Leyland Historical Society
The first half of this article was originally used as part of a school project in 1972, being written between 1970 and 1972, a period when the centre of Preston had yet to undergo the changes around Butler Street and whilst the M61 Motorway had been built, there were still green fields surrounding Walton Summit. The second half of the article details the changes to the tramway route today.
The Tramway had been built to link the two portions of the Lancaster Canal across the deep valley of the River Ribble and was opened on 1st June 1803. In 1794, John Rennie had submitted a design for a stone aqueduct of three arches, each of 116 ft. span and a lofty embankment to carry the canal over the valley, but the estimated cost of £94,979 was considered too high and the tramway was built instead.
Although it has been assumed that the tramway was engineered by Benjamin Outram, a road in Bamber Bridge being named after him, it was actually William Jessop, engineer of the Grand Junction Canal and Rochdale Canal to name but two, who was called in to approve the plans for the Preston & Walton Summit Tramway. The man who designed and supervised construction was the canal company's resident engineer, William Cartwright.
The tramway remained in use until 1859, and was not entirely dismantled until 1868. A portion through Preston, together with the Ribble bridge (still known locally as the "tram bridge"), though rebuilt was acquired by Preston Corporation by a deed of arrangement dated 17th July 1872. The rest of the tramway site remained the property of the North Union and its successors, namely the London & North Western Railway, followed by the London Midland & Scottish Railway until the present day when the land has been sold off to adjacent properties along the route and is therefore not to be classed as a right of way along its full length.
The Tramway through Preston
Starting in Corporation Street, it is not so many years since the canal wharves behind the Preston Technical School were filled in. The northern section of the Lancaster Canal, left Preston northwards and used to reach Kendal until 1968, when the construction of the M6 Motorway cut it back to Tewitfield, just north of Carnforth.
The tramway track left the canal wharves crossing coal yards (later becoming the yard of the new Dutton Forshaw car showroom on Corporation Street) before burrowing under Fishergate. The old tunnel considerably strengthened and widened, took traffic through to the East Lancashire Railway Goods Yard off Butler Street. Looking down on the Goods Warehouse from Vicars Bridge to East Cliff over the Blackburn lines, the tunnel can be seen emerging onto the Goods Yard. A waste piece of ground behind St. Joseph's Hospital, Mount Street is bounded by a wall on its western side, marking the boundary of the tramway.
Leaving the Car Park by the Garden Street pedestrian exit, a blank stone wall left opposite a row of houses, is the abutment of a bridge which carried the tramway over the original course of the Syke Brook. The track then led into East Cliff along the rear of the premises of Winckley Square Convert and Ribblesdale Place, following the top walk of Avenham Park. The path was laid out with its many paths soon after the tramway closed and thus there are no signs or evidence as to where the tramway ran, though the wall between the park and the adjoining properties does seem of the right age.
After following the top walk, the tramway route reaches the Belvedere, the stone shelter which faces the level area occupied by the flag staff overlooking the valley in Avenham Park. This was the site of the Engine House, demolished in 1868 about the time when Avenham Park was laid out, used for the purpose of raising and lowering the wagons on the steep incline, 1 in 6, leading to the wooden trestle bridge over the River Ribble.
From the Belvedere, the route continues down the slope between artificial rock formations towards the tram bridge. The whole of this bridge has now been modernised, although the original trestle structure has been preserved. Today, it has an asphalt surface instead of the original wooden planks. The bridge may have lost some of its fascination, but the plan has been faithfully preserved, the work being carried out in the 1960's. During the Second World War, most of the planks had been removed (for security reasons!), leaving only a narrow gangway.
The Tramway through Penwortham
After crossing the bridge, a three - quarter mile long tree lined avenue with a stony rough surface on a level causeway across Walton Flats to the slope between Vernons Mill and Carr House. The Avenue, which follows the exact line of the tramway, now belongs to Preston Corporation having been originally exchanged by the Preston & Bolton Railway (later North Union Railway) for land of greater use to them. It was originally intended to take the canal along this causeway.
This length of tramway runs parallel with the East Lancashire Railway line of 1850, which crosses the flat low - lying ground on what appears to be an embankment. However, this was originally a 52 arch brick viaduct, though to eliminate expense of its upkeep the arches were filled in with spoil from the cutting of lines elsewhere.
The Avenue at the Penwortham / Carr Hill end is very dark and overgrown. A few stone sleepers can be found here, though if these are in their original position seems uncertain. Here also there is a very uneven flight of stone steps leading down to Walton Flats. On the western side stands Vernons Mill which makes surgical dressings. The factory was enlarged after the First World War. This must have been a busy place when the tramway was working for Penwortham is mentioned as one of the toll stages. The slope up to the higher level, 100 ft. above sea level, is quite steep with possible mechanical assistance being given to the horses drawing the wagons.
At the top of the hill, the tramway and East Lancashire line converge and then separate again. The Penwortham Incline was taken out of use about 1820 when the line was diverted on to an easier gradient capable of being used by horses.
On the left is Carr House which overlooks Carr Wood and the Flats. Here the stone sleepers were removed from this length and used to build a wall along the grounds of the house. Looking through the gate of the house another wall can be seen built entirely of these stone blocks. The sleeper stones can be recognised by two holes bored into them and the imprint of the ends of the plates, however, today there are no sign of the stones.
The stone used was quarried near Lancaster, and cut into blocks measuring at an average twenty four by twelve by eight inches, costing 5d each (approx. 2p - well some member may not know!). They were laid to take a double track of plates. The three foot long plates were made of the best pig iron with a flange on the upper surface to prevent the flat surface of the wagon wheels from running off the rails. These plates were fixed to the sleepers by gad irons driven in to the plugged holes.
Passing a couple of bungalows on the right, the tramway now becomes a wide lane surfaced with cinders or mud (depending on the weather - these now been replaced by small stones) and bounded on each side by hawthorn hedges. After passing two ponds, the tramway reaches Wateringpool Lane, and from here there is an undisturbed length of tramway in a rough state. It is part of a public footpath from Todd Lane to Penwortham. It is possible to judge the original width, 24 ft. with a ditch on each side. There was a double line of rails with a gauge of four feet one inch, laid three feet apart. The 1846 map marks the position of a milestone on the left hand side - " 2 miles from Preston " - midway between Wateringpool Lane and Todd Lane.
The end of this section marks the point where the tramway crosses Todd Lane North, and from here onwards it cannot be followed continuously on foot as most of it lies on private ground or has disappeared altogether. It is interesting to see that the full length is shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1902 as a connection between the two ends of the Lancaster Canal, but the Bamber Bridge area through which it passed has changed considerably since then, so that the complete route is not shown on subsequent maps.
A few yards to the left on the north side of its junction with Todd Lane and facing the tramway, stands a house called Lime Kiln Cottage which was another of the toll stages. After the closure of the tramway the lane sank into oblivion until rail traffic used the new Todd Lane Railway Station formerly known as Preston Junction, opened in 1850 and closed in 1969. The present Todd Lane has cut through the tramway at a lower level, the track continues first on an embankment and then in a recognisable depression across fields. The next lengths of the tramway, are privately owned, belonging respectively to Lime Kiln Farm (originally Hawksheads) and Green Lane Farm (Green Lane House).
The public footpath, Brownedge Road to Hennel Lane, crosses the tramway, this being a secluded area much overgrown and very wet. The stone sleepers still in position were useful as stepping stones. The adjoining lengths of tramway were fenced off and full of brambles.
During the Second World War the owner of Green Lane Farm thought fit to open up this section on his ground and remove the stone sleepers. It still shows very clearly that this was the route of the tramway being at a slightly lower level than the adjoining field. When the sleepers were removed many were relayed to form a paved garden behind the house of Green Lane Farm, others being used to form part of the pavement over Todd Lane railway bridge.
The wagons used on the tramway were horse drawn and the horses must have been stabled somewhere. Although no records can be found, there is a theory that Green Lane Farm provided stabling, as a building adjoining the farm house showed accommodation for a number of horses, the men using the loft above. This is quite feasible as the farm is only one field away from the tramway. The next stretch of the route is lost in the newly laid playing fields of Walton le Dale Primary School in Severn Drive, until it crosses the footpath to Duddle Lane.
Here behind a fence and a gate marked "Private", a number of nine foot rails have been found, together with many of the gad irons used for fastening them to the sleepers. These nine foot rails were first laid under Fishergate, and having been found satisfactory, they were laid elsewhere on the route.
The Tramway through Bamber Bridge
The tramway now approaches Brownedge Road, formerly called Black Lane, the tramway crossing it just to the east of a pair of houses which once had flat roofs. On the opposite side of the road stood a stone barn and the small Brown Edge Farm, a white washed house with small windows and a chestnut tree in the front garden. The tree is still there, but the farm has gone, the site being covered by Baxi's car park, the firm having arrived from Chorley in the early 1960's. A number of wooden sleepers marked the end of this section of tramway bordering Black Lane.
Behind Baxi's there is another inaccessible stretch still in a rough condition, overgrown, its boundaries marked by high hedges. Here the East Lancashire Railway line crosses the tramway by a bridge, the tramway may be approached from Brownedge Road along Meany Gate, which on the 1846 map is called Mainway Gate. The under bridge is low and the roadway is very deeply rutted.
Passing under the railway and turning left, this again is the line of the tramway, previously the way ahead was barred by a number of erect wooden sleepers with a gap for the pedestrian, this section ending in Bamber Bridge on Station Road. However, since 1967 this section has been built over, the route of the tramway only be regained on Station Road.
The tramway from Bamber Bridge to Preston closed in 1859, though the track from Walton Summit to Bamber Bridge remained open until 1879. In order that the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company could preserve their right of way, they used to close this part of the track on a certain day of the year. Here the tramway crossed Station Road by a level crossing. It continued across fields behind the Mackenzie Arms and an old smithy towards Kellet Lane. The smithy has long since ceased working, now being a motor workshop, motor vehicles being parked on the route of the tramway.
Crossing Kellet Lane diagonally, the tramway can be traced between some sheds in the gardens of a newly built house. Three foot plates were found accidentally, only coming to the surface when the owner’s pigs were rooting in the soil. Most of the iron rails and gad irons were sold as scrap when the tramway finally closed. After closure to prevent access to the track, barriers of up ended wooden sleepers were erected where roads and tramway intersected. Gradually these barriers have disappeared, but those in Kellet Lane remained until quite recently.
From here, the tramway follows on through fields into Gough Lane, a bed of nettles blocking the entrance to the lane, and the final length beyond Summit Farm is the climb to Walton Summit, some 250 ft. above sea level. On the right side at the corner of Gough Lane there stood, according to the 1846 map, a building housing a weighing machine. This has now disappeared but further on, on the left side stood a row of several stone built cottages, possibly occupied by workers on the tramway.
From Summit Farm, Walton Summit can be seen at the top of the incline. There is no right of way along this length but it is possible to reach the summit by a footpath from Gough Lane just before an old house named Crow Trees is reached. The footpath leads to the track of the tramway before the final steep climb to the Summit where it joins the canal, the southern section of the Lancaster Canal. This was previously a hive of industry with the interchange of goods between wagon and narrow boat took place. At the top of the incline, the two tracks of the tramway separated, each supplying one of the two arms of the canal basins with an elaborate system of sidings being laid.
The Tramway Route Today
The whole area around the canal basins has now been changed with the new Ring Road under the railway down to Strand Road and the subsequent junction with Corporation Street covering all signs of the canal and tramway, the only indication being the name of Wharf Street. Having walked through the Fishergate tunnel, the question is where to start, the large goods warehouse disappeared along with the Blackburn lines in May 1972, the Butler Street side of the station being redeveloped in 1986. The Mount Street Hospital, after changing to private ownership, then became a nursing home but has been empty now for many years.
Looking down from Vicars Bridge today, the Goods yard has become a large shopping centre with a huge car park, one of the car entry points for the car park being through the Fishergate tunnel. This has been renovated with the route of the tramway passing the side of the shopping centre, though as this road inclines down towards the former East Lancashire lines, the tramway line is keeping the same level as we approach Garden Street.
Passing the abutment for the tramway on Garden Street, we walk through Avenham Park, down to and across the tram bridge. After walking along the Avenue, the Penwortham end today is a meeting of paths with the Preston Junction nature reserve paths along the East Lancashire line from Preston and from Lostock Hall coming down from the top of the embankment. The former over bridge having been removed, whilst the footpath to Walton Flats via Carr Wood, uses some stone sleepers as steps down into the valley, the tramway continuing to rise and curve to the left with the remains of a boundary wall on the right.
We now reach part of the Carr Wood Estate, where the new road crosses the route of the tramway, the continuation of the tramway now becomes a combined cycle way and footpath using the hawthorn hedges as the boundary between two housing estates. After crossing Wateringpool Lane, which has now been by-passed and has reverted to being a country lane, the footpath continues until the route reaches Todd Lane North.
The tramway now heads across a field on an embankment but is on private land, the Bamber Bridge by pass being seen through the trees. In order to follow the tramway, a detour has to be made following Todd Lane North to its junction with Hennel Lane, then going via the new foot-bridge over the bypass, taking the unmarked public footpath to the right immediately after crossing the foot-bridge. This public footpath develops into a small park as it accompanies the bypass to Lostock Hall. The route of the tramway being seen from the bypass as a small embankment. As we reach the point where the footpath crosses the tramway, there are stone sleepers being used as stepping stones across a brook.
When the tramway reaches Brownedge Lane, the site of the crossing is no longer denoted by the chestnut tree in Baxi's car park as both Baxi’s and its car park has now been replaced by housing. The best view of it used to be from the railway embankment or from a train running from Bamber Bridge to Todd Lane though this is now unfortunately not possible.
Following the tramway route under the railway, this section has now in part become a public footpath and recreation ground though sheltered accommodation has now covered part of the route, therefore, it is a detour through the estate to Station Road. The next view of the tramway is at Station Road between the Mackenzie Arms and the former garage. This section of tramway was surveyed by the Chorley Historical Society, prior to the area being redeveloped, the track bed being relayed near the Model Railway in Worden Park. The remainder of the tramway route has now disappeared under the new streets and the industrial estate between Station Road and the M6 Motorway which cuts through the tramway route in a cutting.
On the other side of the Motorway, the now well established Walton Summit industrial estate and the M61 motorway junction together with the M65 has destroyed most of the signs of the tramway. Entering the area along Walton Summit Road, the original route of Kellet Lane can be seen crossing the new road, though any sign of the tramway has disappeared under the nearby industrial buildings. The route of the tramway being gained on the suitably named Tramway Lane which rises up the Walton Incline to the Summit, becoming a footpath after the junction with Clayton Brook Road.
One of the last boats to be moored in the Walton Summit basins. After the canal had been drained and filled in, there were many boat shaped depressions in the fields. Boats just being covered over and forgotten but the crops still showed their ghostly outlines.
The tramway bridge abutment on Garden Street, Preston.
The continuation of the 1844 Map shows the tramway heading up Tramway Lane to reach the canal basins at Walton Summit. It was here that the original canal plan had a flight of locks heading down into the Ribble valley.
THE PRESTON & WALTON SUMMIT TRAMWAY.
The much enlarged tunnel under Fishergate today.
The original plan of the Lancaster Canal and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal through Bamber Bridge and the original junction planned to be near the Withy Arms
The 1844 Ordnance Survey Map superimposed over a modern day map showing where the tramway made a level crossing with Station Road near the McKenzie Arms. Note that except for Club Street the land between the Hob Inn and the railway were not developed.
An early photograph of the original tram bridge complete with the gantry contained the rope pulley for the inclined plane.
The tramway route can still be traced on the 1950's One Inch Ordnance Survey Map.
The tram bridge was rebuilt after the Second World War in concrete to the same design as the original.
The only remnant of the original road system being the short lengths of Gough Lane where all the old farm house buildings still survive, together with the only industry from 1972 namely John Coulthurst Ltd., egg packers of Kenyon Farm. However the actual canal terminal basins can still be seen using an aerial photograph of the village of Clayton Brook. It would seem that when the canal was drained the pudding clay that held in the water was not removed. Therefore if you visit the recreation ground in Clayton Brook, it is the site of the basins and still wet even in the driest weather. The route of the canal can be seen from the other side of the M61 Motorway from Pippin Lane as a damp depression, as it heads south to meet the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at its former junction at Johnsons Hillock.