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TRAVEL NORTH - 38: GUISBOROUGH RAILWAY CIRCULAR 1: Why Were These Railways Built, And Who Built Them?
Down the Branch - Passengers were an afterthought
Local landmarks and knowledge - a precis
Roseberry Topping is visible from much of old Cleveland, North Yorkshire. Locally the hill is known as the 'Cleveland Matterhorn', the 'Topping' epithet has its origins in the days of the Danes as 'Toppen', a Danish Norse word for a hill. Its original name was Odins Beorge, Odin's Hill, variously also Odinsbeorg and possibly once the hub of pre-Christian worship. Across time the name changed to Othensberg, Ounsberge, Ouesbery. The settlement at the foot of the hill became known latterly as Newton-under-Roseberry.and the hill took its name from the village along the busy A173 between Great Ayton and Guisborough. Great Ayton on the far side of Roseberry Topping was where James Cook lived on the lower slopes of the hill at Aireyholme Farm. A tall obelisk on nearby Easby Moor commemorates his life ending as Captain Cook on Hawaii in February, 1779 in an affray with local tribesmen.
Pinchinthorpe, where two lines met
On 17th June, 1852 an Act was passed to build the twelve miles of the Middlesbrough & Guisborough Railway (M&GR)
The M&GR was an offshoot of the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR), one of the main promoters being Joseph Pease and his family based at Darlington. Pease had interests in local ironstone mining, the promoters ensuring how the new railway would best serve their purpose. The link to the booming, yet still fledgling town of Middlesbrough should also not be beneficial to rival industrialists in the Guisborough area. This was England in the second 'railway mania', when railway routes sprung up all over the North Riding of Yorkshire, South Durham and eastern Northumberland.
With the Act safe, funds were nevertheless slow in accruing for the construction of the railway. At a critical time in its development Joseph Pease and his son Edward advanced a guaranteed dividend of 4% for the first, 4.5% for the second and 5% following 24 months and 6% for the subsequent years. This offer stimulated business on the shares and on October 30th, 1852 Pease cut the first sod. On November 11th, 1853 the 9.5 miles of the M&GR was opened to traffic with a tough gradient out of the coastal plain east of Middlesbrough of one in 44 for three miles up Ormesby Bank to Nunthorpe. On the same day a branch opened from Low Cross Junction near Pinchinthorpe to serve the Pease ironstone workings at nearby Cod Hill.
Passengers were an afterthought, and in this area just about paid their way before the bus services took business away from the railway from the early 20th Century and later private car ownership further sliced into the railway's meagre profits.
Services were opened to passengers on the M&GR on February 25th, 1854, worked by locomotives of the S&DR. By 1858 the S&DR had thoughts on strengthening their hand in the Cleveland area by amalgamating the M&GR into the S&DR system in the North Riding. A proposed guaranteed of 6% 'in perpetuity was dangled in front of the shareholders of the M&GR on capital of £98,000. Some shareholders were dismayed by the amalgamation but the 'carrot' proved too much of a draw and on February 1857 terms were accepted. The M&GR was formally amalgamated into the S&DR on July 23rd, 1858.
Building the Cleveland Railway (CR) was initiated by mine owners around Guisborough and East Cleveland not connected to the Pease family to move their iron ore to the Tees. The M&GR was too much of a roundabout route for their liking and not close enough to their workings east of Guisborough, and only one passenger train daily ran to or from Middlesbrough. Nor had the M&GR seen fit to provide a station in Guisborough itself (the nearest being Hutton Gate, some way out of town to the south-west.
The M&GR was unpopular locally, both with rival mine owners who saw the M&GR serving only a narrow commercial market. The general populace viewed the Pease family as acting against the public good, unwilling as they were 'to give facility for people carrying traffic not connected with the furnaces with which they are connected'. Needless to say the M&GR's stance aroused strong local resentment. When testifying to the Select Committee, one gentleman was asked how local landowners stood with regards a new railway unconnected with the S&DR he answered that such a proposal would be regarded very favourably.
The West Hartlepool Harbour & Railway.(WHH&R) and several landowners struck a deal to build a line from the Tees at Cargo Fleet by way of Normanby. Upsall and Guisborough to Skinningrove on the coast, links to Staithes and Skelton-in-Cleveland included. This line would join up with the WHH&R line north of the Tees per a river crossing. A number of local landowners through whose estates the proposed line would run were central to the plan, such as Captain Thomas Chaloner of Guisborough, J T Wharton of Skelton Castle, Anthony Lax Maynard of Skinningrove and Ralph Ward Jackson of Greatham Hall, Normanby. Ward Jackson was the chairman of the WHH&R and the driving force behind the scheme. He saw Hartlepool as being central to the region's industrial interests.
Needless to say the S&DR was against the line being built and put forward a rival proposal which led to a Parliamentary Inquiry. The rival concerns had parts of their respective plans accepted, others thrown out. The Ward Jackson party could build a railway east from Guisborough to Skinningrove with a branch to nearby Slapewath that would extend to Skelton's iron ore workings. They were not allowed to build another line to Middlesbrough and would have to rely on the M&GR link to the Tees. The S&DR could build their extension from Redcar to Saltburn but not another bridge over the river. The CR's eastern section from Guisborough was authorised by an Act on July 23rd, 1858. During the building of this line the promoters also went ahead with the Guisborough to Tees section, using wayleaves as opposed to Parliamentary Sanction. Captain Chaloner, owner of the Guisborough Estate saw the CR as a means to moving minerals from his own lands to the Tees. The company was capitalised with £120,000, 50% of which would come from the WHH&R. Ward Jackson was to be its first chairman.
The CR finally got its Act for Guisborough to the Tees on July 22nd, 1861, by when it was well nigh close to completion and opened to mineral traffic on November 23rd, 1861. The CR crossed over the M&GR about 200 yards outside Guisborough Station. The M&GR were against the bridge over their line but were browbeaten by local magistrates who sanctioned completion. Whilst under construction there were dark rumours about it being blown up by someone linked to the M&GR when traffic began to cross. Not long afterward on November 23rd, 1861 a spur was opened from the M&GR to link up with the CR to the south of the bridge.
Stockton & Darlington Railway
Not exactly the 'Daddy' of railways, several mines and industrial concerns around the country already had branches for their exclusive use to move raw materials and finished products. No, the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR) was the first public railway, a mineral route operated with passenger and goods services for the movement of 'wagon-loads', i.e., obliged to carry goods, and soon after that passengers, from A-B for a specific rate or fare.
The S&DR expanded beyond its original Shildon-Darlington-Stockton route, south of the Tees and east to Redcar then beyond to Saltburn, or south to Nunthorpe and east to Hutton Gate. Guisborough was added later. Follow the story in this book, see how the railways developed on both banks of the Tees
You'd be forgiven for asking, 'Was there really a railway network here?' Stripped of many features and routes, you need to dig in the undergrowth in some places to find signs. In other places there are signs or features that look divorced from the surrounding landscape. Less than half the original network of competing lines is still in use now.
Railways of Teesside
Cleveland Railway Extension
Still looking to avoid having to rely on the M&GR, Ward Jackson had set out a new proposal in 1859. This was to take the line from Guisborough to the Tees at Cargo Fleet (originally Port Darlington but changed to appease Stocktoners), to ease the flow of iron ore shipments to Tyneside. Again the S&DR opposed the move. Although the Cleveland Extension Bill was unanimously accepted by the Commons, the House of Lords threw it out. This left an opening for a private railway on lands owned by Ward Jackson and his supporters. It was built as the Upsall, Normanby and Ormesby Railway and opposed again by the S&DR because the line had to cross their Redcar branch. A bridge over their line was consented to eventually.
A more serious problem was the need to build a new river crossing at the Normanby Jetty. The WHH&R wanted to build a bridge over the Tees but the Tees Conservancy Commission blocked the plan under pressure from the S&DR. Instead they decided to build a jetty to move wagons on barges. The S&DR used its weight to have that scuppered as well, undertaking legal action at the Court of Chancery to stop it but construction went on regardless. The argument led to violent action between the two parties on September 10th, 1860 in an action known locally as 'The Battle of the Tees'. Barges sent to blockade the jetty were moved by WHH&R steam tugboats. The police were obliged to break in to restore peace. In the end, because of the S&DR's intransigence the WHH&R not only won the confrontation but were able to finish building their jetty. (Who would have thought that the normally pacific Quaker Pease family would resort to allowing violence to achieve their aims?)
The line was finished by early 1861, consisted of two linked private railways through Ward Jackson's and Captain Chaloner's lands. The bridge built over the M&GR's branch a little way outside Guisborough carried their line to a junction and on to Skinningrove. A new Act passed in July 1861 to authorise the CR's operation was still opposed, but Parliament was by now fed up with the S&DR's activities. The line opened November 23rd, 1861 was thirteen miles throughout from Skelton Pit over a reversal from Slapewath to Normanby Jetty, crossing the ravine at Slapewath across the eight arched Waterfall Viaduct (still standing). The line skirted south-west around Guisborough to cross Chapel Beck on wooden viaducts. From here it ran along an almost straight embanked alignment over fields to the west of Guisborough (at the foot of Barnaby Side near the Cross Keys Inn). Where the narrow road comes over the col between two hills to join the A172 is what is left of bridge abutments where the railway turned and climbed the hill over a rope-worked incline northward to Normanby. Being a purely mineral branch there were no passenger stations despite the poor M&GR service.
However, in 1862 financial irregularities at the WHH&R led to harsh cash-flow difficulties, and the resignation of Ralph Ward Jackson from the boards of both the WHH&R and CR. Parliament blocked further contributions from the WHH&R to the CR. Funds were still forthcoming, however, for a new extension by way of Boosbeck to Loftus. The CR had extended their branch from Slapewath to Boosbeck Lane, and further east to Brotton near Saltburn, opened February 23rd 1865. Further, on April 21st Carlin How above Skinningrove came within reach where a zig-zag linked the line to Loftus Mines. By that time the North Eastern Railway (NER) had absorbed the CR and the line reached Loftus over the timber Kilton Viaduct on May 27th, 1867.By that time the S&DR and its offshoot the M&GR.had been part of the NER for four years, the CR being fully amalgamated in July, 1865.
Rationalisation became the order of the day after the NER took over the branches and provided a much better passenger service between Middlesbrough and Guisborough, part of the CR network was deemed surplus to requirements. The line west from Guisborough was lifted, all the way back to Normanby's brickworks on the north side of the hill. The Chaloner link to the M&GR at Pinchinthorpe was also lifted, leaving the M&GR's original line from Nunthorpe (by then via a junction with the Battersby-Nunthorpe branch via Ayton) to Guisborough by way of Hutton Gate, to Slapewath, Boosbeck and beyond to Loftus where an 1883 link to Whitby along the coast meant services could be run from Middlesbrough to Whitby and then from 1885 also Scarborough.
Further rationalisation took hold of the branches well before Dr Beeching's time as Chairman of British Railways. As the mines were worked out around East Cleveland running costs escalated. Passenger services were threatened because goods receipts on farm and light industrial traffic were not enough to cover the gap in revenue. First to go in 1958 was the Whitby link on from Loftus, and the line was cut back in May, 1960. It was re-opened to carry freight from Skinningrove until a new road bridge was built under the coastal route from Saltburn. Boosbeck was isolated but for United Automobile Services bus route via Charltons and Slapewath when the line was closed to passengers and survived as a long siding until closure in August 1963.. The service to Guisborough went in March 1964 due to lack of serious revenue. Goods traffic still , used the station until August 31st of that year. Private siding traffic to Blackett Junction went on after this date. The branch from Nunthorpe East Junction was taken out of use in late March, 1965, a two hundred yard spur kept as a siding on the down side.
I photographed buildings at the site of Guisborough Station in the late 60's, since when the site has been built on, as has that of Hutton Gate. Pinchinthorpe Station is now part of a well-frequented nature park, with the trackbed open to the public as far as Hutton Gate, Both NER and M&GR station buildings either side of the bridge on the Guisborough to Ayton road are privately owned dwellings.
The trackbed at Slapewath
was still there when I used to travel on the 58 bus route between Middlesbrough and Scarborough via Guisborough and Whitby (1962-65). A bridge carried the road over the line to the east of Guisborough close by Slapewath where it went through a cutting and turned right into the village of Charltons. Trees hide where the line used to run, and the road has been widened through here to the outskirts of Guisborough where a roundabout leads on towards another roundabout and eventually east to Skelton or further north to Redcar - or west into Guisborough. Anyone who had not grown up in the area, or who had come back after a long time away would never recognise the area but for a few landmarks such as the Fox & Hounds at Slapewath and Guisborough Hall (now a hotel).
Next: 39 Guisborough Circular Part 2, Stations, Junctions and Points of Interest
East toward the coast
Guisborough Museum, 14 Westgate Road, Guisborough, TS14 6BA
Ph: 01287 203617; e-mail :firstname.lastname@example.org; www.redcar-cleveland.gov.uk/
See the railway exhibition and photographic displays. The museum's new displays include toys, games of the past from Victorian to 1950s as well as early medical equipment (thank your stars you're in the modern world, just hope the medical staff know how to use them).
Staffed by volunteers, the museum is open Thursdays and Saturdays, 10am to 4pm April to October
Late days at Guisborough before closure in March 1964
Guisborough Station - last rites
This is the first of a set of three pages on the railways around Guisborough
See also Guisborough Railway Circular part 2: Stations, Junctions, Lineside Features; and 40: Guisbough Railway Circular part 3: Mines and Lines