Oral history workshop

Fig 1: Kirkby locals waiting for a local social club excursion train at Kirkby-in-Ashfield East railway station in 1962. The introduction of railways in Britain had a great influence on the lives of people. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

The Power of Railways

The introduction of railways in our country had a great influence on the lives of the people.  It is often stated that prior to the introduction of the railway people did not travel far from their place of birth.   While it is true that the process of people travelling started with the canals and was greatly accelerated by the railways, there are many interesting areas where this influence is not quite so obvious but still important.

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Fig 2: Horse and Groom pub sign at Moorgreen, Nottinghamshire, in May 2023. Photo Credit: David Amos

Inns played a great part in travel in these early day and this can be seen in the names they bore;  

Coach & Horses

Wagon & Horses

Horse & Groom

There were also some which bore the names of Mail Coaches which called at them.

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Fig 3: The Railway Inn at Kirkby-in-Ashfield in the late 1990’s. Photo Credit: David Amos

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Fig 4: Pub sign at the Railway Inn, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, just prior to demolition in 2004.  Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

With the coming of canals this process of names was continued with Inns along the towpaths. With the coming of railways the Inn owners used names like The  Railway and The Station. Initially there was less variety in the names of the Inns. Laterley when Railway companies built their own Hotels they used their company names such as The Midland Hotel.  

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Fig 5: Mallard micro-pub sign at Worksop Station, Nottinghamshire, in 2022. Photo Credit: David Amos

In modern times there has been a broadening of names to include famous trains, engines and engineers for example

The Mallard

The Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Prior to the arrival of railways Inns served at tables and chairs, after the arrival of railways bars were installed so as to control the greater number of customers.   Prior to railways there were no bars.

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Fig 6: Railway clock at Carnforth Station, Lancashire, in 2017. The station featured in the 1946 fllm, Brief Encounter, starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson.  Photo Credit: David Amos

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Fig 7: A Brief Encounter heritage centre occupies the station buildings at Carnforth Station. In the film it was called Milford Junction. Photo Credit: David Amos

The difference in time became important regarding the safe operation of trains etc.  Before the Railways came each town had its own time, the difference being four minutes per 1 degree of latitude. Trains needed to have consistent time across the country for their safe and reliable operation. Trains could easily be missed if you used local time as the railways generally adopted London time for their timetables. 

The general public referred to this as Railway Time. This matter was eventually settled by The Time Act of 1880.  This created two time zones in The British Isles, Greenwich Mean Time based on Zero degrees latitude and Dublin Mean Time, 34 minutes behind Greenwich.  Dublin Mean  gradually fell into disuse and was last used in Belfast in 1916.

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Fig 8: One of the nations favourite dishes, Fish and Chips, brought to the masses in industrial regions of Britain by the advent of the railways in the 19th century. Photo Credit: Graham Upchurch.

The Railways also brought us our national dish, Fish and Chips.  The railway was able to take fresh fish from the ports to all parts of the country and for the first time many people were able to eat fresh fish, as the Victorian age went on our Fish and Chip shops developed.

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Fig 9: Class K3 on an up fish train on the Mansfield Railway in Kirkby-in-Ashfield Quarries approaching Kirkby South Junction in the early 1960’s. Photo Credit: David K Dykes.

Blog by Ian G Handley

Posted by SB2K admin: 15th May 2023.