What we know of pioneer station architect John Whiteside Casson and why we know so little

As usual, much conjecture…

John Whiteside Casson was one of 21 persons listed as architects and surveyors in Gore's 1827 Liverpool Directory. Of these just a few are remembered today, most notably John Foster Jnr. While the Fosters, as borough surveyors, were in a unique position to influence major projects in Liverpool, they could not manage every development in a fast-growing port, let alone the hinterland of country houses and estates.

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Figure: Sudley House from the west. The station-like block is on the far right with a more recent verandah.

Others such as Casson were indeed active and his work at Sudley House for future mayor Nicholas Robinson bears a marked resemblance to the 1830 railway station at Crown Street. This in turn shares certain motifs with the Manchester terminus at Liverpool Road. Casson may therefore have a unique claim to fame as the architect of the first two purpose-designed railway stations.

And yet, we know almost nothing of him. The authority on such matters, Colvin, has just two sentences on Casson, saying he was active around Liverpool in the 1820s and '30s and crediting him with the 1835 Church of St Thomas & the Holy Rood at Melling. Pevsner adds Gladstone's house on Rodney Street as well as Sudley.

Timeline

Even post-Google it is hard to assemble more than the basic facts of Casson's life. The following is a best-guess timeline derived from readily accessible sources.

1767 John Whiteside Casson was born on 11th September and baptised in St Peter's on Church Street nine days later. His father was John Casson, a "joyner", generally a key figure in construction projects.

Preliminary guesswork concerning family background (via freereg.org.uk): Occupation (joiner), church (St Peter's) and domicile (Peter Street) are potential connections but a number of different Cassons appear to have attended St Peter's and further study would be needed to clarify their relationships, if any. Little is known for sure but Casson Snr may have lived on Peter Street (now School Lane). His wife presumably had the family name of Whiteside. He may have had another son, Thomas (b. 6th July 1777), who became a coachbuilder. He probably also had a daughter, Molly, born in 1769. A James Casson, also a joiner of Peter Street and possibly another brother or uncle, had a son John on 5th January 1807.

1790 A John Casson marries Ann Roberts, a widow, on 20th November 1790. It is unclear whether this is father, i.e. a second marriage, or son (or, indeed, unrelated). The groom is, however, listed as "Joiner". It seems not unreasonable that an architect should start out as a builder following his father's trade. After all, John Foster Snr became highly successful despite lacking formal qualifications in either architecture or engineering.

1793 A John White Casson is a witness to another wedding, this time of Robert Bradley, bookkeeper, and Hellen Woodward, spinster.

1796 JW Casson is tentatively credited by Pevsner with Gladstone's house on Rodney Street, a prestigious commission and a building that still stands. The basis for the attribution is not mentioned. He also surfaces as a witness to the marriage of another joiner, William Sharrock, and Mary Dutton.

1805 Baptism in St Peter's of a John Casson, son of John and Ann Casson (formerly Stevenson) of Peter Street. Father's occupation: Excise Officer! We have a confusing surfeit of not only Johns but now also Anns. On balance this is probably not the John and Ann in question.

1807 A John Casson of Liverpool is listed as having a recurring subscription to the African Institution, an organisation that attempted to establish a refuge for freed slaves in Sierra Leone. Other Liverpool members included William Roscoe, William Huskisson MP, Bartin Haigh (builder), and David Hodgson and James Cropper, both subsequently directors of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. Note, however, that there was a contemporaneous John Casson (1743-1814) in Liverpool who was a notable blind organist, composer and educator.

1824/5 A memoir of Nicholas Robinson, the first owner of Sudley, recounts that the architect was "Daddy" Carson, almost certainly Casson whom Pevsner tentatively credits. Gore lists Casson as resident in Great Newton Street (the house number varies) from 1825 to at least 1829.

~1827/8 Building of Liverpool Crown Street station. The precise date is uncertain. The Millfield shaft for the Wapping tunnel dates to Summer 1827 and Locke was using Crown Street as an address as early as March 1827 though whether he was located in the Railway Office, i.e. station, is unclear.

1829 The tunnel to the Chatsworth cutting is finished and Crown Street is no longer isolated though the line is unfinished elsewhere.

1830 Building of Manchester Liverpool Road station, June-August. The necessary legislation to cross the Irwell only came into effect on 14th May. The railway opened in September.

1833 Name on electoral roll. Now living in nearby Gill Street.

1835 Credited with the church of St Thomas at Melling.

1837 Casson's name is on Liverpool's electoral roll (similarly 1840).

1842 John Whiteside Casson dies on 19th April.

1842 Ann Casson dies on 9th May. There is a probate record for Ann Casson of Gill Street (discussed below).

The probate record

This is Ann's will in which she divides her estate between Frances Ann(e) Keating (wife of broker John Francis Keating) and Ellen Casson, presumably her two daughters who are also to act as Executrices. The will is made on 25th April 1842, just after the death of her husband (who is not mentioned). She herself dies on 9th May 1842, less than one month after her husband. An addendum dated 11th January 1843 asserts that the estate was worth lesss than £100 (£150 was regarded as a decent annual wage around this time). By this time Frances was a widow and had remarried in the name of Owen. Ellen had become Ellen Rankin, wife of upholsterer Richard Rankin and still resident in Gill Street. She had a baby, John Casson Rankin, on 1st September 1843. Clearly the memory of her father was still dear to her.

The estate of John W Casson remains a mystery. Had he made separate provision for his daughters and sons (if any)? Had the family fallen on hard times and been forced to downsize by moving to Gill Street? That might explain his continuing to practice well into his late sixties (the church at Melling was finished when he was ~67). Was it a response to infirmity (moving in with family or to a more suitable house)? In 1843 a new market would open at Dancie Street, taking up the space between Great Newton and Gill Street; might the move have been a response to this development?

There is no record of where either John or Ann might be buried. St Peter's Church closed in 1868 and burials were transferred to Anfield Cemetery.

Other mentions

According to a third-party newspaper advertisement, he was also responsible for rebuilding Higher Hall at Westleigh for John Hodson Kearsley MP.

Casson is mentioned after his death in a legal document, apparently an update on a will, concerning the estate of William Molyneux, sailmaker of St Ann Street who died in 1817, and for whom Casson acted as surveyor.

Conclusions

The rather hazy genealogy above sheds little light on Casson's practice. The notion that he started out as a joiner is not incompatible with becoming an architect and it would be interesting to track back in Gore to see when he is first listed as an architect (presumably sometime before his involvement with Sudley c.1824). Comparing his neighbours in Gill Street and Great Newton Street may give some clue as to whether the family ended in reduced circumstances. For the moment, however, none of the research confirms or denies his supposed role as pioneer railway architect.

Anonymity

The inability to put a name to the architect of the first railway stations has puzzled and irritated a number of authors. By contrast, we know that Jesse Hartley, for example, made significant contributions at Manchester and elsewhere as well as being consulting engineer. Possible explanations include:

  1. Documents mentioning Casson have been lost.
  2. Casson was air-brushed out for reasons unknown. Unlikely for a project attracting so much attention.
  3. He worked for free (as Foster did) but on condition of anonymity.
  4. He worked as a company employee rather than as a contractor or consultant.
  5. With the focus on innovative engineering, i.e. locomotives, and the Northumbrian contribution, all else faded into obscurity unless the persons concerned, such as Hartley and Foster, already had a significant reputation or went on to create one, such as Vignoles.
  6. The railway office building lacked attention-seeking features compared to Foster's Moorish Arch and likely most coaching inns as well.

My preference is for 5, possibly combined with 4.

Casson's understated contribution in retrospect was to normalise the railway experience, to make it mundane and acceptable to the well-to-do who were its initial target audience. The station was on the periphery of Liverpool and at first sight it didn't need to promote the company any more than its low-key booking office on Dale Street. The company had already opened its doors at Crown Street by allowing paid visits to the tunnels and the Rainhill Trials in 1829 also received a good press. That said, there may have been some second thoughts among the directors and hence Foster's exotic Moorish Arch which presaged a near future when companies would be building "statement" termini in city centres on a cathedral-like scale.

Why might Casson have abandoned his usual customers, the likes of Gladstone, Robinson and Kearsley? One possibility is that the arrival of the railway project made it difficult to conduct business-as-usual given the company's urgent requirement for bricklayers and joiners to develop the estate. Moreover, the services of an experienced architect and surveyor on the company books would be valued at a premium. When the railway was complete Casson may have resumed his previous practice, too advanced in years to consider a long-term career or location change.

As far as recognition is concerned, many others fell by the wayside. Thomas Longridge Gooch, for example, acted as Stephenson's principal draughtsman and amanuensis, converting the great man's ideas into working documents, all for scant recognition by posterity.

Doubtless much high-profile work was put out to tender, as with the Manchester warehouse, but probably not all. Much of the fine detail would fall to Gooch and It seems not unlikely that there were others working with him in the large office at Clayton Square. Casson in Great Newton Street was, like Sandars in nearby Pembroke Place, handily located for both Clayton Square and Crown Street. He may have opted out of his normal practice for short-term financial stability rather than recognition and career advancement.

Was JW Casson the architect of Manchester Liverpool Road station as well?

Over the past week I've been trying to convince myself that little-known architect John Whiteside Casson designed both Sudley House around 1823/4 and Liverpool Crown Street station around 1828 for opening in 1830. One of the motifs connecting the two is the presence of a doorway surrounded on both sides by twin pilasters enclosing sidelights.

The architect of the terminus at the other end of the line, Manchester Liverpool Road station, is likewise unknown but has been suggested to be either John Foster Jnr who is credited with the Moorish Arch and train shed at Liverpool or Joseph Franklin who is credited with the 1830 warehouse at the Manchester station and the 1836 Edge Hill station, both with builder Thomas Haigh. All that is known with any certainty is that the station building was built at very short notice by David Bellhouse Jnr who also built Franklin's warehouse.

Without any documentary evidence, I would suggest that Casson may also have designed the passenger station at Manchester Liverpool Road. The challenge here is quite different as the track crosses the River Irwell and Water Street on a viaduct and is hence at first floor level at the station. Moreover, we now have twin booking halls and waiting rooms, one for first class and the other for second class, the waiting rooms being at first floor level with a staircase beside the service desk.

However, if we go outside the building we see that the first class entrance is similar to Sudley and Crown Street with four pilasters albeit without sidelights. Perhaps they were removed or deemed superfluous. Again, no portico, the suggestion being at the other venues that these were later additions by other hands.

At first floor level the pilasters are mirrored in the design of the windows and this time glazed.

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One possibility is that by the time the Manchester terminus was built, the decision had been taken to run two classes of train and this encouraged greater elaboration for the first class booking hall which is scaled back for the second class in the interests of harmony and economy. It also raises the issue as to what stone was used at Crown Street.

While others have suggested that the Liverpool and Manchester termini were indeed designed by the same person, extending the comparison to Sudley House suggests that the name of John Whiteside Casson merits consideration.

The door at Crown Street station

I have been arguing that Sudley House in Mossley Hill was the architectural inspiration for Liverpool Crown Street, the first purpose-designed railway station which opened for business in 1830.

One obvious difference, however, is the door behind the portico in Bury's print. The south wing at Sudley doesn't have an external door in the comparable position as rooms were accessed via the former main hall, now the Garden Hall after the Holts added a new main entrance. However, if you look at Sudley's main door in the former hallway, you may be surprised.

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Figure: Door at Crown Street from Bury print (left, Wikipedia) and door to Garden Hall at Sudley (right). Orange arrows show pilasters, some of which are partially hidden by columns in front of them as are large sidelights at Sudley.

Pilasters and sidelights

To start with I saw the door at Sudley had small adjacent sidelights and thought that was vaguely familiar. However, when I had a chance to look at Bury's print, I noticed that the sidelights are much larger and bordered by four pilasters. They are coloured dark grey in the print which made me think they were part of the portico (which I suspect was added later by John Foster Jnr).

However, if you look more closely at Sudley, there are also large sidelights and these are bordered by sandstone pilasters! So maybe the pilasters were painted grey, in shadow or simply miscoloured? There is incidentally an earlier variant of Bury's print in which one pilaster is the same colour as the door. I have always assumed that this was an error but there is an outside possibility that it reflects an intermediate stage in the Foster works. Anyway, if Sudley is anything to go by, the pilasters would significantly change the internal appearance of the doorway and the OpenSim model needs to be modified accordingly.

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Figure: Interior view at Sudley showing large sidelights and transom light above door

The portico at Sudley

The door at Sudley also has a portico supported by four chunky Tuscan columns that look nothing like the slender (iron?) columns at Crown Street. There have been suggestions that architect Thomas Harrison of Chester had a hand in Sudley and I wonder whether these are the features being referenced. One possibility is that the Sudley portico was also added later — perhaps Casson, the principal architect, had a profound dislike of them. However, as he got older Harrison increasingly focused his work on Chester so it depends somewhat on when Sudley was built and this, unfortunately, is another contentious question. I favour 1823/24 but opinions differ. Apparently the land was acquired by Robinson from the Tarletons as early as 1811.

The door at Sudley also has a transom light above it and this might also be the case at Crown Street where daylight would be at a premium, not least once the train shed and verandah were in place. Shaw's picture of the train shed shows that this had skylights but whether that was the case with the verandah canopy is less clear. The small tunnel, however was gas-lit and presumably this was an option for the station although there were certainly concerns about the cost of lighting the tunnel on a continuous basis.

The smaller sidelights and glazed door at Sudley may have been a later addition or simply discarded from the Crown Street design.

Conclusion

The reuse of a prominent Sudley feature drawn from outside the south wing seems to reduce the chance that the house and station are unconnected unless, of course, both are based on a common patternbook or prevailing style. To my mind, however, a common architect, namely Casson, is the simplest and most likely explanation.

What did Liverpool Crown Street station look like inside?

The short answer is that we don't know but we can hazard some guesses based on a comparison with Sudley House assuming that both were designed by the same architect, John Whiteside Casson (or "Daddy" Carson as he is called in a memoir about the original owner, Nicholas Robinson) with internal features common to both. Note that Sudley presently shows the art collection in the context of its later owner, wealthy Liverpool merchant and philanthropist George Holt, who made significant alterations and extensions to the original building.

What little information we have about the external appearance of Crown Street, arguably the first purpose-designed railway terminus, depends on images by Thomas Talbot Bury and Isaac Shaw. The results are instantiated in an OpenSimulator model which is presented as a work-in-progress.

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Crown Street station c.1831 by Bury (left; Wikipedia) and Shaw (right; Yale Center for British Art)

The Dining Room at Sudley corresponds to the booking (or coaching) office at Crown Street

Interestingly, the relevant parts of both buildings are oriented east-west and we start in the west. For Crown Street this would have been the entrance courtyard looking into what I assume is the booking office.

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Top: the model of the booking office; below: similar views of the Dining Room (NB position of fireplace obscured by door to left in image at top left)

The original part of the south wing at Sudley comprises two rooms currently called the Dining Room and the Drawing Room. Each has its own chimneystack shared, I would guess, with the room above on the first floor. The portico entrance to the station booking office would go through the middle of the wall dividing the Morning Room, a later addition at Sudley, from the Dining Room/booking office. The door at Sudley is currently towards the south side of the dividing wall but apparently both this door and the equivalent one on the far side of the Dining Room (leading to the Drawing Room/waiting rooms) are late additions. Normally people at Sudley would have used the doors to the hallway located to the north on either side of the fireplace. Any equivalent door at Crown Street would take you into a (private?) yard with sheds; there is no hallway. Indeed, the model excludes north-facing, ground-floor windows onto the yard for this largely aesthetic reason.

The staircase

In both buildings the chimneystack and fireplace for this entrance room is located on the north side. To my mind this determines the layout with the desk for the booking clerks directly in front as passengers enter with two doors behind them, much as at Manchester Liverpool Road (which was built after Crown Street).

Sudley has an elegant staircase in the hallway. This isn't an option at Crown Street so my guess would be that there was a door located behind the desk and to the left/north that led upstairs to the offices. The door isn't strictly necessary but would serve as an additional security measure. The staircase at Manchester differs in being passenger-facing and is more elegant as a consequence. As an aside, the model originally had a Manchester-style staircase in the central room but this has now been removed.

The passenger experience

The door to the right/south of the desk leads to two waiting rooms, one beyond the other. The first corresponds to the Drawing Room at Sudley and the fireplace is on the far side of the dividing wall with the Dining Room, behind the desk area.

Initially railway travel was similar to present-day aviation; you booked in advance and checked-in before departure on the day of travel. On first class trains each passenger was booked to a numbered seat either at the Dale Street office or at the less central Crown Street. First class passengers had the option of taking a horse bus from Dale Street to the station. As these would arrive close to the time of departure it would likely have been a busy and confused scene with porters stowing luggage on the roofs of the carriages and passengers going straight to the train after check-in. Those who arrived by their own carriage, by cab or on foot could miss some of this bustle by checking-in early and sitting in the waiting room while the train was marshalled.

The first/westernmost window at Sudley is a door at the station and, once checked-in, passengers could go through that door to the platform if they so chose. A series of warning bells was used to signal departure and the passengers in the waiting rooms probably had the option of using an alternative door at the opposite (eastern) end to get to the platform. This end of the building does not exist at Sudley which has five window bays, three for the Dining Room, two for the Drawing Room. Images of the station by Bury and Shaw give no information on the number of bays or the presence of this second door to the platform although others, possibly with a degree of artistic licence, show a door and varying numbers of windows.

Given subsequent practice at Lime Street, it seems likely that passengers could purchase a newspaper or an orange from sellers permitted onto the station.

The platform

One interesting question is whether the terrace at Sudley inspired the platform at Crown Street. The latter probably looked not unlike the verandah at Sudley whose canopy, however, dates to much later. The early stations typically had low or non-existent platforms; the one at Manchester was not more than a few inches high. Shaw's picture of Crown Street, however, shows an elevation of the order of two feet (compared to the standard three feet nowadays) and explains the presence of a step from the yard to the platform as well as the steps up to the main door.

Whether Sudley originally had a terrace before it acquired the canopy is unknown. It is in any case a rather strange feature given that there is no door onto it from the house.

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Top: Proposed model of Crown Street in 1830 (left) and 1831 (right)
Bottom: External view of south wing at Sudley, including non-original verandah.

Foster's contribution

As with his father before him, John Foster Jnr was a well-known Liverpool architect and contractor as well as being corporation surveyor. Several people have credited him with the station building and he is known to have designed the famous Moorish Arch in the nearby Chatsworth cutting. He was also responsible for the train shed at Crown Street. Plans for this were approved two months after the railway opened to passengers. Its dependence on the verandah canopy suggests that this might also be an addition by the same architect and, in the same vein, quite possibly the portico as well. By this time the directors would have appreciated the significant revenue being generated by passenger traffic on a line whose primary purpose was freight. The pillars supporting the canopy may, however, have made access to the carriages awkward and necessitated passenger use of the trackside doors.

Unanswered questions

There are significant imponderables such as the number of rooms on the ground floor. The model proposes three equally sized rooms on the basis of the number of chimneystacks and window bays but, of course, there is no bar to having a booking office and then a single large waiting room with multiple fireplaces.

One possibility is that the third room might have been for the use of second class passengers. At Manchester Liverpool Road the facilities for first and second class passengers were entirely separate. Crown Street, however, had less space available and passengers of the two classes may have been required to share waiting rooms. In practice they used different trains running at significant intervals so this could be managed. One interesting possibility that this raises, however, is that Crown Street was designed before the decision to operate two classes of train had been taken.

A fruitful proxy?

Whether one accepts that Casson's wing at Sudley was the prototype for Crown Street is perhaps secondary to the issues raised and the ways in which their resolution assists in refining the model. The model in turn informs our understanding of the way the station may have operated.

Railways were initially the province of the well-to-do. Adaptation of a merchant's "palace" into the first station may have been subconsciously reassuring to early passengers even if the experience was pared down and an ulterior motivation on the part of developers was convenient access to a proven design.

Demonstrating an unequivocal rather than circumstantial connection between Sudley and Crown Street will likely prove difficult. Nevertheless, there is now a new avenue to explore a question that has vexed many authors in the past. With the bicentenary of the railway in 2030 and the bicentenary of Crown Street likely some time before that (2028?), there may be an opportunity to develop an additional theme at Sudley to run in parallel with the Holt bequest.

JW Casson: architect of Liverpool's first railway station?

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T.T. Bury's print of Liverpool Crown Street station (Wikipedia)

The story so far

Liverpool Crown Street station was the Liverpool terminus of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway which opened in 1830. Its linear design differed significantly from its counterpart at Liverpool Road in Manchester where access to the trains was at first floor level. Carroll Meeks credited Crown Street with embodying "the basic features of the modern station in embryo" and described it as the first British station (useful summary of the Stockton & Darlington's rudimentary early provision).

Little is known, however, of its origins and, in particular, of its architect. Several authors (Meeks, Hollinghurst) have suggested that it might be John Foster Jnr. Foster was certainly contracted to design the roof of the train shed (an afterthought added in 1831) as well as the nearby Moorish Arch. There is no direct evidence, however, for his involvement in the actual station building though it would not be a surprise if he added the portico. Indeed, given his prominence locally it is hard to understand why he should receive recognition for the Moorish Arch and not the station.

Other architects participated in company work, most notably Thomas Haigh who, with Franklin, designed the 1836 Edge Hill station, a replacement for Wavertree Lane. Fitzgerald believes Haigh also designed the other terminus, Manchester Liverpool Road, which was started as late as June 1830 for the opening in mid-September. He was certainly involved in the adjacent 1830 warehouse. While there are similarities between Liverpool Road and Edge Hill, they extend less convincingly to Crown Street.

Crown Street likely preceded all these developments as it provided office space during the early phases of construction of the railway. Henry Booth appears to have been located at Crown Street and progress meetings were held there on a fortnightly basis. It is possible that Joseph Locke was also based there during construction of the Wapping tunnel, a contract from which Foster withdrew.

The case for John Whiteside Casson (1767-1842)

Other local architects carried out work for the company (Cunningham and Holme, for example, at Lime Street) but here a new possibility is introduced, John Whiteside Casson. The only work definitively attributed to him appears to be the church of St Thomas Melling dating to 1835 but Pevsner tentatively credits him with Gladstone's house in Rodney Street around 1792-3 and with Sudley House built in 1824 for Nicholas Robinson, Mayor in 1828-9.

Both Hughes and Pevsner refer to Sudley as austere and, as suggested by Sharples, this may have appealed to Unitarians and Whigs such as the Holts who purchased and modified it in 1884 after Robinson's demise in 1854 (it is now a public art gallery and museum).

The same adjective might also apply to the station. From a modern (non-architect's!) perspective, however, this translates into a reasonably elegant building constructed to a budget to serve business as well as customer needs. In similar vein St Thomas Melling also has a surprising look of modernity while being designed as a low-cost Commissioners' church.

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South facade of Sudley House (Wikipedia)

Elements of the south facade of Sudley House appear remarkably similar to the station in Bury's print. The Holts commissioned James Rhind to make significant changes after their purchase and the verandah apparently was not in the original design but, of course, there was one running the length of the Crown Street building as well. Crown Street may well have been two-storey ashlar like Sudley and possibly more reddish than Bury's print suggests. The lack of architectural detail in the window design is unusual in high status buildings but again common to both. Sudley has a string course at first-storey floor level as did Crown Street. The roofs and chimneys are also similar.

The company likely looked elsewhere for the design of its Manchester terminus, possibly Haigh, so presumably felt the need to make a bolder aesthetic statement both there and at its second Liverpool terminus at Lime Street where Foster did the entrance facade. However, the Edge Hill "look" did not translate to smaller stations either though many of these were built somewhat later. The same might be said, of course, for the nearby Moorish Arch whose exotic appearance may have compensated for the simplicity of Casson's station at Crown Street.

Quite how Casson might have been chosen for the project is, of course, completely obscure. As we have seen, he had some connection with the Gladstones who were represented on the board of directors. Gore gives his Liverpool address as Great Newton Street which is close to the company's leading light Joseph Sandars in Pembroke Place. While the owner of Sudley, Robinson, was not associated with the railway project, his campaign for Lord Mayor was supported by director William Rathbone and, like Sandars and Booth, he was a corn merchant.

Evaluating the claim

All that can be said at present is that Casson was active in Liverpool at the right time for the station contract, he moved in the right circles and in Sudley may have built something very similar to the station. The Sudley attribution, however, is tentative and the similarity between the two buildings may simply be a coincidence. A distant possibility, for example, is that Haigh did Sudley as well as the three stations.

The fact that Casson's work for the company achieved negligible recognition could be due to his failure either to pursue or to secure further contracts. Possibly his austere style was out of keeping with the prestige Lime Street location that replaced Crown Street in 1836 and a more illustrious hand was desired, at least in Liverpool terms, namely that of Foster. However, it is also plausible that Casson sought less pressured work environments as he approached the end of his career (he was 63 in 1830 and died in 1842).

The modern world started here: Rainhill, Part 1

What, when…

I write, of course, of the Rainhill Trials that took place in October 1829, an amazing eight years before Victoria came to the throne. This was a contest (or ordeal as the organisers called it) to find the best performing locomotive and, hopefully, to demonstrate unequivocally the superiority of such engines over horses and stationary engines, a conclusion by no means obvious at the time.

If you know anything about this, you will know that the winner was Stephenson's Rocket. The prize was a £500 premium (now worth somewhere between £40K and £2.2M) on top of the purchase price of the engine assuming it passed muster. Not to mention great publicity and future sales, a place in the Science Museum and a kind of immortality tainted only by the death of Huskisson.

…and where?

Well, I knew it was in Rainhill so I went there (by train from Liverpool, of course) and visited the little museum at the back of the Library. It's in a railway carriage (naturally).

And there's a map.

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Which led to a narrow bridge over the Liverpool to Manchester railway, sadly not the original wooden bridge but probably at a fairly similar location.

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And pointing the lens on my phone through the wire grille looking west, I saw this. Humour me and try to imagine Rocket being readied for its ordeal and then pushed by hand to the starting-post.

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Now look east towards Manchester and imagine Rocket accelerating away towards Post 1 where the judge, Mr Rastrick, starts timing the run.

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I guess everyone interested in the Liverpool & Manchester Railway makes this journey knowingly or otherwise in passing on the line beneath. Needless to say, the rest is history or, in this case, the long read that follows in Part 2.

Early stations: Reid's Farm, Chat Moss (Part 2)

The Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) opened in 1830 and Reid's Farm was an early stopping-place, first appearing in fare schedules in 1831. The first part of this post looked at how Reid's Farm got and lost its name, subsequently becoming known as Barton Moss (which I take to be a subset of Chat Moss in the context of this post).

Here I conjecture as to its visual appearance but first address the question of the number of stopping-places on the Moss. As ever, much is drawn from Thomas (1980).

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How many stopping-places on Chat Moss in 1831?

The 1831 fares schedule lists just two, Bury Lane to the west and the subject of this post, Reid's Farm (also known as Barton Moss 1), to the east. Both were close to roads running perpendicular to the railway and also to the extremities of the moss. I have yet to identify a map of the area prior to 1845 by which time the landscape may have changed significantly. However, in the case of Bury Lane it seems the railway was carried over the road by a bridge but at Reid's Farm there is no continuation of the unnamed farm track leading off Fiddlers Lane.

The railway appears to have sliced through the northern tip of the land let to Edward Baines and managed by Reed so access to the residual fields north of the line would have been required. There was a narrow gauge railway running on the approach road to the south. It was used to ferry manure up the track from the River Irwell so some kind of crossing might be expected and hence perhaps the need for staff and the evolution of a stopping-place.

According to Thomas, a contract was signed with the L&MR by "Chat Moss Farm" in April 1832 to supply manure by rail at 1s 6d (7.5p) per ton. However, this presumably did not involve Reed's Barton Moss Farm or he would have mentioned it to the parliamentary committee in 1833.

Thomas also states that the L&MR had six buildings of wood or stone (not brick?) on the Moss as early as 1830, plus a smithy. Some of these were presumably for gatekeepers who likely fulfilled some of the function of the early policemen. On opening there were approximately 60 policemen along the length of the L&MR. This suggests one every half-mile although it is likely that they were more densely clustered in busy areas around junctions. By 1832 there were 52 but that number was cut by 20 in what was a bad year for passenger numbers, probably due to the major outbreak of cholera.

The 1840s map suggests additional crossings at Astley and Lamb's Cottage, both of which subsequently became stations for a time, so that suggests possibly four men on the Moss able to stop trains on request. Another station, Flow Moss, east of Bury Lane, opened sometime between 1832 and 1838 (at the request of farmers so perhaps this was the station also called McGrath's Farm) but was not on a crossing and hence presumably unmanned prior to becoming an official station.

Perhaps specifying just two locations in the 1831 fares schedule was an attempt to limit the number of potential stopping places and hence minimise operating delays. The notion that there were just two stopping-places on Chat Moss in 1831 helps in the interpretation of the visual record from that year.

Early pictures of the railway on Chat Moss

There are two famous pictures of early company buildings on Chat Moss, one by Thomas Talbot Bury, the other by Isaac Shaw.

Bury's view

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Bury's elevated perspective (1833 revision, Wikimedia) shows tracks on the causeway stretching into the distance. The shadows suggest we are looking west towards Liverpool. There is probably a degree of artistic licence as the two trains appear to be on the wrong tracks. Buildings are evident in the distance (perhaps at Newton, Golborne and Leigh) and a man, probably a policeman, is seen walking towards the nearest train.

The carriages suggest this is a first class "glass" train which would not normally stop for passengers other than at Newton. Interestingly, it is pulling a low wagon of some kind, possibly with additional luggage covered by a tarpaulin.

To the right of the track is a small cottage. The company bought a substantial swathe of land beside the track, 50 yards wide in places, to facilitate drainage. Hence, it is probable that it is a company building. Indeed, many early prints show similar box-like structures adjacent to the track.

There was a vogue for such cottages in the 1830s as evidenced by their inclusion in a popular encyclopedia of architecture by Loudon. Although the Barton building looks fairly rudimentary, such buildings were often used as entrance lodges to country estates or toll booths, both appropriate models for the proto-station. As Loudon's book makes clear, they were typically brick-built with two main rooms, both heated, and might be expected to house one member of staff and possibly his wife. This example, however, appears to be smaller than most with no windows next to the door. There is also a small bunker, perhaps for storing coal or tools.

The original gatemen (and in the absence of gates I'm envisaging some overlap with the duties of policemen) were recruited from labourers formerly engaged in building the line so it's likely that low-level track maintenance was also part of their remit. The presence of what appear to be mounds of sand and gravel next to the building are consistent with such a role, possibly also serving as a depot for maintenance teams. Integrity of the track would have been a major concern in the early days, doubly so on the Moss as it drained and settled.

Is this a station/stopping-place? If a location had staff then this is a possibility notwithstanding the apparent absence of formal crossing gates. Indeed, Barton Moss station does not appear to be a conventional crossing according to the 1840s map. More positive evidence, however, comes in the form of the flag post used to signal trains to stop although its location seems a little odd unless the trains are, as suggested previously, on the wrong tracks. As expected for this non-stopping train, no flag is flying.

Is this location near Barton Moss? The fine patchwork of channels is consistent with Reed's drainage method where ditches were at first as little as 6 yards apart.

We also see the railway embankment merging with a possible causeway beyond. This is consistent with Stephenson's initial approach, tipping spoil to create the Barton embankment as the permanent way edged out from the Manchester side of Barton Moss. However, the 1840s Ordnance Survey map suggests that the embankment (if such it is) diminished before Barton Moss station, not after as we see here. This may be a matter of degree or again artistic licence on the part of Bury. The green area seen entering on the right could be Worsley Moss.

By process of elimination (there is no evidence of a bridge as at Bury Lane), it seems likely that this print shows Barton Moss station. The major discrepancy is the absence of Barton Moss Farm to the left/south, possibly for aesthetic reasons, although there are suggestions of a road or track. The building we see here may have been some distance from the farm road itself, of the order of 75 m. There are, indeed, small buildings shown on the 1840s map at this location.

OpenSim build of Bury's view

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The build has a number of limitations. It does not attempt to mimic the drainage pattern seen in Bury's print and rails ran on wooden sleepers here though I suspect these were buried like their stone equivalents. The permanent way is probably also a little narrow.

The build does show, however, that Bury's elevated perspective satisfactorily excludes both the hut which is 150+ m further up and the putative farm buildings (shown in red) that appear in Shaw's sketch.

Shaw's view

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This view is commonly seen in engravings and Thomas locates it as "near Lamb's cottage". This sketch (courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art) gives better contrast,

It is also easier to assign a station as Shaw helpfully includes a milepost signifying 24 miles from Liverpool. The first Barton Moss station was 23.65 miles from Liverpool suggesting that this location is a little east of the recorded location assuming a constant starting-point at Wapping for the measurements. If this is a stopping place then it is almost certainly Barton Moss/Reid's Farm but on the opposite/northern side of the track to the station shown on the map and the cottage on Bury's print.

In this image we are again looking west but this time the trains are on the correct track. While there is no flagpole, we can see someone, perhaps a policeman, signalling the (presumably second class) Manchester-bound train to stop for the two passengers shown chatting.

They are standing next to a very spartan, albeit heated, hut. According to Thomas, one of the directors, James Cropper, was an advocate of wooden structures which were both inexpensive and, as demonstrated subsequently, readily portable. Whether the structure shown here was solely for use as a waiting-room is a moot point. The two visible sides of the hut are notably devoid of windows apart from what may be a small porthole.

The 1840s map shows a larger building at the milestone which seems to have a garden. There is also a larger building at the station now located at the top of the road.

Like Bury, Shaw also highlights the maintenance role with tools and assorted heaps of ballast. Close examination shows a lamp suggesting that the hut was manned after dark.

Behind the hut we see a probable drainage channel and a trace of buildings on the horizon (Leigh?) although they could be trees. The drainage channel, if such it is, poses something of a puzzle in terms of its height relative to the bog on either side.

To the left (south) is Barton Moss but the ground-level perspective makes it harder to see the smaller channels, many of which would be covered anyway. The tall building in the distance might be part of Barton Moss Farm, notably missing from Bury's view. In later years the farm moved south and was then replaced by two others, Manor and Birch Farm, of which only the former continues.

To the left is a group of labourers who seem to be working on the drainage channels. A closeup shows that one seems to have a cylinder of some kind in his hand, possibly a bottomless cask, which may be used in making the drain. Another has a ladder-like structure which might be additional support for the walls or base of the channel. Alternatively it may be an implement involved in cutting the drain.

A more distant possibility is that they are building the railway cottage seen in Bury's view.

OpenSim build of Shaw's view

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The build attempts to reconcile the two views. My first thought was that the cottage (and flagpole) to the south of the tracks might simply be further along and obscured by the Liverpool-bound train on the left. However, while this could be arranged by judicious positioning of the train, the perspective makes this quite difficult to achieve.

Moreover, the 1840s map suggests that the buildings of Barton Moss Farm were some 250+ m from the track (shown here in blue), much farther away than those shown in red in the Shaw sketch. Their outline is also a dubious match for the buildings shown on the map. Various explanations are more or less plausible, e.g. that these are either additional station or farm buildings. Perhaps the farm buildings were removed pre-1840s because of the noise from the nearby railway.

Finally, we have to allow for artistic licence. Perhaps both artists chose to accentuate the famously desolate nature of the scene by showing only a limited number of buildings. The presence of two trains is common to many depictions but was probably an unusual sight except at Newton, midway between Liverpool and Manchester. Their inclusion was perhaps intended to show how train travel could conquer such wastes and, indeed, make them productive. In the present day, however, the pendulum seems to have swung back in favour of conserving what little remains of the original bogs and their associated wildlife.

The evolution of an early station

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If the two pictures do indeed show the same stopping-place, they suggest that Barton Moss "station" started somewhat arbitrarily at the milestone located between two roads leading up to the railway that presumably furnished the majority of its passengers. The hostile nature of the environment required early construction of a cottage which, given its size and location, was probably not used as a waiting room. Instead, a wooden hut was provided for the purpose somewhat akin to the situation at Ordsall Lane. The role of the larger building seen in Shaw's sketch (and in red on the OpenSim view above) is unknown though its distance from the railway suggests a farm building perhaps predating arrival of the permanent way. By 1845 Barton Moss Farm was located some 250 m from the railway (shown in blue). Additional station buildings were present by this time.

The station shifted west to Lamb's Cottage in late 1832. The reason is unclear but there seems to have been a degree of restructuring due to a major cholera outbreak, the first in the UK, and reduced passenger traffic. The 1840s map suggests that the cottage at Lamb's Cottage may have been larger than the one at Barton Moss and perhaps it was cheaper to relocate staff there rather than build something better at the original location.

On the return of the station to Barton Moss in 1839 a larger cottage appears just next to the site of the former hut as well as a sizeable station building close to the top of the road. The old cottage likely remains until the station closes, perhaps for use by platelayers.

The last step in the evolution of the station occurs in 1862 when the it moves to the top of nearby Barton Moss Road (Barton Moss 2). The old station then disappears apart from the new cottage which persists at least until 1949 and presumably continues to house railway employees.

Barton Moss 2 closed in 1929. The Disused Stations website has the details (also for Barton Moss 1) but follow this link for a better picture of Barton Moss 2 on Flickr.

Early stations: Reid's Farm, Chat Moss (Part 1)

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As ever, there is a fair degree of conjecture in what follows. Basic background comes from standard texts by Thomas and Ferneyhough.

The evolution of intermediate stations

When it opened in September 1830, there was no timetable for intermediate stopping places on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR), indeed no list of such stations at all. That's not to say that journeys to and from intermediate stops didn't occur even on suppposedly non-stop first class trains, just that it was a largely informal, smallscale affair with "road money" being collected by the guard. Thomas estimates that there were about 25 potential stopping-places defined largely by the stationing of an L&MR employee at a fixed location and, of course, a passenger.

In 1831 when the first schedule of fares from intermediate stations was published, no times were specified for arrival at these locations. The reason given was that trains stopped only on request at staffed locations and typically at only around six per journey of the seventeen that had actually made their way into the schedule. Factoring in additional unnecessary stops would slow down operation of the railway for both the stopping trains (mostly second class carriages) and the first class trains that stopped for passengers only at Newton.

These intermediate stations were mostly level crossings where the gatekeeper would stop the train when requested by raising a blue flag on a pole (passengers requested a stop via the guard). Although gates were generally present (stations often had the word Gate in their name), in quiet areas these were typically closed against road traffic by default. Gatekeepers were also involved in maintaining the track, the first cohort being recruited from labourers who had built the railway.

Once on board, passengers paid their fare to the guard who apparently made his way between carriages while trains were underway. The guard also checked that passengers did not travel beyond their declared destination although the company did not make a fuss over what they considered a sideline to their main business of moving freight and passengers between the two termini.

The remainder of this post attempts to answer three questions: why was a stopping-place on Chat Moss called Reid's Farm, who was Reid and what impact did the railway have on him?

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Sketch by Francis Elizabeth Wynne (c) Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – The National Library of Wales

Reid's Farm:

Among the early stations Reid's Farm stands out as particularly transient, appearing just once in the fares schedule in 1831, for some reason lumped in terms of fare with Patricroft for Manchester-bound trains and with Bury Lane for trains from Liverpool. By 1832 it had disappeared.

The locations of early stations on Chat Moss changed frequently before ultimately disappearing completely from this thinly populated area. At the time Chat Moss encompassed a number of very boggy areas with the easternmost being Barton Moss. Indeed, it has been suggested that Reid's Farm became Barton Moss station although this itself closed, reopened and shifted location eastwards before finally closing again.

The water-logged mosses made the area desolate and impenetrable to all but the most hardy and determined. Indeed, it was widely believed that it would prove an insuperable barrier to the passage of the railway between the Liverpool and Manchester. Embankments edged out from either extreme of the four and three-quarter mile stretch but spoil tipping was insufficient to bridge the most water-logged areas. Ultimately George Stephenson followed the advice of Robert Stannard and adopted a strategy of draining the relevant area and then floating the railway on a mesh of saplings, dried moss, sand and gravel.

Stannard had been the first to establish a horse-drawn light railway on the Moss as part of an attempt by Liverpool polymath William Roscoe to bring the area under cultivation some 25 years previously. The bankruptcy of the bank Roscoe managed brought an ignominious end to his largely unsuccessful experiment, Roscoe hiding on the Moss from his creditors until his financial affairs were put in order. Others, however, continued the quest, notably Leeds MP Edward Baines who acquired much of the land that Roscoe had started to bring under cultivation.

Who was William Reed?

Baines employed a land agent to manage this enterprise, one William Reed. Reed's strategy for draining and fertilising the area of Barton Moss was notably successful to the extent that he was consulted on similar projects elsewhere and in 1833 had the distinction of being appointed secretary to the Manchester Agricultural Association.

Reed apparently lived on Barton Moss Farm but probably had only a minor share in it. His role was more advisory and managerial and it is likely that whatever farming he did personally ceased around 1832. The farm itself was owned by a consortium of subsidiary investors in the Baines project, many from Liverpool (with possible overlap with railway investors). It was close to the railway and near the end of a lane with its own light railway used to carry first marl and later nightsoil (sewage) to the fields from Manchester whence it came by barge.

As Barton Moss Farm was adjacent to the first Barton Moss station, it seems not unlikely that the latter's original name, Reid's Farm, derives somewhat obliquely from the farm's occupant, William Reed. This appears to have caused Reed some embarrassment as he wrote to the Manchester Guardian newspaper in November 1831 pointing out his very tenuous claim to the farm. This public repudiation might explain the rapid change of station name to Barton Moss.

Barton Moss was abandoned in favour of Lamb's Cottage in 1832 but was back in the timetable by 1839 although it subsequently moved eastwards to its second position in 1862. The L&MR named at least one other station on Chat Moss after a local farmer, in this case McGrath's Farm which replaced Lamb's Cottage according to Thomas but appears otherwise largely forgotten.

Reed, the land agent

What little we know of Reed comes from occasional mentions in the newspaper and testimony he gave to parliamentary select committees, both indicators of esteem. We learn, for example, that Reed had previously worked in Surrey and that initially he was at best lukewarm about trains crossing the Moss. When questioned by a Parliamentary committee in 1833 he said that there was little use of the railway for taking produce to market and that the railway's transporting of Irish agricultural goods to Manchester lowered the profitability of farms on Chat Moss. As these farms had given jobs to poverty-stricken hand-weavers who had already lost one livelihood due to mechanization, this development potentially had severe consequences.

Reed changes track

What subsequently became of Reed is subject to a good deal of supposition, his name being a common one. One possible interpretation, hopefully an interesting one, follows.

A land agent called William Reed then gives evidence on the performance of trains on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1833 in hearings for the Southampton Railway bill. His firsthand expertise is gained in the presence of the resident engineer. It looks like the agriculturalist has changed track.

By 1834 Reed was giving further positive evidence of benefits accruing from the railway to a Parliamentary Committee dealing with the Great Western Railway.

In Manchester his trail then goes cold. Perhaps the work on Chat Moss was now largely done and greater challenges lay elsewhere. Baines pointedly fails to name him in his history of Lancashire and gives credit for Chat Moss to his predecessor instead.

Reed the railway entrepreneur

In 1835 William Reed's name appears on a draft land conveyance on behalf of the Liverpool & Southampton Railway Company (L&SR; later the London & South Western). He is listed on the document as secretary of the company and is living in Vauxhall, Surrey. The company was incorporated in 1834.

A William Reed becomes a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1840.

The William Reed from the L&SR then moves to France to act variously as secretary or director of the largely British-built Paris-Rouen, Rouen-Havre and Paris-Strasbourg Railways in France. During this time he probably lived in Paris in Rue de Berlin. Liverpool financiers such as John Moss and Charles Lawrence figure as directors of some of these enterprises and it is possible that the connection goes back to the Chat Moss days. These and others such as Chaplin, Locke and Brassey also featured in the L&SR.

Reed features prominently in the diaries of railway contractor William Mackenzie between 1841 and 1849 alongside railway luminaries such as Locke and Brassey during construction of the railways in France. Latterly Mackenzie refers to him as "Old Reed", possibly to distinguish him from "Ch Reed" who is also mentioned. MacKenzie died in 1851 at the age of 57 and is buried in the churchyard of St Andrew's Church, Rodney Street, Liverpool.

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Opening of the Rouen-Havre railway in 1844

The year 1845 saw a peak in railway projects and in 1848 a William Reed is listed as being or having recently been a director of the Dutch Rhenish Railway Company and the Royston & Hitchin Railway Company. Bradshaw's Register of 1862 lists him under both the Severn Valley and the Wimbledon & Croydon. However, a street directory of Kensington states that he is employed by the seaman's wages branch of the Admiralty. Perhaps this is a consequence of the railway bubble bursting but it might also mistakenly refer to his son of the same name.

Reed, beyond railways

Apart from his business affairs, little is known of Reed other than his having spent time in Surrey before his move north. The Reeds were a prominent county family but his origins are obscure. During his tenure at the London & South-Western he lived adjacent to the line at Weybridge in what may have been a company-owned mansion called Fir Grove that was subsequently purchased by his chairman John Easthope MP.

He had at least two daughters, Mary (possibly also known as Polly) and Rosa, and four or more sons, including William Thomas Reed (first son) and Charles Edward Reed (fourth son) and it is the latter who appears alongside William on the list of directors and staff of several projected railway companies.

A limited family history search has been carried out using the free census database FreeCEN. This suggests that in 1851 Reed's wife Elizabeth Bishop, aged 59, was living on the south coast at Hove along with her two daughters Mary and Rosa and two of her sons, Charles Edward and Frederick. Of these the eldest was Charles Edward ("occupation: gentleman") who was 25 and had been born in Streatham, Surrey. His sister Mary was 22 and listed as born in London, Middlesex. The two youngest, Rosa (18) and Frederick (16), on the other hand were both born in Salford, Lancashire. This suggests that Elizabeth was resident in Lancashire between 1833-1835 although her husband had started work in the south towards the end of that period.

The house, 39 Lansdowne Place, was part of a well-appointed terrace adjoining the sea front and the family had a butler, cook and housemaid. The location would have been convenient for visits by the children to their father in France. Indeed, William Mackenzie's diary mentions that he dined occasionally with Elizabeth and the two daughters as well as William ("old Reed") and Charles Edward. Reed is also sometimes accompanied by a Miss Harcourt who is probably his niece. His sister may have married a Harcourt, a 66-year old James Harcourt being listed in an 1861 census return for Thomas (Thos.) William Reed. At this time Thomas, born in London, was 42 and resident in Beech Lodge, Isleworth, with his wife Maria. Harcourt was a half-pay officer born "W Indies Calcutta" raising the possibility that William or Elizabeth might also have had overseas military connections.

Reed's connection with the projected Severn Valley Railway dates back at least as far as 1857 when he is listed as deputy chairman with Charles as secretary and Sir Samuel Morton Peto as chairman. Around this time Reed was living in Hanworth, Middlesex, but seems to have moved to Kensington where he owned and let a number of properties, finally selling his own house in 1862. He is described as a "man of substance". His son Thomas William Reed describes himself as a "proprietor of houses" in his 1861 census return so may have taken on this role from his father or alternatively father and son may have become conflated.

William Reed may then have maintained a London residence, Winter Lodge (and/or Oak Lodge), on Addison Road, Kensington and a country house at The Mount, Sunninghill.

More than one Reed?

Reed died on October 15th, 1865. The notice in the Gazette(pdf) ties together his residences in Sunninghill, Kensington and Hanworth, all of which are cited in railway company lists at one time or another.

If there is an obvious weak link in the narrative, it is in the transition from Chat Moss to London. It seems not unlikely, however, that he impressed the Liverpool men with hsi competence and had a skill set that was of value to them. Mackenzie's participation in the Paris-Strasbourg project was, he said, conditional on Reid acting as British co-director. Nobody else would do.

Election Day sketch notes

A day I'll long remember so hope you'll forgive mini-blog.

Marginal seat, fifth in Tory hit-list. Concerned citizen, seeing (mostly) dire opinion polls, walked off street in Hoylake night before. Solo leaflet drop in pouring rain, sodden address list falling apart, Tory team doing similar nearby. Slow progress in gathering gloom, disoriented, drenched, done by 10, home, sleep.

Up at 4:30, leaflet drop in occasional showers at 6, only earlybirds in centre as many doing drops elsewhere in region. Then telling at polling station for first time, learning ropes, then back to centre with returns. Car park near full, centre amazingly transformed into bustling hive of activity. Folk from all over, just as diverse as JC's speech on WK beach. Atmosphere friendly but determined. Organised chaos to be expected, probably many people like me new to it, others coming across for day.

Home to vote, quick snooze then back to centre for more. Missed pies though saw remains! Back out to polling stations, swapping between them for 1-2 hr shifts, sustained by coffee, biscuits and sarnies at centre. Met wonderful Labour tellers, young and old, but young in particular, many from safe seats, were real credit — groundwork canvassing in weeks before, worked til they dropped on polling day. Impressed not only by motivation but by depth of political savvy too. Volunteers still coming in after work, some with kids in tow, wanting to help.

Voters in solid Labour area also inspiring. Ordinary folk, going to or from work, mums with kids, first-timers with parents, parents with proxies, frail and disabled determined to vote in person.

Finished at 7. Too knackered for knocking, lots of tired folk in centre, major credit to teams still on streets or heading that way to bitter end. Farewell to equally exhausted Andy who organised tellers, his fingers crossed we'd done enough.

Home, meal, online. Disbelief at surprisingly positive exit poll, early results not overly helpful. Too tired to fret much. Sleep.

Rest is history of a sort because we're not done yet. Til next time. 🙂

Concept for a William Roscoe Museum

These notes capture some ideas for the concept for a William Roscoe Museum in the presently empty Lyceum building at the bottom of Bold Street in central Liverpool. It is a very early work-in-progress.

Overview

The building comprises three spaces. If you look at it from Bold Street, from left to right:

  • Museum of the Past, telling the story of the growth of Liverpool during Roscoe's lifetime in terms of his own life experiences and his involvement in the arts, sciences, agriculture, humanities (history, poetry), politics, commerce, etc, as well as his roles in establishing new institutions in the city and acting as a cultural ambassador for visitors from other countries. Physical exhibits would be augmented by interpreters in period dress as well as augmented reality (AR) displays customised for different ages and backgrounds and delivered by selecting virtual books from tables or shelves.
  • Cultural hub: this would be a hub pointing to other cultural institutions across the city region as well as providing a small performance and interpretation space. By default it would show an AR performance of Roscoe's poem for children "The Butterfly's Ball, and the Grasshopper's Feast", perhaps based around a physical sculpture.
  • Museum of the Future and a showcase for science outreach and innovation in industry and commerce.

The proposal would in any case make an interesting OpenSim build.

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