribution to Lime Street, Foster apparently having submitted no claim. He was similarly offhand after the opening with regard to the Moorish Arch and was ultimately given silver plate which he preferred to money.

Lime Street and the new station

Readily available information on the first Lime Street station is in surprisingly short supply. The visual record is dominated by John Foster Jnr's imposing facade, neoclassical as ever but with its arches more Roman than Greek. The company had managed to persuade the council to make a contribution towards what was probably the first example of monumental station architecture, one year ahead of Birmingham Curzon Street and two of the Euston Arch in London. Through depictions of Foster's arches we get a limited glimpse of the station beyond that is complemented by the textual outline in Whishaw's guide of 1840 and the detail of the Town Plan of 1850.

The station environs

Foster's facade on Lime Street ran between Lord Nelson Street and Gloucester Street. At the time it looked onto a fairly mundane scene rather than the magnificent St George's Hall shown in Herdman's 1857 painting (much of Herdman's work in the area derives from this decade). Aquatints by Kelper and lithographs by Lizary and Barrow are more contemporaneous.

lime st view of asylum through gate.jpg
Fig: The view from the station exit gate. The barracks (former asylum) and St John's Church can be seen in the distance. The former infirmary garden is behind the wall or fence. The station Goods Office is on the left.

The area had formerly been the location of the first infirmary but this had since moved to Brownlow Street and only vestiges remained. Still standing, however, was the former lunatic asylum, now converted to barracks for the use of troops in transit to and from Ireland. The asylum aligned roughly with the rear of present-day St George's Hall and behind it in turn was St John's Church. The area between the asylum and station was formerly landscaped gardens for the infirmary but was probably now somewhat unkempt if Eglington's view of 1818 (but painted later) is anything to go by. The painting also shows the New Haymarket at the top of St John's Lane although there is a right-angle corner to the asylum wall rather than the sweeping curve of Gage's map of 1835. This was on an L&MR omnibus route from Dale Street headed for the London Road and then Crown Street. It is possible that the longer but more gradual route was chosen to avoid the steep incline of Shaw's Brow (now William Brown Street). The haymarket was relocated in 1841, in part to the former Botanic Gardens site near Crown Street which in turn had relocated to Edge Lane.

The project that led to the construction of St George's Hall (with the twin functions of concert room and assize court) only started in 1836 with the design competiton opening in 1839. The building itself was completed in 1854, its architect, Elmes, having died tragically young in 1847. As with the adjacent station, much of the construction was carried out by the Liverpool firm run by Samuel Holmes although Holmes complained in his memoir that he never cleared a profit on St. George's and could not therefore look on it with any pleasure.

Lime St station Gloucester Street entrance.jpg
Fig: In 2018 Gloucester Street has long been subsumed into the main station entrance following the later addition of a second train shed extending the station to Skelhorne Street. The buildings on the Lime Street frontage beyond Gloucester Street were retained for some time and formed an interesting contrast to Alfred Waterhouse's North Western Hotel (seen on the left) which replaced Foster's facade in 1871.

At the time the station opened, what is now William Brown Street with its museum, library and art gallery was, at least on the north side, a continuous row of houses and commercial concerns running up to Islington Market. The area had been notable in the 18th century for its potteries but these were likely derelict by 1836.

Lime St Shaws Brow from St Johns gardens v4.png
Fig: Shaw's Brow (north side). The windmills were somewhat less bulky than those shown and there were houses and businesses behind the street frontage.

Likewise Islington Market failed to thrive once St John's Market opened nearby and it subsequently moved to Gill Street; the Wellington monument and Steble fountain stand on its former site.

As we curve round back to the station in 1836 we pass the Legs of Man public house, Garner's livery stable and the carriageworks of Newby & Varty before returning to the station facade.

lime st from legs of man.jpg
Fig: View from London Road. The public house, livery stable and carriageworks to the left of the station are now the site of the Liverpool Empire Theatre.

The station

Here we move deeper into the realms of conjecture. The station facade is both a puzzle and possibly the key to its solution. Cunningham & Holme are normally credited with the train shed and Foster with both the facade and overall project management. It is likely, however, that the station encompassed many other unattributed buildings, perhaps most notably the Treasurer's Office (presumably variously the company or general offices in the BoD minutes), the Goods (or Parcels) Office and the Booking Office. Given Foster's significant commitments elsewhere (e.g. the new Customs House/Post Office), it seems not unlikely that some of these were designed by Cunningham & Holme as well as Haigh & Franklin. However, if, as proposed, they used Foster's facade as their western wall (although the Treasurer's Office did not initially extend that far), there would clearly need to be some collaboration with Foster.

The satirical magazine The Porcupine (part 3) on the other hand refers in 1865 to the original facade as being a "sham" simply hiding a number of low station-buildings (as revealed by the fenestrations, i.e. windows). Clearly this would in part be true even if the offices extended to or were immediately adjacent to the facade as they extended across only part of it.

lime street layout in tiddlywiki  (2).png
Fig: A highly conjectural view of the station seen from the rear from above Hotham Street. Buildings (or parts thereof) highlighted in red were completed subsequent to the opening and appear in the 1850 Town Plan. Conversely, the carriageworks may have been largely demolished by this time.

Of the four arched gates, only two were functional, the road carriage entrance being on the left according to Whishaw who states that the corresponding exit is on the right, implying a connecting roadway between the two. As a road carriage enters therefore there is a choice, either drive straight on or turn sharp right.

Turning right led to the standard drop-off route for cabmen and perhaps this route went "through" the Booking Office where travellers could dismount and enter under cover, effectively a porte cochere. The vehicle would then proceed past the tracks on the left towards the third building, the Goods Office, turning hard right again just before reaching it and exiting the station.

Lime street opensim v2.jpg
Fig: Behind the facade (largely conjectural). There are transverse routes for cabs and pedestrians running adjacent to the platforms with the Booking Office in the background and the Treasurer's Office visible through the arch. These routes had likely disappeared by 1850 with the need to accommodate longer trains.

Carrying straight on between the Treasurer's Office and Booking Office leads to what appears to be a turning circle and ramp onto the platform. I suspect this was the way first class passengers with their own carriage would arrive whether taking the carriage with them or not. Horses accompanying carriages could also be loaded at Lime Street though horses without carriages had to go to Edge Hill. The higher status of passengers using this route is notionally reflected in an additional, more ornate door into the Booking Office.

Whishaw also specifies a route for passengers on foot via a passageway from a door onto the Haymarket (logically there would also be one at the other end). This would presumably take you alongside the connecting roadway and, after crossing it, into the Booking Office.

The Booking Office

The Booking Office had a floor area of about 300 m^2, probably similar to the main passenger building at Crown Street but shorter and wider. As Whishaw points out, however, the facility was shared with the Grand Junction Railway and would have included separate ladies waiting rooms, possibly individual ones for the two classes. Of course, there are now two floors available with the Treasurer's department under Henry Booth housed separately. Even so, I would suggest that the building extended at first floor level to the adjacent glazed area of the facade to form the porte cochere.

The platforms

According to Thomas (1980), the two (very low) platforms were originally intended to separate the classes so it is possible that Kelper's 1836 print shows a first class train on the lefthand platform, its passengers presently in the waiting-rooms, and second-class passengers awaiting their train on the right, possibly with limited access to waiting-rooms. It is also possible that the people shown are waiting to greet the train due on that platform. This was common practice although, as an angry letter to the Mercury newspaper makes plain, it was not a right accorded to those awaiting arrival of third class passengers on GJR services so there was likely some access control by policemen.

lime street train shed.jpg
Fig: View of the (simplified) train shed looking towards the tunnel under Hotham Street. The Booking Office is on the left, the ramp and putative carriageworks beyond. The station is lit by gas.

Accidents at early Lime Street and what they tell us

In 1850 an excursion train from the North Staffordshire Railway comprising 22 carriages and three brake units failed to stop on the descent into Lime Street (braking may have been insufficient as the carriages were much heavier than the LNWR equivalent). Accordingly the carriages collided with the station "end wall", presumably the internal surface of the facade, damaging the stone and carving up the flagging and paving on recoil. The buffers had recently been removed. Some 50 passengers were injured though, fortunately, none seriously.

If one assumes that the carriages were of the order of 20 feet in length, the train would have extended well beyond the early platform and into what had previously been the tunnel but was probably now cut back as part of the 1846-1851 upgrade, Hotham Street being carried over the yard on a viaduct. The reasons for removal of the buffers are not discussed in the official report but clearly the pressure to accommodate longer trains may have been an issue. Accidents caused by failure to brake adequately occurred periodically at the early Lime Street station, the first such incident being reported in 1838.

As already mentioned, by 1851 cabs dropping-off passengers probably exited via the previously unused gate second from the left, again presumably to free up space for longer trains.

The carriageworks

There is one significant difference between the map and Kelper's print, namely the buildings on the left, one group aligned with Hotham Street (which passes in the distance from left to right) and the other with Lord Nelson Street. My guess would be that the former were either part of the cattle market or the nucleus of the carriage works managed by the Worsdells which relocated from Crown Street. Carriage repair and manufacture moved to Crewe in 1843 so the land was available for redevelopment before 1850.

Whishaw asserts in 1840 that "the carriage-wharf is conveniently placed opposite the arrival-gate in the Haymarket, and near to the entrance to the carriage-department." The Haymarket "arrival-gate" in this context presumably refers to the entrance for road carriages on Lime Street arguably some distance from the New Haymarket itself. The map shows a large bay here beyond the Booking Office (and presumably before the carriageworks) with what might be part of a loading ramp. There is also a siding with four turnplates that runs alongside Hotham Street that might have served the buildings in Kelper's print and subsequently the four carriage-ways that ran through the carriageworks missing from both print (unbuilt) and map (demolished). Whishaw mentions that the buildings of the carriageworks were two storeys in height with trapdoors communicating between levels.

The building on Lord Nelson Street may have been for the station superintendent or similar.

Goods Office

According to Thomas, goods traffic into Lime Street was initially not permitted but presumably a small-scale service was subsequently authorised for the benefit of local businesses. The role of the Goods Office at Lime Street may have been related to this activity or it may have served to coordinate goods-related activities at Park Lane and Crown Street in addition to Lime Street itself. Lizary's lithograph shows a substantial warehouse on Gloucester Street which was presumably related to the station. The 1850 map also shows a large building connected by a siding and termed the Commercial Hall. This appears in a Herdman sketch of Gloucester Street alongside the iron train shed of the first upgrade and is similarly barrel-shaped.

Further buildings adjacent to Hotham Street may have been for the use of railway workers, including train crew staying overnight.

Further research required

The build is in a very early stage and is based on a very small number of sources. While Herdman's sketches are an invaluable part of Liverpool's visual record, they often date to two decades after the station's opening and have to be interpreted with due care. Pigot's Directory for 1837 suggests, for example, that there were no inns or hotels on Shaw's Brow at that time although they are much in evidence in later artwork..

As ever, it is hard to gauge the scale on some of the pictures of the station and it seems odd that Kelper, an unknown artist, should produce the commercial aquatints when more practised hands were available by this time. Perhaps the most significant outcome is a reminder that this area of Liverpool was already developed by this time but that its appearance would change radically as the station became a major gateway to the city.