Liverpool and Manchester Railway (1830)

Some information from Wikipedia

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR) was the first inter-city railway in the world. It opened on 15 September 1830 between the Lancashire towns of Liverpool and Manchester. It was also the first railway to rely exclusively on locomotives driven by steam power, with no horse-drawn traffic permitted at any time; the first to be entirely double track throughout its length; the first to have a signalling system; the first to be fully timetabled; and the first to carry mail.

As with most railways, the LMR was primarily built to provide faster transport of raw materials and finished goods between the port of Liverpool and mills in Manchester in northwest England. Passengers were an afterthought.

The proposed Liverpool and Manchester Railway was to be one of the earliest land-based public transport systems not using animal traction power. Before then, public railways had been horse-drawn, including the Lake Lock Rail Road (1796), Surrey Iron Railway (1801) and the Oystermouth Railway near Swansea (1807).

Founding of the Railway Company

The original promoters are usually acknowledged to be Joseph Sandars, a rich Liverpool corn merchant, and John Kennedy, owner of the largest spinning mill in Manchester. They were influenced by William James. James was a land surveyor who had made a fortune in property speculation. He advocated a national network of railways, based on what he had seen of the development of colliery lines and locomotive technology in the north of England.

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company was founded on 20 May 1824. It was established by Henry Booth, who became its secretary and treasurer, along with merchants from Liverpool and Manchester. Charles Lawrence was the Chairman, Lister Ellis, Robert Gladstone, John Moss and Joseph Sandars were the Deputy Chairmen.

A bill was drafted in 1825 to Parliament, which included a 1-inch to the mile map of the railway’s route. The first bill was rejected but the second passed in May the following year.

In Liverpool 172 people bought 1,979 shares, in London 96 took 844, Manchester 15 with 124, 24 others with 286. The Marquess of Stafford held 1,000, making 308 shareholders with 4,233 shares.

The crossing of Chat Moss by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The creation of a stable trackbed across this treacherous area of deep peat bog was one of the most difficult challenges faced by the constructors of the line. image used under Creative Commons CC0 License

Survey and Authorization

The first survey for the line was carried out by James in 1822. The route was roughly the same as what was built, but the committee were unaware of exactly what land had been surveyed. James subsequently declared bankruptcy and was imprisoned that November.

Parrot of Doom – Own work. Used under Creative Commons licence.

The committee lost confidence in his ability to plan and build the line and, in June 1824, George Stephenson was appointed principal engineer. The committee lost confidence in his ability to plan and build the line and, in June 1824, George Stephenson was appointed principal engineer. As well as objections to the proposed route by Lords Sefton and Derby, Robert Haldane Bradshaw, a trustee of the Duke of Bridgewater’s estate at Worsley, refused any access to land owned by the Bridgewater Trustees and Stephenson had difficulty producing a satisfactory survey of the proposed route and accepted James’ original plans with spot checks.

The survey was presented to Parliament on 8 February 1825, but was shown to be inaccurate. Francis Giles suggested that putting the railway through Chat Moss was a serious error and the total cost of the line would be around £200,000 instead of the £40,000 quoted by Stephenson. Stephenson was cross examined by the opposing counsel led by Edward Hall Alderson and his lack of suitable figures and understanding of the work came to light. When asked, he was unable to specify the levels of the track and how he calculated the cost of major structures such as the Irwell Viaduct. The bill was thrown out on 31 May.

The Second Bill

The second Bill received Royal assent on 5 May 1826. The railway route ran on a significantly different alignment, south of Stephenson’s, avoiding properties owned by opponents of the previous Bill. From Huyton the route ran directly east through Parr Moss, Newton, Chat Moss and Eccles. In Liverpool, the route included a 1.25-mile (2.01 km) tunnel from Edge Hill to the docks, avoiding crossing any streets at ground level

It was intended to place the Manchester terminus on the Salford side of the River Irwell, but the Mersey and Irwell Navigation withdrew their opposition to a crossing of the river at the last moment in return for access for their carts over the intended railway bridge. The Manchester station was therefore fixed at Liverpool Road in Castlefield.


The first contracts for draining Chat Moss were let in June 1826. The Rennies insisted that the company should appoint a resident engineer, recommending either Josias Jessop or Thomas Telford, but would not consider George Stephenson, except in an advisory capacity for locomotive design. (They had earlier dismissed Stephenson after the first Bill was thrown out). The board rejected their terms and re-appointed Stephenson as engineer with his assistant Joseph Locke. Stephenson clashed with Vignoles, leading to the latter resigning as resident Surveyor.

The line was 31-mile (50 km) long. Management was split into three sections. The western end was run by Locke, the middle section by William Allcard (who crops up in our Warrington Railway story later in the series) and the eastern section including Chat Moss, by John Dixon. The track began at the 2,250-yard (2.06km) Wapping Tunnel beneath Liverpool from the south end of Liverpool Docks to Edge Hill. It was the world’s first tunnel to be bored under a metropolis.

Following this was a 2-mile (3 km) long cutting up to 70 feet (21 m) deep through rock at Olive Mount, and a 712-foot (217 m) nine-arch viaduct, each arch of 50 feet (15 m) span and around 60 feet (18 m) high) over the Sankey Brook valley.

The railway included the 4+34-mile (7.6 km) crossing of Chat Moss. It was found impossible to drain the bog and so the engineers used a design from Robert Stannard, steward for William Roscoe, that used wrought iron rails supported by timber in a herring bone layout. About 70,000 cubic feet (2,000 m3) of spoil was dropped into the bog; at Blackpool Hole, a contractor tipped soil into the bog for three months without finding the bottom. 

The line was supported by empty tar barrels sealed with clay and laid end to end across the drainage ditches either side of the railway. The railway over Chat Moss was completed by the end of 1829. On 28 December, the Rocket travelled over the line carrying 40 passengers and crossed the Moss in 17 minutes, averaging 17 miles per hour (27 km/h).

In April the following year, a test train carrying a 45-ton load crossed the moss at 15 miles per hour (24 km/h) without incident. The line now supports locomotives 25 times the weight of the Rocket.

The railway needed 64 bridges and viaducts, all built of brick or masonry, with one exception: the Water Street bridge at the Manchester terminus. A cast iron beam girder bridge was built to save headway in the street below. It was designed by William Fairbairn and Eaton Hodgkinson, and cast locally at their factory in Ancoats. It is important because cast iron girders became an important structural material for the growing rail network.

The physical work was carried out by a large team of men, known as “navvies”, using hand tools. The most productive teams could move up to 20,000 tonnes of earth in a day and were well paid. Nevertheless, the work was dangerous and several deaths were recorded

The Opening of the Railway

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&M) opened on 15 September 1830. The opening day was a major public event. Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, the prime minister, rode on one of the eight inaugural trains, as did many other dignitaries and notable figures of the day. Huge crowds lined the track at Liverpool to watch the trains depart for Manchester.

he trains left Liverpool on time and without any technical problems. The Duke of Wellington’s special train ran on one track, and the other seven trains ran on an adjacent and parallel track, sometimes ahead and sometimes behind the duke’s train. Around 13 miles (21 km) out of Liverpool the first of many problems occurred, when one of the trains derailed and the following train collided with it. With no reported injuries or damage, the derailed locomotive was lifted back onto the track and the journey continued. At Parkside railway station, near the midpoint of the line, the locomotives made a scheduled stop to take on water.

The Duke of Wellington’s train being prepared for departure from Liverpool to Manchester, 15 September 1830. Image used under Creative Commons licence.

Although the railway staff advised passengers to remain on the trains while this took place, around 50 of the dignitaries on board alighted when the Duke of Wellington’s special train stopped. One of those who got off was William Huskisson, former cabinet minister and Member of Parliament for Liverpool.

Huskisson had been a highly influential figure in the creation of the British Empire and an architect of the doctrine of free trade, but had fallen out with Wellington in 1828 over the issue of parliamentary reform and had resigned from the cabinet. Hoping to be reconciled with Wellington, he approached the duke’s railway carriage and shook his hand. Distracted by the duke, he did not notice an approaching locomotive on the adjacent track, Rocket. On realising it was approaching, he panicked and tried to clamber into the duke’s carriage, but the door of the carriage swung open, leaving him hanging directly in the path of the oncoming Rocket. He fell onto the tracks in front of the train, suffering serious leg injuries, and dying later that night. The Duke of Wellington felt that the remainder of the day’s events should be cancelled following the accident at Parkside, and proposed to return to Liverpool.

However, a large crowd had gathered in Manchester to see the trains arrive, and was beginning to become unruly. Wellington was persuaded to continue to Manchester. By the time the trains reached the outskirts of Manchester the crowd had become hostile and was spilling onto the tracks. With local authorities unable to clear the tracks, the trains were obliged to drive at low speed into the crowd, using their own momentum to push people out of the way. Eventually they arrived at Liverpool Road railway station in Manchester to be met by a hostile crowd, who waved banners and flags against the duke and pelted him with vegetables.

Wellington refused to get off the train, and ordered that the trains return to Liverpool. Mechanical failures and an inability to turn the locomotives meant that most of the trains were unable to leave Manchester. While the Duke of Wellington’s train left successfully, only three of the remaining seven locomotives were usable. These three locomotives slowly hauled a single long train of 24 carriages back to Liverpool, eventually arriving six and a half hours late after having been pelted with objects thrown from bridges by the drunken crowds lining the track.

Huskisson’s Funeral and Memorial

As the evening progressed Huskisson continued to weaken. The doctors had concluded that without amputation he would continue to deteriorate, but that he had no realistic chance of surviving major surgery, and broke this news to the Huskissons. William Huskisson already believed that he was dying and had resigned himself to his fate.

At about 11:00 pm that night William Wainewright sat down in Blackburne’s study at Eccles vicarage to write a brief letter to the Mayor of Liverpool.


With the deepest grief, I have to acquaint you, for the information of yourself, and of the community over which you preside, that Mr Huskisson breathed his last at 9 o’clock this evening. He was attended from the moment of the accident, with indefatigable assiduity, by Dr Brandreth of Liverpool, Dr Hunter of Edinburgh, and Mr Ransome, Mr Whatton, Mr Garside and Mr White, of Manchester.

His last moments were soothed by the devoted attentions of his now distracted widow, and by the presence of some of his distinguished and faithful friends.

I have the honour to be, Sir
Your most obedient humble servant.

Unveiling of the Huskisson Memorial 1913. Used under Creative Commons licence.

The Memorial in 1984. Photo © P. Spilsbury. Not available under Creative Commons.

Huskisson’s Inquest

Given Huskisson’s importance, and the potential impact on the future of Liverpool and Manchester’s industries and on the embryonic railway industry of any findings of liability on the part of the railway, a swift determination of the causes of the accident was considered essential. By 9:00 am on the morning after the accident, a hastily convened coroner’s jury was assembled in the Grapes public house in Eccles. The coroner himself, Mr Milne, arrived at 10:00 am and was in a hurry to proceed as he had another inquest scheduled that afternoon, but proceedings were unable to begin as Lord Wilton, the only sworn witness scheduled to attend the inquest, could not be found. In the meantime, Milne sent the jury to the vicarage to view Huskisson’s body.

After his death Huskisson’s body had been moved from the sofa on which he had died to an upstairs bedroom. On arrival at the vicarage Emily Huskisson refused to allow the jury to view the body, insisting on being allowed to remain alone with her husband. Eventually she had to be forcibly removed from the room, and the jury went into the bedroom in small groups to view the body.

Eventually a little after noon Wilton arrived at the inquest, and gave a full account of the incident. Lord Granville (half-brother of the Marquess of Stafford) told the jury that Huskisson had been suffering from numbness in his leg from a previous operation, and that this may have caused his apparent problems with movement. No witnesses recollected seeing any signal flags raised from any of the locomotives involved, including Rocket, although a system of warning flags was supposed to have been in place.

Although some eyewitnesses expressed the view that Joseph Locke, driving Rocket, was at fault, following a few words from the coroner the jury returned a verdict of accidental death. The directors and engineers of the L&M were explicitly absolved of all blame, and no deodand was to be attached to the locomotive or the railway.

[A deodand is a thing forfeited or given to God, specifically, in law, an object or instrument that becomes forfeited because it has caused a person’s death.]

Huskisson’s Funeral

There was a moral sublimity in the spectacle, which all who were present felt; but which I am afraid is not communicable to those who were absent. I have seen more than one public funeral, and I know something of the gorgeous pageantry so lavishly displayed in the burials of our Monarchs; but though I saw the ashes of Grattan and Canning deposited in one of the most august of Christian temples amid the vain regrets of men the most distinguished for rank, talent, and genius, and though the interment of Royalty takes hold upon the imagination from its necessary connexion with the most sumptuous display of human pomp and greatness, I never witnessed any spectacle so impressive as the appearance of this vast multitude, standing erect under the open canopy of heaven, and joining in one spontaneous tribute of respect to the memory of their late representative.

The Times on William Huskisson’s funeral, 27 September 1830


The death and funeral of William Huskisson caused the opening of the railway to be widely reported, and people around the world became aware that cheap and rapid long-distance land transport was now possible for the first time. The L&M became extremely successful, and within a month of its opening plans were put forward to connect Liverpool and Manchester with the other major cities of England. Within ten years, 1,775 miles (2,857 km) of railways were built in Britain, and within 20 years of the L&M’s opening over 6,200 miles (10,000 km) were in place. The L&M remains in operation, and its opening is now considered the start of the age of mechanised transport; in the words of industrialist and former British Rail chairman Peter Parker, “the world is a branch line of the pioneering Liverpool–Manchester run”.

Huskisson Monument, St James Mount Gardens, Liverpool. © Sue Adair Used under Creative Commons licence.

A more detailed report on the Liverpool and Manchester can be found in Wikipedia.

See also the Science and Industry Museum website. The museum is a fascinating place in Manchester and well worth a visit.

And not forgetting the opposite end of the line, how about the University of Liverpool website.

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