The old clock on platform 13 at Manchester Piccadilly
Jeff Stone of the Exchange Arcade in
Fleming Square tried to buy the clocks in 2002 to save them for Blackburn but
wasn’t given the opportunity to quote a price.
He said; “we wanted to put them in Fleming Square to keep them in
Blackburn”. Currently one of the clocks is situated on Platform 13 (unlucky for
Blackburn) but there is no sign of the other one (it is rumoured that it was sold for £3,000 to a private collector
in America) the plot thickens.
Story Quotes and picture from
Lancashire Telegraph 20/6/2002 and 7/4/2003.
and written by Jeffrey Booth (Library Volunteer).
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In the 1840's business men were beginning to realise that railways were the key to future expansion of the textile industry; before the railways, the only way to get their products to places like Manchester was by horse and cart, and, at 10d a mile and 10d per ton this form of transport was very expensive. A number of influential businessmen gathered at the Greenway Arms in Darwen one Friday afternoon in 1844 to discuss the building of a railway from Blackburn to Bolton, via Lower and Over Darwen.
The cost would be £213,600; the public were invited to buy shares at £25 each and 382 people applied but the bulk of the money was put up by four men, Henry Hornby, Charles Potter, Eccles Shorrock and James Kay of Turton Tower. All four bound themselves for £50,000.
Plaque Commemorating first sod cut by W.H. Hornby
On the Blackburn Bolton Line
On a blustery, wet, September 27th 1845, in a field close to where Darwen Station now stands William Hornby, using a new spade, cut the first sod. A blue plaque is situated at Darwen Station to commemorate this. The work of building the line began steadily, until it reached Hey Fold Farm; here, the farmer, Robert Smalley, attacked them with a well-worn spade. Work ceased for a while but eventually the lines were laid across his land. Altogether, 4,000 people were employed in various capacities on the line. They worked from dawn to dusk for a gold sovereign, drinking copious amounts of moonshine liquor brewed in illegal stills. The readily availability of ale caused problems, one worker, worse for wear from drink, attacked and killed a Blacksnape tailor. An additional story recalls that another worker left a candle on top of a gunpowder keg and forget about it; the next thing he knew he was flying through the air! Extra police had to be brought in at Turton because of the mayhem the workers were causing.
Creating a tunnel under the moors took two very difficult years. Wet workings, and roof falls claimed the lives of five men; it wasn’t called “the Black Hoyle (hole)” for nothing. Many of the men were recruited from the coalfields of Wigan and as far away as South Wales. Bricks for the tunnel arching were made from clay taken from William Shorrock's fields north of the tunnel entrance and baked in the contractors private kilns sited at the bottom of Pole Lane. Tunnelling through the Sough also caused problems for local enterprises.
Management at the Roxborough Calico Print works were not happy when their once clear hill water became muddy and they had to stop production; they won damages from the Railway to the tune of £5,000. Nearby, Brandwood pit was also troubled by flooding, and, for a time, a hastily improvised culvert diverted the flow. Thirteen vertical shafts were sunk to depths from 40 to 260 feet, one labourer slipped and fell down shaft number nine, and his body was never recovered. The second death was that of the youngest employee, 12 year old Billy Godbhere, whose job was running to the smithy with picks that workers sent up for re-sharpening. Between times he watched the hoppers as they resurfaced with soil for tipping. Bored by the monotony, he gave one swinging hopper a playful shove, striking it against a small lorry nearby, caught by the unexpected rebound, the hapless child was knocked over the brink of the 260ft chasm and his body was never recovered. Whilst the tunnel was being dug an engine driver, Thomas Heaviside, was killed when his locomotive exploded. Two other men died in a macabre incident, they were a father and son. The men were employed, after the opening of the railway, to seal up two shafts. There was a wooden stage which spread across the 10ft diameter openings at surface level. On the fateful day, unbeknown to them, an overnight storm had washed away a lot of loose earth from under the platform of shaft 5, when the men stepped innocently onto the delicately poised planking it tilted sharply downwards plunging them a hundred feet below to their deaths, an avalanche of rubble cascaded down after them entombing them forever.
The line was opened from Blackburn to Sough on 3rd of August 1847 and from Sough to Bolton on Monday 12th June 1848. On this day at 7am a regular service train made up of eight carriages packed to capacity left Blackburn, drawn by a Hawthorn 0-6-0. On the opening run to Bolton a band of musicians accompanied the intrepid passengers and the journey was completed, uneventfully, in thirty eight minutes; the journey by stagecoach would have taken nearly 3 hours.
Picture of Sough Tunnel courtesy of
Another interesting aspect of the line was the use of an iron bridge to carry the railway over the canal at Hollinbank, Blackburn. The engineer in charge of the building of the railway, Charles Vignoles wrote in his diary that this was the first time ever that such a bridge as this design was erected anywhere. It became a common feature later of railway building all over the world. So, if you travel on this line remember the sacrifice of 5 people who enabled you to do so.
From "The Blackburn Darwen and Bolton Railway" by W.D.Tattersall
Researched and written by Jeffrey Booth (Library Volunteer)
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