RAILWAY AND INDUSTRIAL HISTORY OF THE SOUTH WEST BLACK COUNTRY
WEDNESDAY, 20th., MARCH, 1844
Projected Railway from Oxford, through Worcester to Wolverhampton.
A number of advertisements have appeared in the public newspapers within the last week, calling meetings to consider various routes of railway from Wolverhampton, to points upon the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway; and one containing a proposition for a railway passing through Worcester, and thence to join the Great Western Railway at Oxford, thus forming a direct communication with the metropolis. The advertisement, setting forth this scheme, was signed by Mr.Robert Rising and Mr.F.T.Elgie, solicitors, of this city, and on Saturday bills were issued, bearing the signatures of these gentlemen, requesting the inhabitants of Worcester to meet in the Guild Hall, yesterday, at noon. Accordingly, at that hour, a numerous and respectable body of citizens assembled in the Crown Court, in that building. Among them were observed W.Lewis, Esq., (Mayor), L.Ledbrook, Esq., (Sherrif), J.W.Issac, Esq., R.Gibb, Esq., (Mayor of Evesham), Ald. R. and E.Evens, Ald. Lilly, F.Hooper, Esq., T.N.Foster, Esq., (Evesham), W.Hill, Esq., John Hill, Esq., (Town Clerk), J.Horne, Esq., T.Waters, Esq., (Clerk of the Peace), C.Bedford, Esq., E.Corles, Esq., D.Everett, Esq., Messrs J. and T.Lingham; Harewood, Grove, Wall, J. and R.Varden, Dighton, Harding, W.D.Lingham, J.Davis, Southan, Price, J.Wall, Miles, Birch, Bass, Lockett, Taylor, Wheeler, Farmer, Woodward, &c., &c., &c.
The MAYOR, having been called to the chair, he commenced the proceedings of the day by reading the notice calling the meeting.
Mr.ELGIE then rose and said that as his was one of the names attached to the bill convening that meeting, and as one of the projectors of the line of the railway, it would be his pleasing duty to explain them, as distinctly as he could, the nature of that line, and to obtain for it, if possible, their approval, for that was their only object in calling the meeting. He was not there to ask them to put their names down for any shares, that time had not yet arrived; he was there merely to lay before them an outline of the immense advantages to the city from the formation of such a railway as was now in contemplation, and it would be for them to give or with hold their pecuniary aid to it when the prospectus had been laid before them, and they had had an opportunity of judging upon its merits, and whether there was likely to be sufficient traffic to make the line a profitable speculation. It would be unnecessary for him to say one word with reference to the injuries that had been inflicted on this city, by the want of railway communication, because they were sufficiently obvious, but by the scheme proposed they would have (if it should be carried out,) one grand connecting link with the cities and manufacturies of Lancashire, and with the Metropolis, by means of the Great Western line at the city of Oxford. When a line for a similar purpose was first projected, the plan was to proceed by way of Morton-in-the-Marsh, Chipping Norton, and thence to Oxford, but the time had gone by when in the formation of railroads great towns could be avoided for the sake of distance, or of expense in diverging the line, and in all future railways it would be found indispensably necessary that such towns should be taken in, rather than that they should be avoided on account of the extra expense caused by distance. With reference to the line of which he had that day more particularly to speak, he might begin with the town of Banbury, in Oxfordshire, the inhabitants of which had a great desire for a railway connecting them with Oxford and with the station of the London and Birmingham Company at Rugby. This would be accomplished by the plan proposed. From Oxford the line of rail would run to Banbury, and thence by a branch to Rugby, where it would join the London and Birmingham line of railway and connect it with the Midland Counties and the whole of the North of England. From Banbury the line will pass round the chain of hills, passing by Edge Hill and along the beautiful vale between Stratford and Shipstone to Evesham; at Stratford a great corn growing country, it was proposed to cross a line of Tram-Road, which would be available for the purpose of the line. From Evesham they proceeded by Wyre Piddle up to Worcester. He (Mr.Elgie) knew that it had been always held to be a great advantage that a station should be within the town or city which the railway passed; in all cases this was not practicable from increased expense and various other causes, but in the line contemplated they pledged themselves to have the station within half a mile of the Cross, in this city, and that this line would also increase the traffic on the Severn he thought he would be able, before he sat down, satisfactorily to prove. The line would then proceed to Stourbridge and Kidderminster, and thence directly under the town of Dudley to the Grand Junction Railway at Wolverhampton. Having thus shown to them the line of country over which the railway would pass, he might next advert to what lines were likely to oppose them. First there was that of the Birmingham and Gloucester Company (who seemed determined to cut Worcester out); there plan was to carry a line by way of Bromsgrove, Stourbridge, and Kidderminster to Wolverhampton. Then there was another line projected, which was to commence somewhere about Droitwich; and lastly the old plan of the Grand Connection Company had been reviewed. He would first avert to Wolverhampton, and ask whether it would not be of great advantage to them having a direct communication by means of the Grand Junction and Great Western line, with the Metropolis, than merely having a connection with Gloucester and Bristol? It was also a part of the scheme of the projected railway that the whole line should be on the Broad Gauge, by which they would accomplish a speed of thirty miles and hour, when on the narrow gauge, as proposed by the Grand Junction Company for their line, the speed would not exceed twenty two miles; thus, by the line he was advocating that day, they would get from Wolverhampton to London in five hours, being a considerably shorter time than on any other line that had been projected. The advantages to Dudley, Stourbridge, and Kidderminster would be equally great; they would also be connected directly with the metropolis, whilst the line chalked out by the Grand Connection Company would only connect them with Gloucester and Bristol. Then there was the town of Stourport, which must be equally benefitted. And here he would ask what would Worcester gain by a junction with the Gloucester and Birmingham Railway? He hoped that no one at that meeting would have the hardihood to assert that the scheme of the Grand Connection Company was better than the one he was advocating; by it they would merely have a communication as far as Abbotswood, and so to go to London they must either go to Birmingham or to Cheltenham, and take the Great Western line there. (Hear.) He (Mr.Elgie) knew that a very eminent engineer, Mr.Stephenson had endeavoured to convince the people of Worcester that they were as well off without a branch, as with one, but he hoped that they were neither so short sighted as to believe this, or that the plan of the Grand Connection Company was better than the line from Oxford. Surely all at once would see the superiority of this line over any other for Worcester. Then with reference to Evesham, and he (Mr.Elgie) was glad to see the worthy mayor of that town present, he would ask what would they get by the scheme of the Grand Connection Company? And sure it was a matter of considerable importance to them, witty their manufactures and extensive corn market, that they should have a direct communication with the manufactories of Lancashire and with the metropolis. They were also anxious for a direct communication with Banbury, but had hither too been prevented from obtaining one by the expense of procuring that connection. At Stratford the same anxiety existed for a similar line to the projected; in fact throughout the whole line the inhabitants were desirous of the railway being formed. (Hear, Hear,.) The advantages that would accrue to Worcester were very considerable. It would be the means of opening the mineral fields of Dudley to this city; a fact in itself most worthy of their consideration. (Applause.) Having explained a few more of the advantages of the proposed line, he would (He said) avert to the objections that had been brought forward against it. One of the first he had heard of was that the line was too good; if that was the fact, it amounted to an admission of all he asked from them that day, because as he had before said, he merely wanted their simple approval for the bare fact that this was the best line that could be offered, it could be of no consequence to them who where the projectors, or who were connected with the plan, because nothing save their sanction was at present required - (Applause.) The people of Worcester had, doubtless since the year 1836, altogether despaired of obtaining a railway, but if on after consideration, when prospectus were issued, they should deem the plan feasible and likely to be successful, then would be the time for them to consider whether they should support it by taking shares. (Hear.) Mr.Elgie next averted to the objection which some persons had raised to the project consequent on the whole line being attempted at once; but such a thing as obtaining the half of it was, he said, was altogether impracticable, as the House of Commons Committees on railways were not constituted, the members being generally chosen from amongst those who were not likely to be biased by local feelings, or bought by local money. Then there was the Oxford Canal Company, who would probably be against them; but who were they? - a monopolising company, studious only to benefit only themselves, and who had succeeded in raising the value of their shares from the original price, £100, to £950: he did not, therefore, think there was much to feared from that quarter. Mr.E proceeded to combat the various arguments that might be adduced against the projected line, and continued, he thought the experience of the last five years had sufficiently shown that great lines of railway only would pay, consequently it would be much more advantageous that there should be one company of directors between Oxford and Wolverhampton, than that it should be a divided line. Let them look at squabbles which had arisen out of this cause on the Midland lines, which had ended in there going to parliament to get a Bill for a general amalgamation. If the whole line from Oxford to Wolverhampton was in the hands of a single company, they would be able to make their own bargain with the Grand Junction and with the Great Western Companies for the conveyance of passengers and good s. On the other hand, if there were two companies, they would be in a condition to do neither. (Hear, Hear.) If they looked at the money market they found it would be in a healthy state, and for such a line of railway as the one now projected, he had been assured by persons well capable of forming an opinion on this subject, that they would be sure of assistance from the monied men. (Hear.) He (Mr.Elgie) had been asked what Worcester would do for the line in this respect? His answer was that he feared not much. Worcester was not in the condition she once was, and it could not therefore, be expected that she would furnish any considerable part of the two millions required for this undertaking; but he confidently anticipated that the citizens would not be backwards in giving their probation to the scheme. (Hear.) He had promised to explain at the commencement of his address in what way he thought the traffic on the Severn would be increased, for such, he felt certain, would be the cause; they were all aware that in the country there were a considerable number of salt and alkaline manufactories; these were on the increase, and if once this part of the country could be connected with the mineral fields of Dudley, salt must be produced at a less cost than at the present time. Then vessels engaged in bringing provisions up the Severn would be loaded outward with salt; and thus would the price of provisions become considerably reduced and the traffic on the river be increased, whilst freight would also be lowered. (Applause.) If the meeting would only consider the numerous advantages of the scheme to this city, he was sure they would not refuse to give their approbation. The line now proposed would open a direct communication with Banbury, Stratford and Oxford, and what was to prevent timber being brought up the Severn to Worcester from different parts of the surrounding country, so that here there was another probability of that increased traffic on the Severn of which he had spoken. Mr.Elgie next read an extract from the report of Sir F.Smith and Professor Barlow, with reference to the communication by railway between London and Dublin; they expressed themselves favourable to a line passing through the same country as the one now projected, remarking that it possessed great facilities for constructing a railway, and that they were of the opinion that a railroad would ultimately be formed in the neighbourhood. Here then (continued Mr.Elgie) they had the testimony of two eminent men, who had surveyed the country and who had reported that it was favourable for a railway; and if to the line those individuals had pointed out, they extended it to the northern parts of the country, taking in important towns such as Dudley, those advantages which Sir Frederick Smith and Professor Barlow had alluded to must increased. (Loud Applause.) He had already told them that by the Broad gauge their speed would average thirty miles an hour, so that it would be the most direct communication from London to Ireland, shortening the time of conveyance by at least three quarters of an hour, and in like manner lessening the time occupied in a journey from Dudley of Worcester to London. (Hear.) He had now detailed to them the general features of the plan; it was no idle scheme of his own or of the gentlemen who appeared with him, but it was supported by considerable influence; of what party that influence was composed it was unnecessary he should, at that stage of the proceedings declare he was deriving no advantage personally by advocating this scheme, more than having been engaged professionally in the furtherance of it, and he begged the citizens of Worcester to consider the project well before they regretted it. Let them take the lesson from what had occurred in former years, and say whether or not such a railway as the one now projected would prove beneficial to the city. It would be his duty to move a resolution approving of it; he had asked no one even to become a seconder, but having fairly launched the scheme, he would be satisfied that it should stand upon its own merits; because he was also satisfied that if carried out it would prove a permanent and important advantage to the city of Worcester. Mr.E. concluded by moving - "That in the opinion of this meeting the projected line of railway form Oxford through Worcester to Wolverhampton, will be of greatest advantage to the inhabitants of this city and neighbourhood."
Ald.LILLY said that as he saw no one else rising for the purpose of seconding it, he would do so with the greatest pleasure.
Mr.W.S.P.HUGHES said that before the resolution was put to the meeting he wished to say a few words, he should not travel through all the ground which Mr.Elgie had done, more particularly he would not say one word with regard to that part of his speech which related to the portion of the railway which, according to the proposed scheme, it was intended should run from this city to Wolverhampton, for after Mr.Elgie had so ably advocated its advantages, it would be quite useless for his to say one word more in its favour. There was, however, one circumstance which Mr.E. had not stated, and which therefore he must avert too, and that was, that it was always the intention of the promoters of the Grand Connection Railway to provide for this city a direct communication both with the north and south. It was always intended that a communication should be effected between this city and Droitwich, and consequently if the Grand Connection Railway were really carried out, this city would have all the advantages Mr.Elgie had stated as likely to follow from his project. It seemed to him that if the city of Worcester could get fairly connected by the most direct means with Birmingham on the north, and with London through Birmingham, that that was all which the city was, from its locality, entitled too. He could not see the necessity that existed for extending the railway to Oxford; and though it more belonged to a commercial men to come forward and state these matters than it did him, yet his idea was that the traffic through districts in the routes to that town was not sufficient to justify its extension there. The advantage to be obtained by going through Oxford was the saving of half an hour on the journey to London; and did they think that was sufficient to counterbalance the immense increased in the expense which would be incurred by the prolongation of the railway to Oxford. He thought that if the citizens of Worcester waited until the scheme was carried out, they would remain an isolated portion of the country, for this project would excited the most violent opposition. The Birmingham and Gloucester Railway Company was certain to oppose them. They has a million and a half capital invested in their railway and they were not likely quietly to see their traffic taken out of their hands. They were a party who were possessed of great influence. Then, again, there was the London and Birmingham Railway, which would be sure to oppose them; and did they think they would submit to see all their great traffic from the north run through Worcester? (Hear, Hear, from Mr.Elgie). Then, again, was it likely that the Grand Junction Company would sanction this scheme, which would divert part of their traffic in favour of Worcester. The route which they proposed to take to Oxford was a most circuitous one, and the Broad gauge of rails though most expeditious, was most certainly the most expensive one to be adopted; and thus the proposed railway would be most expensive, and all merely for the accommodation of Worcester. The beginning of these things was always very well, but they must look to see whether there was any probability of there being carried out. It had always appeared to him that a railway from Wolverhampton to Worcester looking at the mineral productions of the northern parts of this county, the nature of the trade carried out there, and the business like habits of its inhabitants was called for, and that such a project was such a perfectly legitimate one. But what induced them to extend the line further than Worcester? If they did so, they would have two lines competing with them, and between them both they would be squeezed to nothing. He had, in thus discussing the merits of the proposed railway, travelled somewhat out of the line which he had proposed to himself to take, which was merely to show that the Grand Connection Railway was the more feasible scheme of the two. That railway offered all the advantages Mr.Elgie had so eloquently put forth, and he was only sorry that they had not had the benefit of his eloquence to support the shareholders in that company in the first instance, for he had set forth the advantages of that line better than any of its promoters could have done: and when he, (Mr.Hughes) explained to them that line could be laid down for £700,000 whilst that proposed by Mr.Elgie would require between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000, he left it to the common sense and understanding of every man of business, to say which was the one most likely to be carried out in the present state of affairs. He would also remark that, their case (that of the Grand Connection Railway Company) had been already proved before parliament, and, therefore, they could meet with no opposition there. Mr.Elgie had said that some of the towns in the north of the county would be left out of the line of the Grand Connection Railway, but they had met with no opposition from those towns, on the contrary they had given them every support when the project was first started, and they had done the same on the present occasion. The proposal of the Grand Connection Railway had been abeyance for sometime, but seeing in the Birmingham Paper an advertisement containing a proposal for a railway from Bromsgrove to Wolverhampton, he at once felt that something must be done to prvent Worcester being cut out altogether, and some days before the project they were discussing had been started, he had pointed the matter out to the mayor and the president of the chamber of commerce. He would join heart and hand with anyone to oppose such a railway as he had alluded too. Mr.Hughes concluded by saying a meeting of the shareholders of the Grand Connection Railway had been held at Kidderminster, on Friday, and he read the resolutions passed there-at, which will be founded in our advertising columns.
Mr.BEDFORD did not wish to enter into either statements made by Mr.Elgie or Mr.Hughes, but he submitted that the meeting could not agree with the resolution proposed by Mr.Elgie, because he had not shown that there was any probability of the project being carried into effect. He was not going to quarrel with Mr.Elgie for what he had said, but rather for what he had omitted to say. Granted that it was the best possible line, but Mr.Elgie had not given them any reason to suppose it would ever be adopted. Mr.Elgie had said that was no business of theirs, and it was not necessary for him to say who were connected with him in this proposition, and he had brought his project forward in the most naked form imaginable, without giving the name of a single person of rank or standing as his supporter. It was manifest that this railway would encounter the opposition of the London and Birmingham Company, and he thought Mr.Hughes had shown with that of the Grand Junction Company also; and was it possible that a project, opposed by these powerful interests, could succeed? He should (?) no objection to hold up his hand for a resolution acknowledging that a line of railway from Oxford, through Worcester to Wolverhampton would be the best for Worcester.
Ald.LILLY: That is just what the resolution says.
Mr.BEDFORD begged his pardon, but it was not so, it said "the projected" line of railway was the best for Worcester, and to this he should object to pledge himself, for they had not been informed who the projectors were. Where were the parties at Oxford, where were the parties at Wolverhampton, who supported this scheme, and who had sufficient influence to carry it through parliament?
Mr.J.HILL said that he expected only to have had to give a silent vote on the occasion, but after the remarks of Mr.Bedford, he must say a few words. With respect to the opposition anticipated from the Grand Junction Railway Company, he could not say that Mr.Hughes or Mr.Bedford had convinced him that it would take place, but he thought the project would ensure their support and cordial co-operation-operation, for it would necessarily bring upon their line a great quantity of traffic they did not a present possess. He would vote for the resolution as it stood, but if Mr.Elgie would consent to alter it he would be glad, because then Mr.Bedford's opposition would be disarmed, and he thought it would be carried unanimously, and that, in the altered shape, even Mr.Hughes would vote for it.
Mr.ELGIE again rose and said that he had been quite prepared for the opposition of Mr.Hughes and Mr.Bedford, but he was surprised to find the former backed up and promoted by a gentleman who had formally supported a similar scheme to the one he was then advocating. [Mr.Thomas Walters was sitting behind Mr.Hughes.] He should have thought that if it had been only for consistencys sake that gentleman would have remained silent, or have abstained form showing any opposition to the project. He (Mr.Elgie) had been met by no real argument, all that had been urged against the scheme was more special pleading. as was evidenced by Mr.Bedford's being willing to withdraw his opposition if the indefinite article "a" was substituted for the definite article "the" in the resolution; and as that was the wish of Mr.Bedford, why he (Mr.Elgie) had no objection to give up the point. But that gentleman had accused him of omitting to state the whole of his case, because he had not put the meeting in possession of the names of the influential persons who had projected this scheme. He maintained that Mr.Bedford had no right to ask such a question. They asked for no money; if they had done so the question might fairly have been put, but they might have known whether they were persons on whom the public might place confidence; as it was they had merely solicited their opinion on the simple fact as to whether the railway would be advantageous to the city. Something had been said about the Great Western Railway, as to whether they were opposed to the line or whether they backed it; but why had not the question been directly put? He would at once however, tell the meeting that the Great Western Company always supported a line which was their intent to support, and therefore they supported the one now projected, and he hoped that to the observation of Mr.Hughes with reference to the saving of time by the new line between Worcester and London. The time now occupied in the journey was, he said, seven hours, whilst the time occupied in the journey, if the railway to Oxford were carried into effect, would not exceed four hours, distance being from that town 160, and from Worcester about 127, which, at the rate of 30 miles an hour, would bring it to within the time stated.
Mr.HUGHES: do you mean going round by Rugby?
Mr.ELGIE: had nothing to do with Rugby in going from Worcester to London. Of course they would continue on the Great Western Line from Oxford. It had been said that they would have the opposition of the London and Birmingham Company - Granted; of the Birmingham and Gloucester Company - Granted; and of the Grand Junction Company - denied, and for this reason, that the new line would act as a considerable feeder to the Grand Junction, consequently they would support it, and he dared Mr.Hughes to say that he had authority fro the assertion that he had made that they would oppose it. Mr.Hughes had said that the Birmingham and Gloucester Company would oppose them. He (Mr.Elgie) had no doubt of it; the citizens of Worcester had nothing to thank them for; they had opposed them from the first, and he had no doubt they would do so to the end of the chapter. (Applause.) Mr.Elgie next reiterated the advantages of the projected railway to Worcester, and proceeded to remark that the Grand Connection Company could not go to the market for money; they had a debt upon their shareholders, and how was it likely they could raise additional funds for another line? It was well known that when they stopped a short time ago, the shares upon which 50s. had been paid were worth 13s.; and was it likely there would such fools to be found in the money market as to advance them money to pay off this old debt to the shareholders in a concern which had been closed in 1837 or 1838? Was it not more likely that money would be obtained for a new company? The Grand Connection Company would have stood a much better chance if they had commenced again de nervo; then there would have been a clear stage and no favour for all parties; as it was he was confident the project he was advocating was much the most likely to succeed. Mr.Elgie concluded by declaring he was quite willing the letter "a" should be substituted for the "the", at the commencement of the resolution, and expressed a confident hope that it would unanimously agree too.
Mr.HUGHES submitted that he had a right to reply to observations of a somewhat personal character, which had been made by Mr.Elgie. What right had he to say anything about the affairs of the Grand Connection Company? That company had always met with the approval of their shareholders. There was no debt to be taken to, for they had money at present in the bank, and they had also all the plans and sections ready, which were things not had for nothing He therefore thought that Mr.E. might have omitted all those remarks to the Grand Connection Company.
Mr.ELGIE: allow me to ask you one question, sir. Have all the shareholders been paid their 50s?
Mr.HUGHES: no, certainly not.
Mr.ELGIE: Is there sufficient money now in the bank to pay them 13 shillings and 6 pence a piece?
Mr.HUGHES: What is that to you?
Mr.HUGHES observed that the question was most absurd, and only proved what sort of clap-trap was made use of at these meetings to gull the public.
The MAYOR put the resolution, with the alteration of the word "a line" for the words "the projected line", &c., and it was carried unanimously amist much cheering.
J.W.ISAAC, Esq., then moved, and Mr.WALL seconded a vote of thanks to the Mayor for his conduct in the chair.
The Mayor returned the thanks. His humble services had been given with great pleasure, and he hoped some permanent benefit to the city of Worcester would arise out of the proceedings of the day. (Cheers).
OXFORD, WORCESTER AND WOLVERHAMPTON RAILWAY
Application is intended to be made to Parliament in the ensuing session, for an Act to form a RAILWAY from OXFORD through WORCESTER, to WOLVERHAMPTON; and which line is intended to pass near Woodstock, through Banbury, Evesham, Pershore, Worcester, Stourport, Kidderminster, Stourbridge, and Dudley, - thus forming a direct communication with the metropolis, the manufacturing districts, and all the principal railways in the north and west of England.
The importance of the above line of communication is well known in the mercantile world. Sections have already been taken under experienced engineers and a meeting of the promoters will be convened at an early period.
At a PUBLIC MEETING of the inhabitants of this city and neighbourhood, held at the GUILDHALL, in this city, on TUESDAY LAST, to take into consideration the projected line of railway from the Great Western Railway, at Oxford, to the Grand Junction Railway, at Wolverhampton; and which line is intended to pass through Banbury, Evesham, Worcester, Kidderminster, Stourbridge, and Dudley, and to be connected with the Midland Counties Railway, by means of a branch from Banbury to Rugby.
The Mayor having been called to the chair, on the motion of JOHN WHITMORE ISAAC, Esq., seconded by Alderman EDWARD EVENS, it was unanimously resolved, on the motion of F.T.ELGIE, Esq., seconded by Alderman LILLY - that, in the opinion of the meeting, a line of railway from Oxford, through Worcester to Wolverhampton, will be of the greatest advantage to the inhabitants of this city and neighbourhood.
WILLIAM LEWIS, Mayor, Chairman.
On the motion of J.W.ISAAC, Esq., seconded by F.HOOPER, Esq., the thanks of the meeting were unanimously voted to the mayor for his courteous and able conduct in the chair.
GRAND CONNECTION RAILWAY.
At a MEETING of SHAREHOLDERS in the above undertaking, convened by public advertisment, at Kidderminster, on the 13th. day of March 1844, M.PIERPOINT, Esq., IN THE CHAIR