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Curzon Street Station, Birmingham, the original London and Birmingham Railway terminus.

“Robert Stephenson, in those days, almost lived on the line, and the first occasion on which he visited the portion in question, after the contracts were let, accompanied by the Secretary and by four or five of the Directors, was the twelfth time that he had walked the whole distance from London to Birmingham.”

Personal Recollections of English Engineers, F. R. Conder (1868)

Much of this chapter concerns the problems that the promoters of the London and Birmingham Railway were confronted with in Parliament, for having carried out a great deal of exploration to identify the most appropriate route, all matters being considered (and there many), there was then a further major hurdle to overcome before the ceremony of ‘cutting the first sod’ could take place.  This stemmed from the need to obtain a ‘private’ Act of Parliament, which was (and remains) necessary to authorise the construction of what today would be described as a ‘transport infrastructure project’ and all which that entails.



A draft Act of Parliament is called a Bill.  Unlike a ‘public’ Bill’, which is a proposal for a law that applies to everyone within its jurisdiction, a ‘private Bill’ is a proposal for a law that has more limited application.  It applies only to a specified individual, group of individuals, or corporate body, such as a local authority or public company.  If such a Bill is approved by Parliament it then becomes a private Act (of Parliament).  The privileges granted by a private Act might include relief from another law, or a unique benefit, or powers not available under the general law, or relief from the legal responsibility for some otherwise unlawful act.

If the capital to construct a railway was to be raised by public subscription ― which in the railway-building era was the case [1] ― and/or its course was to lie across public land and that of individuals not associated with the scheme, a private Act had first to be obtained.  There were two reasons for this.  First, under the cumbersome law of the day, joint-stock companies could only be set up either by royal charter or by private Act of Parliament.  Second, an Act of Parliament was necessary to authorise a scheme to proceed in accordance with whatever terms Parliament laid down.  For example, a provision generally to be found in a private railway or canal Act gave the proprietors the legal power to acquire specified private land by compulsory purchase; in effect, to acquire it without the owner’s consent but with fair monetary compensation.  Other provisions and stipulations might include the right to cross public highways, divert rivers and streams, fence the line, hold General Assemblies, and the arbitration procedures to be applied in cases were land values were in dispute, to name just a few.

When applying for a private railway Bill, a necessary preliminary was for the promoters, through their legal representatives, to advertise their intentions in the official newspaper of record, The London Gazette, and in other newspapers serving the areas likely to be affected.  This was to alert the general public to what was intended in order that the scheme or some part of it might be challenged, either directly with its promoters or with the legislature when it eventually came before Parliament.  During its parliamentary committee stages, a Bill might be challenged on specific matters by individuals or corporate bodies who considered they would in some way be affected adversely by its provisions.

In addition to informing the general public, parliamentary standing orders laid down specific requirements that had to be met (see also Appendix I.) to ensure that the legislature was also properly appraised of the promoters’ intentions with regard to their scheme:

“The different documents required to be deposited at the Private Bill Office on or before November 30, are as follows:― Plans, sections, and books of reference; and [London] Gazette notices; on or before December 23 the petition for the bill with agent’s declaration and copy of the bill annexed, and other copies for the use of members; on or before December 31, estimates, declarations, lists of owners, occupiers, and lessees, distinguishing who assent, dissent, or are neuter, and certain other documents in the case of joint stock companies. All these documents must be deposited after 8 am and before 8 pm, and not upon a Sunday or Christmas Day.”

Private Bill Legislation, S. B. Bristowe (1859).


Depositing railway plans during the ‘Railway Mania’.

The deadline dates had to be met if a Bill was to be considered in the following session of Parliament.  Francis Conder [2] left a vivid picture of the haste with which the deposited plans had sometimes to be completed by drawing office staff working around the clock, and then despatched post chaise to meet the parliamentary deadline:

Accordingly for some ten days the labour of plotting sections, copying plans, numbering and copying references, and the like, went on almost without intermission.  At nine in the evening would appear mighty bowls of oysters, gallons of ale, and other materials of a rude but hearty repast.  A respite of some three quarters of an hour would be filled up by uproarious hilarity and then a fierce objurgation from the chief ― the moment before the chief reveller ― for so scandalous a manner of wasting the company’s time would set all briskly to work again . . . .

The crisis came on a Monday.  The farthest distance that could be traversed in a given time, by the best paid post boy, had been carefully studied.  In the outlying counties the deposits had been sent off by the Saturday.  On through Sunday and Sunday night toiled the diminished staff.  The last post chaise was in waiting at the door . . . . Without his coat, the engineer in chief was with his own hands completing the last book of plans . . . . At last the final sheet is pasted in, the book closed, the expectant messenger tumbled into the chaise with all his credentials; whirling off with a shout, and with the proper accompaniment of an old shoe flung after the carriage for luck; and now, if wheels and horseflesh hold, and no sleepy turnpike man make undue delay, the deposit for the standing orders is safe.  The wearied may repose, the strain is taken off, and men begin to fear that they will hardly be able to sleep if they go to bed in a regular way.”

Personal Recollections of English Engineers, F. R. Conder (1868).

In addition to the documents deposited with the Private Bills Office, copies of them were also required to be deposited with the clerks of the peace in the counties through which the line was planned to pass, and with the relevant parochial authorities, while landholders had to be provided with a section showing the depth of cutting or embankment across their estates.  Facsimiles had therefore to be made, a formidable task in the days before more sophisticated reproduction techniques were available:

“If you prick through a dozen sheets of drawing-paper at once, a very slight deviation from the perpendicular in the needle is enough to make the twelfth plan very different from the first.  Inaccuracies of this kind might be harmless while you had to do with parish clerks or county surveyors; but the great feature of the parliamentary fight was the opposition.  Recalcitrant landowners, hostile corporations, or even rival companies, set their own engineers to work.  With more time to command for criticism than for construction, these opponents would sometimes go to the expense of taking tracing of all the deposited plans, and then denouncing to the expectant legislators their want of identity.”

Personal Recollections of English Engineers, F. R. Conder (1868).

The necessary documents having been deposited within deadline and the Bill placed before Parliament, if all went well it would eventually progress to the committee rooms in the Commons and the Lords for detailed scrutiny.  It was at this stage that those applying for a private Act would sometimes become embroiled in a lengthy and very expensive legal wrangle.

Committee hearings are a quasi-judicial process, with witnesses ― both for and against the scheme ― appearing to give evidence on which they could be cross-examined by committee members and by lawyers engaged to represent the interests of those promoting and opposing the Bill.  Hearings on railway Bills were sometimes entertaining, to the extent that the reputations of some of the professional witnesses have gone down in history:

Mr Brunel [Isambard Kingdom Brunel] had a very high reputation as a witness.  Mr. St. George Burke, Q.C., has communicated a memorandum on this subject: ―

I. K. Brunel FRS (1806-59), Civil Engineer.

‘As a witness he
[Brunel] could always be relied on as a perfect master of the case he had to support and he had the rare quality of confining his answers to a simple reply to the questions put to him, without appearing as an advocate. . . . In his cross examinations he was generally a match for the most skilful counsel, and by the adroitness of his answers would often do as much to advance his case as by his examination in chief . . . . Although he had attained to great celebrity as a witness, the committee room being crowded to hear him, he always declined to engage in the very lucrative work of a professional witness.  He made a rule never to appear except on behalf of undertakings of which he was the engineer, or with which his own companies were interested.”

The Life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Civil Engineer, Isambard Brunel (1870).

But other witnesses performed less well.  Despite his many noted talents, one expert witness, Doctor Dionysius Lardner, has done down in history for his disagreements in committee with Brunel.  Perhaps the most famous of these relates to the construction of the Box Tunnel on the London to Bristol railway.  The tunnel was at a 1-in-100 gradient.  Lardner asserted that if a train’s brakes failed in the tunnel, it would accelerate to over 120 mph, at which speed the passengers would suffocate.  Brunel pointed out to the committee the basic error in Lardner’s calculation, his total disregard of air-resistance and friction.

Regardless of whether they were well founded, when challenges were mounted hearings could drag on for weeks, and even if the promoters were successful in obtaining their Act, the costs they accrued in the process could be exorbitant; and when their application failed, and their Bill was thrown out, they were also fruitless.  In an extreme case, such as the Great Northern Railway Bill of 1845-46 ― which ran out of time during the 1845 parliamentary session and had to be continued the following year ― the promoters alone spent £433,000.

Decisions could also be inconsistent, for while local interests might be assessed accurately, the national interest tended to be neglected, as events were to demonstrate to the promoters of the London and Birmingham Railway.  For in an age when the landed gentry held considerable sway over parliamentary decisions ― even when an application for a private Act was well prepared and convincing ― the outcome of a committee hearing was far less predictable than might be the case today.




The earliest proposal to build a mechanically-worked railway from Warwickshire into London appears to have been considered as early as 1820, when the far-sighted railway promoter William James surveyed a route.  The ‘Central Union Railroad’ was to commence at the canal basin at Stratford-on-Avon (which provided a waterway link into Birmingham), then pass through Moreton-in-Marsh (Gloucestershire), Oxford and Uxbridge to a terminus at Paddington. [3]  Although 16-miles of its northern section were built [4] to convey coal from the Stratford Canal to Moreton-in-Marsh, with return cargoes of limestone and agricultural produce, nothing came of the remainder of James’s grand scheme.

The next proposal followed soon after.  Towards the end of 1824, during the prelude to the ‘Railway Fever’ of 1825-1826, [5] the ‘London and Birmingham Railroad Company’ was formed:

“For the purpose of effecting a direct, cheap, and expeditious communication between the metropolis and the central part of England, it is proposed to form a Railroad from London to Birmingham, connecting itself at the latter place with the undertaking already commenced, the Birmingham and Liverpool Railroad, and thus opening a direct communication with Manchester.”

The Times, 21st December 1824.

It was proposed to raise capital of £1.5M, this to include the cost of “stationary and locomotive engines”.  John Rennie Jnr. (later Sir John Rennie) was commissioned to survey a route from London to Birmingham, the fieldwork being undertaken during 1824 and 1825 by the brothers John and Edward Grantham.

In his survey report, [Appendix II.] Rennie proposed commencing near the Islington Tunnel of the Regent’s Canal, then following a line via Harrow Weald to Otterspool, to the east of Watford, then through Leavsden Green to Hunton Bridge, along the Gade Valley via Hemel Hempstead and across the ridge of the Chilterns through the ‘Dagnall Gap’.  The route then passed north of Aylesbury; through Quainton; to the north of Bicester and of Banbury; to the east of Warwick; to the southwest of Coventry [6]; and then to Acock’s Green . . . . “crossing the Worcester Canal to the Ilchington road where it unites with the proposed Birmingham and Liverpool Railway, being a total distance of 121 miles from London” ― the junction referred to appears to be in the vicinity of Stirchley, some 3 miles to the south of the present-day city centre.  Rennie mentions that his surveyors had tried several approaches to Birmingham, including “. . . .Gaydon Hill by Leamington, Warwick, and Kenilworth, which failed on account of the inequalities of the country and the numerous parks and other valuable and private property which it would have necessarily interfered with . . . .

Rennie then goes on the make some general observations (the thrust of one being felt during the first attempt, in 1832, by the London and Birmingham Railway Company to gain parliamentary authorisation for the line, their application being defeated on the interests of the landed gentry):

“The principal objects in determining the most proper line are, to make the course of the railway as direct as possible between London and Birmingham; to avoid, as much as practicable, all parks, pleasure grounds, and other valuable public and private property; and to avoid interference with existing canals and to embrace as many populous and important towns along the line as can be done consistently with a reasonable degree expenditure.”

Rennie then reviews the problems that stood in the way of a shorter route:

“The country between London and Birmingham may be chiefly divided into four districts, comprehending the vales of the river Thames, Aylesbury, the rivers Charwell and Avon, all of which are surrounded by extensive ridges of high hills, which are again intersected by numerous minor valleys, through which the tributary streams descend towards the principal rivers above-mentioned.  To effect, therefore, a direct communication between London and Birmingham, the whole of these must be passed by numerous inclined planes, extensive cuttings, and embankments, without regard to the situation of private property or otherwise; so it will be extremely difficult to keep estimate within reasonable bounds, and the only advantage of doing this, viz., shortening the line, would be more than counterbalanced by the above inconveniences.”

In other words a shorter route, while possible, would be outweighed by the additional cost of engineering and of crossing private estates.  Rennie concludes by pointing out that although the line he proposed was 12 miles longer than the London to Birmingham mail coach route, it was 40 miles shorter than that by canal; and if the heavier ruling gradient of 20ft to the mile ― as opposed to 14ft ― were to be acceptable, a saving of 5 miles could be made.

Shortly afterwards the shareholders met to approve the route, to commission a detailed survey and to make preliminary overtures to the landowners whose property would (assuming a private Act was obtained) become subject to compulsory purchase:

“The report of Mr. John Rennie, recommending that the projected line from London to Birmingham should go in the most direct way, viz. ― to commence at the Thames, near the East and West India Docks, then by Islington to the North of the Regent’s Park and Paddington, to the South of Harrow, to the vicinity of Tring and Wendover, to the North of Aylesbury, Bicester, and Banbury, between Coventry and Warwick, direct to Birmingham, having been read . . . . Resolved ― that such a line be approved of, and the necessary Survey immediately taken: and that as soon as they are in a sufficient state of forwardness, they be submitted to the Land-holders, the Proprietors being most anxious to carry into effect the project with as little inconvenience as possible to private property.”

The Morning Post, 23rd February 1825.

But that meeting appears to have been the high point in the life of the ‘London and Birmingham Railroad Company’, for in June 1826 announcements appeared in the press that the company was to be dissolved:

“It is with considerable regret that we hear of the proposed London and Birmingham Railway plan is about to be abandoned . . . . after it has been satisfactorily ascertained from actual surveys by experienced engineers, that a practicable line of only 116 miles length, without inclined planes, standing machinery or tunnelling, can be effected; and without the necessity of passing through any Nobleman’s park, or interfering with the Canals more than be simply crossing them in the same manner as any ordinary road.”

Birmingham Gazette, 12th June 1826.

The reason for the dissolution of the company probably stemmed from the ‘banking panic’. [7]  Of the £17,000 that had been subscribed, £2,500 had been spent on survey and legal fees, leaving the promoters with a balance of 15s 9d in the pound subscribed.  Rennie’s report, together with the plans, sections, minute books, documents and other company papers were to be preserved by the respective solicitors.



Plans to build the line then lay dormant until, in 1830, notices posted by the ‘London and Birmingham Railway Company’ began to appear in the press; nine of its twenty-five board members including the Chairman, William Chance, High Bailiff of Birmingham, had sat on the board of the earlier company. [8]  Rennie was again engaged, presumably to develop his earlier outline plans and sections to a standard sufficient to satisfy the requirements of parliamentary standing orders, particularly with regard to listing the owners of the tracts of land across which the line was to pass and to record those that were either ‘assenters’ or ‘dissenters’:

“To obviate the mischief and disappointment that might ensue from any partial or imperfect attempts to lay down a line of Railway between London and Birmingham some individuals in both places have considered it expedient to adopt preliminary steps for the accomplishment of this great work.  With this view in mind they have referred to Messrs Rennie, who were consulted in the year 1826 upon a similar undertaking; and who have pointed out a practical and nearly direct line between London and Birmingham, founded on actual examination and surveys of the face and levels of the country.  A further examination of the line and the country between the two places is now in progress; and no pains will be spared to render the line perfect, as a line of national communication.”

Birmingham Gazette, 19th July 1830.

But competition now emerged in the form of ‘The London, Coventry, and Birmingham Railway Company’, which had engaged the civil engineer Francis Giles to identify a suitable route.  That which Giles proposed was similar to Rennie’s at its southern end, also passing to the east of Watford through South Mimms.  With regards to the Giles proposal overall:

“For the present it may be sufficient to state that it will commence in the open grounds at Islington, near London, and proceed by Hornsey, East Barnet, South Mimms, Hemel Hempstead (where it will be joined by a branch from the Edgware road) and passing the Chiltern hills at Dagnall gap, to the East [actually the West] of Dunstable, will proceed by Leighton Buzzard, Fenny Stratford, Rugby and Coventry, and thence by Mendon and Stonebridge, into the Tame Valley, near Birmingham, and thence form a junction with the intended Birmingham and Liverpool Railway” [The Grand Junction Railway].

The Times, 5th July 1830.

It is interesting to note that Giles bypasses Northampton and, like Rennie, is vague as to where exactly the central Birmingham terminus was to be.  Overall, the promoters of the Coventry route claimed that . . . .

“. . . . While it will furnish every accommodation to the town of Birmingham, it will deviate from the direct route between Liverpool and London, which lies to the east of Birmingham, it will pass near the large manufacturing City of Coventry, and may readily be connected with the extensive coal-field in that neighbourhood ― it offers the great agricultural counties of Leicester and Northampton additional facilities for the conveyance of their corn and cattle to the Birmingham and London markets, and it presents no variation of level but such as may be easily adapted to the use of the locomotive steam engine . . . . The Committee has the satisfaction of announcing to the public that they shall have the advantage of Mr. George Stevenson’s (sic) services . . . . ”

Birmingham Gazette, 16th August 1830.

Meanwhile, at a meeting held on 19th July 1830, the board of the London and Birmingham Railway Company was at pains to disassociate itself from this new enterprise . . . .

“. . . . this committee, most of whom gave their personal assistance, and largely contributed to the expense of surveys made by Messrs. Rennie in the years 1825 and 1826, of the line of Railway from Birmingham to London, having adopted that line, subject to the improvements which enlarged information and repeated experiments on this mode of transit have rendered obvious, and in which considerable progress has, by recent surveys, been made; and being satisfied that the line so adopted by them presents the most eligible and direct route from Birmingham to London, are fully determined to persevere in their undertaking.”

Birmingham Gazette, 26th July 1830.

The article rather suggests that the “recent surveys” to which it refers were to refine the route identified by the Granthams during 1824-25.  However, the travel writers E. C. and W. Osborne (and others) refer to the investigation of a possible line through Oxford . . . .

“Between London and Birmingham two different routes were proposed in 1830, one by Oxford and Banbury, by Sir John Rennie, another line passing close by Coventry, by Mr Giles. A company was formed to carry out the former proposal, and another to realise the latter; each company had its separate suite of directors, and these foreseeing the danger and loss that must inevitably have resulted from the competitive struggle between two such formidable public bodies wisely entered into arrangements for a union of the two companies, which was effected, on September the 11th 1830.  In consequence of the opinion of Mr. George Stephenson being decidedly in favour of the line by Coventry, it was concluded that that should be the route of the London and Birmingham railway.”

Osborne’s London & Birmingham Railway Guide, E. C. and W. Osborne (1840).

It is unclear whether this was an entirely new proposal or, as seems likely, a misunderstanding of the route Rennie had earlier proposed (Appendix II.), which at its nearest point (Brackley, near Banbury) passes some 30 miles to the north of Oxford.

Faced with the prospects of a mutually damaging conflict resulting from two similar railway Bills being submitted to Parliament, the competing companies jointly commissioned George Stephenson to review their respective plans and choose between them.  Following careful examination of the country, Stephenson recommended that proposed by Giles, via Coventry:

“The one set of projectors advocated a line by Coventry; the other adventurers being in favour of a route through Banbury and Oxford.  George Stephenson being applied to for an opinion by the competing parties, decided in favour of the Coventry route.  The consequence of this decision was that the rival Companies, instead of aiding the external enemies who were ready to destroy both of them, prudently joined their forces, and with united influence applied to Parliament for a line through Coventry.”

Life of Robert Stephenson, J. C. Jeffreson (1866).

In the autumn of 1830, the two companies combined their resources to form ‘The London and Birmingham Railway Company’, [9] ‘George Stephenson and Son’ being engaged as civil engineers (Appendix III.), but not before there had been some soul-searching between father and son:

“At the meeting of gentlemen held at Birmingham to determine upon the appointment of the engineer for the railway, there was a strong party in favour of associating with Stephenson a gentleman [possibly the civil engineer Joseph Locke (1805-60)] with whom he had been brought into serious collision in the course of the Liverpool and Manchester undertaking.  When the offer was made to him that he should be joint engineer with the other, he requested leave to retire and consider the proposal with his son.  The two walked into St. Philip’s churchyard, which adjoined the place of meeting, and debated the proposal.  The father was in favour of accepting it.  His struggle heretofore had been so hard that he could not bear the idea of missing so promising an opportunity of professional advancement.  But the son, foreseeing the jealousies and heart-burnings which the joint engineership would most probably create, recommended his father to decline the connection.  George adopted the suggestion, and, returning to the committee, announced to them his decision, on which the promoters decided to appoint him the engineer of the undertaking in conjunction with his son.”

The Life of George Stephenson and of his son Robert Stephenson, Samuel Smiles (1862).

And to oversee the activities of George Stephenson and Son . . . .

“. . . . a committee of survey was appointed to establish a regular communication with the Engineers, by way of periodical reports, and to correct errors, make improvements, confirm friends, and conciliate enemies.”

The London and Birmingham Railway, Thomas Roscoe, Peter Lecount (1839).

Although the Stephensons were appointed joint Engineers-in-Chief, Stephenson Snr. gradually receded into the background leaving his son at the helm, and he immediately set about seeking ways to refine the existing route:

“Robert Stephenson made three distinct surveys for the London and Birmingham line, besides several minor surveys of different portions of the country, for the purpose of ascertaining whether the route could not be improved.  The first survey was made in the autumn of 1830.  In 1831 a second line was marked out, almost identical with the one eventually executed.  The plans and sections having been deposited, and the requisite amount of shares subscribed for, an application was made to Parliament, and a Bill to enable the Company to make their proposed railway was read the first time on February 20, 1832.  The third survey was made in the autumn following the last date.”

Life of Robert Stephenson, J. C. Jeffreson (1866).

The autumn of 1830 saw the publication of statutory notices in the London Gazette and other newspapers advising of the Company’s intention to apply to Parliament for an Act to authorise construction of the line, the Coventry route being that proposed.  It is interesting to note the difference between the estimated cost of what was then being proposed, and what was eventually delivered:

It is not a little curious to turn back, and watch the first beginnings of a work of such magnitude as this railway, which will cost more than £5,000,000.  In November, 1830, there was to be one line of rails only, and the work was to be done for £6,000 per mile.  The capital was then one million and a quarter, and no greater velocity contemplated than eight miles an hour.  Shares got up to nine and ten premium on the prospectus, at which many hundreds were sold.  Then it was determined to have two lines; and at that announcement the shares fell directly to a discount . . . . We wonder that the speculators of those days would have thought, if they could then have been informed what the real cost of the present two lines would be.  One thing is certain, there would not have been a railway between London and Birmingham for many a year.”

The History of the Railway Connecting London and Birmingham, Lieut. Peter LeCount R.N. (1839).

The statutory notices describe a route commencing at a point near Horsfall Basin (later known as Battlebridge Basin) on the Regent’s Canal, slightly to the north-east of King’s Cross Station, to terminate at ‘Nova Scotia Gardens’ within the Parish of Aston near Birmingham. [10]  Where exactly the line was to cross the Chilterns had yet to be decided; separate notices published in the London Gazette during October and November 1830, specified routes through both the Dagnall (Gade Valley) and the Tring (Bulbourne Valley) gaps. [11]  The public was also informed that the Company intended to seek powers to build a branch railway, which appears ― the notice is not specific ― to have been intended to serve Northampton.

Although much effort had been put into identifying the optimum route, there was insufficient time to assemble a convincing case to place before Parliament.  It was therefore decided to defer application for an Act until the 1831 session:

“From this sketch of the nature of the ground it is evident what care was required in searching for the best line of road.  Mr. Robert Stephenson examined the country in the Autumn of 1830, and was ordered to prepare the necessary plans and sections to deposit with Parliament in the November of that year.  The time, however, was much too short; and it was only by great haste and force of numbers that the preliminary step of depositing these plans was accomplished.

After some further preliminaries, therefore, it was determined to defer the application to Parliament for a bill till the following year, and thus give the Engineer the opportunity of examining and selecting such a line as he could confidently report on as being the best the country would afford.  When this was done, the plans and sections were deposited with Parliament in the November of 1831, showing a line almost identical with that which is now executed where the steepest gradient except where the line has been extended from Camden Town to Euston Square is sixteen feet per mile.”

The London and Birmingham Railway, Thomas Roscoe, Peter Lecount (1839).

In addition to the routes proposed by Rennie and Giles, and the work undertaken by Robert Stephenson, two further explorations were carried out prior to the Company’s first application to Parliament (in 1832).  Richard Creed, a banker by profession and subsequently the Company’s Secretary, investigated at least two further routes, well to the east of that finally chosen:

“In the Summer of 1831 Mr. Creed examined another line, with the mountain barometer, from Northampton, through Bedford, Baldock, and Hutford, to near the West India Docks; another line through Buckingham, Brackley, and Warwick was surveyed, and many other attempts at improvement were made, each line having its advantages and disadvantages; the chief things next to the traffic to be kept in view being to select that line where there is the least difference between the highest and lowest levels, and also that which is least expensive even if it is not the most direct.”

The London and Birmingham Railway, Thomas Roscoe, Peter Lecount (1839).

Nothing came of Creed’s proposals, but both they and the other survey work carried out serve to illustrate the amount of effort that went into searching for a route that took full account of the topography, the commercial prospects, and the desirability to avoiding the estates and pleasure grounds of the landed gentry.


The original plan for the London and Birmingham Railway at Watford, was to route the line to the west of the town, through the Cassiobury and Grove Parks, and then along the Gade Valley in company with the Grand Junction Canal, as shown above.  But such was the influence of the aristocracy, that following strong objections from the Earls of Essex and Clarendon the line was routed to the east of Watford, hence the long Watford Tunnel.


It was not unusual for a railway Bill to meet determined opposition, both in the run up to its presentation to Parliament and during its passage through both houses.  Following the public announcement of the Company’s intentions, organised protest quickly gathered force.  Vested interests ― such as the stagecoach operators, canal companies, turnpike trusts, inn-keepers along the coaching roads, and the landed gentry, in league with individuals opposed to the scheme due to “a train of other evils too numerous to particularize” ― began to meet at towns along the proposed route:

“RESOLVED ― That it is the opinion of this Meeting that the projected Railway will, if carried, be productive of ruin of the best interests of the country, by the injury which it cannot fail to produce to agriculture, the basis of its prosperity ― by the destruction of turnpike roads, the sacrifice of the securities created by Parliament, upon the faith of which individuals have advanced thousands for the support of such roads ― by the entire subversion of the vested interests in property of various descriptions ― by the depriving of the labouring classes of the community of employment ― by the barrier which it will create between those parts of the country which it will intersect, and by a train of other evils too numerous to particularize.”

Birmingham Gazette, 7th February 1831.

“Very numerous and influential meetings of the proprietors of estates, and others, between London and Leighton, were held last week at Great Berkhamstead and Watford, at the former of which the Right Hon. Richard Ryder, and at the latter the Earl of Clarendon, presided, when resolutions were entered into, and a large subscription made for opposing the projected rail-roads from London to Birmingham.  We understand a similar meeting will be held in London this week.”

York Herald, 21st January 1832.

MPs were lobbied and fighting funds set up with which to hire lawyers to express their clients’ grievances most forcefully during committee hearings, and to endeavour to present as unreliable or incredible the evidence given by the witnesses appearing for the promoters.

While the protest movement’s meetings were being reported in the press, the Company was also using the public prints to present their own case, for by now they could refer to the comfort (“being superior to the best turnpike roads”) and safety of the rail travel by then being experienced on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (opened 15th September 1830), which also provided some interesting statistics on the economics of steam-hauled rail transport:

“Goods and merchandize of all kinds are conveyed from Liverpool to Manchester by the Railway in four or five hours, for eleven shillings a ton, instead of from thirty-six hours to a week or ten days at 15s. per ton, as by the water conveyance.  The most rapid coach travel at the rate of nine or ten miles an hour, a speed at which in three or four years destroys the horses, while the locomotive engines travel regularly from 15 to 20 miles an hour, and occasionally with much greater rapidity . . . .”

Birmingham Gazette, 31st January 1831.

There was no doubt that “waterway conveyance” between Liverpool and Manchester [12] had, until the arrival of the railway, been run with the arrogant indifference of the monopoly operator, a malaise that extended to much of the canal network.  It is therefore unsurprising that when the London and Birmingham Railway Bill came before Parliament it faced stiff opposition from competing canal companies. [13]  Their fears were well founded, for following the Railway’s opening the canals soon lost urgent and perishable cargoes to this quicker form of transport, which having captured that category of business then moved on to absorb the canals’ staple deadweight cargoes, particularly coal.  By the end of the century, long-distance canal traffic on the London to Birmingham route had dwindled, to the extent that the Grand Junction Canal in particular was left to rely on the short-haul traffic south of Berkhamsted, which did not face strong railway competition.

Other public fears arose from the unknown.  People had yet to form a realistic view of the extent to which the railways would interfere with their everyday lives and the services they could expect to receive when they chose to use them.  Again the Company attempted to allay their fears, particularly those of the more influential of their prospective travellers:

“The railway will either pass under or over the great roads, never on the same level, will be carefully fenced every where, and ornamentally when in sight of gentlemen’s residences; the carriages make little noise, the engines produce no smoke.  Most convenient and elegant carriages will be provided for individual passengers and for families, whose carriages, horses, servants, &c. may be taken with them on the Railway, ready to drive off from any point at which they may wish to leave it.”

Birmingham Gazette, 31st January 1831.


Sir Astley Paston Cooper, 1st Baronet (1768-1841)
English surgeon and anatomist.

While opposition to the Railway gathered force, a detailed survey was being carried out, sometimes in confrontation with hostile landowners over whose estates the surveying teams had to take their measurements.  Without the force of an Act of Parliament behind them the Company’s surveyors had no lawful right of access to private land, which at times made accurate surveying difficult.  Attempts at conciliation were sometimes memorable, at least to Robert Stephenson, who was in frequent attendance.  He later recalled visiting Sir Astley Cooper, [14] . . . .

“. . . . in the hope of overcoming his aversion to the railway.  He was one of our most inveterate and influential opponents.  His country house at Berkhamsted was situated near the intended line, which passed through part of his property.  We found a courtly, fine-looking old gentleman, of very stately manners, who received us kindly, and heard all we had to say in favour of the project.  But he was quite inflexible in his opposition to it.  No deviation or improvement that we could suggest had any effect in conciliating him.  He was opposed to railways generally, and to this in particular.  ‘Your scheme,’ said he, ‘is preposterous in the extreme.  It is of so extravagant a character as to be positively absurd.  Then look at the recklessness of your proceedings!  You are proposing to cut up our estates in all directions for the purpose of making an unnecessary road.  Do you think for one moment of the destruction of property involved by it?  Why, gentlemen, if this sort of thing be permitted to go on, you will in a very few years destroy the noblesse!’  We left the honourable baronet without having produced the slightest effect upon him, excepting perhaps, it might be, increased exasperation against our scheme.  I could not help observing to my companions as we left the house, ‘Well, it is really provoking to find one who has been made a “Sir” for cutting that wen out of George the Fourth’s neck, charging us with contemplating the destruction of the noblesse because we propose to confer upon him the benefits of a railroad.’”

Life of George Stephenson and of his son Robert Stephenson, Samuel Smiles (1862).

It was probably at this time that today’s line ― which passes slightly to the east of Watford Town Centre and then through the long Watford Tunnel to Hunton Bridge ― replaced the more circuitous route that Stephenson had planned along the Gade Valley, through the Cassiobury (Earl of Clarendon) and Grove (Earl of Essex) estates:

“It is, however, to be regretted, that the opposition of the Earls of Essex and Clarendon should have forced the Directors to abandon the most eligible line, which would have passed through Grove and Cassiobury Parks, near Watford, pursuing the line of the canal through the valley of the Gade; as, in consequence, the public is now obliged to pass through a tunnel more than a mile in length, and a far less advantageous route has been adopted.  Nor can the reason for this opposition be imagined; through each of the parks the Grand Junction Canal passes; the barges in their slow and tardy progress, interrupt their privacy, and introduce a set of men notorious for their half-savage and predatory habits; the Railway could have been screened from both mansions; and the trains, passing with lightning velocity, could not, in any way, have inconvenienced their noble owners.  The influence, however, of these noblemen was such as to induce the Directors to abandon, for a short distance, the best and cheapest line, rather than encounter the DELAY and expense which their opposition would have occasioned.”

The Railway Companion, from London to Birmingham, Arthur Freeling (1838).

Stephenson also abandoned his preference for crossing the Chilterns through the Dagnall Gap in favour of that at Tring. [15]  These changes introduced heavier engineering work, but they avoided the estates of the noble Earls, of the Countess of Bridgewater (Ashridge Estate), and of Sir Astley Cooper (Gadebridge Estate), all of whom were avowed opponents of the Railway.  Further aristocratic opposition – this time from the Duke of Buckingham – defeated Stephenson’s plan to pass through the town of Buckingham, where a locomotive and carriage works would have been built, and so the line was routed further east through Linslade and Wolverton.

When the Bill was eventually laid before Parliament, much evidence from the growing experience of railway operations was produced in its support.  As a result, its promoters believed that they had clearly established that the need for the Railway was in the national interest.  On the 1st June 1832, a large majority of the House of Commons committee voted in favour of the Bill, but when in the following month it passed to committee in the Lords . . . .

“. . . . a similar mass of testimony was again gone through.  But scarcely had the proceedings been opened when it became clear that the fate of the bill had been determined before a word of the evidence had been heard.  At that time the committees were open to all peers; and the promoters of the measure found, to their dismay, many of the lords who were avowed opponents of the measure as land-owners, sitting as judges to decide its fate.  Their principal object seemed to be to bring the proceedings to a termination as quickly as possible.”

Life of George Stephenson and of his son Robert Stephenson, Samuel Smiles (1862).


Railway opponent, John Cust,
1st Earl Brownlow (1779-1853).

. . . . the Bill was rejected on the motion of Lord Brownlow (a trustee of the Countess of Bridgewater, representing the Ashridge Estate), who declared that a sufficient case had not been made to warrant “forcing” the railway through the property of so many dissenting landowners.  Thus, Lord Wharncliffe, Chairman of the Lords committee . . . .

“. . . . presented the Report of the Committee on this Bill, which stated that the parties who had applied for the Bill had, in their opinion, failed to prove the allegations contained in the preamble, [16] and that the Committee did not think, in those circumstances, that they ought to proceed farther with the measure.”

Morning Post, 13th July 1832.

In fact Lord Wharncliffe, [17] a strong supporter of the Bill, entertained:

“. . . . a conviction which induced the noble Chairman of the Committee of the Lords (Lord Wharncliffe) so emphatically to declare at the meeting of Peers, Members of the House of Commons, and other persons favorably disposed to the undertaking, at the Thatched House Tavern, on the 13th July, at which his Lordship presided ―

‘He must now say upon hearing the evidence for the Bill that he was quite satisfied that this undertaking had the character of a great national measure,’ and

‘That of the many Bills of this description which had come before him in the course of his parliamentary life, he had never seen one passed by either House that was supported by evidence of a more conclusive character.’”

Extracts from the Minutes of Evidence given before the Committee of the Lords (1832).


James Archibald Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie,
1st Baron Wharncliffe PC (1776-1845).

This was not the first time the aristocracy had a railway bill thrown out.  The proprietors of the London and Birmingham Railway were in company with those of our first public line, the Stockton and Darlington, whose:

“. . . . application of 1818 was defeated by the Duke of Cleveland who afterward profited so largely by the railway.  The ground of his opposition was that the line would interfere with his fox-covers, and it was mainly through his influence that the bill was thrown out . . . . The next year, in 1819, an amended survey of the line was made, and, the Duke’s fox-cover being avoided, his opposition was thus averted.”

Life of George Stephenson and of his son Robert Stephenson, Samuel Smiles (1862).

The sentiment expressed by the authors of Osborne’s London & Birmingham Railway Guide summed up the feeling in the country:

“When we consider that evidence had been laid before the committee sufficient to demonstrate to any reasonable persons, the overwhelming national importance of the realization of the proposed project, it will be palpable that the opposition arose from mere selfishness, and in ignorance or contempt and wilful violation, of the principle on which the tenure of land is based.  The stoppage of this great national undertaking was extremely aggravating and vexatious to the public, and the placidity and sangfroid of the mode in which it was done, was not at all calculated to decrease the aggravation; on the contrary the rejection was so much more galling on that account.”


North of Watford, at Two Waters, Stephenson planned to turn the line into the Gade Valley, then passing through Hemel Hempstead and Gaddesden, cross the ridge of the Chilterns through the Dagnall Gap. But again resistance from influential land owners prevailed, forcing the line to be routed along the Bulbourne Valley and across the Chilterns through the Tring Gap.  Although the Bulbourne Valley route resulted in the long Tring Cutting, necessary to maintain the line’s ruling gradient (1:300), it did avoid the sharp turn at Two Waters (above) that would have resulted from the original plan.



Parliamentary proceedings had so far consumed £50,000, but such was their belief that the Railway’s construction was in the national interest that, having revised their tactics, in October 1832 the Directors applied to present a Bill in the following session:

“Owing to these dissentient manifestations, and various other subsequent occurrences, it was deemed prudent to alter the route of the proposed line, so as to interfere less with the parks and residences of the gentry, and the comparative advantages of a line of four and two rails attentively investigated.  In February, 1832, upwards of 19,000 shares had been subscribed for, and £5 paid as a deposit upon each share.  It was, therefore, resolved on by the directors, after a further revision and correction of the proposed route, and the difficulties which presented themselves, to apply for leave to bring in their bill.”

The London and Birmingham Railway Guide, Joseph W. Wyld (1838).

With regard to the remaining dissentient landowners, much of the Company’s conflict with them was resolved with the aid of their cheque book, an effective tactic, but one that more than doubled the estimated cost of land acquisition from £250,000 to £537,596:

“The compensations demanded from the Company by the proprietors of land and other premises on the line of the railway were enormous, and in many cases where no injury whatever was done, the land valuers having made their estimates upon the most liberal scale.  All sorts of payments were required on the most frivolous pretexts, and even some of the opponents to the bill were obliged to be paid, in order to gain their consent to the measure.  The sum of £3000 was given for one piece of land, and the extravagant amount of £1000 for consequential damages, when instead of any damages being sustained the land has been improved; these and similar transactions soon run away with all reasonable estimates; and yet it is certain, that in every instance the best plan that could be devised was followed to procure the land on equitable terms, taking into consideration that to gain time was in most cases the principal object.”

The London and Birmingham Railway, Thomas Roscoe, Peter Lecount (1839).

Purchase of land from Sir William Harcourt, a Railway opponent, on which to build Tring Station, illustrates the sort of problem the Company encountered, although in this case there was an unusual solution:

“The former owner of the land on which the station now stands, asked so extravagant a price for it, that the directors determined to have the station at the far side of the cutting, which would have been three and a half miles from Tring.  The inhabitants were much excited on the subject, and a town’s meeting being called, a deputation was appointed to wait on the Directors rectors to memorialize them on the subject.  The Directors when waited on by the Deputation, stated the sum they could afford for the land; and explained that the matter being important to the people of Tring, the Directors would willingly erect the station at the desired place, if the people of Tring would undertake to pay the difference between the price of the land, according to an equitable valuation, and that demanded by the owner of it.  The parties agreed to this fair and business like proposal . . . .”

Osborne’s London & Birmingham Railway Guide, E. C. and W. Osborne (1840).

It was during this period that Robert Stephenson undertook his third survey, in which he appears to have revisited the route proposed by Rennie with the aim of weighing up its pros and cons and comparing them with the slightly longer route via Coventry:

“Mr. R. Stephenson and Mr. [Thomas Longridge] Gooch spent a great deal of time in investigating this question, examining the country, and taking levels in all practicable directions, in order to ascertain the merits of the line referred to.  This was intended to branch off from the present route near Tring, and leaving Aylesbury a little to the south-west, passing near to and on the easterly side of Bicester, thence on to Buckingham and Banbury, crossing the river Avon between Leamington Priors and Warwick, and joining the present line again in the neighbourhood of Hampton in Arden.

The saving in distance by this line would not have exceeded four or five miles, and in addition to the many difficulties and expensive works on this route the crossing of the valley of the Avon, near Warwick was at once a fatal objection.”

The London and Birmingham Railway, Thomas Roscoe, Peter Lecount (1839).

The main objection to Rennie’s proposed line was the gradient out of the Avon Valley and across the Meriden (a.k.a. Reaves’s Green) Ridge, which lay across the path to Birmingham.  By taking the line through a heavy cutting and tunnel at Beechwood, to the west of Coventry, Stephenson was able to maintain the line’s ruling gradient at 1:330 (16 feet to the mile), but crossing the Avon Valley further south would have increased it ― or so claimed Roscoe and Lecount ― although in his survey report of 1826, Rennie claims that the maximum gradient of his proposed route was 14ft to the mile, with a short section at 15ft.

While the travel writers of the day dwelt on the line’s topography, another substantial argument in favour of the Coventry route must have been commercial, for the prospects of picking up business from this developing industrial centre (30,000 population in 1840) would surely have outweighed all but major topographical problems, such as the Nene Valley, which appears to have been the reason why Northampton was bypassed by the Stephensons and by Giles before them.

The plans and sections for the second application corresponded as nearly as possible with those prepared in the preceding year, the only alterations being a slight change between Harrow and London and the re-siting of the London terminus near the railway’s intersection with the Regent’s Canal at Camden Town.

Little is recorded about the second Bill’s passage through Parliament.  Perhaps the sweeteners paid to landowners had their effect, but the weight of support for the scheme in the country probably had a deterrent effect on those who might have opposed the scheme through personal prejudice, rather than for important reasons of general application.  Osborne described the national feeling following the first Bill’s rejection thus:

“The stoppage of this great national undertaking was extremely aggravating and vexatious to the public, and the placidity and sangfroid of the mode in which it was done, was not at all calculated to decrease the aggravation; on the contrary the rejection was so much more galling on that account.”

Osborne’s London & Birmingham Railway Guide, E. C. and W. Osborne (1840).

Suffice it to say that the London and Birmingham Railway Act passed the Commons Committee on 15th March, the Lords on 22nd April, and it received the Royal assent on the 6th May, 1833 (at a cost of £72,869).

Cap xxxvi
An Act for making a Railway from London to Birmingham
[6th May 1833].

WHEREAS the making a Railway, with proper Works and Conveniences connected therewith for the Carriage of Passengers, Goods, and Merchandize from London to Birmingham, will prove of great public Advantage, by opening an additional, cheap, certain, and expeditious Communication between the Metropolis, the Port of London, and the large manufacturing Town and Neighbourhood of Birmingham aforesaid, and will at the same Time facilitate the Means of Transit and Traffic for Passengers, Goods, and Merchandize between those Places and the adjacent Districts, and the several intermediate Towns and Places: And whereas the King’s most Excellent Majesty, in right of His Duchy of Cornwall, is entitled to certain Lands upon the Line of the proposed Railway: And whereas the several Persons herein-after named are willing, at their own Costs and Charges, to carry into execution the said Undertaking; but the same cannot be effected without the Authority: of Parliament May it therefore please Your Majesty that it may be enacted; and be it enacted by the King’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in Parliament assembled . . . . .





Some requirements to be met in applying for a Private Act of Parliament.

From The London and Birmingham Railway Guide, Joseph W. Wyld (1838).

“Every public railway in the United Kingdom, is commenced, carried on, and completed under the authority of a special act of parliament, which can only be applied for, and obtained by a compliance with certain conditions specified in the standing orders of the Houses of Lords and Commons.  The following is a cursory abstract of the parliamentary requisites and injunctions relating to Railway Bills.

Previously to applying for leave to bring in a bill, the Company must have advertised their intention a stated number of times, during particular months of the year, in the London Gazette, and newspapers of the counties traversed by the intended line.  To the various owners of land through which it is intended to carry such railway, notices and specifications of the manner of its construction, at those particular spots, must be forwarded in writing.  Plans of the whole length of the line, drawn to a scale of four inches to a mile, and enlarged drawings of buildings, gardens, &c., on a scale of a quarter of an inch to every 100 feet, together with a section of altitudes, and a book of reference to the whole, must be deposited with certain official persons.

One-half of the amount of the estimated expense of constructing the railway must have been subscribed, and a bond entered into by certain persons, for themselves, heirs, and assigns, to insure the payment of such subscription.  Before reading the bill a third time in the House of Commons, it must be satisfactorily proved that three-fourths of the capital have been deposited; and before the third reading in the House of Lords, that five-sixths have been deposited.

During the progress of the bill, any owner of land, or other person, who considers himself likely to be directly and substantially injured by the intended railway, may claim to be heard, by counsel, before the select committee of the house, who are ever ready to investigate any claim, or listen to any argument, which may be brought forward to prove the inutility of such railway, or the gross injustice which will accrue from its adoption.

The bill having been obtained, the only material obstacle to the commencement of the works, is the fair remuneration to those land-owners whose property is directly affected by the route of line.  The difficulty of properly assessing and adjusting such remuneration, varies, of course, according to the neighbourhood and situation of the soil, and depends, also, in some degree on the disposition of the party to be remunerated.

From the above epitomical remarks, it will be obvious, that the preliminaries necessary to the commencement of any intended railway, render the subsequent practicability of such intention a subject of serious deliberation, and such an one as requires the advice and counsel of the most eminent of all professions, in order to ascertain its probable value, not only as an individual, but also as a great national benefit.”



Sir John Rennie’s report on the survey undertaken by
Messrs. John and Edward Grantham during 1824 and 1825.

From The Railway Magazine, Vols. I. (1836) & II (1837).

Birmingham, 1st April, 1826.

In consequence of your resolutions of January, 1824, directing me to explore and survey the most practicable route for communication by means of a railway between London and Birmingham, I directed Messrs. John and Edward Grantham to explore the intervening counties and take the necessary levels for this purpose, and the whole of the spring and the greater part of the summer of last year was employed by them in making various trials through the country; but on account of the extensive and intricate nature of the survey, comprehending a district of above 130 miles, it was scarcely possible to complete this work in an effectual manner until the autumn following, when you determined not to proceed to Parliament this session (indeed the extended nature of the subject rendered this scarcely practicable).  I should certainly have reported to you my opinion upon the progress made before, but have been prevented by illness from examining the line until the present.

I now beg leave to apologise, and report my opinion upon the various trials and sections that have been made, although I am still in hopes that, in the event of your prosecuting the scheme, further improvements may be made, until the line becomes almost unexceptionable.

By referring to the accompanying plan and sections it will be seen, that the line commencing at the Islington tunnel of the Regent’s Canal rises 10 feet to the mile for 3 miles, and continues from thence nearly parallel to it, and skirting Regent’s Park pursues a tolerably direct line until arriving at the Edgeware-road, a distance of 3, miles rising 30 feet, or 10 feet to the mile; but to obtain these inclines considerable obstacles must be encountered, namely, two miles of 23 feet of average cutting from the Hampstead to the Edgware road.  The property, moreover, here is extremely valuable, and mostly laid out for building ground, and several nearly new houses must be sacrificed; indeed, here, the greatest part of the difficulty occurs; but by assuming steeper inclines and taking a wider range of London, a considerable portion of these may be avoided, or the line may be stopped at the Edgeware road for the present; from thence to the river Brent, a distance of 4 miles, the line continues rising 16 feet, two of which are level, the remainder rising 8 feet to the mile; to obtain this it will be necessary to embank about ¾ of a mile, averaging 9 feet high, and for ½ a mile over the Brent, averaging 30 feet high, the remaining distance of 2¾ miles being little more than surface forming.

Thence the line takes a direction to the east of Harrow and by Harrow Weald, and crossing the road to Rickmansworth, a distance of 8½ miles rising 14 feet to the mile in this division, except the cutting at Oxley-lane, which will average 28 feet high for a quarter of a mile, little more than surface forming and some small pieces of cutting and embankment will be necessary, nor will any gentleman’s park or pleasure grounds or other valuable property be affected by it; from thence to Otter’s Pool [Otterspool], a distance of 4 miles, the line continues level, passing to the east of Pinner-wood, and crossing the turnpike road about ¼ of a mile from the town of Watford, and without interfering with any valuable property; in this division the levels are rather irregular, although the cuttings and embankments are by no means serious.  The total distance from London is 18 miles, and the distance by the turnpike road is about the same.

From Otter’s Pool to Hunton bridge, a distance of 3½ miles, the line continues rising at the rate of 15 feet to the mile crossing the vale of the Colne by a heavy embankment ¾ of a mile long averaging 30 feet high, and a piece of heavy cutting at Leavesiton-green [Leavesden Green], averaging 50 feet high for ¾ of a mile; these no doubt are serious obstacles, independent of the circuitous course.  The town of Watford however and the park and pleasure grounds of the Earl of Essex intervening, render it almost impracticable to obviate these difficulties entirely, although I have reason to believe that by increasing the inclines, it may be materially improved.

Finding the articles abovementioned, and wishing at the same time to avoid the Grand Junction canal, I directed Mr Edward Grantham to pursue the course of the St. Alban’s Valley; this, however, proved to be unsuccessful, as the high lands beyond St. Alban’s would have rendered its further continuance almost impossible at any reasonable expense.

From Hunton bridge to the summit at Dagnall, a distance of 11¾ miles, the line continues rising gradually at the rate of 12 feet to the mile, passing to the north of Abbot’s Langley, Hemel Hempstead, and Gaddesdon, but in order to preserve the above mentioned gentle inclination, it was necessary to keep the line as near as possible hanging upon the sides of the adjoining hills, the section in consequence shows generally a rugged and an uneven surface, on account of the numerous ravines which constantly run down from the main chain of hills, the cuttings and embankments for 6 miles, to Pitchett’s End, although apparently heavy as shown upon the section, are nevertheless of short duration; near Gaddesdon, Gaddesdon Park intervenes, and cannot be entirely avoided without much difficulty, although, as the line here nearly skirts that part adjoining the road, I should not apprehend any reasonable objection; with this exception no other valuable public or private property is interfered with, indeed the country generally is extremely open and the land by no valuable: by increasing the inclination in some places to 15 and others 20 feet to the mile, the whole of this district may be improved and shortened.

At Dagnall the summit must be passed by a piece of heavy cutting, averaging 28 feet for one mile long.

The line continues by Eddesborough (Edlesborough?) to Cheddington being 5½ miles, descending at the rate of 14 feet to the mile, the cuttings and embankments in this division being entirely along the points of the adjoining ridge of hills are not serious, although apparently so upon the section, and being chiefly composed of chalk would stand at very small slopes, and by increasing the inclination here to 16 feet to the mile, about ten feet of cutting might be saved at the summit, and about a quarter of a mile in the distance.

At Cheddington the line crosses the Grand Junction Canal at an elevation of 18 feet, and continues descending 12 feet to the mile for 8¼ miles to Weedon, and passes to the south of Wingrave and Bunton, about three miles to the north of the town of Aylesbury, to which a descending branch can readily be made.  In this division no particular obstacle intervenes, except a small valley near Mentmoor, which must be passed by an embankment of 12 feet average for three quarters of a mile.

From Weedon to Aylesbury there is a descent of about 30 feet, which might be readily approached with a branch from the Main line, and as this is a place of considerable importance, this might be well worthy of consideration.  From Weedon to a place called Whitefield Farm, the line continues level for 3 miles without any material obstacle.  The Thames [The Thame?], which is much subject to floods, must be crossed by a considerable bridge and a small piece of cutting and embankment.

From thence to Quainton Mill, a distance of three miles further, the line continues rising gently at the rate of 10 feet to the mile, with little more surface forming, and without interfering with any valuable property.  By referring to the accompanying plan and sections, it will be seen that this line by the Dagnall summit is rather circuitous, on account of being compelled to keep so far to the northward. I consequently directed Mr. John Grantham to try the line by the Bickampstead [Berkhamsted] and Tering [Tring] Valley, which is already occupied by the Grand Junction Canal; from thence by Drayton, Bearton, Aylesbury, to Quainton where it joins the former line: this certainly saves about 2 miles in the distance, but would be attended with a heavy piece of cutting of 30 feet for near two miles [the Tring Cutting], and would partially interfere with the Reservoir and works of the Grand Junction Canal, which no doubt would render it objectionable to them; from thence however to Aylesbury, and even Quainton, no difficulty occurs.  The distance from London to Quainton by the turnpike road is 47 miles, and by the railway section as laid down, 52 miles, being an increase of 5 miles by the latter; but when the moderate inclinations which have been adopted are considered, and that no private parks, pleasure grounds, or other valuable property have been interfered with, I trust, that so far the line upon the whole may be considered favourable, and is still capable of further improvement, by adopting the alterations abovementioned.

Several other minor trials were made in the vicinity of the above, but as they proved abortive, it is not worth while to enumerate them.  I also directed a line to be tried from Chesham, immediately above Uxbridge, to continue up the Amersham valley to Wendover and Aylesbury: this summit, however, proved to be 90 feet above that of Teing [Tring] and would have required an inclination of at least 30 feet to the mile, and an inclined plane and heavy cutting to Aylesbury: the distance, moreover, would be increased. I consequently abandoned this attempt as fruitless.

From Quainton Common the line continues by Dodders hall to near Knoll Hill, a distance of 3 miles, falling 30 feet or 10 feet to the mile. In this division there are several sharp pieces of equal cutting and embanking, averaging 12 feet for one mile and a half; from thence to the Chamdon and Twyford-road the line continues 3 miles further, rising 18 feet, of which the first mile rises 10 feet, and the other two 4 feet each; and these levels or inclinations are obtained without any difficulty ― indeed little more than surface forming ia required.

From Twyford-road to the Goddington-road, a distance of two miles and a-half, the line rises 20 feet, and will require an equal series of cuttings and embankments for about 6 feet upon the average; from thence by a place called Fringford Mill over the high grounds of Shelnwell to Mixborough, a distance of 5 miles, the line rises 70 feet, or 14 feet to the mile division, the chief obstacles are a small valley near Goddington, which will require an embankment of 8 feet for a quarter of a mile, a piece of cutting through the side of Saul’s Mills, averaging 17 feet high for a quarter of a mile, an embankment 3 furlongs 27 feet high; and the valley over off the Goddingon river, one of the principal feeders of the Ouze in this embankment, a bridge about 30 feet wide will be requisite, and a considerable piece of cutting, near two miles through the high grounds of Shelswell, averaging 16 feet high: an inclination, however, of 20 feet to the mile will reduce this latter piece of cutting to little more than surface forming.

From Mexborough to the village of Evenly, a distance of 2 miles, the line rises 11 feet, with a trifling piece of cutting and embanking of about 15 feet for seven chains long.  From thence to Heyne through the village of Hinton the line continues level for 3 miles, leaving Brackley about a quarter of a mile to the right. In this division there is no particular obstacle, but a heavy piece of cutting at Gretworth, averaging 25 feet for a quarter of a mile, which cannot well be avoided in this direction, as it is the lowest part of the ridge of hills which divide the summit of the Ouze from the Charwell: from thence to the ridge north of Middleton Chenny, the line continues rising 33 feet for 2 miles, and 2 furlongs, requiring a piece of cutting averaging 12 feet for half a mile.  Here the country becomes difficult and rugged; and in order to cross the ridge, and to descend into the vale of the Charwell, a heavy piece of cutting averaging 35 feet for three furlongs must be encountered.

The line continues through this by the villages of Chalcombe and Wilscot, being a distance of 5 miles, 1 furlong, and falling 74 feet, or nearly 15 feet to the mile.  On account of the intricate nature of the country, surrounded on all sides by high hills, and intersected by deep valleys, the line is necessarily rather circuitous, and attended by alternate cuttings and embankments, although these being mostly along the points of hills, will not be so serious in the execution as represented in the section.

From the river Charwell to a small valley and water course the line falls 9 feet in two miles. In this division the only obstacle is the valley of the Charwell, which must be crossed by an embankment and bridge, for which an excellent quarry is expected to be found in the heavy piece of cutting near Middleton Chenny; the remainder will require little more than surface trimming and forming: from thence to the entrance of the Oxford Tunnel [formerly Fenny Compton Tunnel on the Oxford Canal, now a cutting], the line rises 33 feet in 2 miles and three quarters, through a very favourable country.

From the Oxford Tunnel [north of Banbury] the line passes by Fenvy, Cowpton, to Knightscoat, a distance of 4 miles and three quarters, falling 66 feet or 14 feet to the mile.  The principal difficulties in this division are the cutting at the Oxford Tunnel ¾ of a mile long, averaging about 16 feet, and a small piece of cutting and embanking, averaging 12 feet high for half a mile: from thence to the lane leading to Southam, a distance of two miles and a quarter, the line continues by Bishop’s Itchington, descending at the gentle inclination of 7 feet, which is obtained by alternate cuttings and embankings, averaging about 8 feet for the whole distance.

Between Southam and Quainton various other trials have been made, to endeavour both to shorten the distance and relieve the various cuttings, and embankments, and inclinations above described; but under all the circumstances of the case, the line abovementioned appears most eligible.  One line was tried by Grindon [Grendon] Underwood, Marsh Gibbon, and Bicester to Lamestone; but here the country rises so rapidly, and subsequently descends so quickly into the vale of the Oxford Canal, that it was deemed inexpedient to pursue it further; moreover to have obtained the desired inclinations, it would have continued too far out of the general direction without a very considerable sacrifice.  Another line was tried in the direction of Chetwood, Barton, and Tingewick, to get into the vale of the Ouze: this also was abandoned on account of the rapid ascent of the country.  A third line was tried by Famiere Fries, but was abandoned from the same causes as the second.  A fourth line was attempted direct from the summit at Dagnall, along the high lands by Winslow and Buckingham, in order, if possible, to make the general line more direct, and to take these two places in the general communication, which at present is much wanted, but the great inequalities of the country surrounded by high hills, and intersected by deep valleys on all sides, rendered impracticable to pursue it, at any reasonable expense; it was also abandoned, although if it had succeeded, it would no doubt have shortened the distance most materially.

From Southam Lane the line continues by the village of Bascock to the Warwick and Napton Canal, a distance of four miles and a furlong, descending 57 ft., or 14 feet to the mile; the principal difficulties in this division are the cutting near Green Hill Farm, being 18 ft high and one third of a mile long, and the embankment over the Warwick and Napton canal, which is about half a mile long, averaging 17 ft high the remaining cuttings and embankments are not serious.

The above, however, may, I am inclined to think, be materially relieved upon further examination.  From thence to the valley of the river Leame, being a distance of three miles and a half, the line turns to the left and continues by Snowford Farm, descending 42 feet at the rate of 12 feet to the mile without any material difficulty, or rather the country generally is very favourable, although the course is rather circuitous; I am in hopes, however, that this may be shortened about half a mile upon further investigation.

From the river Leame to the hill near Bubberhall the line rises 33 ft in 2 miles 5 furlongs, at the rate of 12 ft to the mile; from thence to the river Avon, a distance of 1¼ mile, falling 18 ft. or 14 ft. to the mile and then rising 1 mile to Bagginton Hill, 10 ft in the above-mentioned three divisions, the country is difficult and intricate, the chief obstacles are the vales of the Leame and Avon, the former must be crossed by an embankment 3 furlongs long and 14 ft high, and the latter ¾ of a mile long and 20 ft high upon the average; the summit ridge of these two valleys at Bubberhall must be passed by a piece of heavy cutting averaging 24 ft. high for half a mile; as the interior, however, most probably contains good building stone the expense will be materially relieved.

From hence to the valley of the river Sough, a distance one mile, the line falls 10 feet, which is obtained by a piece of cutting 18 feet high and a quarter of a mile long, and an embankment 24 feet high and a quarter of a mile long.  From the valley of the Sough the line continues by Cauley and Huenst to Redfen, a distance of 8 miles and 2 furlongs, rising 116 feet at the rate of 14 feet to the mile; in this division the surface of the country is generally rugged and uneven, although, with the exception of the piece of cutting at Redfern Hill, which is 36 feet high upon the average for half a mile there are no material difficulties, considering the nature of the country, beyond moderate cuttings and embankments.

The vale of the Coventry River is passed by an embankment averaging a quarter of a mile long and 18 feet high.  From here to Coventry, a distance of 2 miles, a fine line for a Branch Railway presents itself, and considering the importance of the place, the circuitous course is in a great measure compensated.

From Redfen hill to the stream near Temple Balsall running down to Stone Bridge, a distance of 2 miles and one furlong, the line falls 21ft. 6 in. or 10 feet to the mile, without any obstacle worthy of remark, as the whole may be accomplished with a little more than surface.  Going from the above mentioned river the line continues by Barston Kittle Bane Heath, crossing the Birmingham and Warwick Canal to near Kingsford Hill, a distance of 6 miles, rising 72 feet or 12 feet to the mile, the direction of this division is rather circuitous, the other obstacles however are not serious.

The Temple Balsall valley is crossed by an embankment a quarter of a mile long averaging 15 feet high, a piece of cutting passing through the ridge near Barston, being 1 furlong long 25 feet high; and the Birmingham and Warwick Canal must be passed by a small piece of cutting ¼ of a mile long and 9 feet high.  From Kingsford Hill to the valley of the canal reservoir, a distance of 6 furlongs, the line falls 9 feet; from thence to near Acock’s Green, a distance of 1 mile and a half, the line rises 15 feet or 10 feet to the mile; in these two divisions the surface is generally rugged and uneven; the principal obstacles must be overcome by an embankment 3 furlongs long and 18 feet high on the average, and by a piece of cutting 3 furlongs long and 18 feet high; the remainder of these divisions the cuttings and embankments, are about equal and not generally severe.

From near Acock’s Hill or Green to the Turnpike road near Spackbrook House, a distance of 2 miles, the line falls 24 feet or 12 feet to the mile, crossing the valley of the river Cole by an embankment 25 chains long, averaging 24 feet high, and a piece of cutting 30 chains long, averaging 9 feet high, and an embankment half a mile long and 8 feet high, which will be supplied from the cutting by Acock’s Hill.  From thence to the corner of Warren Lane, a distance of 1 and a half, mile the line continues nearly level, which is obtained by cutting through the high ground at the Alcester-road, averaging 25 feet high for half a mile long, and crossing the valley of the river Rea near the Wire Mills, by an embankment ½ a mile long averaging 25 feet high.

At Warren Lane near the Birmingham and Worcester turnpike road, the line rises by an inclined plane 90 feet in a distance of 900 feet, or about 1 in 10, and a level of ½ a mile crossing the Worcester Canal to the Ilchington road where it unites with the proposed Birmingham and Liverpool Railway, being a total distance of 121 miles from London.

From the embankment over the Rea one or two short branches may be made to communicate with the different parts of the town of Birmingham.

Besides the general line above described, various other lines have been explored and tried between Brackley and Birmingham, one by Farthingboe, Washworth, Banbury, the Warrington Valley, Gaydon Hill and Ilchington, but the great inequalities of the ground and the numerous intervening valleys rendered this impracticable.  Another line was tried from Gaydon Hill by Leamington, Warwick, and Kenilworth, which failed on account of the inequalities of the country and the numerous parks and other valuable and private property which it would have necessarily interfered with, although if it could have been accomplished a considerable portion of the distance would have been saved.  Another was tried to avoid the Oxford Tunnel, which was equally unsuccessful; a fourth was tried from the Tunnel of the Oxford Canal to the northward by Rodburn and Southam Holt, in order to descend gently from the range of hills; this, however, was abandoned because it carried the line too far to the northward, and rendered it too circuitous.

Four different trials were made to cross the Avon and Sough valleys; these also did not turn out so well as could be expected, another attempt was made to reach Birmingham by a more direct course over the range of high country extending from Minden to the southward; this also did not turn out more favourable.  Another attempt was made to enter Birmingham from the north by Elmden, Shelden and Yardley, but the high ground of the latter place forced the line so far to the northward that it was deemed unnecessary to pursue it further, the more so as it was considered advisable to unite with the projected line from Birmingham to Liverpool [the Grand Junction Railway].

Having now described the various trials that have been made in the prosecution of this important undertaking, I beg leave to add a few remarks.

The principal objects in determining the most proper line are, to make the course of the Railway as direct as possible between London and Birmingham; to avoid, as much as practicable, all parks, pleasure grounds, and other valuable public and private property; and to avoid interference with existing canals and to embrace as many populous and important towns along the line as can be done consistently with a reasonable expenditure.

With regard to the first. The country between London and Birmingham may be chiefly divided into four districts, comprehending the vales of the river Thames, Aylesbury, the rivers Charwell and Avon, all of which are surrounded by extensive ridges of high hills, which are again intersected by numerous minor valleys, through which the tributary streams descend towards the principal rivers above-mentioned.  To effect, therefore a direct communication between London and Birmingham, the whole of these must be passed by numerous inclined planes, extensive cuttings, and embankments, without regard to the situation of private property or otherwise; so that it will be extremely difficult to keep the estimate within reasonable bounds, and the only advantage in doing this, viz., shortening the line, would be more than counterbalanced by the above inconveniences.

Viewing, therefore, the whole of these important objects in their true bearings, the general line above described has been adopted; the principal objection may be termed its length, being 121 miles, being 12 miles more than the mail-coach road from London; but when it is considered that this has been effected without a single inclined plane, with moderate inclinations of 14 feet to the mile, except in one instance of 15 feet to the mile -- without interfering with any parks, pleasure grounds, or valuable public and private property, with the single exception of Goddesdon Park [probably Gaddesden Park or Place at Hemel Hempstead], and that in a most trifling degree, a circumstance which must tend in a most material degree to conciliate the good wishes of the landed proprietors through which the line passes ― without interfering with any of the works of the existing canal, and for the most part passing through a line of country where no good communication, either of road, or canal, or railway, exists, and comprehending the populous manufacturing town of Coventry, which alone is an object of the greatest importance ― and, lastly, without any extraordinary difficulty in the execution so as to occasion an unreasonable expenditure.

I hope it will be allowed that the line adopted possesses advantages which go far to counterbalance the increase of distance, particularly when this distance is still less by 40 miles than the shortest canal navigation from London: moreover, I have reason to believe, that by increasing the inclines in some cases to 20ft. to the mile, and by examining the whole line more carefully previous to making the final section, that it may be most materially improved, and that the distance between London and Birmingham may be reduced to about 116 miles, which would then be 45 miles nearer than by the canals.

I cannot close this report without acknowledging the unwearied zeal attention and ability with which Messrs. John and Edward Grantham have prosecuted the various levels and surveys.  I have directed them to present the sections and plans, and they will be able to give any further explanation concerning the details which you may require: and I have only to request that I may be informed of your determination as early as possible, because, as the season for active operations in the field is now rapidly advancing, if this scheme is to be prosecuted, no time should be lost in proceeding with the final section and survey, and in ascertaining the opinions of the landed proprietors and occupiers along the line, in order that the whole scheme may be properly adjusted so as to be ready for the approaching session of Parliament, by which means a considerable saving, both in time and expense will be made.




Memorandum of Agreement entered into between Messrs. George Stephenson and Son

J. C. Jeaffreson (1866)

“The appointment made legally binding by this unartistic and loosely drawn agreement, was an appointment of George and Robert Stephenson to lay out — not to construct and make — the contemplated line.  It referred only to the survey and parliamentary engineering.  In the following year it was superseded by another agreement.  It was, therefore, in reality a most unimportant feature of the history of the London and Birmingham line; but it has misled numerous writers into thinking that the elder Stephenson was united with the younger in designing and carrying to triumphant completion the vast engineering operations on the railway in question.”


Birmingham: Sept. 18, 1830.

Memorandum of Agreement entered into between Messrs. George Stephenson and Son, of the one part, and the Committee of the London and Birmingham Railway Company, of the other part.

First, the said George Stephenson and Son undertake and agree, so far as their best and utmost exertions will enable them, to make the necessary plans, sections, and books of reference for the proposed railway from Birmingham to London, and to do everything that is necessary for that purpose in time to comply with the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, so as to enable the solicitors to insert the necessary notices in the newspapers during three weeks before the sitting of Parliament, and to affix necessary notices on the doors of the several sessions houses at the next Quarter Sessions, and to deposit the plan and book of reference, &c., with the clerks of the peace of the several counties, and in the Private Bill Office, on or before the 24th day of October next, and in every other respect to comply with the Standing Orders of the Houses of Parliament, so far as the duty of an engineer extends.

In consideration of which the Committee agree to pay to Mr. George Stephenson the sum of seven guineas a day during the time that he shall be occupied in the business, and to Mr. Robert Stephenson the sum of five guineas a day during such time as he shall be employed in the business, and to pay the usual charges to surveyors employed by Messrs. Stephenson and Son, and to pay to Messrs. Stephenson and Son the usual travelling expenses.

And the said George Stephenson and Son agree that Mr. Brunton shall be the resident engineer at the London end, and fully undertake and bind themselves not to be concerned in any line of railway whatever that can be injurious to this Company’s line, or any part of it, during such time as they are employed as engineers to this Company.

(Signed) John Corrie, on behalf of the London and Birmingham Company.
Geo. Stephenson.
Rob. Stephenson.
Witness to the signature, Josiah Corrie.





The Bridgewater Canal was the only significant transport infrastructure project to be financed privately ― its cost nearly ruined its financier, the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater.


Francis Roublic Conder (1815-89), civil engineer and railway contractor, pupil of Sir Charles Fox (1810-74), the latter having been an engineer on the London and Birmingham Railway project where he was responsible for Watford tunnel and the incline from Camden Town down to Euston.


See p.30 et seq, The Two James’s and the Two Stephensons – E. M. S. Paine (1861).


The ‘Stratford and Moreton Tramway’ received its Act in 1821 and was completed in 1826, John Rastrick being its civil engineer.  A branch to Shipston-on-Stour was opened in 1836.  The line was laid with malleable iron (wrought iron) as opposed to brittle cast iron rails, an improvement that offered sufficient strength to carry steam locomotives, which William James wanted to use but Rastrick would not permit it.  Today, the line’s most visible remnant is the former tramway bridge across the River Avon at Stratford, now used by pedestrians.


The Railway Fever of 1825-1826 proved the utility of railroads both for conveying passengers and goods.  This period brought railways out of the experimental field and into the application of common enterprise.  It was fuelled by the anticipated success of railways as the dominant transportation medium of the future, and a review of newspaper of the period reveals many projected schemes seeking sponsors.


From here to Coventry, a distance of 2 miles, a fine line for a Branch Railway presents itself, and considering the importance of the place, the circuitous course is in a great measure compensated.”

Herapath’s Railway Journal, Vol. II., (1837) p31.


The “Great Panic” of 1825-26 was a stock market crash that started in the Bank of England, arising in part out of speculative investments in Latin America.  The crisis precipitated the closing of six London and sixty country banks:

From 1825 to 1830 the railway with the entire commercial interest was depressed.  The languor which followed the great panic remained; money was by no means plentiful: men watched with curiosity, mingled with contempt, the movements of the Manchester and Liverpool line, nor was it until the locomotive proved its power at Rainhill that much more than curiosity was excited.

A History of the English Railway, John Francis (1851).


It is interesting to note the comment made by Peter Lecount, an assistant engineer on the London and Birmingham Railway project, that at this date the line was planned as a single-track horse tramway:

In the year 1830, when the London and Birmingham railway was projected, the expense of constructing it was stated at £6,000 per mile with one line of rails, which were to be worked by horses, and warranted to go eight miles an hour.”

A Practical Treatise on Railways, Lieut. Peter Lecount, RN, CE (1839).


“In the formation of companies of this description two deeds are prepared ― ‘the Parliamentary undertaking,’ and ‘the subscribers’ contract’ ― to be signed by every person on becoming a member of the Company. By such deeds, bearing date Oct. 15, 1830, the London and Birmingham Railway Company was established.”

The Times, 28th April 1832.


The Company’s published notices of the period suggest that the Directors were, as yet, undecided on the exact route:

“The railway to lead from London to Birmingham by such course, route, or line, and through such parishes, townships and places, as shall be hereafter, from time to time, selected and approved of by the Directors for the time being.”

The Times, 28th April 1832.


At some point following the company merger, the location of the Birmingham terminus appears to have been moved nearer the City Centre, but not to the Curzon Street location that was eventually selected:

“Both companies were to have stations in Broad-street, ― the Grand Junction [Railway] on the north-west side, on a piece of ground of about seven and a half acres; and the London and Birmingham on the south east side, containing about nine acres, with another station at the Bell Barn Road.”

The London and Birmingham Railway, Thomas Roscoe, Peter Lecount (1839).


There were two waterways; the Bridgewater Canal and the Mersey and Irewell Navigation.  It was said that goods often took less time to cross the Atlantic than to be conveyed between Liverpool and Manchester.


Those most affected by the London and Birmingham Railway were the Birmingham and Fazeley, the Coventry, the Warwick and Birmingham, the Warwick and Napton, and the Grand Junction canals.


Sir Astley Paston Cooper (1768-1841), a distinguished surgeon (he was awarded a baronetcy in 1820 for performing an operation on George IV) was an avowed opponent of the Railway. His Gadebridge Estate at Hemel Hempstead lay on Stephenson’s preferred route up the Gade Valley and across the Chilterns through the Dagnall Gap.  Due to Cooper’s opposition and that of Lord Brownlow of the nearby Ashridge Estate, the Railway was re-routed up the Bulbourne Valley. The result was that Hemel Hempstead was bypassed and the line crossed the Chilterns through the Tring Gap.


The extra engineering in crossing the Chilterns at Tring, where a difficult embankment adjacent to Berkhamsted Castle, a tunnel at Northchurch, and a much larger cutting than would have been required at Dagnall; this Rennie had estimated at 28ft average depth for 1-mile, whereas that at Tring was 40ft average depth for almost 2½-miles.


“Whereas the making a Railway with proper Works and Conveniences connected therewith for the Carriage of Passengers, Goods, and Merchandize from London to Birmingham, will prove of great public advantage, by opening an additional cheap, certain, and expeditious Communication between the Metropolis, the Port of London, and the large manufacturing town and neighbourhood of Birmingham; and will at the same time facilitate the means of transit and traffic for Passengers, Goods, and Merchandize, between those places and the adjacent districts and the several intermediate towns and places.”


Colonel James Archibald Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, 1st Baron Wharncliffe PC (1776-1845), was a British soldier and politician.  A grandson of Prime Minister John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, he held office under Sir Robert Peel as Lord Privy Seal between 1834 and 1835 and as Lord President of the Council between 1841 and 1845.