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The Liverpool to Manchester Railway

The Rocket

On 15th September 1830, the World’s first passenger railway opened to a large crowd waiting on Liverpool Road Manchester.

The first part of the project (June 1826) started with efforts to drain Chat Moss swamp close to the Bridgewater Canal and provide the 6.4km Chat Moss crossing – over the peat bog.

On the opening day a grand reception and banquet was laid on to celebrate the historic occasion. Eight trains set off from Liverpool along two tracks.  One stopped as the wheels came off the track. The train behind crashed into it and thus the world’s first passenger train crash occurred. Luckily there were no injuries.

Eventually both trains continued their journey. Half way to Manchester, they stopped as the engines needed water. The passengers were told to stay on the  trains, but many got off to stretch their legs. This included the MP William Huskisson unsteady and unnerved he stumbled into the track of Rocket passing from the other direction and was hit. He needed urgent medical attention, so a marching band on another train, who were meant to play in Manchester, were told to get off to allow the injured man to rush to Eccles for treatment.

Sadly Huskisson later died – the world’s first railway passenger death. The band were told to walk the 18 miles back to Liverpool.

The trains were mostly open carriages, full of lords, ladies & VIPs in their finest clothes. As the trains approached Eccles, the skies darkened & there was a huge downpour. The passengers got drenched.

At last they came into Manchester looking very bedraggled & distressed.  There were cheers to welcome them, but most of crowd were booing & jeering. The people of Manchester were unhappy. The Peterloo Massacre was still fresh in Mancunian memory & these trains were full of the lords & politicians who did not support parliamentary reform. The local military were trying to control the hostile crowd.

The PM, the Duke of Wellington, sensed the negative Mancunian mood and the hero of Waterloo decided to return to Liverpool. Salfordians who lined the track and bridges, added to the damp passengers misery by pelting the open carriages with all manner of filth along the way. The trains had to stop to clear a wheel-barrow off the track. This was a radical act of railway vandalism.

Where the incline was too much for Rocket and her carriageway, passengers had to get out and walk as the trains struggled. However, these passengers were way better off than the military band who were later seen still miserably trudging alongside the track in the dark as the train passed them.

When they all finally arrived back in Liverpool, the passengers were tired and miserable. The grand ball was cancelled and Wellington swore he would never travel by train ever again. 

Mancunians and Salfordians had played their small part in making sure the day did not go to plan, but the railways would soon come to play an enormous role in the development and histories of Manchester, Salford and the industrial revolution.

On 17th September 1830, the Liverpool & Manchester Railway welcomed the first paying passengers. Freight transport began on 1st December 1830. The whole line was constructed for £739,165 less than the original estimate of £796,246. It necessitated some 2.3 million cubic meters of excavation a feat of engineering and technology in itself.

Alexandra Fairclough

Image Nick-D, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chat Moss, the Bridgewater Canal and the Industrial Revolution

Chat Moss has an almost mythical character yet is very much a living landscape. Its mythical roots come from its origins 10,000 years ago during the Ice Age. Daniel Defoe’s description of the area as frightful in 1724 during his tour of Britain contributed to this sense of a land beyond civilisation. He could not imagine what nature meant by the production of such a waste land.

The Manchester to Liverpool railway line crossed Chat Moss in the early 19th century, commencing the Railway Mania. The northern border of the Moss is marked by the Bridgewater Canal which ushered in the age of Canal Mania years before the Railways took over.

If you open John Aikin’s Description of the country for Thirty to Forty Miles around Manchester (1795) you very quickly encounter a map of the northwest of England and a striking feature of that map is the number of canals on that map. The engineering wonders that were created with the canals generated fantastic images that Aikin evokes as,

the extraordinary sight, never before beheld in this country, of one vessel, sailing over the top of another; and those who had at first ridiculed the attempt, as equivalent to building a castle in the air, were obliged to join in admiration of the wonderful abilities of the engineer (p.114).

This was at Barton upon Irwell where James Brindley built the first aqueduct for the Bridgewater Canal across the River Irwell, on the eastern edge of Chat Moss. It enabled Brindley to plot a better route to Runcorn and the Mersey avoiding the original idea of taking the canal across Chat Moss.

Northwest England has a significant landscape heritage of peat bogs and Chat Moss is a key recovering element of that landscape. Little Woolden Moss is part of Chat Moss; it is now owned and is being restored by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust. If you look north across Little Woolden Moss on a clear day you can see an apparently uninterrupted greenscape leading up Winter Hill part of the West Pennines. Chat Moss is a lowland peat moss and much of the West Pennines is upland peat moss.

These mosslands began to form about 10,000 years ago during the last ice age when peat began to be laid down on marine, estuarine or fluvial deposits adjacent to estuaries, on river floodplains, or on the site of shallow glacial lakes. These wet, waterlogged areas were originally colonised by reeds and rushes. When this plant material died it could not be fully broken down and this led to the formation of fen peat. Then bog mosses (Sphagnum mosses) began to colonise and changed the underlying peat from fen to bog peat. As the peat accumulated, the surface of the bog was elevated above the surrounding land, forming a dome, hence often these are known as raised bogs.

Chat Moss has a rich industrial heritage also, it was used historically as a waste disposal site for Manchester. The waste was a mixture of organic and mineral wastes, ranging from manures to steelworks waste. Chat Moss was purchased by the Manchester Corporation in 1895 for use as a waste disposal site to alleviate growing waste generation by the city population, but also to reclaim the peat for agricultural purposes. During drainage, the waste from Manchester was incorporated into the moss to reduce loss of soil volume as the peat dried out. The earliest waste used was nightsoil, which was mainly ashes mixed with the contents of privies.

Since the mid-19th century, the area of lowland raised bog in the UK has fallen by 94% from 95,000 ha to 6,000 ha. Chat Moss has in that period been industrially mined for peat for fuel and as an agricultural and garden product. This extraction of moss only ended on Little Woolden Moss in 2017 but fortunately that area is now being actively restored as a peat moss by the wildlife trust.

If you are interested in learning more about Chat Moss then contact Bridgewater Green Badge Guide – David Barnes Tel: 07961 535163


On Worsley Green there is an iron bollard sat on its own and looking very out of place.

Worsley Yard Iron Bollard

Have you ever wondered why it is there?

What is a bollard?

A bollard is a sturdy, short, vertical post and originally described a post on a ship or wharf used principally for using ropes to secure boats.

The word is probably related to bole, referring to a tree trunk.

From the 17th and 18th centuries, old cannon were often buried muzzle first to be used as bollards on quaysides.

From the 19th century bollards were purpose-made, but often inherited a similar “cannon” shape.

What about our bollard?

Worsley Green used to be a busy industrial yard dating from the opening of the Bridgewater Canal in 1761. The yard built up around the Delph area to service the mines and canal at Worsley. It was not until the early 20th century that the yard was turned into the green that we know today. Our bollard is one of the last remnants of Worsley Yard.


An Ordnance Survey (OS) map from 1848 shows a mineral railway from Sanderson Pit (colliery), just east of Roe Green to the coal staithe on the canal at Worsley. At the time the coal wagons were moved by gravity and horses.

In 1864 the Eccles, Tyldesley & Wigan Railway opened which ran through Worsley Woods between Monton Green and Roe Green. It was connected to the mineral railway at Sanderson’s Siding. This led to the first steam locomotive being delivered to Worsley Yard in 1870 to replace horsepower and a branch line with an engine shed was built.

The OS map from around 1900 shows the area of the yard and the railway with location of new houses and green superimposed:

The bollard is opposite house No.146 and is shown on the map next to the railway that crossed the yard.  It was close to the engine shed and was possibly used to tie up locomotive or wagons.

In 1905 the yard was cleared of almost all evidence of its industrial past and the houses we see today were built around what we now know as Worsley green.  All that remains is the base of the yard chimney which became the Duke of Bridgewater memorial, the sluice for the culverted Worsley Brook, the ‘ghosts’ of the railway sleepers…And of course, our own ‘Worsley Yard Iron Bollard’ which is now over 150 years old and if sentient would have stories to tell.

Map of Worsley Green: From Ordnance Survey map survey of 1889, revised in 1904 and published 1908 (Image copied from Alan Godfrey Maps edition published 2003).

Thanks for additional detail of houses built around the Green and map provided by John Aldred.

Written by Mark Charnley, Bridgewater Canal Green Badge Guide.

Eccles Cakes

Eccles cakes are a sweet pastry cake filled with dried fruits, usually currants and raisins, sugar, spices and sometimes butter.

The true origins of the cake are not known but the first recorded recipe for something like an Eccles Cake and called “sweet patties” was published by Elizabeth Raffald, housekeeper at Arley Hall, Cheshire in 1769 as part of a book of 800 recipes.  The recipe included boiled calf’s foot as well as dried fruit.

In 1793, James Birch opened a bakery in Eccles and started to sell cakes similar to Elizabeth Raffald’s sweet patties and they quickly became known as Eccles cakes. 

Eccles cakes proved very popular and were exported to Australia, America, the West Indies and Spain.  Alcohol was added (usually brandy or rum) as a preservative for exported cakes.

Eccles cakes do not have protected status as that afforded to Stilton cheese or Melton Mowbray pork pies, so they are made and sold in many countries across the world.

Few places make Eccles cakes commercially in Eccles now.  The major manufacturer is the Real Lancashire Eccles Cake company which is in Ardwick, Manchester.  A local commercial bakery, Quayside, on the Lyntown industrial estate beside the railway between Eccles and Patricroft stations is the largest producer locally in Eccles.  Two local small bakeries also make their own Eccles cakes: Law’s bakery on Parrin Lane, Winton, Eccles (near Monton church) and Wards Bakery on Barton Lane.

In 2004 and again in 2013, Eccles cakes made national headlines as Greggs bakery stopped selling Eccles cakes in all its shops, claiming there was no market for them, customers preferring chocolate cakes and muffins.  In 2013, during the Eccles Cake Festival, they again refused to stock them, even in their Eccles branch.

Lancashire Fire service have reported that Eccles cakes can catch fire if heated in a microwave oven, possibly due to the sugar content so if you prefer warm Eccles cakes, it is best to reheat them in the oven.

In the 2013 Eccles cake festival there was a competition called the “Great Eccles Cake-off” to find the best amateur bakers including the best Eccles cake.  The winner, a Mrs E Charnley of Eccles, received one dozen Eccles cakes as a prize (!)

So, love them or loathe them, call them dead fly cakes, fly pies, fly cemeteries, sweet patties, eat them hot or cold, from a famous chef recipe or an old favourite, enjoy this fine and tasty treat from Eccles, preferably one of the locally made ones!

Elizabeth Charnley is a Green Badge Guide for the Bridgewater Canal.

Check out her website to contact her directly.

Worsley Delph

by Alexandra Fairclough

The newly refurbished Delph, Worsley

Looking today at the recently refurbished Worsley Delph, we can see a floodlit cross feature set within a distinctive stone-faced water filled hollow. This former stone quarry was used for many of the local buildings but it was the start of the Bridgewater Canal, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution.

Francis Egerton, the third Duke of Bridgewater, wanted to mine his coal deposits out of his land.  Coal had been mined in Lancashire for centuries but the Worsley mines ran deep and kept flooding.  Influenced by his father’s idea to drain the mines, Francis Egerton decided to cut a water course to help reduce flooding, access and retrieve the coal and also transport it to market.

In 1761, the Bridgewater Canal from Worsley Delph to Manchester was completed. Coal from the Worsley colliery canal tunnels and other local pits could get to market quickly and more cheaply than ever before.

The main consumers for this coal initially were households for cooking and heating, however, a constant and much cheaper supply led to demand from industry such as brick-making, metal trades, glass-making and eventually to larger scale manufacturing industries involving imported raw cotton. Due to fact that almost 50% of the world’s raw cotton was manufactured in the 19th century was  traded from Manchester, it became a wealthy city known as ‘Cottonopolis’.

Learn more about the Worsley Delph, the mines, the people who created or visited the canal and the meaning of the public art on one of our Worsley Tours. The Creative Worsley tour also includes the artists musicians architects and writers associated with the first cut canal in England.

Alexandra runs regular tours around the Bridgewater canal.

To contact her visit

Book our next Worsley tour here

Saturday 3rd October 2020

11am Meet outside the Delph Bar & Restaurant

Steam Hammer

The Salford Steam Hammer

by Michele Thompson

Many a local in Salford will walk or drive past Nasmyth’s Business Park on Green Lane, Patricroft and may glance with interest at the structure now surrounded by mirrored panelling at the entrance, but few will know how important it was to the Industrial Revolution.

The site was home to James Nasmyth’s Bridgewater Foundry in the 19th Century, making machinery, locomotives and tools. Standing proudly outfront with a fresh lick of light blue paint, is one of Nasmyth’s finest inventions, the steam hammer.

James Nasmyth chose Salford as the spot for his new engineering works after walking the route of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830. He stopped for a break at the point where the railway crosses the Bridgewater Canal and the site obviously made an impression on him. When he had to move from his premises above a glass works in Dale Street (because some machinery fell through the floor!), he moved to the Patricroft site.

The steam hammer design was an innovation for metal work, as before its conception metal hammers struck every blow with the same amount of force. The steam hammer could be controlled to gently break the top of an egg placed in a wine glass or fall with such force that the vibrations could be felt for miles. A party trick often displayed for the Earl of Ellesmere and his guests.

The hammer was developed initially for Isambard Kingdom Brunel in order to make steam ships and was sold across the world transforming manufacturing. It was quickly adapted and used in pile driving. Bridges such as the High Bridge in Newcastle and The Royal Border Bridge in Berwick upon Tweed were built much more quickly than ever possible before due to the speed and efficiency of the pile driver. Piles which previously would have taken men 12 hrs to install now took minutes.

The Steam Hammer on Green Lane is nicknamed Thor and was in use in Elsecar Colliery in Barnsley. It is one of the smallest of the hammers that was available. Others could reach 20ft tall and could deliver blows of over 100 tons. As part of the EST 1761 project to revitalise the Bridgewater Canal funding and local enthusiasts brought it to Salford for renovation.

James Nasmyth was originally born in Scotland but spent much of his life in the Industrial heartlands of England.

If you would like to hear more about James Nasmyth, the steam hammer and the Bridgewater Canal in Salford why not check out our series of walks around the area.

Michele is a Green Badge Guide for the Bridgewater Canal

Contact her directly to discuss a tour:

Call: 0778692053