Photo Copyright the John Alsop Collection
The Age of Rail
The coming of the railways in the 19th century changed life in Britain in many ways, these changes, in terms of Social, Political, Economical, the distribution of Goods and, Services and the opportunities for leisure travel were among the positives. Yes there were negatives, not the least of which was the loss of old trades and professions that found themselves surplus to requirements, such as local manufacturing and long distance haulage. One of the changes, maybe the most influential, in terms of the effect on the everyday life of the people, was the introduction of Railway Time across the country.
Up to the introduction of Railway Time, local time was more aligned to the the location and climate, local time reflected the daylight available to make a living. Railway Time was first applied by the Great Western Railway in England in November 1840, Railway Time was an attempt to remove confusion between timetables, in effect Railway Time was aligned with GMT however there was no standardisation of time outside London, other towns and cities used local time. Throughout the 1840's and by 1855 that 98 percent of towns and cities had transferred to GMT. This was not universally popular across the country and it was not unusual for Towns to have different times on their municipal buildings and the railway station. This continued to be somewhat confusing to the general population until August 1880, when the Statutes (Definition of Time) Act received the Royal Assent, that a unified standard time for the whole of Great Britain achieved legal status. (source: Wikipedia)
Stanhope & Tyne Railway
The first railway to come through Leadgate was the Stanhope & Tyne Railway, Robert Stephenson was appointed as consultant and the line was opened in 1834. The line was designed primarily as away of transporting Lime and Coal to the Derwent Iron Company and down to the port of Newcastle.
At the time there were existing small waggonways many of which were incorporated into the Stanhope line this included the line from Medomsley and its engine shed at Carrhouse.
The line ran from South Shields to Stanhope via Washington, Fatfield, Leadgate, Cold Rowley, Waskerley and Parkhead.
The Chief Engineer was Thomas Elliot Harrison, a man who was to go on to have great influence on railways in the North East. He was appointed Chief Engineer of North Eastern Railways in 1858.
The station was at Carrhouse (Carr House) at the West End of Leadgate. The line was short-lived, 10 years, it ran out of money, due mainly to the difficulties of crossing the Pennines, some of the inclines were so steep that the wagons had to be pulled by rope over 10 miles where static stream engines and horses had to be used. The lines around Leadgate were still in place, initially bought by the Wear Valley Railway Company and eventually on to North Eastern Railways.
Leadgate Railway Station, part of the North Eastern Railway Network opened on 17th August 1896, the station occupied a site behind St Ives Road.
The line though Leadgate was initially a single track and used in the main by Consett Iron Company for use of freight, however in 1894, after negotiations between North East Railways and Consett Iron Company, who had objected saying that any expansion of passenger services would impact on their rail traffic concluded, a tender from A J Cooke of Stockton for £11,887.36 was accepted and work to add a second track was completed between August 1894 and August 1896 when the station at Leadgate was opened to passengers.
There was also a claim from the school at Brooms for just under £1500 for land they lost use of due to the line extension. the claim was finally settled for £200.
From 1896 the station was owned and operated by North Eastern Railway company until 1923 when, after a merger it was operated by the newly formed London and North Eastern Railway, which opened a direct link from London to Edinburgh. In 1948 after the nationalisation of the railways it passed to British Rail. (source: Leadgate & East Castle)
The early days of passenger services were well used, records show that more than 56,000 tickets were sold in 1898 and almost 72,000 in 1903. (source: Disused Railway Stations)
Impact of competition
The advent of local bus services, run by the Venture Bus Company, in the early 1920's had a real impact on the passenger numbers using the station, and by 1931 Venture were running services from Consett to Newcastle every 20 minutes and other Bus companies were also flourishing, Northern Buses ran a half hourly service via Leadgate and Burnopfield and two other routes taking in Rowlands Gill and Wickham. These services dealt a blow to local railway passenger services which ran around 12 trains a day and 2 on Sundays. (sources: Leadgate and East Castle) and Disused Railway Stations
The impact of bus travel took its toll on all the local stations along the route and as a result, LNER took the decision to close them to passenger services in May 1955.
The Victorian Advances in Travel
The late 19th century was a boom time for engineering works, designs for railway locomotives being one of the real developments flourishing at the time. These advances helped to develop the popularity of rail travel and journey times became shorter, this, alongside more comfortable accommodations, and other factors, such as convenience helped to drive the Victorian ideal of travel forward.
Over the same period Goods & Freight tonnage was also growing at a fast pace. This helped economic growth across the Country, bringing items, once thought to be luxuries and only available close to the manufacturing bases, to the people living throughout the country.