The Railway and the Town in the Nineteenth Century.

by Margaret Gowling, Upper Eden History Society

South Road

1: Pre Railway Days

The 1851 census and the first edition of the 25 inch OS maps (surveyed in 1857-8) show Kirkby Stephen as a small linear village, with a long wide market place just south of the church. The main road from Brough to Sedbergh along which it was sited, was lined with houses from stretching from the top of North Road to Townhead on the south side. There was a back lane on the west, with buildings as far as Brougham Lane, while on the eastern side of the village, there was a connecting series of back lanes which led from Tinkler Hill, on the Green via Vicarage Lane and Melbecks, to Sower Pow, which continued just round the corner of Nateby Road. Beyond, after a gap, was the Bollam Toll bar and further on still, was Stenkrith Mill. The land between the main road and the Nateby Road was occupied by the Brockram quarry and a disused quarry. There were six outlying farms, which included Greenrigg and Sandwath, off the western back lane.
The 1851 census gives Kirkby a total population of 1339: 760 inhabitants on the eastern side and 579 on the western side. The figures for these totals are distorted by the existence of the large Union workhouse with a total of 114 inmates on the eastern side. The village seems to have been a small stable community in the mid century.
There were 303 houses, with only two in multi-occupancy. No new ones were under construction, and there were 18 uninhabited houses on the east side of the main road. The maps show many buildings along the back lane of the western side, but these were nearly all barns and outbuildings for the houses on the main street; they keep within the main boundaries of the latter. The town fields throughout the history of the village, had been on the western side of the Back Lane.
Yet there is some evidence of people moving into or through the village, and using temporary accommodation provided by lodging house keepers. Seven lodging house keepers are listed but there were one or two other householders who also offered beds Most of the lodging house keepers were elderly women, mainly widows. There was a close group concentrated around Sower Pow,: Phebe [sic] Shaw, aged 52 with three lodgers , nearby was Margaret Shaw aged 62 with one lodger, Frances Varty aged 79, with no lodgers that night, and Mary Atkinson, aged 62 with one lodger. The largest lodging house was that of Mary Moffat, aged 85 with 15 lodgers as well as her grand children, while a married neighbour, whose husband was an agricultural labourer, took in three more. Many of these lodgers were a little vague about their birthplaces, and even their ages; several were from Ireland and Scotland, and most gave their jobs as hawkers, or rag gatherers, but at least four had no jobs.
The floating population of the lodging houses were casual labourers, in search of any work going. Some lodgers may have been jobbing builders, as for example the slater, staying at one house at the north end of the town. The date of this census, at the end of March was too early for leisure visitors or harvesters, although on the other side of the main road, near the Red Lion, the situation was different; for there Jane Raw, a lodging house keeper, aged 72, had two visitors, [as distinct from lodgers], and her neighbour had another one. However, the inns, even the King’s Arms, had no visitors staying the night.
Most Kirkby people were occupied with farming, with building or with the retail trade. The adjacent villages of Wharton and Nateby were farming communities with little more than a village shop and school.
Of interest in face of later developments, it may be noted that the land at the south end of the town, including Town Head House and farm, was owned, as it had been for several centuries, by the Thompson family. The 1844 Tithe map shows that Joseph Thompson owned the fields with the Brockram quarries, along with Wilson Pasture [on which the railway was later built], Rowgate meadows and a number of other closes. The family also had the Workhouse site at the other end of the town.

2: The 1861 census.

Many changes occurred in the years just before the next census, which was taken in 1861. By then the South Durham railway with its station and its yards was nearing completion beyond the southern end of the town. The number of construction workers needed for this work had peaked before the census was taken, but although the number of navvies was dwindling the number of permanent railway employees was growing. The census taken in spring, therefore, indicates a change in the composition of the population of Kirkby.
The population had grown by 470 people, of which 262 were directly connected with the railway according to the enumerators. These figures included 52 women as a number of married men had brought their families. The other immigrants included builders and masons, casual labourers and carriers. Local people had changed jobs too. The figures show that of those employed on the railway construction, 33 had been born in Kirkby Stephen and about the same number came from other parts of Westmorland and Cumberland, while 37 were from Yorkshire and Durham and 33 from Scotland and Ireland. The rest came from all over England.
Although the railway had yet to open, a number of permanent employees, mainly outside, like the Inspector of Rails, who lived in Stoneshot, and Andrew Wright a railway clerk had houses. These came from outside.
Where did they live? 36 extra houses had been built since 1851, and some 14 railway workers had become householders. The others lived in lodgings. Apart from one living in a barn, there were 39 scattered in single lodgings throughout Kirkby. But it was the lodging house trade which saw the greatest expansion, some of which were still run by the same landladies as in 1851. Mary Atkinson, now aged 85, [see the 1851 age!] was living with her daughter and still had lodgers, Mary Loadman, aged 68 lived in with her daughter’s family but had nine lodgers. Agnes Bell had three lodgers. Margaret Shaw, now aged 75, [although she had been 62 in 1851] had six railway labourers, and next door were five railway workers, three accompanied by wives, living in the household of a railway labourer. In Hastwells Yard, near the Market Place, Richard Buckley, am excavator and his family housed 11 other excavators, [His wife, unsuprisingly was a washerwoman]. Next door was Jacob Horsfield, another married railway worker, with seven labourers, John Holes, nearby, a railway worker and householder had two lodgers, and on Market Square, John Walker, a similar railway householder, had six railway lodgers. Eden Terrace, of two houses each run by a railway worker, had a total of four lodgers
The inn keepers were also offering accommodation. The Blue Bell on Market Square run by Richard Fawcett, a tallow merchant, had nine lodgers and the Grey Hound had six masons. The Jolly Farmers was run by James Thompson, who in 1851 had been a waller, but saw a new opportunity with the influx of workmen. He had five lodgers. The Pack Horse had one, the Fountain five. James Walker who had the White Swan, had four. In Dickinsons Yard near the Sun inn, there was yet another railway householder with a lodger. Both old established families and incomers had taken advantage of the influx of workers. Most notable was the way in which the workhouse numbers had halved in size from 1851, because of the new work available. But the new jobs took their toll; in the workhouse there were eight railway workers, plus an engine fitter, unfit to work, with ages ranging from 19-71.
At this date then, parts of Kirkby were crowded, with a concentration of incomers around the Market Place and the surrounding yards. The unoccupied houses of the 1851 census had been re- occupied but as yet little new building had taken place.

3: The 1871 Census

By this census the Stainmore Railway was up and running and a second line, the Settle Carlisle was being built by the Midland Railway company. Kirkby therefore had some permanent railway employees, maintaining the line and engines and dealing with the passenger and goods traffic. In addition there were labourers and excavators for the new line. It is impossible to distinguish from the census the railway company for which the workers were employed
There were 378 houses in Kirkby recorded in 1871, a ten percent growth since 1861, Two houses were unoccupied. It appears that the Midland Railway company had erected a company hut and a hospital. Both these are recorded by the enumerator of the East side of the town. In the hospital there were three men, one a mason and the other two were labourers; all from the south of England. The place was run by Richard Powlington, who had been born in York, with his wife and family. The Hut was run by Edwin Earle with his wife and family. They had six lodgers, from Kent , Bucks and Lancs. The new work, again, seems to have helped with the workhouse numbers; there were only 65 residents.
The permanent employees, the station master and senior maintenance men, as in 1861, were often not local. The inspector of the permanent way, Robert Richardson,[who had been in Kirkby at least seven years], the engine fitters , porters , clerks and a railway policeman were generally living around the south end of the town. William Hogg the station master, for example, lived there with his family and servant. He came from West Auckland and had been in Kirkby at least nine years, judging by the age of one of his children born locally. Many railway workers lived in the new houses along South Road, such as Southend villas, and along Mount Pleasant. The Old Toll bars were occupied by a local men: by James Simpson aged 23, and at Bollam Bar, by Peter Hulse,; both were porters.
Elsewhere, the lodging house keepers were doing good business: Mary Horsfield a widow with a family of carters, had nine lodgers, while Richard Horsfield, also a carter had five lodgers, and Ben Purdoe had five lodgers. Many of the inns and lodging house keepers, recorded in 1861 were still busy in 1871. The Red Lion of William Hodgson, the Old and New Fountain Inns, of Robert Bousfield and Robert Irvine respectively, the White Swan of Robert Walker, the White Lion of Lancelot Steele, the Pack Horse of Robert Workman, and the Black Bull of A. Hutchinson, were all under the same management as in 1861.
The central part of the town was packed with workers. The list for the Blue Bell [still run by Richard Fawcett] in Market Street, gives an idea of where these people came from.There were 16 lodgers :
Lodgers at the 'Blue Bell', Market Street in the 1871 Census
Name Employment  Place of Birth
Thomas Bull  railway labourer West Indies
Henry Jackson  engine fitter Cork
John Jackson engine fitter Cork
Ben Littlewood  railway labourer Durham
James Howarth  clerk Durham
Wm Ellen  brickmaker Lincolnshire
John Bell  brickmaker Lincolnshire
James Grundy  railway labourer Lincolnshire
James Smith railway labourer Durham
Wm Alb/ Hills/  mason Wiltshire
John Jones  mason Nottinghamshire
James Smith mason Wiltshire
John Haiker  railway labourer Surrey
John Robinson railway labourer Kendal
Wm Martin  railway labourer Lincolnshire
Richard Wilson railway labourer Lincolnshire


4: The 1881 census.

In 1881 the railway building was complete, the navvies had moved elsewhere and the town settled down. Kirkby Stephen had 376 houses and a population of 1644. The ecclesiastical parish had 2611 people.
Forty-six unoccupied houses were recorded in the town. Many were around the Market Place, and included the Fleece Inn and some of its yard, the Sun Inn yard, three in Gregson’s yard and five in Melbecks, and in Sower Pow. However, new houses had been built. More had been built along Mountain View, while Westbrook had become a terrace of 16 houses, and there were seven new ones in Southfield. View. In addition there were thirteen railway cottages, one occupied by Robinson Bell the station master, the others by signalmen, telegraph workers, and railway labourers. The situation of these cottages is unclear, but as there were six cottages and the Station Master’s house grouped together, they may be the ones on Midland Hill. The others were more closely associated with the Stainmore Railway employees and may have been along Station Road and Mount Pleasant. Mark Ellwood, a ‘rallyman’, for example, lived at 8 Station Yard. Nearby was William Hogg, a station master as he had been ten years earlier and Robert Richardson, an inspector of track lived at Stenkrith House. In addition, Nateby which had been a purely agricultural village had over a third of its 31 householders in 1881 employed by the railways. There were four empty premises.
In conclusion, by 1881 the results of the railway building could be seen in the extension of the town area. Kirkby Stephen had been grown along the roads south wards across the railway line at East Station, while a number of the older closely packed houses of the old centre had abandoned. Around the Station other development had taken place. The Croglin Inn had been built, and the Auction Mart, [which had used the main street in the past], was moved to a site in one of the fields almost opposite the inn, to the east of the South Road. Later, it was transferred to the other side of the road. The farmers were using the railway to transport their livestock to market. In addition a coal yard was set up at the goods yard of East station, while the Brockram quarries in the fields between the Nateby Road and the South Road, were exploited for house building.
A look at later censuses shows a slow growth of housing in the decade up to 1891, and in 1901, of the 397 inhabited houses in Kirkby, 40 were described as ‘unoccupied but in occupation’, and nine were not occupied, suggesting that a large number of people were actively seeking jobs outside the area. Yet in the same decade from 1891 to 1901, eighteen new houses were built, and the date stones of Mount Pleasant, Park Terrace, and Standard House record the builders’ achievements. These are all at the far end of South Road.
In conclusion, it may be said that the construction of the railways which had led to the town’s temporary population expansion, presented the residents with the opportunities of more distant trade. Thus it survived as a market centre for the Upper Eden Valley well into the twentieth century, where other places failed.


© Margaret Gowling April 2011