Lytham St.Annes Coat of Arms
Lytham St.Annes, Lancashire, England


Opening of Lytham Branch Railway, 1846

The Preston Guardian, Saturday, February 21, 1846





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 opened.

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 undeveloped.

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 and larger.

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 proceedings.

Another, and not the least interesting of the day's proceedings, was the


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.

William Taylor, 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.