Accidents, injuries and deaths on the Meltham Branch Line: 1890 onwards

Following on the previous blog posts, this is a list of the other accidents and deaths on the Meltham Branch Line from 1890 onwards that I found whilst researching through old newspapers.

Once again, this is primarily based on researching the Huddersfield Chronicle archives.

20/Aug/1892: Vandeleur Earnshaw

The Chronicle reported that a gardener named Vandeleur Earnshaw had attempted to board the 5:50am train at Meltham Station when it was already in motion. Whilst jogging alongside the train, he had managed to open a compartment door and was attempting to get in when he ran off the end of the platform. He tumbled down, fell partly onto the track and the train “passed over the leg just below the ankle”. He was rushed to Huddersfield Infirmary where it was necessary to amputate the limb.1

Vandeleur Earnshaw2 was born around 1857 in Meltham, the son of wood cutter Abraham and Martha Earnshaw. He married Sarah Hannah Duckitt on 23 March 1878 at Meltham Mills and they raised a family in Meltham, where he worked as a domestic gardener.

It seems the accident meant that Vandeleur could no longer work as a gardener and the 1901 Census lists him as a 44-year-old “silk boiler” (most likely working for Jonas Brook & Bros. Ltd.) living with his wife and seven children at 18 Shady Row, Meltham. He died in 1916, aged 60, and was buried on 15 November at Meltham Mills.

Their son, Serjeant Hilton Earnshaw was killed in action on 31 August 1916 and is buried at the St. Amand British Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France. He was serving with the 9th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment).

08/Mar/1894: Eastwood

From the Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Mar/1894):

NARROW ESCAPE

On Thursday afternoon, as the 3:40 train from Huddersfield to Meltham was entering the Meltham Station, the porter, Eastwood, a youth about 16 years of age, was seen to run alongside the train and attempt to catch hold of the carriage handle. He succeeded in getting hold, but lost his footing, the train dragged him a short distance on the platform, when he left his hold, and the train turned him over, and but for the timely assistance of Wright Smith, the head porter, he would in all probability have been killed. His eyes are badly knocked and swollen, and his knees bruised. It is expected that he will be all right again in a few days.

The Huddersfield Daily Examiner (05/Feb/1915) reported on the celebrations for Wright and Ellen Smith’s golden wedding anniversary. The couple, who married on 4 February 1865, were then living at 4 Beaumont Street in Netherton.

After spending fifty years together, the couple continue to live happily in their cottage at Netherton, and although he has passed the allotted span of three score years and ten Mr. Smith may frequently be found working on the land with neighbouring farmers. For over thirty years he was employed by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Co., first at the Huddersfield goods warehouse, and afterwards at Meltham, where he held the position of foreman porter prior to his retirement about five years ago.

Wright was born around 1840 in Almondbury and most likely died in 1927, aged 87. His wife was Ellen Dunn, also born around 1840, who likely died in 1922, aged 82. They had no children.

06/Mar/1895: Landslip and Derailment

The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle reported extensively on a landslip which occurred around 7pm on Wednesday 6 March 1895 — mostly due to the fact that one of their reporters was greatly inconvenienced by it!3

Following the completion of a district council meeting in Meltham, a number of people waited for the 8:28pm departure to Huddersfield but there was no sign at all of the train and the station staff seemed unsure as to what exactly had happened, other than a rumour of a derailment and an assurance that there would likely be no more trains that evening. The reporter set off walking down the line and arrived at Healey House station around 9pm, where he found the station master in “blissful ignorance of the accident, but wondering much what had become of the missing train”.

Now joined by as gas works employee who had been waiting for the train to Huddersfield at Healey House, the pair set off into the darkness, lighting matches to aid them through Netherton Tunnel and then Butternab Tunnel. Exiting the latter, they found the cause — a landslip had “encumbered the line for some distance” and the train heading towards Huddersfield had ploughed into the debris, causing a slight derailment.

The driver, named Mallinson, was praised by the reporter for keeping a cool head and assisting some dozen passengers — none of whom had sustained any injuries in the accident — to walk down the line to Lockwood station.

A team of workmen had already arrived on a train from Mirfield to the other end of the landslip and the reporter was offered the opportunity to ride on the footplate back to Lockwood. From there, he had to walk in the heavy rain back to Huddersfield, having missed the last tram of the day.

The article ended with a report on the rumours which “prevailed at the various stations on the line as to what had really happened”:

Some would be satisfied with nothing less than a holocaust of the whole of the passengers, and others added the horrors of a fire to the appalling catastrophe which their imagination pictured. The reality fell far short of this.

14/Dec/1895: Thomas Edward Taylor

Meltham wine merchant Thomas Edward Taylor (of Messrs. Taylor Bros.) was lucky not to have been injured when he tried to board the 7:25am train from Meltham Station which was already in motion.4 According to the newspaper report, he pushed a signalman to one side, grabbed hold of the second-class carriage and was dragged down the platform — one foot on the carriage and one still the platform. The train was quickly stopped and a guard took down the merchant’s details.

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) company prosecuted Thomas Edward under a railway by-law which penalised anyone attempting to enter or leave a train in motion. In court in mid-January 1896, he pleaded guilty and was fined £1 with a further £1 0s. 6d. costs.5

This was almost certainly the Thomas Edward Taylor born around 1858 in Meltham, the son of woollen weaver Uriah Taylor and his wife Martha (née Sedgwick or Walshaw). The various records name him as a “mineral water manufacturer”, rather than a “wine merchant” and he married an American woman named Bertha (who was born around 1870) sometime around 1893. Court records show that he was found guilty of “working a horse which was in an unfit condition” in July 1899 and fined 5s. and 7s. 6d. expenses.

In August 1900, he was named as one of “Messrs. Taylor Bros.” of Meltham who was attempting to obtain a beer licence for a grocer’s shop on Brow Road, Paddock. However, as Taylor didn’t reside there, it was not granted.

The 1901 Census lists the couple with a 3-year-old daughter, Eva Irene Taylor, and living with his older brother, jeweller Henry Taylor, on Market Place, Meltham. They then spent some time in the United States, where a son named Henry was born around 1907. By the time of the 1911 Census, they were back in Meltham and living at Law Cottage.

04/Mar/1896: John Allen Woodhouse

It was somewhere along the stretch of line between the Netherton and Butternab Tunnels that local man Vincent Senior made a gruesome discovery on the morning of Thursday 5 March 1896.6

Vincent was born around 1862 in Dewsbury and moved to Huddersfield where he married local woman Ellen Hirst in 1890. He lived for a while with his in-laws in Almondbury before moving to Netherton and he worked as a “platelayer“, which meant his job was to inspect the railway line for wear and tear and obstacles. He is recorded as joining the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants union in 1896.

On that March morning, he set off early at around 5:30am from Netherton to walk the line to Lockwood and found the body of a man by the side of the line at Butternab Bank. As no trains had run yet that day, it was assumed the man had been hit by a train the night before and had suffered extensive injuries to the neck and head. Vincent ran to fetch help, finding local Police Constable Ruddick, who ordered the body moved to a nearby log cabin. A Mrs. Crowther also assisted in laying out the body.

The Chronicle (06/Mar/1896) gave the following description of the deceased:7

Height, 5ft. 6in. ; dark brown hair, ginger moustache, and blue eyes ; dressed in blue cloth jacket and vest, fustian trousers greasy on front of legs, black overcoat and cap ; black, white and red check shirt, blue and white scarf, grey stockings and light laced boots. The only articles in the pockets were two clay pipes and two tobacco boxes.

By the following day, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported that the deceased had been identified as 33-year-old John Allen Woodhouse, an unmarried mill hand who lived on Plover Lane in Lindley.8 He had visited his aunt in Netherton on the day of his death and was least seen leaving her house that evening.

John Allen Woodhouse was born 24 November 1863, the son of local weaver James Woodhouse and his wife Mary, and was baptised at All Hallows parish church in Kirkburton on 2 November 1865. By the time of the 1891 Census, aged 28, he was living with his older sister Matilda and two younger brothers at the family home on Plover Road. It appears that their parents were both dead and Matilda was now the head of the family. At the time, John Allen was working as a “cotton piecer”, which meant his role was to mend broken threads.

An inquest was held on Friday 6 March at the Commercial Inn, Netherton, with district coroner Mr. W. Barstow presiding.9 It was reported that John Allen’s body had been identified by his aunt Ann Woodhouse, and that he’d visited her house in Netherton at around 5pm that Wednesday where he ate tea. Ann told the inquest that her nephew had been in low spirits:

He took a long time over his tea, and sighed several times while he was having it. He had not been well for some time and had been under the doctor, and he made a remark to her to the effect that he thought it was nearly all over for him. She told him that she thought he would look up again, and he replied that he did not think he would. He talked very little, but answered her when she spoke to him.

Ann went on to state that John Allen’s father had been twice in an asylum and had died in Wadsley Asylum (Sheffield) about three weeks before. John Allen’s brother then told the inquest that the deceased had not worked for nearly a month due to ill-health and seemed “run down” — presumably he had been deeply affected by his father’s illness and death.

Ann stated that John Allen had left her house at around 7pm and that she supposed he intended to head home to Lindley (about a 4 mile walk northwards of Netherton). Instead, it seems he wandered down either Nether Moor Road or Butternab Road and then onto the railway line where he waited for it to get dark. Given the nature of the injuries, he likely laid with his head on the line and was struck by one of the last trains of the day — none of the drivers had reported seeing anything on the line that night, so the body laid undiscovered until the following morning. The jury returned a verdict that he had probably committed suicide but it was impossible to know the exact state of his mind at the time.

John Allen Woodhouse was laid to rest at Holy Trinity parish church, South Crossland, on 3 July 1896. If I can find his gravestone, I’ll add a photograph to this blog post.

27/Sep/1900: Joe Morehouse

On 9 September at around 8:30am, 24-year-old brass finisher Joe Morehouse was collecting blackberries by the railway side near Beaumont Park with a friend named William Brown. He slipped and fell a short distance — presumably onto the railway line — and claimed he’d hurt himself. It was reported that his health deteriorated and he eventually died at 3:50pm on 27 September. At an inquest, his doctor reported that Morehouse had been in poor health recently and a verdict of “accidental death” was returned.10


My access to the Chronicle‘s archives ends in 1900, but I did find a few later reports in other sources…

21/Sep/1905: Christopher Mallinson

Reported in the Railway Accidents 1876: Return of Accidents and Casualties (July-September 1905) that goods guard Christopher Mallinson had been in charged of the 4:35pm goods train from Meltham to Lockwood. Seven waggons were uncoupled at Lockwood and “allowed to run into the shoot road” at the station. Maillnson claimed he couldn’t then stop the waggons using his brake and “consequently used two sprags, one of which rebounded and struck him, breaking his leg”.

The waggons were then stopped by William R. Bond, who did so purely with the brake, which led to the verdict that “there was no need for Mallinson to use a sprag to stop the waggons, and I attribute the accident to his own want of caution.”

20/Aug/1914

The Huddersfield Daily Examiner (20/Aug/1914) reported on an apparent suicide:

LOCKWOOD RAIL TRAGEDY

A weaver named Sam Gill (55), widower, who lived at 13, Batley Street, Moldgreen, with his two daughters, was found lying dead on the railway near Beaumont Park this afternoon shortly after the train which had left Meltham at 1:38 had passed. His head was completely severed from his body.

Samuel Gill was born around 1859 in Fulstone, New Mill. The 1911 Census lists him as a 52-year-old widower and living with him were his nephew, Ernest (aged 26), and two daughters, Alice (aged 24) and Jane Gill (aged 12). His wife, Janet, had died in 1909, aged 50.

The inquiry into his death heard that “the deceased had been somewhat peculiar of late” and that a witness had seem him climb over a wall near Beaumont Park and lay his head on the railway line as the train approached. A verdict of “suicide whilst of unsound mind” was recorded.

19/May/1921: Headless Body

From the Yorkshire Post (20/May/1921):

Yesterday afternoon the headless body of a man was found on the Meltham branch line of the railway near Beaumont Park, Huddersfield. The man was apparently about 45 years of age.

I could find no further articles about this apparent suicide, but 1921 was a year in which headless bodies were found on railway lines near Buckhurst Hill (March), Euxton (July), Etchingham Station (August), Bath (August), Newton St. Loe (September), Cambridge (December) and Hull (December). In the last case, the inquest heard that Robert Turner was in the habit of removing his shoes and sleeping wherever he was — his boots were stood neatly beside his decapitated body, so it was assumed he had decided to sleep on the railway line!

14/Feb/1952: Wyndham Bradley

The following accident was reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post11 and it occurred nearly 3 years after the last passenger train in May 1949:

MAN HURT AT STATION

Wyndan Bradley (60), Midland Street, Huddersfield, a foreman platelayer, fell from the platform at Netherton railway station, near Huddersfield, today and injured his back. He was detained in the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

Likely the Post got the name wrong, and this was Wyndham Bradley, born in the village of Leintwardine, Herefordshire, circa 1891.

By the time of the 1911 Census, 21-year-old Wyndham was living with his married sister, Mary Priestley, at Bottoms Wood in Slaithwaite and working as a dyer’s labourer for a woollen manufacturer. A couple of years later, he married local woman Gertrude Moore in Slaithwaite on 11 October 1913.

Gertrude was born in 1890, the daughter of Fred Moore and his wife Emma (née Bamforth). It seems Gertrude’s father died before she was born, aged only 23, and the 1891 Census finds Emma and daughter living with Emma’s parents, labourer Joseph Bamforth and his wife Charlotte, in Upper Holme, Slaithwaite. At that point, 25-year-old Emma was working as “cotton card room hand” — before cotton could be spun into a thread, it had to be carded to align the fibres and Emma would have operated a carding machine, and this was a low-status job in the cotton factory. Emma’s siblings also mostly worked in the local cotton factories, as “cotton spinners”, “cotton piercers” and “cotton twiners”.

Gertrude continued to live with her grandparents until her marriage. By the time of the 1911 Census, she too was working in the cotton mills as a weaver and perhaps she worked in the same mill as Wyndham?

Wyndham died in 1958, aged 67. There are two likely death registry entries for Gertrude in the Huddersfield area:

  • Gertrude Bradley: born 09/Feb/1890, died 1969
  • Gertrude Bradley: born 03/Aug/1890, died 1982

23/Jun/1958: Runaway Carriages

A set of four empty carriages that had been left in a siding on the branch line rolled down towards Lockwood, likely released by vandals.12 A quick-thinking signalman (presumably at Meltham Junction) routed them off into the good yards but they ploughed through the buffers and went over Swan Lane, crashing into the booking office of the station.

Amazingly no-one was injured, although the stationmaster and a booking clerk were trapped in the rubble and had to climb out.

1958.06.23 crash 2

1958.06.23 crash 1

Martin Bairstow’s The Huddersfield & Sheffield Junction Railway: The Penistone Line contains a couple of photographs taken by Peter Sunderland showing the aftermath of the crash. The one reproduced below shows the damage after the carriages had been removed.

© Peter Sunderland
© Peter Sunderland

The booking office was later demolished, as can be seen on this Google Street View of the crash site:

This wasn’t the first time an accident like this had happened — 16 empty wagons had rolled free from a siding on the evening of 9 September 1953 and crashed a wooden fence, leaving one blocking Swan Lane and two others teetering above the road.

Prior to that, in October 1913, a train had been shunting truck of coal when a few of them broke free, demolishing the buffers and wrecking part of the signal box. The Manchester Guardian (29/Oct/1913) reported that two trucks full of coal fell 40 feet onto the road below and five more were left hanging down the embankment. The signalman (W.G. Brackenbury of Newsome) had jumped to safety through the window of his signal box, sustaining only minor injuries.


Coda

With the closure of the line to passenger services in 1949, it was used purely for transporting goods.

Despite opposition from businesses in Meltham, particular David Brown’s, the branch line officially closed on 5 April 1965 and, following one last train carrying dangerous chemicals which ran to Meltham in January 1966, the line was dismantled in the autumn of 1966. After 100 years, the Meltham Branch Line was consigned to the history books.

Having said that, the next time you find yourself walking along the stretch of Meltham Road between Big Valley and Lockwood, take a moment to look down into the valley towards Woodfield Park Sports and Social Club. A little bit of the Meltham Branch Line still seemingly survives in the hundreds of wooden railway sleepers used to edge the grounds of the club…

…and a little further along, you’ll find some more which were used to fence off the access road down to the sports club:

Accidents, injuries and deaths on the Meltham Branch Line: 1860-1869

It’s almost inevitable that the construction of a railway line results in injuries and even deaths, and the construction of the Meltham Branch Line in the 1860s was no different. There were also a number of accidents and at least two suicides once the trains started to run.

I’m sure some of the people named below have been lost to the mists of time, but hopefully the details given will help relatives who are researching their family tree. The date given is that of the event.

This blog post is primarily based on researching the Huddersfield Chronicle archives and will be split into three parts, the first of which covers the 1860s up to the start of regular passenger services on the line in July 1869.


15/Oct/1864: John Eastwood

At the southern end of Netherton Tunnel, temporary tracks had been lain so that horses could pull trucks of debris from the excavations. At around 8am on Saturday 15 October 1864, John Eastwood was using a horse to shunt empty trucks when the animal shied and he became pinned between the buffers of two of the trucks. He was carried unconscious back to his lodgings in Netherton where a surgeon from Lockwood attended to him. At first it was feared that Eastwood’s spine had been broken, but instead it was discovered his hip and groin had taken the force of the impact that and he was expected to slowly recover.1

Eastwood was named as being around 60 years old and from Hyde (presumably a reference to Hyde in Tameside, Manchester). Although his fate is unknown, there was a death of a John Eastwood recorded about the same time in Huddersfield.2

18/Oct/1864: Tunnel Collapse

Just a few days after John Eastwood’s accident, there was a partial collapse at the other end of Netherton Tunnel. It was reported several (unnamed) men barely escaped in time, having abandoned their tools and possessions.3

26/May/1865: “Johnny”

The Chronicle reported that an Irish labourer named “Johnny” had been working on scaffolding at the southern entrance to Butternab Tunnel when it collapsed. Part of the scaffolding fell onto him and he was swiftly taken to Huddersfield Infirmary where it was discovered that, among various injuries, both his legs were broken. Initially it was assumed he would die but the newspaper reported that he was now slowly recovering.4

01/Jun/1865: “Old Sam”

The Huddersfield Chronicle (03/Jun/1865) reported that a horse keeper known as “Old Sam” was walking a horse along a tram line at Meltham Station when he tripped backwards over some blocks of stone and his horse fell onto him. Although the weight had crushed his chest, it was not thought the injury would be serious.5

17/Jul/1865: James Phiney

A local labourer named as James Phiney was caught in a small landslip above Butternab Tunnel’s south entrance on the afternoon of 17 July 1865 and fell down onto the track bed (reportedly a fall over around 60 feet). He died en route to the Huddersfield Infirmary, leaving a wife and five young children.

I suspect the Chronicle may have recorded the man’s name incorrectly or that they were wrong in saying that he was local, as I could find no records for a local man of that name, nor a death registry entry in the area for anyone with a similar name. There are two recorded deaths of “James Finney”s in 1865, but neither near Yorkshire.

11/Aug/1865: Joseph Marriott

The accident which occurred to joiner Joseph Marriott in Butternab Tunnel is detailed in a previous blog post, so a summary will suffice…

On the afternoon of Friday 11 August 1865, Marriott’s actions led to an accident which trapped him under some heavy wooden beams and other debris in the southern end of Butternab Tunnel. His colleagues managed to drag him out but the Chronicle reported that he’d suffered internal injuries and “there is little hope of his recovery”. Thankfully for his wife Ellen, the newspaper was proved wrong — Marriott recovered and continued to work as a joiner in the Huddersfield area until his death in 1884.

19/Aug/1865: Tunnel Collapse

According to the Chronicle there were two incidents on Saturday 19 August 1865 in Netherton Tunnel which necessitated a complete rebuild.6 In the early hours, a portion of the side wall collapsed and, around noon, a more serious collapse occurred — around 15 men were working in the tunnel at the time but were able to escape without injury. The collapse was severe enough to cause subsidence in the village above and it was reported that the house and outbuildings of Jonathan Lund7 were so damaged that they had to be demolished.

The cause of the collapse was reported as being due to the shale strata running at an angle, which meant the vertical tunnel walls not only carried the weight of the tunnel above but were also being pushed sideways by the strata. The Chronicle stated that it had “now been decided by the contractors to take it down and substitute the barrel or egg-shaped tunnel, which is considerably stronger than the perpendicular walls.”

This photograph by James of the bricked-up southern entrance shows the unusual shape of Netherton Tunnel:

railway7b

By late September, the Chronicle reported that work on the new “egg-shaped tunnel” had been pushed “with such vigour” that the expected delay to the construction would not be as great as had originally been feared.8

Photographs taken more recently in the tunnel show one of the walls bulging inwards slightly, presumably due to the pressure of the shale.

30/Sep/1865: James Mace

MELTHAM. Fatal Accident on the Railway

A fatal accident occurred on the line in course of construction at Meltham, on Saturday morning, to a “tipper” named James Mace, or May, a native of Suffolk. The man had been employed on the works some short time, and on the previous night, after receiving his wages, indulged freely in drink. He went to his work as usual on Saturday morning, and about seven o’clock, or a little after, he drove his ballast waggon to the “tip.” Having yoked his horse to the empty truck to return, he — as he had frequently done before — whipped the animal into a running pace. In attempting to cross the line in order to turn the waggon on the right line he stumbled and fell across the rails, when the wheels of the truck passed over both legs and abdomen, killing him instantly. The body was removed to the King’s Life Guardsman Inn, Meltham Mills, where an inquest was held, before Mr. J.R. Ingram, deputy coroner, on Monday evening, and a verdict of “Accidental death” returned.

James Mace had married Mary Marshall in 1852 and they had one son, Caleb Mace (1854–1919). He was buried at Meltham Mills on 2 October.

04/Oct/1865: John Dillon

On the final stretch of the line running into Meltham, in a cutting at Hall Heys, an Irish labourer named John Dillon (who had only recently begun working on the line) was caught in a landslip and tumbled down onto the trackbed. Although he ended up with a broken leg, he was lucky not to have been struck by a large boulder weighing more than a ton which landed close to him.

It seems possible he may have been the Irish-born John Dillon listed in the 1871 Census as an 80-year-old stone breaker, so would have been in his mid-70s at the time of the accident. The census shows him living with his younger brother Thomas (aged 70) as a lodger on Castlegate in Hudddersfield.

18/Jan/1866

The Chronicle briefly reported that an unnamed miner had been injured after a small explosive charge had detonated prematurely whilst excavating Butternab Tunnel. The miner’s hand had been crushed between rocks and it was feared would have to be amputated.9

February 1866: Landslip

From the Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Feb/1866):

Slip of Foundations at Lockwood.

The occupants of the houses on the roadside at Dungeon, abutting the fields occupied by Mr. Haigh and others, have been alarmed for several days by the jeopardy in which their dwelling-houses have been placed. In some of the inner walls of the houses cracks and fissures half an inch in width have appeared, while the doors which before shut easily, have had to be altered in order to make them close as before. The toll-house at Dungeon bar has suffered greatly, the collector and others consider it unsafe to remain within. Both gable ends, as well as the front walls have opened, and there are large crevices in the adjoining ground. The new arch on the Meltham branch railway, opposite the houses, is also said to have sunk several inches. The cause of this damage seems inexplicable, some attributing it to the “shelving” nature of the foundations, acted upon by the great weight of the new line, which forced the ground outwards into the field. Others allege that it is the effect of the continued heavy rains.

Although repairs were made to the toll-house, apparently the toll collector steadfastly refused to use it again and it gradually fell into a state of disrepair. A few years later, the Chronicle (29/May/1869) reported that a “number of mischievous lads determined upon a lark” demolished part of the building’s roof which then caused it all to fully collapse “into the field of Mr. Haigh”.

17/Apr/1866: William Dyson

The Huddersfield Chronicle (21/Apr/1866) reported the following:

On Tuesday morning a severe accident occurred at the Butternab tunnel, on the Huddersfield and Meltham branch line of railway. A young man, named William Dyson, was working on this railway near the entrance to the above tunnel, when he accidentally fell among a heap of stones, by which his leg was fractured. He was removed to the Huddersfield Infirmary, where the fracture reduced, and he is progressing favourably.

The name William Dyson was extremely common, so it hasn’t been possible to identify who he may have been.

05/May/1866: James Sheard and James Hey

The Chronicle (12/May/1866) included the following article about a railway labourer who apparently enjoyed a spot of night poaching in the local woods. By now, delays in the construction of Netherton Tunnel meant that shift work had been introduced and work carried on through the night, with the tunnel lit by candlelight.

NETHERTON.

Singular Escapade — Two Men Shot in a Tunnel.

At half past two o’clock on Saturday morning Police-constable Yates, when on duty in the village of Netherton, met on the highway James Sheard, formerly game watcher for Geo. Armitage, Esq., of Milnsbridge, but who had latterly been working as a labourer in one of the tunnels on the Huddersfield and Meltham branch railway, at Netherton. Observing something bulky under Sheards coat, the officer enquired “Where are you going so late Jim?” After a little hesitancy, Sheard replied “I may as well tell you the truth at once, I’m going to have a shot.” Yates rejoined, “No, you’re not so give me the gun.” Sheard scampered off with the officer at his heels, in the direction of Delph wood. Finding the officer gained ground, and was within a few yards of him, Sheard suddenly turned and ran into the Delph end of Netherton tunnel where a number of men were working by candle light. On reaching the men, Sheard cried out to James Hey, a mason, “Here take this gun,” it was a double barrelled gun and doubtless it was his intention to conceal it. The gun was in two parts, and unfortunately the nipples struck against a stone and both barrels went off. The constable imagined at first that the shot had been levelled at him, but bearing a deep groan he went to the spot and found Sheard laid on his back bleeding from wounds about the face and head. Part of the contents of the gun had lodged in the head, and the flesh from the hand of Hey was completely shot away. Mr. Calvert, a medical practitioner at Netherton was sent for, and by his advice the officer moved Sheard in a cart to his residence at Swires-lane, Crosland Moor, where he still lies in a very feeble state. On Saturday Hey, who was in a very weak state was taken to the “Oldfield-lane doctor,” at Manchester, where his lacerated hand was examined and dressed. Sheard is now under the care of Mr. Roberts, surgeon.

The Leeds Times (12/May/1866) provided some further details:

Early on Saturday morning a man named James Sheard, who had with him a gun, was met by a police constable in the highway at Netherton, near Huddersfield. To escape being captured he rain into a tunnel now in course of formation on the Huddersfield and Meltham line, and in which a number of men were at work. He separated the barrel of the gun from the stock, and was handing the barrel to one of the men, named Hey, to have it concealed, when he struck the nipple against some hard substance, the cap exploded, and the charge blew away a portion of the fleshy part of Hey’s hand, and inflicted a serious wound on the forehead of Sheard, who was conveyed home in a dangerous condition.”

From the description, it sounds as though Sheard ran off down Nether Moor Road towards Delves Wood (sometimes marked on maps as being Round Wood or Butternab Wood) before veering onto the trackbed and into the northern end of Netherton Tunnel.

Various cases reported in the local newspapers attest to Sheard’s character and to his poaching activities…

Sheard appeared before the local magistrates’ court on 17 April 1860, alongside Thomas France, charged with “tresspassing in pursuit of game on land belonging to S.W. Haigh, Esq.” on 4 April. The two men had a dog and were seen walking on the edge of the land. As Mr S.W. Haigh was one of the magistrates that day, he stepped down from the bench during the hearing. Although Sheard was seen to trespass with the dog, it was felt there was not enough evidence to prove he intended to poach and the case was dismissed.10

Later on that year, Sheard was found guilty of poaching in Southowram, near Halifax. Also charged was a Seth Green, who was reported to be one of the “most hardened poachers in the district” and had only recently been released from prison for poaching.11

Sheard again appeared before the magistrates on 22 April 1862, this time having brought a charge of assault against a gamekeeper named Dan Fearnley. Sheard was leaving the Spinner’s Arms pub at Colne Bridge (near Cooper Bridge) with a hare which he claimed a Joseph France (presumably a relative of the previously mentioned Thomas France) had given him in his pocket. Fearnley, and his two sons, accosted Sheard, accused him of having poached the hare and wrestled him to the ground, pinning him down. The bench felt Sheard was unable to prove his allegation fully and he was awarded one shilling for the damage done to his coat and shirt in the fracas.12

September 1864 saw him charged with “riotous and drunken conduct at Moldgreen” in the early hours of a Sunday morning. This time, he had been accompanied by several men, including Samuel France and William Schofield. Schofield had thrown a rock at a police constable, severely injuring him. Sheard was fined a total of 22 shillings.13

In March 1965, Sheard was before the magistrates, charged with “wantonly and cruelly ill-treating a dog […] by allowing a larger dog to worry it” at Crosland Moor. By now Sheard was a gamekeeper in Milnsbridge. The bench heard that Sheard had a large bull mastiff dog which attacked a small terrier, giving it fatal injuries. The bench felt that it had been an accident and the case was dismissed.

There are no recorded deaths for a James Sheard or a James Hey in 1866, so they seemingly both survived the incident in Netherton Tunnel.

October & November 1866: Landslips

The deepest cutting on the line lies to the north of Butternab Tunnel and is above Woodfield House. On the morning of Monday 1 October 1866, it was noted that the larger of the supporting walls was beginning to collapse near the base and workmen spent much of the day removing equipment from the cutting. At around 7:45pm, the retaining walls collapsed over a length of 40 yards, filling the cutting with debris and causing a large landside which sent boulders crashing down towards Woodfield House — The Times reported that some of the rocks were 3 to 4 yards across.14 Fortunately the exterior boundary walls of the estate absorbed much of the impact, although they were demolished over a length of 50 yards.

On Wednesday 24 October, part of Meltham Road between Lockwood and the Dungeon toll-bar collapsed as a horse and cab was passing over it. The horse managed to free itself from the hole without injury and workmen soon arrived to carry out repairs. It was believed that the work on the railway have undermined the area and locals grew increasingly concerned that the defences against further landslips — which seem to have been built mostly from old railway sleepers — were wholly inadequate.15

Floods caused by heavy rain the following month resulted in damage throughout Huddersfield and an area around the southern end of Butternab Tunnel was washed away, blocking the existing stream which exacerbated the flooding below Netherton. At the southern end of Netherton Tunnel, a landslip buried a part of the station, which was currently under construction.

It wasn’t until March 1868 that the Chronicle was able to report that the cutting above Woodfield House had been fully cleared and all of the debris from this landslip — and the subsequent one in November 1867 — had been removed.16

15/Nov/1867: Landslip

The Chronicle (23/Nov/1867) reported that a “heavy slip” had occurred “at the deep cutting behind Woodfield House”. The report, which was printed over a week later, stated that 500 tons of debris were being removed from the cutting each day by a team of 60 men, but the clearing work would “yet take many days”.

01/Mar/1868: Patrick Pendrick

The Huddersfield Chronicle (09/Mar/1867) reported that navvy excavator Patrick Pendrick17 was injured in a landslip at Butternab cutting. Although it was reported that he had been “severely crushed about the chest” and that the “injuries are of a dangerous description”, it was expected Pendrick would recover.

16/Jan/1868: James Beaver

Arguably the most tragic death on the line occurred as a result of an incident on Thursday 16 January 1868. A young boy named James Beaver, living in Armitage Bridge, who had been employed to do help out with the work on the railway, tampered with one of the waggons loaded with debris at the southern end of Butternab Tunnel. Apparently the waggon began to move, James fell under it and one of the wheels rolled over his arm, crushing it.

The Chronicle initially reported on the incident saying that although the boy’s arm had been amputated at the shoulder, he was recovering well at Huddersfield Infirmary.18 Sadly, however, he died on Sunday 26 January.

At the subsequent inquest, a verdict of “accidental death” was recorded. It was noted that the accident was caused by James’ own actions and that he had previously been told off for playing with the waggons.

I’m extremely grateful to Shaun Beaver, whose great grandfather was James’ younger brother, for sharing details about his family history.

James Beaver was born 17 June 1856 in Rutland, the son of labourer Matthew Beaver and his wife Elizabeth (née Tyler). He was baptised in Oakham, Rutland, on 13 July 1856. Matthew had apparently been imprisoned for larceny and also fined in October 1857 for damaging a tree belonging to the local vicar, Rev. H. Finch.19 In fact, Matthew’s name appears in the local Petty Sessions listings several more times for minor offences.

The family moved to Huddersfield at some point after 1861 and it seems feasible that Matthew was a labourer working on the construction of the branch line, which would help explain why young James was given work. Apparently several boys were employed on the line and James had been beaten for a minor misdemeanour prior to the accident.

Young James Beaver was buried in the graveyard of St. Paul’s in Armitage Bridge on 30 January 1868.20 Sadly, James’ family could only afford the burial and his unmarked plot is shown in the centre of this photograph:

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April 1868: Landslip

Although the exact date isn’t given by the Chronicle, an article published on 25 April 1868 detailed a landslip and rockfall which resulted in some heavy boulders rolling down and blocking the line near Woodfield House. Due to their size, it had been decided to resort to blasting the boulders into small rocks, but Bentley Shaw, the owner of Woodfield House, obtained an injunction to halt the work.

Unable to proceed with work, the railway company entered into negotiations with Shaw and it would seem they insured him against any damage to Woodfield House and paid for him to temporarily relocate his family to Harrogate. Blasting resumed on 21 April.

On 16 May, the Chronicle reported that work was nearing completion and that the side of the cutting was “being sloped off from the top, which it is expected will have the effect of stopping any more falls from the wood”.

22/Sep/1868: Derailment

The line had finally opened to goods traffic in August 1868 but would soon close temporarily. However, before the closure, an accident was reported at Meltham towards the end of September:21

RAILWAY ACCIDENT

A slight accident occurred at the Meltham Station on Tuesday. It seems a number of coal trucks were being moved on the line near the coal shoots, when the trucks being pushed too far several of them dropped off the line on to the road below and were smashed. No personal injury was sustained.

01/Oct/1868: Closure of the Line

Following another landslip in the cutting behind Woodfield House, goods trains were suspended on the line. Keen to ensure it could not happen again, the railway engineers proposed that a giant retaining wall should be constructed measuring 150 yards long and 40 feet high, with a thickness of 10 feet, to hold the hillside above the cutting in place. The Chronicle reported that it was doubtful the line would re-open until the end of the year.22

Nearly 150 years later, the impressive sloping retaining wall (seen on the left of this photograph) continues to hold the hillside, and Beaumont Park above it, in place:

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26/Nov/1868: Accident to Labourer

Around noon on Thursday 26 November 1868, an unnamed Irish labourer was working in the cutting behind Woodfield House, north of Butternab Tunnel, when he became accidentally trapped between two ballast wagons. He was taken to Huddersfield Infirmary where it was reported he was being treated for internal injuries.23

December 1868: Landslips

The Huddersfield Chronicle (12/Dec/1868) reported that “the heavy and incessant rains” had caused several landslips, including a serious one which appears to have occurred near to Folly Dolly Falls where much of the six foot high railway embankment had collapsed, leaving the rails hanging across the gap.


Having invested so much in the line, it seems the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway weren’t prepared to admit defeat and during the early part of 1869 redoubled their efforts to get the line open again.

Formal inspections in May and June 1869 proved favourable and, on 5 July 1869, the first passenger service to run on the line left Huddersfield Station.

It’s perhaps worth noting that this relatively short 3½ mile long branch line took 5 years to build — roughly the same length of time it took them to build the Huddersfield to Penistone Line, which was a roughly four times longer and required several viaducts and lengthy tunnels.

Details of the incidents that occurred during the 1870s and 1880s are covered in this blog post. Incidents from 1890 onwards are covered in this blog post.

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?

The Meltham Branch Line

I’ll likely blog a bit more about this subject, but the Meltham Branch Line — which operated for nearly a century before closing in the mid-1960s — has left an indelible mark on the local landscape and holds a particular fascination for me as our house would have been a good vantage point to watch the trains go by on the other side of the short valley which runs from Netherton village down the hill towards Big Valley.

The line was built by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) company in the 1860s, taking nearly 5 years of construction before it was deemed safe to carry passengers, despite only measuring 3½ miles. The build was beset by numerous problems — from unstable ground and landslips to collapsing tunnels and opposition from landowners — but would become a vital and lifeline during the Second World War.

The Huddersfield.org site has an excellent overview of the branch line and I’ll try to avoid repeating anything from there.

For those curious where the line went, here’s a description including some relevant portions of an 1892 map of the area…

The line ran from Lockwood to Meltham and branched off to the right from the Penistone Line (Huddersfield to Sheffield) just before it passes under the Hanson Lane bridge. If you’re travelling out of Huddersfield, you can see the old trackbed if you look to your right after pulling out of Lockwood Station. It appears as “Meltham Junction” on the old maps:

If you peer over the side of Hanson Lane, you can see the start of the old track bed (overgrown with trees) as it heads off into Dungeon Woods. In this photograph, the track bed runs horizontally across the middle, with Lockwood Viaduct in the background:

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From there, the track follows the contour of the valley-side through the lower edge of Dungeon Wood, running below what would become eventually Beaumont Park a couple of decades later. Much of the ground here proved unstable and required some serious engineering to make the trackbed safe from landslips. In February 1866, the Huddersfield Chronicle reported that heavy rain was suspected of contributing to a landslip which caused nearby properties to become unsafe — in particular the toll-house at Dungeon bar had developed alarming cracks and the toll collector was steadfastly refusing the enter the building.

The line passes over the eastern lower entrance to Beaumont Park:

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Particularly impressive is a deep cutting with buttress walls which can now be accessed by foot thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Beaumont Park:

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As you can see from the photograph, the walls of the cutting slope inwards to the ground, but this wasn’t originally the case — originally they rose nearly straight up to a height of nearly 40 foot.

On the morning of Monday 1 October 1866, when it was noticed that the upper side of the cutting was beginning to collapse at the base, workmen spent the day carefully clearing the cutting of tools and equipment in fear of an imminent collapse. Below the cutting lay Woodfield House, at the time owned by Bentley Shaw, a vocal opponent of the branch line, and it seems he heard what was happening and ordered his servants to empty his outhouses which were sited between the cutting and Woodfield House. At 7:45pm, the walls caved in over a length of 40 yards, completely filling the cutting and causing part of the hillside above to collapse. Huge boulders were loosened by the slip and rolled down the hill towards Woodfield House, but their momentum was slowed by a large stone wall at the edge of the property, which was demolished over a length of 50 yards.

Three weeks later, a further landslip caused part of Meltham Road to collapse, leaving a large hole in the road. Understandably, local residents began to fear parts of a nearby embankment, which was apparently only being propped up by wooden railway sleepers that were already warping due to the weight, might collapse and destroy their houses.

The outcrop of land around Big Valley and Daffy Wood necessitated the first of three tunnels on the line and it’s possible (with suitable footwear!) to walk the track up to the northern tunnel end:

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Butternab Tunnel runs for 768 feet and passes under Butternab Road (not named on the map below, but shown as the boundary road between Huddersfield and South Crossland):

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The southern end is now on private property and inaccessible, but the Forgotten Relics web site shows how it’s been converted by the owners.

On 13 April 1864, construction began on this end of the tunnel with the symbolic removal of the first mound of earth by John Worth, manager of a dye works in nearby Armitage Bridge. The positioning of the tunnel had proved contentious, as a Mr. Tolson was the owner of a natural spring (which you can see in the photograph on the Forgotten Relics site) which ran close to the tunnel entrance and presumably Tolson received income from channelling the water down to the dye works. After the railway company guaranteed the water would not be contaminated by the construction work, they invited Mr. Worth to the ceremony where he was presented with a new spade by Jesse Kaye, owner of the nearby Big Valley Hotel, which he used to cut the first sod.

The local newspaper covered the event and reported that a large number of spectators watched the ceremony, “attracted there by the novelty of the occurrence, as well as the fineness of the day” and that Mr. Worth “removed the soil like one accustomed to such work”. The event complete, apparently everyone then went to the Big Valley Hotel where “refreshments were plentifully provided, and a merry evening was afterwards enjoyed by all who partook of the same.”

The Huddersfield Chronicle later reported on an accident which occurred on the afternoon of Friday 11 August 1865, during the latter stages of the construction of this end of the tunnel. A local sub-contractor, Joe Marriott, had been working with a group of men to remove some of the wooden supporting beams which had propped up the tunnel roof. Apparently he felt his colleagues were slacking and, “in a state of excitement”, grabbed an iron bar and began prizing out one of the beams which suddenly gave way, bringing down more of the beams and a section of the surrounding framework. Joe was buried under much of it, crushing his body. His was still alive when his co-workers dug him out, but the newspaper reported “the principal injuries being internal there is little hope of his recovery”.

It seems almost certain that this was the Joseph Marriott who was born in Huddersfield, the son of local cordwainer John Marriott and his wife Harriet (I suspect her friends joked about her becoming Harriet Marriott!). Joseph was baptised at St. Peter’s parish church in the centre of Huddersfield on 4 February 1833. By 1851, aged 19, he was working as a joiner and living with his widowed grandmother, Susy Ellis, on Swine Market in Huddersfield. In 1855, he married widow Ellen Smith of Heckmondwike and they had at least one child together, Joseph, along with two children from her first marriage.

The good news is that Joseph seemingly made a full recovery from the accident and the 1871 and 1881 Censuses report the family living at 80 Northumberland Street in the centre of Huddersfield, with Joseph continuing to work as a joiner. He eventually died in 1884, 20 years after being dragged barely alive from Butternab Tunnel. His wife Ellen passed away on 8 October 1887, leaving an estate worth £392, which implies Joseph did well for himself — that’s the equivalent of around £45,000 today.

I’ll blog more about the injuries and deaths associated with the branch line in a future post.

The line now swings south-westwards, running almost parallel to the modern-day Meltham Road but on the western side of the valley, passing by houses at Delves. This necessitated the building of a small bridge to provide those houses with an access route onto Nether Moor Road (the bridge is shown to the left of the “330” near Delves) and I’ve included a photograph taken on the bridge, which has an excellent view over towards Castle Hill:

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From the bridge at Delves, the tracks runs on towards the 1,000 foot long Netherton Tunnel. Just before the northern tunnel entrance, it passes over Nether Moor Road:

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The bricked-up tunnel entrance isn’t easily accessible without trespassing or clambering up an embankment, but I did once venture up there a couple of winters ago:

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The tunnel passes under the village of Netherton and emerged almost immediately into Netherton Station, where the platform edge ran right up the tunnel.

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This photograph by James shows the unusual shape of the tunnel. During its construction, there had been partial collapses in October 1864 and August 1865, due to the shale rock running at an angle rather than horizontally, which had left the vertical side walls of the tunnel unstable. The latter collapse caused subsidence in the village above and the Huddersfield Chronicle (26/Aug/1865) reported that house of Jonathan Lund1 had to be demolished as it had become dangerously unstable.

To help better distribute the weight of the tunnel — and the village above! — the side walls were rebuilt to curve inwards.

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In late November 1866, heavy prolonged rain led to floods throughout the north of England and the Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Nov/1866) covered the extensive damage but reported that, amazingly, there had been no known local loss of life. An area around the southern end of Butternab tunnel was washed away, blocking the existing stream which exacerbated the flooding below Netherton. At the station end of Netherton Tunnel, a landslip buried a part of the station, which was currently under construction.

The line now swings south-west and runs along the Holme valley towards Meltham, running parallel to Huddersfield Road. Once you know what you’re looking for, the line is very easy to spot in the valley as trees have grown on the raised embankment. A good vantage point to view from is Wood Bottom Road, on the other side of the valley.

This photograph, taken from Huddersfield Road, shows the old trackbed running across the middle of the image. Whether it’s possible to get down there and walk along the line, I’ve yet to find out!

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The line then crossed over what is now (and may have been back then) Crosland Factory Lane, and the bridge abutments remain in place:

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The small Healey House Station appears to have been built primarily for the benefit of the owners of Crosland Hall and Healey House, and apparently the families of both houses would hire a train every August and head north to Scotland for the grouse shooting season. Shortly after the station, a false 90-foot tunnel was built so that the trains would not spoil the view from Healey House.

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From Healey House, the line pushes on straight for the end of the line in Meltham, crossing once over Huddersfield Road near at Hall Heys. As can be seen in this photograph from 1910 (from the Kirklees Image Archive), the approach to “Iron Bridge” was fenced in as apparently horses on the road were too often spooked by the trains. After the line closed, the embankment was levelled and the bridge abutments mostly pulled down, although the bases are still there at either side of the road if you have a keen eye.

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This last section of the line is now known as the Meltham Greenway and provides a pleasant walk into Meltham village. Should you ever find yourself on the Greenway, be sure to listen out for the sound of the waterfall and seek out the side footpath which leads you up to Dolly Folly Falls:

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One final note, as detailed on Huddersfield.org, Meltham Mills was one of the few places in the country to manufacture and repair vital gears during the Second World War. Whereas the factories in Coventry and Birmingham were repeatedly targetted by the Luftwaffe and put out of action, the Germans seemingly knew nothing of the little Meltham Branch Line and its steady stream of repaired armoured vehicles and supplies of new gear boxes.

Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Jul/1869) – Opening of the Branch Line of Railway to Meltham

MELTHAM.

Opening of the Branch Line of Railway to Meltham.

After innumerable predictions, the opening of the Meltham Branch Railway is an accomplished fact. On Monday morning the line was opened for passenger traffic, and although no public demonstration took place, the inhabitants of the valley were highly delighted with the event. The first train consisting of engine, tender, and eleven carriages — with a large number of passengers left Huddersfield station — for Meltham. The engine was under the care of Mr. McConkey, who was accompanied on the engine by Mr. Normanton, the assistant superintendent of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company ; Mr. Thornton, superintendent of the locomotive department ; Mr. Goldstraw, the contractors’ engineer ; Mr. Thompson, the Huddersfield station master ; and other officials. As the train moved from the platform fog signals were fired. At Lockwood about a score of passengers were taken up, and fog signals were fired as the train left the station. At Netherton a large number of persons congregated and welcomed the arrival of the tram with hearty cheers. Flags were flying at the station and across the line, and a large number of fog signals were discharged. Hundreds of the inhabitants flocked into the train, the first ticket issued being obtained by Mr. James Wrigley, who has taken a lively interest in the construction of the line from its commencement. At Healey House station flags were hoisted and signals fired. At Meltham thousands of persons lined the side of the cutting above the station, and in various ways demonstrated the pleasure they felt at the opening of the line, which had already been productive of great benefit to them by a reduction in the price of coal by at least 3s. 6d. per ton. On the arrival of the train a large number of fog signals were discharged. The first ticket issued at this station was to Master Walker, son of the station master. During the whole of the day the trains were well filled with passengers, and ample provision made for their comfort and entertainment at the Rose and Crown, the Swan, Victoria, and other inns in the town. The line, although a short length, has been very expensive in its construction owing to the many difficulties which beset the contractors, Messrs. Barnes and Beckett. The first sod was lifted by Charles Brook, Esq., of Enderby, on the 4th of April, 1864, and Monday being the fifth day of July, the line has occupied five years, three months, and one day in its construction. The difficult portions of the undertaking were at Dungeon Wood and Netherton tunnel. From the junction at the Lockwood viaduct to Meltham is a distance of three miles and a half, and the gradients are very heavy. On leaving the main line at the above junction the gradient is one in 100; at Dungeon Wood to Butternab it is one in 60 ; at Netherton it is one in 95; and from Healey House it is one in 120. The line is level at all the stations. The line passes through picturesque scenery, the Netherton valley being one of the finest for miles round, and presents a fine opening for the erection of villa residences. Emerging from the Butternab tunnel, a magnificent gorge is opened out on the right hand side, which, for beauty and variety of foliage, can scarcely be equalled in this part of the country. Leaving Netherton station, a fine, extensive panorama is opened to view. The picturesque valley, the beautiful silk mills of Messrs. Charles Brook and Sons, overtopped by the extensive thread works of Messrs. Jonas Brook and Brothers, flanked by the Spink Mires Mills, with the pretty church of St. James and the parsonage in the centre, and the extensive view of pasture, wood, and moorland forms a picture rarely met with, and this will be much enhanced when the Convalescent Home is erected. There is little doubt but that the Meltham line will prove a great attraction for pic-nic parties to Harden Moss, the Isle of Skye, and other places in the locality.


1869.07.10 Opening of the Branch Line of Railway to Meltham - Huddersfield Chronicle 10 July 1869

Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Sep/1866) – Netherton: The Railway

NETHERTON.

The Railway.

Many parties have expressed their conviction that the new line of railway between Huddersfield and Meltham would be opened during the present year. This is found to be impossible, as the numerous unforeseen difficulties met with by the contractors render it almost certain that the undertaking cannot be completed till far into the spring of next year. The contractors are pushing forward the works with all possible speed; night and day men have for some time past been employed in both the Netherton and Butternab tunnels, and the works are progressing satisfactorily. The masonry in the latter tunnel is nearly completed, the men being now engaged on the last, or entrance “heading” of the tunnel. The former (Netherton) tunnel will be some time ere it is driven through, there being between thirty and forty yards of rock to pierce before the headings are completed, The permanent way from Meltham to Netherton tunnel is laid, the warehouses erected, and the building of the stations are being proceeded with. It seems — and it has been matter of remark — a great oversight has been made in planning the Netherton station. If built on its present site it will necessitate the confinement of a number of the carriages in the tunnel when the train comes to a stand. This could easily be avoided : there being ample room to erect a station and prevent the annoyance.

Huddersfield Chronicle (12/May/1866) – Netherton: Singular Escape, Two Men Shot in a Tunnel

NETHERTON.

Singular Escapade. Two Men Shot in a Tunnel.

At half past two o’clock on Saturday morning Police Constable Yates, when on duty in the village of Netherton, met on the highway James Sheard, formerly game watcher for Geo. Armitage, Esq., of Milnsbridge, but who bad latterly been working as a labourer in one of the tunnels on the Huddersfield and Meltham branch railway, at Netherton. Observing something bulky under Sheards coat, the officer enquired “Where are you going so late Jim?” After a little hesitancy, Sheard replied “I may as well tell you the truth at once, I’m going to have a shot.” Yates rejoined, “No, you’re notf so give me the gun.” Sheard scampered off with the officer at his heels, in the direction of Delph wood. Finding the officer gained ground, and was within a few yards of him, Sheard suddenly turned and ran into the Delph end of Netherton tunnel where a number of men were working by candle light. On reaching the men, Sheard cried out to James Hey, a mason, “Here take this gun,” it was a double barrelled gun and doubtless it was his intention to conceal it. The gun was in two parts, and unfortunately the nipples struck against a stone and both barrels went off. The constable imagined at first that the shot had been levelled at him, but bearing a deep groan he went to the spot and found Sheard laid on his back bleeding from wounds about the face and head. Part of the contents of the gun had lodged in the head, and the flesh from the hand of Hey was completely shot away. Mr. Calvert, a medical practitioner at Netherton was sent for, and by his advice the officer moved Sheard in a cart to his residence at Swires Lane, Crosland Moor, where he still lies in a very feeble state. On Saturday Hey, who was in a very weak state was taken to the “Oldfield Lane doctor,” at Manchester, where his lacerated hand was examined and dressed. Sheard is now under the care of Mr. Roberts, surgeon.

Huddersfield Chronicle (09/Apr/1864) – Meltham: Cutting the First Sod of the Railway

The first sod was cut by Charles Brook of Meltham Hall and is described in this blog post.

The “Gill-up rudes” mentioned in the article is most likely a phonetic spelling of Gylloproyd Dyke, the old name for the stream which flows over Folly Dolly Falls.


MELTHAM.

Cutting the First Sod of the Railway.

The long expected ceremony of cutting the first sod of the Huddersfield and Meltham Railway took place on Monday afternoon last, amid a continual downpouring of rain. The large assembly present, however, appeared to care little for the weather, their interest in the undertaking being sufficiently great to withstand personal inconvenience, and they were probably further buoyed up by the adage, that what is commenced in a storm frequently ends in sunshine. A few minutes before three o’clock, Charles Brook, junior, Esq., arrived on the ground, there being then assembled more than a thousand persons. Amongst those present we observed Messrs. J.W. Carlile, Thickhollins ; Edward Brook, Benthouse; James Wrigley, Netherton ; Alfred Beaumont, Esq., Greave ; Rev. Thomas Thomas (baptist), Meltham ; Edwin Eastwood, Meltham ; T.A. Haigh, surgeon, Netherton ; W. Kilburn, Netherton ; Joseph Taylor, of Golcar and Meltham ; — Ramsden. W. Wrigley, Huddersfield ; T. Dunderdale, steward to H.F. Beaumont, Esq. ; Henry Tinker (Geo. Tinker and Son), agents to Messrs. Brooks ; — Varley, manager for the late Mr. Ibbotson, Netherton ; G. Dyson, solicitor, of the firm of Laycock and Dyson, Huddersfield ; Mr. Watts, the resident engineer to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, Manchester ; Mr. Perring, surveyor to the company, Manchester ; Mr. Brown, working-engineer ; Messrs. Barnes and Beckett, Manchester, the contractors for the works; &c., &c.

All being in readiness, Mr. James Wrigley came forward and presented Mr. Charles Brook, jun., with a polished steel spade, with a carved oak handle, bearing on the blade a suitable inscription. In presenting the working-tool, Mr. Wrigley said the promoters had selected Mr. Brook to perform this ceremony, believing that on this as on many other occasions he was the “right man in the right place.” He (Mr. Wrigley) looked forward to the completion of this undertaking as being one of great importance to the manufacturing population of both Meltham and Netherton, and hoped that the time was not far distant when the district would become A 1 in the manufacturing world. He trusted that Mr. Brook would live to see the undertaking carried out, and long afterwards to enjoy the benefits of the railway communication which the present line would confer upon the entire district. Mr. Brook having lifted three large sods in workmanlike style, placed them in a new wheelbarrow provided for the occasion, and wheeled them from the platform to the tip end, where he overturned them as the foundation of the future embankment. He then thanked the committee for the gift of the spade, which to him was of infinite value as a reminder of the day’s proceedings, in lifting the first sod of that important railway. It was only a short branch, but they looked upon it as one of great importance to the manufacturers of the whole district. It was also of great importance to the working classes, who, he was proud to say, would bear comparison with any working men in the kingdom. Where, he asked, would they find a more industrious, well-conducted, or comfortable working population than in this beautiful valley? (Cheers.) They were greatly indebted to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company for giving them the line. Some of them at first did not think the line would be advantageous to the district ; but when they (the directors) were shown the operations that were carried on in that locality, they (the company) came forward nobly and gave them the line, which in due time would prove of immense advantage to the whole population of both Meltham and Netherton, as well to the manufacturer as the working man. (Cheers.) It was a great day for Meltham — (a voice, and Netherton also) — (cheers) — and for the 8,000 or 9,000 of population living there. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company might rest assured, that for the great interest they had shown in the district by giving them the line, the inhabitants would not be backward in repaying them. He hoped that at the opening of the line they would have the directors amongst them, and when they (the directors) saw the beautiful valley through which the line ran, they would never regret what they had done. He concluded by thanking the promoters sincerely, from the bottom of his heart, for the honour they had done him by selecting him to perform the ceremony of the day. Three cheers were then given to celebrate the laying of the first sod, three for the first workman (Mr. Brook), three for the directors of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, three for the contractors, and three for the Queen. On the call of the Rev. Mr. Thomas, three hearty cheers and one more were given for Mr. Wrigley, who briefly returned thanks, and the assembly broke up.

The contemplated line will be, as above stated, 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. The proceedings on the ground being over, between 20 and 30 gentlemen proceeded to the house of Mr. John Bray, the Rose and Crown Inn, where they sat down to a first-class dinner. Charles Brook, junr. Esq. occupied the chair. The usual loyal, patriotic, and complimentary toasts having been given and responded to by the various gentlemen present, the company separated shortly after eight o’clock, The church bells rang merry peals, with firing at intervals, during the afternoon and evening.

Commencement of the Work.

The works on this undertaking commenced on Wednesday last, when a number of navvies were employed removing the soil, at the place where the first sod was taken up. On Thursday morning a number more men were set to work at the end of the intended embankment leading to the Netherton tunnel, and in a short time the work promises to be pushed vigorously forward

Rejoicings.

In remembrance of raising the first sod of the railway, on Monday last, Mr. Kilburn, iron-founder and machine-maker, subscribed a sum of money towards giving a number of his workmen a treat. This sum was augmented by one of his employees, who had that day been married. At night upwards of twenty of the men partook of a substantial supper at the house of Mr. John Hollingworth, the Swan Inn, Meltham. At the same time and place twenty other workmen joined them. After the cloth had been removed, Mr. Peter Sykes occupied the chair, when the evening was spent harmoniously amid singing, reciting, dancing, &c.

On the same evening a number of gentlemen assembled at the Life Guardsman Inn, Meltham Mills, for the purpose of rejoicing over the ceremony of the day. Mr. Moran, surveyor, of Huddersfield, occupied the chair, and Mr. Dan Dyson, of Netherthong, the vice-chair, when the evening was heartily enjoyed, the usual loyal and patriotic toasts having been drunk enthusiastically.


1864.04.09 Meltham, Cutting the First Sod of the Railway - Huddersfield Chronicle

Leeds Mercury (05/Apr/1864) – Cutting the First Sod of a Line of Rails from Huddersfield to Meltham

The first sod was cut by Charles Brook of Meltham Hall and is described in this blog post.


Cutting the First Sod of a Line of Bails from Huddersfield to Meltham.

Yesterday, the ceremony of cutting the first sod of the Huddersfield and Meltham Railway was performed by Mr. Chas. Brook, jun,, in a field near Meltham Mills, on the estate of Mr. Charles Brook, sen,, of Healey House. The line will be about 3½ miles long, and branches out of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company’s line to Penistone, a little past Lookwood station, passing behind the residence of Mr, Bentley Shaw, of Lockwood. The first heavy work on the line is a cutting 40 ft. deep and half a mile long, and this is followed by a tunnel through rook 210 yards long, which is succeeded by two embankments across “the big valley” (Netherton) of 80 feet and 60 feet high. A tunnel 335 yards long conveys the line beneath the village of Netherton, where there is to be a station, and after a short cutting there will be an embankment 20 feet high and half a mile long. Then comes another short tunnel, followed by a cutting 25 feet deep and one-third of a mile in length, and then an embankment 20 feet high and half a mile long, in the middle of which will be an askew bridge, of 36 feet span, over the Meltham and Lookwood Turnpike road. A series of short embankments and cuttings carries the line on to Meltham where it terminates, but about a mile from its close there will be a short branch to Meltham Mills. The heaviest gradient is 1 in 60, and a portion of the line is level. The line was surveyed by Mr. Perring, of Manchester, and will be constructed by Messrs. Barnes and Beckett, of that city — Mr. Brown being the engineer — and it has to be finished before June, 1866. In spite of the heavy fall of rain, which caused the proceedings to be brief, a large number of spectators assembled, and amongst those present were Mr. Charles Brook, jun., Mr. J.W. Carlile, Thickhollins ; Mr. J. Wrigley, Netherton ; Mr. Edward Brook, Benthouse ; the Rev. T. Thomas, Mr. Edwin Eastwood, Meltham ; Mr. Haigh, Mr. J. Taylor, Golcar ; and others. Mr. J. Wrigley presented Mr. C. Brook, jun., with a spade suitably inscribed, and with it Mr. Brook cut three sods, wheeled them to the edge of a platform prepared for that purpose, and emptied them out of the barrow as though to form part of an embankment, amidst the cheers of the spectators. He then briefly adverted to the advantages that the manufacturers and the inhabitants generally of the district would derive from the formation of the line, and said he felt sure their gratitude was due to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company for taking the matter up. (Cheers.) Cheers were then given for the new line, Mr. Brook, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company directors, the contractors, and the Queen, after which the assembly dispersed in a very damp state, inconsequence of the rain which fell without intermission.