RAILWAY AND INDUSTRIAL HISTORY OF THE SOUTH WEST BLACK COUNTRY

 
 

 

 

 

OXFORD, WORCESTER & WOLVERHAMPTON RAILWAY
& the formation of the
WEST MIDLAND RAILWAY
August 1853-60.

A desire by ‘Narrow’ gauge railway companies in South Wales to circumvent the problems of the change to Broad gauge, provided the catalyst which would eventually lead to the formation of the West Midland Railway.


A company had been originally authorised in 1853 to build a line from Hereford to Worcester, but it languished until 1856. In this year the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway, injected capital into the Worcester and Hereford scheme in an attempt to solve its gauge problems. As a small struggling company it was however in no position to provide the entire capital required, and approached the O.W.W.R. The board of the Worcester company received this opportunity with enthusiasm, as the scheme would also allow them access to South Wales, and agreed to provide some of the finance.


In 1858 an Act of Parliament was obtained for the purpose of building the line from Hereford to Worcester.


The first section Henwick (Worcester) to Malvern Link opened in July 1859 and was worked, as a detached line, by the Oxford, Wolverhampton company; the through connection to the O.W.W.R. proper not being completed until May 1860, when the Severn bridge, with two 128 foot spans, was "passed" for passenger traffic. With a further extension to Malvern Wells the branch was now 9.5 miles long but any further progress was delayed by the hard rocks encountered in the tunnel under the Malvern Hills.


During the construction of the Hereford and Worcester line, there developed a strong and friendly relationship between the three companies, which with an Act of Parliament on 1st. July 1860, dissolved the N.A.H.R. and W.H.R. and merged them into the O.W.W.R. which was itself renamed the West Midland Railway.
The board was enlarged from 16 to 23 to accommodate five new members from the N.A.H.R and two from the W.H.R.. William Fenton retained his post as Chairman as did W.T.Adcock as secretary and A.C.Sherriff as traffic manager, the new company had W.P.Price, ex N.A.H.R, as Deputy Chairman. The power of the six G.W.R. directors on the board was limited to the affairs of the ex O.W.W.R. section. The W.H.R. shareholders were guaranteed 4%, rising to 5% in three years, the remaining revenue to be divided between the O.W.W.R. and N.A.H.R. in the proportion 78% to 22%.


At the formation of the West Midland Railway it consisted of two unconnected sections, as below:-

  • From the outskirts of Oxford at Wolvercot, to Bushbury Junction, Wolverhampton; with branches to Chipping Norton, Stratford-on-Avon, the Midland Railway at Stoke Prior and Abbots Wood, Malvern Wells and to the London and North-Western Railway at Tipton.
  • From the Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway at Hereford, to the Monmouth Railway near Pontypool; with facilities by agreement only, to Newport and branches to the Taff Vale Railway at Quaker's Yard, and the Monmouthshire at Llanhilleth in Ebbw Valley.


In total about 173 miles.


There was also the more or less derelict Stratford & Moreton Railway with branch to Shipstone-on-Stour.

The connecting link between Malvern Wells and Hereford was in active progress, and work had begun on the Aberdare Extension to Quaker's Yard

Besides the routes above the West Midland had interests, by agreement to lease or work, in the following railways, authorised or under construction :-

  • The Severn Valley Railway from the O.W.W.R. at Hartlebury to Shrewsbury - 40 miles
  • The Bourton-on-the-Water Railway, from Chipping Norton Junction to Bourton - 6.5 miles
  • The Much Wenlock & Severn Valley Junction Railway, from Buildwas on the Severn Valley Railway to Much Wenlock - 3.5 miles
  • The Tenbury and Bewdley Railway, from the Severn Valley Railway at Bewdley to Tenbury - 15 miles
  • The Stourbridge Railway, from Stourbridge to Old Hill - 3.5 miles