The name Arpley Meadows comes from two old English elements – “eorp” and “leah” meaning “dark meadow”.
The area originally consisted of marshy pastures where cattle roamed. Part of the land was managed by people growing crops to eat and survive. The meadows had survived in this way since the survey of the Legh estate was conducted in the 15th century.
Centre Park, the business park built on the Arpley Meadows land beside the River Mersey
On the 1844 map of Warrington it says the southern tip of Arpley Meadows was liable to flooding along its boundary with the Mersey. On the 1905 map of Warrington it shows two cricket grounds on the site, one larger than the other. There were also two bowling greens, two tennis courts and a pavilion between the two cricket grounds.
Slutchers Lane (known as Slatchers Lane on that 1844 map) is shown on the west side, with Broad Arpley Lane running through the site from south-west to north-east. All of these features were still present on the 1950s map. Originally, Slutchers Lane was known as Slytchers Lane, and is mentioned in the Legh survey of 1465. It also linked Broad Arpley Lane with Sankey Street (Sonky or Sonkygate Street) at that time. However, in 1879 the section between Sankey Street and Wilson Patten Street was renamed Arpley Street.
The location of Wilson Patten Street is shown as Wood Lane on the 1844 map and there is Rope Walk on both the 1844 and 1905 maps, but in different locations, one north of Broad Arpley Lane and the other south, respectively.
Thames Board Mills
Thames Board Mills. Access to barges was from the River Mersey. Photo © P. Spilsbury.
Memorial to those lost in the Thames Board recreation ground bombing
From 1937 until 1983, Arpley Meadows was the location for Thames Board paper and cardboard packaging mills alongside the River Mersey opposite Chester Road. The Warrington Examiner described the scale of their operations:
Hundreds of tons of raw material such as wood pulp and waste paper arrive by barge and lorry, to be picked up by gantry cranes and run into the huge storage sheds. Then the raw materials proceeded directly to the first process of manufacturing.
By the 21st century Thames Board and the associated Thames Case works like Alliance Box and Chadwick’s had closed down as a result of changes in the market for goods and globalisation of production. My dad drove wagons for Chadwick’s, delivering to Yorkshire over the A62 (no motorway or power steering, as he described the conditions at the time).
During the Second World War, on 14 September 1940, a lone German bomber dropped two bombs on the Thames Board recreation ground during a summer fête. Sixteen people, some of them children, were killed. A plaque in Centre Park commemorates the tragedy.
Warrington Worldwide tells us more:
There was carnage as one bomb fell on the canteen burying 150 people in the wreckage, killing 16, injuring a further 28, 15 of them seriously.
“Bomber Kills Women, Babies,” reported the local press according to Warrington Museum’s website.
“Mothers and tiny babies were among the helpless civilians killed by a lone German raider who swooped down upon them in a north-west town. They were attending a Spitfire gala in a recreation club when the bomber dived without warning and released two bombs.
“One completely wrecked the light wooden club… two families were partly wiped out, members of others lie in hospital gravely wounded. It was all over in seconds…but dead, dying, injured and a mass of mangled debris were the pitiful aftermath which this Nazi bomber left behind as he immediately swept back into the skies and vanished.”
Demolition of Thames Board Mills began in July 1984 and was completed by October 1985.
Many thanks to ANTHONY HAWORTH for permission to use his notes on the mywarrington website. See photos linking to his story at his website greyhoundacingtimes.co.uk
The site of Arpley Meadows has been used to stage sporting events. Towards the end of the 19th century the south-west section of Arpley Meadows became an enclosed cricket ground, while towards the north-west corner, which was closer to the railway junction itself, the land was used as a rugby pitch.
By the early 1880s the rugby club had begun to flourish, but it was a period when the Rugby Union game was under threat from a breakaway group who wanted to play under Rugby League rules. Unfortunately, the unrest at the rugby club regarding switching of codes created serious issues, enough to see the rugby club break up, which in turn witnessed the birth of two new rugby clubs forming elsewhere, each of them playing under different codes. Football (soccer) then took over at the sporting venue for a period of time.
The next big change at Arpley Meadows was speedway. Thames Board Mills helped to fund new stands for the venue which became known as Arpley Autodrome. It opened with a speedway meeting on 29 March 1929, when a crowd of 10,000 witnessed the Golden Helmet Trophy, a competition which attracted the top speedway riders from around Europe. But success was short lived, as by the end of 1930 the speedway promoters had gone into liquidation, leaving the venue unoccupied, which gave the opportunity of another thriving sport to take its place, that of greyhound racing.
Arpley Meadows was now under the management of the Warrington Greyhound Racing Association, a company who invested heavily, firstly by laying a grass circuit over the existing speedway track. They then built a new kennel block, before constructing an impressive totalisator board situated at the cricket field end. The 60-foot-high construction became a landmark which could be clearly seen from surrounding areas, and must have been beneficial to a good few who were to visit for the first time.
Meetings began on 23 May 1931. All events were run under National Greyhound Racing Club rules, and five races were contested over the 500 yard strip. The sport was certainly appealing to the Warrington public as crowds began to flock, with as many as 40 bookmakers standing to take a bet.
When the Second World War broke the venue was handed over to the military for storage, and all sporting activities were banned. After the end of the war The Clapton Greyhound Racing Company purchased the land and racing recommenced. The stadium also saw the return of Speedway Racing, but the venture lasted for no more than a couple of seasons due to the speedway team folding during 1950.
Greyhound racing was to continue for the next six years uninterrupted, but a shock announcement during a meeting on 21 May 1956 made it clear that there would be no more further meetings taking place from then on. Without owners, trainers, or patrons knowing, a deal of £7,000 had been agreed to purchase the stadium, between The Clapton Greyhound Company and The Thames Board and Paper Company. From then on the Slutchers Lane hosted just amateur football.
Eventually all outbuildings were demolished, leaving nothing at all of a once flourishing stadium except the foundations of the main stand and a football pitch, and that is how it stayed up until the mid-1980s.
See photos linking to Anthony Haworth’s story on his website at greyhoundacingtimes.co.uk. Once again, thanks to Anthony for his assistance.
Arpley Railway Station
Arpley railway station opened on 1 May 1854 on the Warrington to Altrincham line. Arpley sidings, which included a turntable in the old days, are still used to shunt trains. Arpley Junction was the meeting point of the Warrington and Stockport line and the Birkenhead, Lancashire and Cheshire Junction Railway line to Chester via Walton Junction.
Arpley signal box is seen here on 10 Sep 2006.
Arpley station closed to passenger traffic on 4 September 1958 and closed for good on 9 August 1965. During this time Arpley served as a sub-shed of Dallam shed. The station building was demolished in 1968. The approach road to the station is now occupied by a car park. Link to Disused Stations for photos of the station.
The railway line was used to transport coal to Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station and the former coal yard was used by the Warrington Slate company until it closed down in the 1990s. The site is now the site of a builders merchant. The junction still allows access to the Chester line. Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station closed down on 31 March 2020 and the site is to be redeveloped in the coming years.
The bridge over the River Mersey was constructed in 1853-4 for the Warrington and Stockport Railway (W&SR). The engineer for the construction of the line was John Lister. An article in The Engineer credited him with the design of the bridge, but in fact Edwin Clark was the designer. The ironwork was constructed by the nearby Bank Quay Foundry Co (read about the company in the Bank Quay section of Downtown). The W&SR was later absorbed into the London and North-Western Railway.
Arpley Bridge, as it was known in earlier times, carries the railway over the River Mersey, seen from the north bank of the Mersey on 11 June 2008. Some readers might remember an advert for Walker’s Warrington Ales attached to it.
By 1908 the bridge was no longer suitable for the weight of locomotives needing to use it, and it was decided to strengthen it. The engineers also widened the bridge to current loading gauge standards. This had to be done while maintaining traffic on the railway. The work was the responsibility of William Dawson, who presented a paper on the subject in 1911.
The 1911 paper describes the design of the original bridge. There were three large wrought iron plate girders, 190 ft long between bearing centres, with a camber of 9″. The central girder was of the box type, 16 ft 9″ high, with an unusually wide bottom flange (6 ft). The outer girders were of the single plate web type, 13 ft high. Walkways were provided outboard of the outer girders, supported on wrought iron cantilevered brackets. The railway lines were carried on 9″ x 9″ timber beams, spanning the full width over the girders and bolted to the bottom of the girders.
An interesting feature was the use of iron castings riveted to the top flange to accommodate compression loading. The castings were each 8 ft long, of semi-circular section with horizontal flanges for bolting to the wrought iron top flanges, with a wall thickness of 2.25″. The castings had vertical flanges at each end, allowing them to be riveted or bolted together.
The rivets holding the bridge together
A British Rail Class 60 is a class of Co-Co heavy freight diesel-electric locomotives built by Brush Traction. They are nicknamed Tugs by rail enthusiasts. Operated only during the final years of British Rail, the entire Class 60 fleet became the property of English Welsh & Scottish (EWS) following the privatisation of British Rail during the mid-1990s.
One of the options considered for strengthening the bridge was the provision of cast iron piers set in the river 120 ft apart. Dawson had applied a similar concept when he strengthened the Conway railway bridge in 1899. There were various objections to this, including the fact that to some extent the top flange would be subject to tension. Another shortcoming is that it would not have addressed the narrow passages between the girders which represented a danger to track workers.
The method adopted for strengthening and widening involved replacing the two outer wrought iron girders by steel trusses of the Linville type. The original central box girder was retained, but its loading was partly transferred to the two outer girders by means of overhead lattice girders, in order to reduce the stresses in the bottom flange.
During the reconstruction work, traffic used one side of the bridge while one of the new 135-ton girders was assembled on the other side, using an overhead travelling crane running on rails at 10 ft gauge. It was assembled with the same large 9″ camber to match the retained centre girder. On completion the new girder was temporarily slid across towards the centre girder to allow removal of the old outer girder.
To remove the old girder it was necessary to move it inboard to align with the existing railway tracks. This was a delicate operation due to the limited transverse stiffness of the girder (the top flange being only 2 ft wide). Removal involved supporting the western end on a low railway wagon, and then bringing a pair of barges under the eastern end, with suitable staging provided to lift the end as the tide rose. A locomotive then pulled the girder across. As the tide fell, support of the eastern end was transferred from the barges to another truck running on temporary trestles. Extra precautions were taken because of the lack of transverse stiffness of the old girder. These ate into the limited time for movement allowed by the tide. However, it was found the girder was much stiffer when supported on the barges, so the precautions were dispensed with on the second girder, and the crossing took just eight minutes instead of 45.
The work also involved widening the abutments to accommodate the wider spacing of the girders. Also, before altering the second side of the bridge, it was necessary to raise that portion – 320 tons of old centre girder, old outer girder, floor, and rails – by 7″, and slew the whole assembly across by 2 ft 7″, without disconnecting the rails. The assembly was jacked up and lowered onto greased rails on the abutments, and the whole jacked across. This was done on a Sunday, between trains.
My thanks to Grace’s Guide for permission to use their notes on the mywarrington website.
A plaque describing the Arpley Cannons on display in Queens Gardens in the town centre.
Two Russian cannons once stood outside Arpley Station. They were installed as a memorial to the British soldiers serving in the Crimean War. The canons were brought to Britain as trophies from the Siege of Sebastopol where the British defeated the Russians on 8 September 1855. Their ceremonial importance to the town was such that they were named on the 1905 map of Warrington.
Unfortunately, on 22 June 1940 they were removed for scrap as part of Warrington’s contribution to the war effort. And when you think that not all the metal given by the country was used towards the war effort (much of it was dumped in the sea), one might question the motive for such a decision.
The stone plaques did survive and were transferred from Victoria Park to Queens Gardens in 2004 when the gardens were renovated (see images below).
Part of the Arpley Meadows site is now occupied by Centre Park business park, which includes the Village Hotel, Premier Inn and Waterside pub and restaurant.
The park was formally opened on 21 September 1990 by the Mayor, Councillor George Stokes, and is linked to the A49 by a road bridge over the Mersey. It was also the location of the former North West Development Agency, which the government closed down in 2012 and replaced with a Local Enterprise Partnership.
The Warrington Guardian newspaper offices are now in Centre Park, having relocated from the Academy building at Bridge Foot.
Slutchers Lane, Warrington WA1 1NA
The Warrington, Halton & St Helens branch of the RSPCA is on Slutchers Lane. This is what they say on their website:
We are a cruelty case boarding centre, which means we only look after the most in need dogs and cats. They are with us because they have been rescued from horrific situations by RSPCA inspectors, and because their owners’ prosecutions are ongoing. We can’t let you see them or take them home until after their cases are finished – that can be a long time, especially if the cases go to court. That is why we can’t tell you about who we’ve got in our care until after the case is finished. When the case is over, we’ll share information on them and put them up for adoption!
mywarrington provides this information as a courtesy. It is not connected to the organisation in any way.
Warrington Animal Welfare
Slutchers Lane, Warrington WA1 1NA
Warrington Animal Welfare (WAW) is a registered charity, a community-focused non-profit organisation caring for abandoned, abused and unwanted domestic animals.
The charity was originally established in 1983 by Joan Rimmer B.E.M. and June Jackson – who have both sadly passed – to provide financial support for pet owners on low income or benefits to help them to pay to have their pets neutered, in a bid to reduce the amount of stray, abandoned and unwanted pets in Warrington.
Our Mission is to:
- Raise awareness of the importance of responsible pet ownership, neutering and microchipping.
- Provide low-cost neutering for pets whose owners are on benefits/low income to reduce the amount of stray, abandoned and unwanted pets in Warrington and the surrounding areas.
- Supporting our local communities via the rescue and rehoming service – offering help and assistance to rehome unwanted pets. Giving them food, shelter, love, medication and socialisation before they can be rehomed.
mywarrington provides this information as a courtesy. It is not connected to the organisation in any way.