Hoole Bridge

The East Side

If you use Hoole Bridge as a driver or pedestrian you may often be impeded by vehicles turning into the roadways on either side by Hoole Bridge Building Supplies. These were the roads, each equipped with a weighbridge, which serviced the Railway Station’s Goods Sheds and Yards. To the south was the huge LNWR shed which became the Chester Enterprise Centre until it was destroyed by fire in 2010; to the north the GWR sheds and yards.

Goods traffic was an essential part of the railway companies’ business and in 1849, 67 men handling 180,000 tonnes a year were employed at Chester; by 1855, 80 goods trains a day moved 684,000 tonnes in a year. Previously this freight would have been moved by road or canal; additionally the expanding Victorian economy which followed from the industrial revolution saw a terrific increase in the movement of both raw materials and finished products.

Freight also included materials for the erection of houses, factories, and civic buildings – bricks, slate, timber, cement etc.; coal; agricultural products and machinery – the new fertilizers, bone meal, lime etc.; and the new reapers, threshers and drillers plus the steam engines to run them; farming produce, corn, vegetables, fresh dairy produce, and milk arriving on special milk trains which picked up daily at small halts in the countryside. When the Royal Agricultural Show was held in Hoole in 1893 many of the exhibits would have come this way to be taken to the Showground on Hoole Road [see the Royal Agricultural Show article].

Cows were driven up and down Hoole Road and Lightfoot Street on a regular basis, to the pens located on this side of the Bridge; some would have come on cattle boats from Ireland into Birkenhead Docks. Chester’s main cattle market was at Cow Lane Bridge but locally livestock sales were held at The Ermine Hotel. The 1876 Flookersbrook Improvement Act stipulated that provision should be made for the watering of horses and cattle at the large pit located there.

Railway plans show a large number of stables erected here. Horses were very important to the operation of the station, moving goods and freight, and delivering it; moving materials necessary to make the station work – coal for the locomotives, ballast for the lines, building materials for its maintenance; shunting and moving carriages and wagons if a locomotive wasn’t fired up. In the 1861 Census for Newton, Joseph Parry can be found living in Ashby Place; employment – “keeper of horses at the railway station”.

The General Railway Station had opened in 1848. By 1858 the number of passengers had increased to 1,500,000 and there were over 50 passenger trains a day. By the late 1860’s the number of users had increased to 2,500,000 and extra platforms and lines were planned in 1870 and completed by 1890.

The increase in the use of the Station led to demands from those living on the eastern side to have their own entrance. The Hoole History & Heritage Society has discovered in the public records at Kew the original memorial (petition) for this signed by 197 prominent and influential members of the community. Eventually in 1890 it was agreed by the railways companies that “the difficulty of accommodating traffic on the Hoole side would be disposed of by the introduction of a long overhead passage leading to the new island platform”.

 

Covered stairs descended to every platform from the Hoole Footbridge; platform 3 illustrated, also showing Signal Box No.3 

The Hoole entrance to the station was built. It had its own ticket office (platform tickets were also available), stairs up to the manned ticket barrier and then an enclosed walkway to the descent of stairs to each platform. The bricked-up entrance to the footbridge can still be seen today by the hairdressers/beauty shop. Sadly the footbridge infrastructure has been destroyed, so any suggestion that it re-open would be prohibitively costly.

 

Footbridge entrance at bottom right, with stairs up and descents down onto platforms Nos.1, 2 and 3. The steps down onto platform 3 appear in the photograph by signal box No.3A.

[Article by Ralph Earlam, initially published in ‘Hoole Roundabout’ in March 2017 - http://www.hooleroundabout.com]

Plans reproduced with permission of the Cheshire Record Office.