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FIRST SURVEY OF THE LIVERPOOL AND MANCHESTER RAILWAY.
MR JAMEs's business as a land-agent led him into the neighbourhood of Liverpool in the year 1821. The formation of a tramroad between Liverpool and Manchester was at that time the subject of some speculation in both towns, but especially at Liverpool. Mr. James, who was quick to hear of all such projects, went over to Liverpool to have an interview with the promoters. Day by day the necessity was becoming more urgent for some improved mode of transporting goods inland to the manufacturing districts. The rapidity of increase in the trade, between Liverpool and Manchester especially, was something marvellous. In nine years, the quantity of raw cotton sent from the one town to the other had increased by 50,000,000 pounds' weight; and all other raw materials had increased in proportion. Around Manchester, hamlets had expanded into towns, and towns had assumed the dimensions of cities, the inhabitants of which were for the most part dependent for their means of subsistence upon the regularity of the supply of cotton from Liverpool. Up to this time the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal and the Irwell and Mersey navigation had principally supplied the means of transport; but the enormously increasing demands of the trade outstripped their tardy efforts. Possessing a monopoly of the traffic, and having no rivals to fear, the canal managers were most dictatorial in the treatment of
chap. xv.] A TRAMROAD PROJECTED. - 175
their customers. Perhaps, however, the canal companies did all that could be done under the circumstances, and had already fully taxed the resources of the navigation. The immense mass of goods to be conveyed had simply outgrown all their appliances of wharves, boats, and horses. Cotton lay at Liverpool for weeks together, waiting to be removed; and it occupied a longer time to transport the cargoes from Liverpool to Manchester than it had done to bring them across the Atlantic from the United States to England. Carts and waggons were tried; but these proved altogether insufficient. Sometimes manufacturing operations had to be suspended altogether; and during a frost, when the canals were frozen up, the communication was entirely stopped. The consequences were often disastrous, alike to operatives, merchants, and manufacturers. . The same difficulty was experienced in the conveyance of manufactured goods from Manchester to Liverpool for export. Mr. Huskisson, in the House of Commons, referring to these ruinous delays, truly observed that “cotton was detained a fortnight at Liverpool, while the Manchester manufacturers were obliged to suspend their labours, and goods manufactured at Manchester for foreign markets could not be transmitted in time, in consequence of the tardy conveyance.” The Liverpool merchants and the Manchester manufacturers were therefore prepared to welcome any new mode of transit which would relieve them of the losses arising from these constant interruptions to their commercial operations. The scheme of a tramroad was, however, so new to them, that it is not surprising they should have hesitated before committing themselves fully to it. Mr. Sandars, an influential Liverpool merchant, was amongst the first to broach the subject of a tramroad or railway. He himself had suffered in his business, in common with many other merchants, from the insufficiency of the existing modes of communication, and was ready to give due consideration to any plan presenting elements of practical efficiency, which proposed a remedy for the generally admitted grievance. The first idea was a tramroad, to be worked by horses, though this gradually gave way to a larger and more efficient plan. Mr. James met Mr. Sandars frequently to discuss the subject; and about the month of June, 1821, a party, consisting of Mr. Sandars, Mr. James, Mr. Francis Giles, and Mr. Padley (Mr. James's brother-in-law, a surveyor), went out and inspected the ground in the neighbourhood of Liverpool, in order to ascertain at what point a tramroad could be best brought into the town. They first examined the land about Easton Hill with this object. Mr. James then entrusted his brother-in-law (Padley) to proceed with a trial survey. Robert Stephenson came over from Newcastle to assist him, and at the same time to obtain some experience in railway levelling. The people in the neighbourhood of Easton Hill observing the extraordinary proceedings going on with chains and theodolite, having also heard the rumour which was now abroad, and fearing that their farms and gardens would be damaged by the intended tramroad, rose against the surveyors, and compelled them to desist. Mr. Padley's assistant was apprehended, forcibly dragged off the ground, and was only liberated on giving his solemn promise never to return there on a similar business. Finding it impossible to proceed with any survey in the neighbourhood of Liverpool in consequence of this opposition on the part of the inhabitants, Mr. Sandars suggested that the party should proceed to Prescot, and make a trial survey there. He was under the impression that the Mersey might be connected by tramway with Manchester without at all touching the town of Liverpool; and the surveyors were directed to ascertain by the levels whether this could be done. In order to carry out the survey in a
cHAP. xv.] TRAMROAD SURVEY NEAR LIVERPOOL. 177
proper manner, he and Mr. Moss guaranteed to pay Mr. James, who was to superintend it, at the rate of 10l. a mile, or about 300l. for the entire survey between the Mersey and Manchester. They proceeded accordingly with the survey near Prescot, meeting with great opposition from the landowners and farmers along the proposed line of road, who drove them off their grounds, and subjected them to all manner of insults.
The next surveying station was at Newton-in-the-Willows, where the surveyors took a temporary office in the Horse and Jockey public-house. While they were proceeding with their survey at this place, Mr. Legh, of Legh Park, a large land-owner, made himself acquainted with their proceedings. He was the first land-owner of the neighbourhood who declared himself favourable to the promotion of a tramroad, or who gave the projectors the slightest encouragement to proceed. All the rest were indifferent or hostile. Justice Bourne ordered his men to be constantly on the watch to turn back the surveyors wherever met with in the fields. The farmers and labourers were only too ready to follow up his instructions. Men were stationed at the field gates with pitchforks, and sometimes with guns, to drive them back. At St. Helens, one of the chainmen was laid hold of by a mob of colliers, and threatened to be hurled down a coalpit. A number of men, women, and children collected and ran after the surveyors wherever they made their appearance, bawling nicknames and throwing stones at them. As one of the chainmen was climbing over a gate one day, a labourer made at him with a pitchfork, and ran it through his clothes into his back; otherwatchers running up, the chainman, who was more stunned than hurt, took to his heels and fled. But the theodolite most excited the fury of the natives, who concentrated on the man who carried it their fiercest execrations and most offensive nicknames.
A powerful fellow, a noted bruiser, was hired by the surveyors to carry the instrument, with a view to its protection against all assailants; but one day an equally powerful fellow, a St. Helen's collier, who was the cock of the walk in his neighbourhood, made up to the theodolite carrier to wrest it from him by sheer force. A battle took place, the collier was soundly pummelled, the natives poured in volleys of stones upon the surveyors and their instruments, and the theodolite was smashed to pieces.
It may readily be conceived that a survey made in the face of such opposition would necessarily be very incomplete; but the surveyors did their best, and when they found they could proceed no further at St. Helen's, they proceeded round Chat Moss to Hiliffe to try the ground there. Their proceedings at that place excited the same degree of surprise amongst the villagers, who turned out in a body to watch them, and appeared perfectly bewildered. The Moss was so soft, in consequence of the wetness of the season, that it was impossible to enter upon it; and the party very shortly retraced their steps, and stationed themselves for a short time at the Three Swans at Eardley. There they began an intermediate survey of a branch tramroad between St. Helen's and the Mersey; and after about a month's labour, when the wet weather set in, the survey was suspended until the following spring.
In the meantime public meetings had been got up by Mr. Sandars in several of the principal towns of the district, on the subject of the proposed tramway. One was held in the Exchange at Liverpool, and another in the George Hotel, Warrington, at which Mr. Sandars, Mr. Moss, and Mr. James appeared as the advocates of the measure, which, however, did not as yet meet with any degree of general support. But the subject was thus brought prominently