Rolling back Beeching half a mile at a time

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

Some time ago government made a high profile bid for the railway enthusiast/environmental vote by saying they were putting up money to reinstate the railway cut-backs of the 1960’s Beeching era. It was all good stuff but when you have an idea how much a railway costs to reinstate then the amount of money on offer was to say the least rather insignificant whereas the expectations raised have been very significant. The amount on offer was (and I think still is) £500m and some experts think that’s only enough to reinstate around 25 miles of track in total!

Here’s a link to the original press coverage via the Independent’s website:-

www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/fleetwood-rail-cuts-beeching-grant-shapps-borders-railway-west-coast-a9304686.html

And here’s the list of projects bidding for the money!:-

assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/969125/restoring-your-railway-all-bids.csv/preview

Clearly Pandora’s Box has been opened and unless vastly more money is put into this pot there’s going to be some angry and potentially feeling misled people about. Even if you say two thirds of the projects won’t make the cut the rest will cost many billions of £’s.

Locally, there are two projects on the long list of bidders – reconnecting the Burscough Curves (which used to connect the Southport – Wigan and Ormskirk Preston lines at Burscough) and the reopening of Midge Hall Station on the Ormskirk – Preston line. As a member of OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Assn) I’m reasonably informed about both bids as they’ve been campaigned for over many, many years. The Burscough Curves project did not make the 1st round approval process to be progressed via this particular funding route. In effect a revised bid is required. The Midge Hall Station project may see the light of day via planning gain money associated with a large housing development close to it, although that’s been talked about for ages too.

So with expectations being so high and very significant efforts being made with regard to each bid how will the potentially many let-downs be handled?

My thanks to Jonathan Cadwallader for the lead to this posting

‘Melling through the Ages’ book review

I was delighted to see that Melling resident Carol Fitzgerald has written a comprehensive book on the history of Melling so purchased a copy direct from her. I was not to be disappointed, this book is an excellent read.

My connections with Melling are that I have lived in neighbouring Maghull and now Lydiate for 52 years, I represented Melling Civil Parish as a Sefton Borough Councillor from 1999 to 2011, my Dad was once given a cabbage (I kid you not) for playing the organ at the church of St. Thomas’ on Melling Rock by local farmer Mrs Roby and I regularly cycle the country lanes through the rural parts of it.

My first thoughts on starting to read the book were – it does not have an ISBN number or a date of publication. I’d not seen that before with such a significant publication but then it dawned on me that it’s a self-publication*. I think it was published in 2020 but stand to be corrected.

What I like about reading through a local history book is that you get to know the meaning of words you know well but have never actually known the meaning of. A case in point is ‘Cunscough’ as in Cunscough Lane, Melling. I now know it comes from Old Norse and means ‘Kings Wood’. And what about the ‘Woodend’ area of Maghull? Well it seems that it was quite literally the end of a forest that stretched from Waddicar to Wood End Maghull as detailed in the Doomsday Book.

Considering the modern-day flooding issues which the East Parishes area of Sefton Borough suffers from the historic references to the draining of the waters of Hengarther Lake and the ditches dug to drain the area into what was then the tidal River Alt (at the direction of the monks of Cockersands) some 800 years ago are interesting. Clearly, the rich arable farmland for which our parts of both Sefton and West Lancashire are famous hark back to such works but it also shows how such interventions (and the more modern works) have not really solved the flooding which was once a natural occurrence.

Melling Rock is the highest natural point in Sefton Borough and that fits uncomfortably well with the previous references to flooding.

There’s an interesting reference to the Tatlock Charity dating back many years to a John Tatlock born in 1653 and which still pays out today. Then there’s the Formby charitable work associated with the Industrial Revolution and the destitution it caused in Melling leading to Poor Relief administered by the Church. The Rev. Miles Formby being the Vicar 1829-1849.

Melling Tithebarn known these days for being a social, artistic and meeting venue was originally built to house the ‘tithe’ which was due to the Rector of Halsall who also collected such tithes from Lydiate, Halsall, Downholland etc.

There’s quite a bit about the development of farming across Melling and a connected modern day project to find evidence for occupation of a possible medieval moated site on the land around Wood Hall Farm which dates from around 1642. I recall having the opportunity to visit that farm, run by Christine and Henry Glover, during my time as a Sefton Cllr for Melling. Great buildings and lovely folk I might add.

I could go on but I hope you get my drift; this is a very significant piece of historical work which covers all aspects of Melling over hundreds of years. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in this historic community.

If you want to obtain a copy (£10) you can e-mail Carol Fitxgerald – cf83230@gmail.com

*Note: This is a self-published book which is printed in batches of 20’s or more, so Carol asks people to pre pay.

Maghull – When its railway was a main line

I’m returning to the railway photos of former Maghull resident and British Rail employee Neil Reston. The 3 photo’s in this posting were all taken from the same spot where Poverty Lane Maghull crosses over the what is now the Ormskirk Line of Merseyrail but until the late 1960’s was a main line north to Scotland from Liverpool Exchange Station.

All 3 photos are of northbound trains with the lead photo being noted as a Glasgow train. They were all taken in 1968 which is right at the end of through trains using the line from for former Liverpool Exchange Station to Scotland.

I have more 1960’s photos to work my way through of railway scenes across Merseyside from the Neil Reston Collection which was kindly passed on to me by his family.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Lydiate – Progress at Sandy Lane

Just a bit of an update on Lydiate Parish Council’s project to develop and upgrade the football changing facilities at its Sandy Lane Playing Field. Here’s the latest photos:-

This is where the additional changing facility will be located. It will come as a pre-built modular container-type building for which the services are being provided via these works. My understanding is that delivery will be around 18th May.

Works inside the present building are also progressing to raise the 1960’s-type standards and provide refreshment facilities too. Here’s a photo which I may have previously posted with regard to these works. It was taken 3 months ago so much has changed. This is where the disability friendly toilet facility is being located:-

More news as things move forward……..

A trip around Unilever’s Port Sunlight railway system in 1963

I continue to work my through the photographic collection of Neil Reston, a former BR employee, who lived in Maghull. His collection of mainly 1960’s black and white railway photos was generously passed on to me by his relatives.

This posting is all about a visit to Unilever’s Port Sunlight premises by the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society on 26th October 1963 and takes the form of a look at the small brochure produced for the visit and a number of photos. Enjoy……

Duchess of Kent loco

Control Centre

Control Point

Main line to factory

Lever Bros guads van

Lever Bros wagons

I wonder if anyone reading this posting will have been on that RCTS tour. It would be interesting to hear of experiences of the Port Sunlight railway system at any time.

Please click on each scan to enlarge it

Gerard Manley Hopkins – the Lydiate Connections

Readers of this posting who know me well will recall that I’m an atheist so may consider my reviewing a book about such a deeply religious man and his poetry a little incongruous and I suppose it is but here goes anyway.

I came across this book via Sheila, my wife, who asked me to order it for her as a Christmas present in 2020. What drew me to find out about the book and Manley Hopkins is the simple fact that I regularly cycle past Rose Hill House in Lydiate’s Pygons Hill Lane and I’d recognised the painting of the house on the book’s front cover. Here’s a present day photo of the scene:-

Rose Hill is a Grade II Listed Building I might add; here’s a link to British Listed Buildings:-

britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101343312-rose-hill-lydiate

Firstly, who was Gerard Manley Hopkins? This link to the Poetry Foundation helps set the scene:-

www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/gerard-manley-hopkins

The book talks about Manley Hopkins’ early life and influences and his conversion from Anglican to RC religion – which clearly caused some short-term family troubles. It then charts his arrival in Liverpool in January 1880 and his visits to Rose Hill House to celebrate Sunday Mass. It seems to have been a weekly event for a Jesuit from St. Francis Xavier’s Church in Salisbury Street Liverpool to ‘take the train to Lydiate*, sleep overnight, then celebrate Mass in the “chapel” at Rose Hill House’, a direct quote from the book. The celebrated poem ‘Spring and Fall’ was penned by Manley Hopkins at Rose Hill House in September 1880.

Well I’ve certainly learned some things I did not previously know about with regard to my adopted home community of Lydiate and it’s via books such as this that such gaps are filled in and our local history better understood. It’s well worth a read if you have an interest in Lydiate, poetry, the RC church etc.

Sales of the book will I understand support Hospice Africa – Ive noticed that it’s presently available (Feb 2021) via Abe Books price £6.89.

* It seems the Jesuit travellers would either have used Maghull Station or Town Green Station (both opened in 1849) on the present day Liverpool – Ormskirk line or Lydiate’s own Station on the Southport & Cheshire Lines Extension Railway although that line and station did not open until 1884.

Note:- Tony Robertson (the editor of this blog site) is a former leader of Sefton Council and a present day member of Lydiate Parish Council