Primary source material and contemporary accounts relating to the construction of the Settle-Carlisle Railway

There is a wealth of primary source material and contemporary (or near contemporary) accounts relating to the construction of the Settle-Carlisle Railway between 1869 and 1876. Some of this material is being reviewed as part of the SCRCA Project. This page summarises (and provides links to) the resulting reviews and extracts. (For details of publications and third-party sources, see Reference sources - 1: Building the line.)

Reviews of Primary Source Material

The Midland Railway Study Centre

This repository is home to a first-class collection of documents and artefacts relating to the Midland Railway Company. The centre's volunteers have recently begun the process of digitising some of the maps, plans, drawings and other documents from the collection and we will be uploading the most important and interesting items to the SCRCA Project database as soon as their and our resouces permit. A significant number of relatively simple images from this collection have already been incorporated directly into relevant articles and location-specific snippets. These do not need separate reviews to unlock the information that they convey. However, some of the more complex images (such as plans and scale drawings) do warrant detailed descriptions to highlight features of special interest and to make the information that they contain 'discoverable' (via both site-search and third-party search engines) and 'accessible' (to everyone, including people with visual impairments). A small number of these items have already been uploaded and described and the resulting document reviews can be accessed via the following links:

The National Archives (Kew)

National Railway Museum (NRM)

Mark R. Harvey has reviewed and summarised the following document from this repository:

Census Returns


Contemporary Accounts


Cumberland & Westmorland Herald

Mark R. Harvey has transcribed the following reports from this source:

  • 1873, 2 Aug: A brief mention of the 116 temporary huts erected along the length of the S&C to accommodate construction workers.

Lancaster Guardian

Mark R. Harvey has transcribed the following reports from this source:

  • 1865, October 7th: A report that the Midland Railway Company are surveying a "New Railway Route to the North", with a brief description of the proposed route.
  • 1866, May 19th: A report on the "Wharncliffe meeting" of shareholders, which sanctioned the bill to "construct railways from Settle To Hawes, Appleby, and Carlisle".
  • 1866, August 11th: A report that "The Settle to Carlisle Bill" had received royal assent.
  • 1870, June 4th: A report detailing how John O’Neil (a navvy from Ireland living in a hut near Winterscales) was threatened by a mob (led by a ganger named Frank Taylor) and how Mr. Ashwell successfully protected the Irishman by involving the police.
  • 1870, June 25th: A report outlining "The Importance Of Navvies" to the town of Ingleton (and its tradesmen) and outlining the importance of beer to the navvies.
  • 1870, July 16th: A report on a Coroner's Inquest into the death of Thomas Ball (aged 30), who drowned when the workings at Blea Moor Tunnel (near Dent Head) became flooded as a result of heavy rain during a thunderstorm.
  • 1870, July 23rd: A fascinating and informative description of the Ribblehead Railway Construction Camp (plus a long-winded and rather dubious explanation of the origin of the place name 'Batty Wife Hole').
  • 1870, September 3rd: A report on the death of Mrs. Powell as result of a tramway accident near the south portal of Blea Moor Tunnel, plus an account of her subsequent funeral at Chapel-le-Dale.
  • 1870, November 12th: A fascinating and informative (but occasionally long-winded) account of a visit to the railway works between Settle Junction and Horton. (The article actually covers the works as far as Batty Wife Hole, but the last section has not yet been transcribed.)
  • 1870, December 3rd: A brief record of an accident at Garsdale Head that resulted in the death of Joseph Jackson (a carpenter).
  • 1870, December 24th: A brief record of an accident near Smardale Gill in which a 56 year old quarryman named John ?Balesill? was decapitated on the South Durham Railway between Smardale and Newbiggen (the assumption being he was run over by an railway locomotive).
  • 1871, July 8th: A collection of brief reports relating to Batty Green entitled “The Small-Pox”, “Accidents To Horses”, “The Adventure Of A Settle Lady” (who visited the workings at Blea Moor), and “Battles Amongst The Navvies”.
  • 1871, August 26th: Two brief reports from Batty Green. The first is a fascinating 'story' (read it and make-up your own mind!) about the navvies' response to a thunderstorm in which the "electric fluid" (lightning) struck a navvy and his horse (both survived) and ten sheep (that were less fortunate). The second is a more straightforward report about the welcome reduction in the number smallpox cases.
  • 1871, September 30th: Three separate topics are covered in a single article. The first is a report on the findings of an inquest into the death of George McConnel, who was killed when he fell from a wagon on the Batty Green tramway and was crushed between the bufffers. The second is a report on the findings of an inquest into the death of David Davis, who was killed when a crane broke while lifting a three-ton block of stone at "the viaduct near Batty Green" (i.e. Ribblehead Viaduct). The third is a report on a social event for the children ("about sixty scholars") who attended the Batty Green day and Sunday schools and a follow-up event for the adults. The first part of this article provides valuable information about the special Saturday shoping trains that ran on the tramway between Blea Moor and Batty Green. The third part offers a fascinating insight into the moral values of the writer of the article and tells us that Mr. W. H. Ashwell and Mr. Vickers had "residences" on "the Settle Road". (The latter contradicts regularly expressed assumptions that the great and good all lived in the supposedly posh suburb of 'Belgravia'.)
  • 1871, October 21st: This fascinating account of a visit to "the railway works on Blea Moor" includes detailed observations of the brick works and brick-making process at Batty Green, plus the construction process and progress to date for the viaducts at Batty Moss (a.k.a. Ribblehead Viaduct) and Dent Head and for Blea Moor Tunnel. It also provides a vivid account of the working and living conditions and of the experience (and perils) of a journey on the construction tramway.
  • 1872, December 14th: A report on the sudden death (attributed to "heart disease") and subsequent funeral of Mr. Job Hirst (described as the "sub-contractor for Batty Moss Viaduct, the aqueduct, and all the bridges and mason work as far as the entrance to Blea Moor Tunnel") plus a report on a fire that destroyed three of the huts at the navvy settlement of Jericho on the day of his funeral. Both reports provide broader insights into navvy life.

Additional extracts from the Lancaster Guardian will be transcribed and uploaded as and when time permits.


During the mid to late nineteenth century, Frederick Smeeton Williams (a.k.a. F.S. Williams) visited a number of railway construction sites (including the Settle-Carlisle line ) and he recorded his observations and associated research in two well-regarded publications:

  • "The Midland railway: its rise and progress. A narrative of modern enterprise"
    Published by Strahan & Co London in 1876
  • "Our Iron Roads: Their History, Construction, and Administration"
    Published by Bemrose & Sons, London in 1883

Digitised version of both of these publications are available online (see Reference sources - 1: Building the line). However, in a bid to make this fascinating material more easily accessible, relevant extracts are gradually being uploaded to the SCRCA Project database. Extracts relating to the following sites and structures have already been uploaded:

Additional extracts will be uploaded as and when time permits.

Chambers's Journal

The annual consolidated volumes of the Settle-based publication 'Chambers's Journal' contain two fascinating articles relating to the construction of the Settle-Carlisle Railway:

Digitised versions of the annual volumes covering the construction period can be downloaded from:


This list of sources / research material has been compiled by Mark R. Harvey (© Mark R. Harvey).

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