Contemporary Account of SCR Construction: Lancaster Guardian - 1870, July 23rd

The following contemporary account relating to the construction of the Settle - Carlisle railway appeared on page 4 (column 2) of the 23rd July 1870 edition of the Lancaster Guardian.


One of the many wonderful results of railway making is that of bringing in a short time a large population into the locality, where men never from the beginning of the world thought of pitching their tents. Batty Wife Hole and Bleamoor are places so bleak and dreary, that had it not been for the making of the Settle and Carlisle Railway, they might have remained for numbered ages before they would have been selected as sites for human dwellings. Though a few months ago scarcely any thing was heard on these moorland wastes but the bleating of sheep and the discordant notes of grouse, now all is life and bustle, and human dwellings have sprung up like mushrooms. The clang of pick and spade, the rumbling wheels of railway wagons, well fed horses with their loads of coal, timber, rolls of felt, household furniture, iron rails and other materials, are things of daily occurrence. Not having passed over this moorland since before the commencement of railway operations, before the 14th inst., one could not but be surprised with what rapidity Sebastopol and Batty Wife Hole had become wooden towns of no mean importance. As Batty Wife Hole until recently had but a local interest, while now it is known and spoken of nearly throughout Great Britain, a word or two about the origin of Batty Wife Hole may not be without interest to men of an inquisitive mind. From an insignificant cave on the south side of Bleamoor issues a small stream which crosses the Hawes road about a mile on the west of Gearstones. At this place, a road launches off to Selside and Horton, and the deep pool of water known as Batty Wife Hole is on the left hand side of it. The water in the hole, which in very dry weather is shallow, is very deep in wet weather.

In an age which is lost in the past, here lived a son of St. Crispin, who being subject to fits of ungovernable temper, was wont to quarrel with his wife, and to thrash her when his word failed to effect his purpose. On one occasion, after a domestic quarrel, feeling some relentings, they agreed to meet at the cross road, near the pool of water already mentioned, to effect a reconciliation and for devising some method for living together in greater harmony. At this day, many persons might think that such a desirable undertaking might have been entered into at their own dwelling, but they should remember that in a superstitious age a cross road, which reminded them of the cross of Christ, would be a material help towards settling domestic disputes. Mrs. Batty was punctual to the time fixed upon for the connubial reconciliation, and being disappointed as her husband did not make his appearance, in a fit of despair threw herself into the fatal pool and, with her life terminated her domestic troubles. Her husband, either through a habit of always being too late or from some unforeseen cause of delay, did at length make his appearance, but only arrived to find that his wife had suddenly ended her life by drowning, and that he was left a disconsolate widower. Being overwhelmed with sorrow at having caused by his unkindness the death of an excellent wife life to him at once became intolerable, and he threw himself into the same pool to find a grave by the side of her whom he had so often abused. Though there are not many of the operatives at Batty Wife Hole who are married, still it is hoped that the few that are will try to avoid all domestic quarrelling lest consequences like those recorded should hereafter find their counterpart at the moorland rill which flows so near their own dwellings. Another version of the origin is that the wife of a man named Batty was in the habit of washing her clothes in this pool, and consequently it got the name Batty Wife Hole. From Batty Green, on which most of the huts are built, no lover of the wild and romantic in creation can look round on moorland heights and mountain ranges stretching out in every direction far beyond the ken of the strongest vision, without feeling a thrill of delight at the grand and imposing prospect. Ingleborough, Whernside, Pennyghent, and other hills intersected by narrow and lovely dells dotted with farmsteads, form one of the finest landscapes in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

When passing Batty Green one could not but have one's attention arrested by the busy and active life of the inhabitants. Some of the operatives were digging, some pulling down, others building up, some sawing, some wheeling, and the noise of hammers and other implements was incessant. Most of the huts, which are about 40 in number, are made, of wood, with roofs covered with felting. We noticed a saddler's shop, a grocer's shop, and a greengrocer's shop. There is a brewery on the opposite side of Batty Green, and a large tommy shop is being built of stone near Batty Wife Hole. One of the dwellings in this wooden town is differently constructed to all the rest, as it had once served the purpose of a caravan. It is said that it was brought all the way from London, and that it was the first human dwelling fixed on Batty Green. The population at Batty Green at the present date is from 250 to 300. It is here where all the operatives at Dent Head, Sebastopol, Batty Wife Hole, and Selside are paid, and it is said that last Saturday night their wages amounted to about £1,500. This was exclusive of "sub" money and the large sums paid to tradesmen, and farmers and others who cart material to the works. The number of men employed on the works between Batty Wife Hole and Dent Head is about 700. Up wards of 100 horses are also employed in this division of the contract.

A tramway is being laid between Batty Wife Hole and the south end the tunnel, which is at the distance of two and a half miles. This iron road, which will be a great saving of horseflesh, is within a few hundred yards of being completed. An engine of twelve-horse power is in daily use on this tramway. At Batty Moss there is a brick machine in full operation which makes eighteen to twenty thousand bricks per day. The foundations are being taken out at this moss for the large viaduct, which will consist of 24 openings of 40 feet span, and the greatest height to the rail level will be 90 feet. Sebastopol, which is on the south side of Bleamoor and a quarter of a mile from Batty Green, consists of about 30 huts, with a population from 200 to 300. Between Batty Wife Hole and Dent Head there are about 110 huts, each of which has accommodation for eight men. In the tunnel there will be three permanent shafts of the following depths — 84 yards, 127 yards and 132 yards. The first shaft has been dug out to the depth of 22 yards; the second and third have been dug to the depths of 34 and 39 yards. The temporary shaft at the north end of the tunnel is down to the formation level, and a bottom heading 10ft. wide and 8ft. high has been driven about 60 yards. At the south, or Settle end, a temporary shaft has been sunk at the tunnel entrance to within three yards of the formation, or to the depth of 28 yards. The engines necessary for winding and pumping are now being got on to the tunnel. As Batty Green and Sebastopol are constantly increasing in adult and juvenile population, it is in contemplation to procure newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals for their instruction, and to open day and Sunday schools for the rising generation. A missionary is employed on the works for the moral and religious benefit of the inhabitants. The progress of the important part of the line will be recorded from time to time in the Guardian.


The text quoted above was manually transcribed from a 35mm microfilm copy of the newspaper by Mark R. Harvey during a visit to Lancaster Library on 10th July 2007. A small section of the article could not be deciphered at that time, but the improved equipment available during a follow-up visit on 12th July 2023 has enabled the previously illegible text to be deciphered. The transcript has been updated accordingly and it is now complete.

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