Opening of Lytham Branch Railway, 1846
The Preston Guardian, Saturday, February 21, 1846
THE LYTHAM BRANCH RAILWAY.
On Monday last, the branch railway from the Preston and Wyre
line to Lytham, was opened to the public for the conveyance of passengers, when a
considerable number of persons availed themselves of this speedy and improved means
of travelling. The importance of such an event was not lost sight of by those
interested in the completion of the work, and it was determined to celebrate it in
a way worthy of the occasion. The opening, therefore, was considered to be on
Tuesday, when Thomas Clifton, Esq. had agreed to travel on the line. The worthy
Squire had also invited the directors and a numerous party to lunch at Lytham Hall,
on that day.
Before noticing the festivities connected with the interesting
event, it may be proper to allude to the circumstances attending the firm
realization of railway advantages by the Fylde. In the year 1834, Sir P. Hesketh
Fleetwood, Bert,, M.P., (then Mr. Hesketh Fleetwood), struck with the advantages
which the harbour of Wyre presented, from its facility of access and its almost
proverbial safety, as well as its proximity to the Isle of Man, Scotland, the north
of Ireland, &c. ; and its offering a more direct route from those important
places to the populous manufacturing districts of Lancashire and Yorkshire,
determined open constructing a railway from the mouth of the Wyre to Preston, and
at the same time, effecting great improvements in the estuary of that river.
Accordingly, at a meeting held at the Bull Inn, in Preston, on
the 13th of October, 1834, over which the spirited promoter of the scheme presided,
a report, was presented from Colonel Landmann, civil engineer, containing estimates
for the undertaking, and other information shewing its feasibility.
This was adopted by the meeting and a prospectus founded upon it
was issued, containing proposals for the formation of a joint-stock company, with a
capital of £130,000, in shares of £50 each. The scheme was received with little
favour in Preston—we believe only one inhabitant taking shares in it.
In the Fylde, also, it was looked upon by many as rather a wild
project, and met with but little support. At this time not a single house had been
erected at Fleetwood,—and the site of the wharfs and the warehouses, the hotels and
the offices, the stately mansions and the busy shops,—which now offer the most
indubitable evidences of a thriving town and port, was one vast tract of sand and
shingle, the only inhabitants of which were rabbits, wild ducks, end sea gulls. The
whole affair was, indeed, considered Utopian by the public; yet, rather than see it
suffer from apathy and want of subscribers, its honourable projector, in his
confidence of its ultimate success, became its principal; proprietor.
The act for the incorporation of the company was obtained, on
the 3rd of July, 1835; and a board of directors was appointed, of which Mr. Hesketh
Fleetwood was chairman. The project moved but slowly ; the directors (except the
chairman) were persons unconnected with the district; the meetings were held in
London; the officers of the company; were also metropolitan; and, after the first
vigorous start,, the movements of the contractors were exceedingly slow - at one
time so slow that the works came to an actual standstill.
Immense expenses had been incurred in the harbour and other
works, and the pressure on the money market which followed our bad harvests of 1836
and 1837, prevented the progression of the railway. A revival, however, afterwards
took place; but it was not until the 15th of July, 1840, that the line was
On the opening of the railway, there immediately arose a very
considerable passenger traffic. The original estimate had laid down 15,000 as the
probable annual number of passengers, exclusive of those by packet; but more than
double that number were carried in the first six weeks. Houses. were, at the same
time, in the course of construction, including several very superior ones, on
Queen's Terrace, and elsewhere; the large hotel and other inns were erected, and
every probability was now offered of a prosperous career for the new town.
During the two following years, however, the reverses in the
commercial world acted with dreadful severity on the interests of this rising
place. Its trade was nipped in the bud, the passengers for pleasure to Fleetwood,
Blackpool, and Lytham, as in all such times, were diminished, and the prospects of
many of the early settlers, were at once blighted.
It may not be inappropriate here to remark that, in this
unfortunate position, the then managers of the line, anxious, to increase the
revenue, adopted a plan that was attended, with a result which cannot have too
strong an influence upon other railway directors. At the opening of the undertaking
moderate fares had been established. These were increased, but the consequence was
an actual diminution of the receipts and it was not till the old fares were
returned to, and subsequent reductions had been made, that the income was
materially augmented. This lesson has had its proper effect; for, now, upon no line
that we are acquainted with, is the policy of low fares and excellent accommodation
to the public more perseveringly or successfully carried out.
In the year 1843 a change was made in the directory, and Clement
Royds, Esq., of Rochdale, became a member of the board. Under his auspices the
affairs of the company have prospered beyond expectation; and there is now a
probability of every vestige of the cloud that hovered over the destinies of the
Wyre line being, at no distant date, effectually cleared away. The trade of
Fleetwood is increasing; its advantages as a packet station are becoming daily
better appreciated; a branch line to Lytham has been opened; and another important
feeder, in the Blackpool branch, will be early in operation; while the traffic to
be expected from the Blackburn railway, and the important lines in the course of
formation and about to be undertaken in the east of Lancashire and the West Riding
of Yorkshire, show that the resources of the Wyre line are, as yet, comparatively
The Lytham railway joins the main line about a mile north, of
Kirkham, in the township of Westby. It proceeds by a gentle curve through Westby,
close to the village of Ribby-with-Wray, for which place there is a station. The
line is about four miles and a half in length. In the first third of a mile there
is a rise of one in a hundred; but, beyond that distance, it proceeds on a very
slight fall to Lytham. There is only a single line of rails. The whole of the land
taken for the railway was the property of Thomas althea, Esq., who has met the
directors, in the formation of this and the Blackpool branches, in a most liberal
spirit. By the act authorising the construction of these branches, that gentleman
is authorised to nominate one of the directors of the Wyre, railway, and his agent,
Mr. Fair, is Mr. Clifton's representative in the directory.
On Tuesday last, it was early apparent upon the line that some
rejoicings, were on foot; the carriages and engines were trimmed with colours and
banners, and at the junction and along the branch line numerous spectators greeted
the approach of every train. It was at Lytham, however, that the greatest stir was
visible. Upon the station numerous flags were hoisted; upon the church, the Inns,
and many of the principal houses, similar gay ensigns were displayed, and almost
every ship in the dock and river bore similar emblems.
The station at Lytham is at once commodious and ornamental, and
the Directors have shown good taste in erecting so splendid a structure. The
terminus of the railway is at the east end of Lytham, adjoining the old road to
Preston, and not far from the Catholic Chapel. The principal front is built
entirely of Longridge stone, in the Doric style. The entrance, is by a handsome
archway, which leads into a circular vestibule, sixteen feet in diameter,
surrounded by pilasters, and a regular entablature, covered with a deeply pannelled
dome, in which will be placed a stained glass light. To the right is the ladies'
waiting room, a handsome lofty apartment, about six yards square, and the clerk's
booking office. On the left is the general waiting room, which is equally handsome
Opposite to the entrance is an archway leading to the carriage
station, containing, three lines of rails, and two platforms, one for the arriving,
and the other for the departing trains. The platforms are raised to the level of
the upper step of the carriages thus rendering the access much easier and safer.
The roof of the carriage station is at once admirable and novel; formed of timber
arches springing from the platforms made of planks three in thickness, bolted
together in segments, supporting the raft timbers and spars, and constructed in
such a manner, that in case of the decay of any part, it may be taken out and
replaced by another without endangering the structure.
The principal advantage, however, is, that it admits of the
whole land enclosed to be laid with lines of rails, not requiring any centre
columns. It is pierced with twenty-four skylights, 12 on each side, and he 140 feet
long by 53 feet wide. On the left hand side are the spare carriage sheds and engine
house; on the right, the, goods warehouse and other conveniences. The workmanship
is very creditable to the contractors, Messrs. Towers and Westhall, of Fleetwood.
The architect is R. B. Rampling, Esq., of Fleetwood.
At two o'clock, the Directors of the line and a numerous party
of other friends, being the principal inhabitants of Lytham, and other gentlemen
connected with Preston, Kirkham, Fleetwood, &c., &c, altogether about
eighty in number, assembled at Lytham Hall, where a sumptuous luncheon was provided
by the worthy lord of the mansion.
Every thing was served in a style of princely hospitality. After
lunch, the party proceeded to “open" the railway. Thomas Clifton, Esq., and lady,
T. R. Wilson France, Esq., C. Swainson, Esq., W. Birley, Esq., W. Taylor, Esq.,
Laidlay, Esq., F. Kemp, Esq., W. C. Birdsworth, Esq., J. Fair, Esq., &c., went
to the station, near which were the children of the Lytham school, each bearing a
flag; a large, concourse of other persons being present. Amidst firing of cannon, a
train of fifteen carriages passed along the line to Kirkham: many persons were
congregated to witness its passing. The down train from Preston shortly afterwards
arrived, and two other carriages were attached. The train then returned, amid the
same demonstrations of rejoicing, and its arrival was welcomed at Lytham with
further firings of cannon. This and other festive proceedings continued for some
time longer, and the fineness of the day gave increased interest to all the
Another, and not the least interesting of the day's proceedings,
At five o'clock a party of about a hundred gentlemen sat down to
dinner, in the large dining room attached to the Clifton Arms Hotel, which was
decorated with evergreens, flags, &c, suitable for the occasion.
Esq., occupied the chair, supported on his right by Thos. Clifton, Esq., T. R.
Wilson France, Esq.,. the Rev. R. Moore, the Rev. W. Birley, &c. ; and on his
left by C. Swainson Esq., W. Birley, Esq., T. Langton Birley, Es tat P. Haydock,
Esq., &c. There were also present J. Laidlay, Esq., James Fair, Esq., J.
Dewhurst, Esq., F. Kemp, Esq., and other gentlemen connected with Preston and
Lytham, and the Preston and Wyre Railway Company.