George Stephenson was the most important reason for the building of The Manchester to Liverpool Railway

Transport around the 1750s to the 1800s was slow and was not in favour of the fast growing English business. Especially in the 1750s where you only had the option of transporting your product and goods by the slow roads. This meant it was impossible for any up and rising businesses to become successful nationwide. This was because there were many risks transporting products on the roads as there was a high chance of crossing the path of a murderous and brutal highwayman and the roads themselves were made dangerous by overgrowth and deep ruts.

All of this added to the fact that a normal coach carrying goods could only travel at 2 to 3 miles per hour. It was incredibly important that the up and coming businesses found a new way to transport their products so they could become successful all over the nation. Eventually businesses joined together to form useful groups called Turnpike Trusts. Parliament gave these groups control over a certain section of road. Then the Turnpike Trusts would set up tollhouses along the section of road and charge the people who used it. The money the Trusts raised was used to either build new roads or improve the current ones.

By 1830 there were over 1000 Turnpike Trusts controlling 22,000 miles of important roads over the nation. However, the Turnpike Trusts only controlled 22,000 miles of road out of 105,000 miles of road over England. John McAdam was one of the many road workers employed by the Turnpike Trusts to develop the roads. Even though the roads were being improved sufficiently and effectively the businesses still needed a quicker and more capable form of transport. What the manufacturers really wanted was a method of transport that would open up the country to sell products like raw materials that up to now could only be sold reasonably locally.

It was therefore very important that in 1765 and 1766, The Duke of Bridgewater built a canal from Manchester to Liverpool. Although this was only a slightly quicker form of transport it was a great indication of how British manufacturing had improved since 1750. However, the 46 mile canal had some problems; boats using the canal could be delayed by tides and storms in the Mersey. Also in winter the canal could be blocked by ice. Now two following canals were built for manufacturers in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool to do major transporting of their products between each other.

The two canals were called the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the Mersey and Irwell Canal. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal was 58 miles long (the longest of the three) and was mainly used to transport bulky goods such as coal, brick, lime and timber. The Mersey and Irwell Canal was 43 miles long and carried imported goods such as grain, stone, timber and coal. However the canal journey could take up to36 hours depending on the tide, wind and storms and nearer Manchester, the canal sometimes suffered from lack of water in the river.

However, by 1820 all kinds of raw materials which were due to be sent to towns like Manchester were piling up in the Liverpool docks, where they might be left for weeks. The traders complained that there were not enough barges, there were hold-ups at every lock, and the canal companies were charging very high rates. It was therefore desperately important that a vastly quicker and less congested form of transport was brought up for use in Northern England for the struggling businesses in and around Liverpool and Manchester.

The businesses in Northern England were being barred from dealing nationwide and even over Western Europe because of the government’s blind eye towards manufacturing. The parliament did not wish to put forward any money or commitments for the British manufacturers to help develop the country’s international exports. There was at that time a lot of pressure from the factory owners and merchants for a new faultless method of transport. In 1822 a Provisional Committee of Liverpool and Manchester industrialists was set up to plan the building of a railway.

They had heard that the first passenger railway in Britain built in 1807 was proving a big success in Oystermouth in South Wales. Also an engineer called George Stephenson was in the middle of opening the first passenger steam railway, between Stockton and Darlington which he eventually did in 1825. The committee investigated George Stephenson’s skills and work rate at Stockton and invited him to be the lead engineer for the Liverpool to Manchester Railway. The first stage of the making of the Railway was to raise enough money. The Liverpool and Manchester Committee formed of the leading merchants was a joint-stock company.

The estimated cost of making the railway was 300,000 pounds so the company issued 3000 shares which people could buy at 100 pounds each. If the Liverpool to Manchester Railway proved to be a success which it was destined to become the shareholders would get some of the profit. Therefore raising money did not turn out to be the Provisional Committee of Liverpool and Manchester’s biggest problem. The next stage the Committee really had to battle over was to win the support of the public in Liverpool and Manchester along with the support of the British government to get permission to build the vastly needed railway.

The local factory owners along with the merchants prepared many leaflets, posters and letters to the press telling the public all the advantages the railway would bring to them. They wrote to local MP’s and even elected the Major of Liverpool as Chairman of the company to get support for the council. Also the committee arranged many public meetings where they hoped to get the total support from the local public. If the committee had overwhelming public support it might help when they handed in their proposition for the railway. However, there were many people who opposed the railway and it being built.

The opposition was led by rich and powerful local land owners; Earls of Derby and Sefton, and the Duke of Bridgewater and the Turnpike Trusts. These people also handed out leaflets and posters against the railway. The reason the land owners opposed the railway was mainly because they owned land along the planned route of the railway. The group of people who opposed the railway were called the anti-establishment. The advantages of the railway being built were, local farmers and the owners of the mines in St Helens could export their products quicker, more efficiently and cheaper than before.

Also manufactured goods and raw materials would be transported for half the cost of the canal travel and in one sixth of the time. The Manchester to Liverpool railway would also be more reliable than the canals because the canals could be closed by frost, drought, wind and tide, the water sometimes damaged the goods, there were never enough barges to transport the products and the canals became congested. The last advantage of the railway was the cost of coal in Liverpool would go down because it would make it in more supply if you could transport the coal in larger amounts and more quickly.

The arguments against the Liverpool and Manchester railway were that it was said hunting would be ruined and the cows would not graze within sight of the locomotives. Also it was claimed by the protesters against the railway that women would miscarry at the sound of the noisy locomotives. Another argument against the railway was farmland, crops and buildings would be burned and destroyed by the sparks, also the smoke would badly affect the vegetation and gardens.

The last argument against the Liverpool to Manchester railway suggested that the track would cause havoc where it went by houses and through crowded streets. After the committee thought that they had gained enough public support against the opposition they completed their survey of the cost and the route and handed it in to the Parliament to get permission. So in 1825 the Provisional Committee of Liverpool and Manchester handed in the survey along with some petitions in support of the railway from merchants, manufacturers and traders.

In the year 1825 Parliament began to debate the plan for the railway. Public support for and against the railway might have been equal, however in Parliament the opposition had three leading figures going all out against the railway. The three people in Parliament were Earls Sefton and Derby and the Duke of Bridgewater, these men were very powerful leaders looked up to in Parliament. It came as no surprise when Parliament rejected the railway because of lack of support in Parliament and because there were many doubts over the safety and performance of the locomotive.

The main reason they rejected the railway was because people did not trust the steam locomotive and preferred the thought of horses pulling the trains. Then came a huge changing point in 1826 the Committee made a second attempt for the railway and changed the route of it to try and make sure there were not as many people opposing the railway in Parliament. Other changes from the first plan were they would build tunnels so the track did not run through any streets. The track stopped at Salford rather than travelling to the centre of Manchester.

The biggest change that turned the advantage towards the Committee was not anything to do with the plan. This was because the main reason for their plan being rejected was because of the lack of support in the House of Lords, so the Committee offered Canal owners the chance to buy some shares in the railway. This offer was particularly aimed at the Earls Sefton and Derby along with the Duke of Bridgewater. Before the Provisional Committee of Liverpool and Manchester handed in their new plan Sefton, Derby and Bridgewater had all bought many shares in the railway in exchange for use of their land.

The shares the three, powerful men bought were destined to make them even more rich than they already were. This meant that the Committee had three important and powerful figures in Parliament in favour of their railway. It was no surprise that at the Committee’s second attempt in 1826 there was very few arguments against it and the Manchester to Liverpool Railway was accepted and allowed to be built. Parliament followed this decision by fixing the rates and fares on travelling or transporting by this locomotive. The company then began the building of the railway with the help and skill of George Stephenson.

Stephenson had to plan and then build embankments, cuttings, bridges, engines and machinery along with his vastly skilled friends who came to help him build this land mark of British manufacturing. George Stephenson helped engineer many structures showing British manufacturing brilliance for that time and century. Two of his many structures showing off his planning, engineering and building genius are the Sankey Viaduct, which was built to carry the railway over the Sankey Brook and the 100-foot deep Olive Mount cutting.

Stephenson also helped build the longest tunnel in Britain at that time into Liverpool at Edgehill, the tunnel was 2250 yards long. Not only was this the longest tunnel in Britain but the tunnel had to be bored through almost a mile and a quarter of solid rock. The railway was opened in September 1830. George Stephenson was born in Wylam near Newcastle in 1781 and spent most of his young life as an engineer in coal mines. Stephenson’s talents as an engineer became obvious when he devised one of the first minors safety lamps. Later in 1829 he invented an engine that could pull three times it’s own weight and out run a horse.

This was a manufacturing first and Stephenson became known over Europe as one of the greatest engineers of all time. The railway, which George Stephenson had a big helping hand with, between Manchester and Liverpool eventually became hugely popular with the public and the trains carried more people than coal and bulk goods. Passenger travel by rail was faster, cheaper and much more comfortable than travelling by coach on the roads. George Stephenson’s fame around Europe helped the organisers of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway attract the hardest working and most skilled engineers from all over Europe.

The introduction of the railroad changed forever concepts of speed and distance that were centuries old. Suddenly hundreds of independent companies sprang up across the nation. The companies invested millions of pounds to employ hundreds of thousands of labourers to lay thousands of miles of iron track. All railway lines ultimately connected to London the commercial centre of the nation and arguably Europe. There were many factors that were crucial for the building of The Manchester to Liverpool Railway.

Firstly, the pressure from the factory owners and the merchants for there to be a railway track joining the two large cities. The businesses up north were not getting the opportunities to sell their products and goods on a larger scale. The companies wanted not to be limited to dealing their products locally and wanted to sell their goods first nationally and then to have a hand in world economics. The pressure was very important for the building of the railway, as Parliament had to be shown the need for the railway and the support of The Provisional Committee of Manchester and Liverpool.

Another key factor in the building of The Manchester to Liverpool Railway was the skills and support the company got from picking George Stephenson as their chief engineer. George Stephenson was not only a capable and very able engineer on his own but he acted as a magnet and attracted all the other good, hard working engineers from across the nation and Europe. Stephenson was very important in the building of the railway because his skills were invaluable throughout the building of this railway showing British manufacturing genius.

If George Stephenson had not been chosen as the leading engineer it might have cost the company a lot more money to make the mechanical structures if an expert not as good as Stephenson had got the calculations wrong. Also without Stephenson the company would have struggled to attract other good engineers. Lastly, if the company had not hired George Stephenson as the chief engineer the man who replaced him might have not had the skills to produce some of the extremely difficult and precise mechanical structures along the railway route.

The third reason for the building of The Manchester to Liverpool Railway was because of the opposition turning to eventually support the building of the much needed railway. The leading investors in the roads (Turnpike Trusts) and the canals, Earls Sefton and Derby and The Duke of Bridgewater were against the building of the railway, as they would lose lots of their money. Unfortunately for the Committee in favour of the railway these men were powerful, rich and respected and all had seats in the House of Lords and their thoughts against the railway were deeply considered.

It was therefore extremely important that the company had these three men in favour of the railway, they did this by offering them some shares in the railway. This meant if the railway was a success the men, having bought shares would receive some of the profits made. The Duke of Bridgewater and the Earls Sefton and Derby accepted the offer and then the Committee had three respectable men fighting for the railway in Parliament. This meant it changed the picture completely and the railway was not expected to be rejected by Parliament.

I think this was the most important reason for the building of the railway between Manchester and Liverpool because without the strong support in Parliament the committee were always going to have their plan rejected. The last reason for the building of The Manchester to Liverpool was because the companies’ decision to change their plan after it was rejected in 1825. The committee changed the plan so that the route of the railway did not cause so much public inconvenience and also so that the track did not run through so many of the rich people’s territory. Also the committee offered shares to any canal owners.

This was also very important because the committee could have just given up after their first defeat in Parliament, or tried again in Parliament but have failed because of the people who were the committee’s biggest enemies and not on their side. I believe the most important reason for the building of the Manchester to Liverpool was the main opposition of The Duke of Bridgewater and the Earls Sefton and Derby turning to support in favour of the railway. If the three men had stayed against the company the committee would have never been given permission in Parliament because they did not have enough support there.

The committee might have had a lot of support from the general public, merchants and factory owners but in Parliament they had no powerful figure fighting for the railway. I think therefore if the committee had not changed their plans and offered the canal owners shares they would have never been given permission in the House of Lords. The move to offer shares to the three men was a very cunning move because they knew the men were always in search of more money and the railway was destined to be a huge success and make a lot of money for everyone.

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