Saturday, 24 June 2017

Manchester's first railway station ........... no.2 a history lesson



The carriage shed, 2004
Now I have always had a fascination for Castlefield and in particular the Liverpool Railway Station.

And a few days ago when Ron posted some of his pictures of the site in the early 1980's it stirred my pot.

So here are a mix of Ron's pictures and mine from almost four decades later with a bit of a story.

Castlefield became the centre of the first railway complex in 1830.

The original site consisted of the station and warehouse, which was extended a year later to include a set of offices, passenger shed and two more warehouses.

By 1837 a second station platform had been built opposite, reflecting the growing number of passengers.

What is interesting about the buildings is the way they mirror the existing technology but also look forward to the future.

The 1830 warehouse, 1980
So the 1830 warehouse copied the canal warehouses, which were built around the Castlefield Basin but used new materials like cast iron.


Canal warehouse design had been perfected during the last half of the 18th century.

The main features of the design were a series of loading points called loop holes on each floor and access points for barges to move directly into the building.

Similar loopholes were situated on the roadside of the warehouse. This enabled goods to be moved from one side to another. One of the best of these is sited opposite Dukes 92 and has recently been renovated.

The 1830 warehouse, 2004
The original 1830 warehouse used a combination of loopholes and arches designed to allow wagons to be pushed into the building.

After the great fire in 1866, which destroyed the two newer warehouses, this practice was stopped. It is still possible to see where the lines ran into the building. Turntables existed to turn and push wagons into the warehouse.

Maps of the period show these turntables all over the site. The last one was only torn up in the late 90s.

All along the rail side it is possible to see changes that have been made to the original design.

One of the arches has been enlarged and one of the loopholes adapted. It is possible to see some of the early winding gear above one of the loopholes, and the different brickwork above other loopholes can see the evidence for where others once were.

Canal Warehouse, 2004
Likewise the station design is really just a development of stagecoach technology. Passengers stepped up into the railway carriage, which were just stagecoaches on rails.

Like the road version, luggage and the guard sat on top of the carriage.

The carriage shed, which protected passengers, has a wooden beamed roof not unlike medieval buildings but is supported by the new technology of cast iron pillars.

Looking up to the Byrom Warehouse, 1980
If you look beyond the station to G Mex you can see the future.

In just 50 years railway stations were to be transformed into graceful arches of iron and glass, with the platforms below. Central, Piccadilly and Victoria stations are only later manifestations of Crystal Palace.

The site continued to evolve, and for a long time was a pretty drab warehouse complex and after its closure could have lingered on as a neglected spot gently decaying before falling to Derek the Developer.

1980                                                                      2004
But happily it became the home for the museum which is another story.

Location; Liverpool Road

Pictures; the site in the 1980s courtesy of Ron Stubley, and in the early 21st century from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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