The 'Memorial' (Petition) of 1889, submitted by 197 Signatories from Hoole, Flookersbrook, Trafford, Newton and Upton to ‘The Joint Railway Companies’
In late 2014, two members of The Hoole History & Heritage Society, whilst researching, at the National Archives in Kew, the origins of the Chester Union Workhouse in Hoole, stumbled upon an unrelated, but unique and fascinating document that had led to a major development in Hoole in the late nineteenth century.
The document is a Memorial (petition), urgently requesting that the Joint Railway Companies construct a pedestrian entrance to the General Railway Station from the Hoole side of the main railway bridge (now known as the Hoole Bridge). The main reason for this was to allow Hoole residents, many of them commuters, to have access to the station without the danger and inconvenience of having to cross the main road bridge. Of the 74 householders in Hoole Road at the time, only 4 of them made their living in Chester.
(The article is intended to be read alongside the two accompanying files of the Memorial, the first, a scan of the Original 'Memorial' & Signatories, the second, a plain text attempt to reveal the content of the document, the Transcribed 'Memorial' & Signatories. The plain text version is not definitive, and readers are invited to do their own deciphering of the handwritten signatures.)
From 1840 onwards, the provision and use of railways, and the population of Hoole and surrounding districts had both increased. The Chester / Crewe line opened in 1840, the General Station in 1848, and the Hoole Bridge in 1849. The population of the Civil Parish of Hoole had grown from 294 in 1840 to 3062 in 1881, just a few years before the Memorial’s composition in 1889. The population figures for 1891 are illusive, but the census figures for the population within the Hoole Urban District Council’s boundaries (the same as the former Civil Parish’s) of 1901 are given as 5341. An approximation of the growth of population from 1881 to 1901, at a steady rate, gives a population of close to 3900 in 1889.
The details of reasons given in the Memorial for the urgency to construct an entrance from Hoole to the General Station are expressed in very robust prose in beautiful copperplate formal handwriting. The more informal sheets of the signatories were then glued together and attached to the formal statement. The whole document is approximately 40cm wide and 2m long. It is heavily stained with what looks like soot where it has been folded and is dog-eared in places. It is easy to imagine that it had lain in a Railway Companies’ file for over one hundred and twenty years.
What is significant about the signatories, is that they are the prominent, successful, affluent inhabitants of the township of Hoole and outlying districts. Examples are given in the files, but notable are: Charles Brown, six times Mayor of Chester, and one of the founders of Browns of Chester; Lieutenant Colonel J.H. Hamersley, Chief Constable of Cheshire; the Rev. Frederik Anderson, the first and long-serving vicar of All Saints’ Church, Hoole; Earl Kilmorey; Claud Hamilton Vivian, landowner, of Hoole House; and Eliza J. Ewing of Golden Grove (now the Dene Hotel). Readers can hunt out many more at their leisure.
There is a variety of professions represented, indicating how varied was the population of the area. There are architects, surveyors, clerks in holy orders, builders, commercial travellers, and even the manager of the gasworks. Many of these people would have relied very heavily on travelling by rail to pursue their profession or line of business.
The document was submitted to the Joint Railway Companies in 1889, with the support of the Hoole Local Board; a sub-committee of the Board was set up to work with the Joint Railway Companies. Not much happened for a while, as the Companies were insistent that the Local Board and the residents of the area take on the maintenance of the lighting on the main bridge, and that Lightfoot Street should be paved, as a condition of having a special station entrance built.
However, in July 1891, Chester submitted a bid to hold The Royal Agricultural Show in Chester in 1893. By February 1892 the Royal Agricultural Society of England had decided to award Chester that honour, and further, the show was to be held on the Hoole site (100 acres covering what is now the Coronation Playing Fields, Alexandra Park and many of the surrounding streets). [see the Royal Agricultural Show in Hoole article]
The Show was the biggest event ever to have been held in Hoole, and possibly gave impetus to a decision to construct a footbridge from the Hoole side of the Hoole Bridge to the platforms of the station. An article in the Cheshire Observer of May 1893, a month before the Show was due to open, says:
“In Hoole the various improvements are in an advanced stage, and the Local Board must be pleased to find their district benefiting from the selection of Hoole as a site. The County Council has all but completed the widening of Hoole Road, and for this purpose the Earl of Kilmorey has given a large slice of land. Lightfoot Street also now needs only the setting of the road material: and steady progress is being made with the footbridge over the railway. Though not a very elegant structure, it will no doubt, be found of great advantage by those visitors who simply come to have a hurried glance at the show, and then take their departure.”
During the week of the Show (17-23 June 1893), a total of 115,000 visitors came to Hoole, many of them by train, and they would have undoubtedly chosen to use the new footbridge.
[A plan and photograph of the footbridge can be found in the Hoole Bridge East article in Hoole Road]
The footbridge, with its own ticket office at the Hoole Road entrance, is remembered by many Hoole residents, as it was closed only in the late 1960s after falling into disrepair. Its bricked-up entrance and iron gateway arch can still be seen today, acting as a support for Hoole Bridge Building Supplies’ advertisement boards.
In addition to the remains of the structure itself, we now also have the Memorial, a unique document with its fascinating collection of signatures, which were the beginning of the process of having the footbridge built, and a source of further research by anyone interested in the period.
Suggested research activities:
1. Examine copy of original signatures
2. Try to decipher unclear ones
3. Find ones that interest you – either by location or name
4. Ask yourself if you know anything about any signatory(ies), in addition to notable people already mentioned.
5. Look at geographical spread
6. Look at properties – do they still exist? If not, where were they?
7. Look at range of occupations/professions. Gender/class?
(A talk on the Memorial was given to the Society in January 2018. Members who were present are already researching, and further findings by anyone interested can be forwarded to the website for the attention of Monty Mercer.)
At the Society's meeting on 18 July 2018 three presentations were given by members -
• The first, by Ralph Earlam, provided a pictorial history of the Hoole Footbridge - 'Hoole Footbridge a History in Pictures'
• The second, by Colin Foden, presented the Logan Family history - Logan Family History
• The third, by Peter Elliott, asked the question 'The Memorial, who was behind it? - Hoole Bridge Memorial - who was behind it?
These presentations are personal opinions and whilst believed to be correct are not necessarily the views of the Society. Any comments or feedback can be directed via the Contact Us page of this website.
In August 2019, a Society member, Ruth Ludgate provided a further piece of research associated with the 'Memorial' and two of the signatories - Edward Richards and Edward Noel Humphreys (The Baker and the Accountant).
- Original article researched and written by Monty Mercer, April 2019, Hoole History and Heritage Society, based on his presentation to the Society in January 2018