Cutting the First Sod of the Meltham Branch Line (April 1864)

The ceremonial cutting of the first sod of the Meltham Branch Line occurred on 4 April 1864 at around 3pm on a miserable rainy afternoon in Meltham and took place at a location named as “Gill-up rudes”, which I’ve yet to find on any period map.

However, based on the description given below, it may have been somewhere near where Low Cote Mill once stood.1 I’m going to take a complete stab in the dark and say it may have happened somewhere around here…

According to the local newspaper write-up of the ceremony, around a thousand people attended the event, including a number of local dignitaries and business owners. The sod of earth was cut by Charles Brook, a well-known and much-liked local businessman who reportedly knew most of his 2,000 employees by sight.

The article is of importance as it details the planned route of the branch line:

The contemplated line will be […] about 3½ miles long, and will be a single line, the total cost being estimated at £70,000, or £20,000 per mile. It will commence at the Huddersfield end of the Lockwood viaducts, passing behind Woodfield House, the residence of Bentley Shaw, Esq., by a deep cutting about half a-mile in length, the average depth of which is 40 feet, and then proceeding by a tunnel 200 yards long, through rock, under “Butternab.” This tunnel will be followed by an embankment 200 yards long and 80 feet deep, passing by a culvert over the stream that runs down to Armitage Fold, then passing through a small cutting and approaching Netherton through a small tunnel, from which it will emerge on to another embankment 60 feet high ; then through a tunnel of rock and shale 335 yards long, ending in a cutting a quarter of a mile in length. It then passes along an embankment the whole length of the “big valley,” behind Healey House. The average height of the embankment will be 20 feet, and it will be fully half a mile in length. It next traverses a small tunnel about 30 yards in length, under the grounds of Healey House, then through a shale cutting a third of a mile long, averaging 25 feet in depth, and then proceeds forward by an embankment half a mile long, averaging 20 feet high, crossing the Lockwood and Meltham turnpike road by a skew bridge 36 feet span and 16 feet high on to “Gill-up rudes,” the place where the sod was lifted, passing on to the terminus at Meltham proper, just below the church, where will be the station. A short branch will diverge at “Gill-up rudes,” passing under the grounds of Meltham Hall by an open cutting, winch will afterwards be arched over, then filled up level, then by small cuttings and embankments on to Meltham Mills, the whole length of the branch being 700 yards. The Railway Company will construct the first 300 yards of this line to the end of their boundary lines of deviation, and Messrs. Brook the remainder. Another short branch will join the main line near where the sod was taken up, and run to the silk mills at present occupied by Messrs. Ainley and Taylor. The gradients will be 1 in 60 at one part, 1 in 120 at another, the remaining small portion being level. It is expected that the line will be completed in less than two years, the company being compelled to have it working before the expiration of five years from obtaining the act, which received the royal assent in June, 1861.

As noted in the description, the original intention had been to have a spur branch off from the line — at the elusive “Gill-up rudes” — which would then run down to Meltham Mills. Ultimately this was abandoned, apparently due to the cost of the necessary earthworks.2

If anyone local knows where “Gill-up rudes” might have been, please leave a message! The mystery of “Glll-up rudes” has been solved — see below!

As a side note, almost exactly a year later, Charles Brook organised a large tea party for the navvies working on the line which ended with a magic lantern show presented by J.W. Carlile.


Update: 25 May 2015

When I posted this, I couldn’t find any references anywhere to the elusive “Gill-up Rudes” where the ceremony took place. I suspect now this is because the location retained its name to the locals but, over the years, the exact spelling was forgotten.

Joseph Hughes’ 1866 book, The History of the Township of Meltham, contains a description of the Meltham boundary:

First. The East end of one close called Bentylee and from the said Bentylee following the water to Gylloproyd Dyke, and from the said Gylloproyd Dyke unto the East end of old Helme, and from the said East end of old Helme unto Wykenforth ford…

From that, and an 1892 map of the area which shows the boundary line, the boundary description begins near Bent Ley Mills and goes anticlockwise up to Helme. Between those two particular locations is the stream which flows over Folly Dolly Falls and then runs into Hall Dyke, so it would seem that Gylloproyd Dyke is the old (and long forgotten) name for that stream.

Therefore, the elusive location of the sod cutting ceremony — and also that of the planned spur to Meltham Mills — was somewhere near to Folly Dolly Falls. That also happens to be near to where Meltham Mills Halt (also known as Spink Station) was later built when the spur was abandoned.

As for the name, “Gyllop” is sometimes used in old texts to mean “gallop”, and a “royd” is a cleared area of ground. So, perhaps this was once an area made suitable for galloping on horseback?

Footnotes

  1. The Leeds Mercury (05/Apr/1864) stated that the ceremony took place “in a field near Meltham Mills”, which doesn’t really help to narrow the location down.
  2. According to huddersfield.org/meltham/meltham-branch

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