From the pen of George Charles Williamson

This extract is a bit of a curiosity. George Williamson was born into a well-to-do Guilford family in 1858 and died in 1942. He was mainly an art historian but he did also dabble in Surrey history. He wrote extensively and this little volume Behind my Library Door, he reflects on some of his bookish interests. In this chapter he focusses on George Bradshaw, the founder of Bradshaw Guides. It is of interest to me (and possibly to some of you) in that Wolverton Station gets a brief mention.

This book was published in 1921 when Williamson was in his sixties and in a reflective mood and he does offer some insights into early railway travel in this little discourse.

Behind my library door : some chapters on authors, books and miniatures by G. C. Williamson. Published 1921

I WONDER how many of those who are in the habit of constantly using Bradshaw’s Railway Guide have ever noticed that the date on each of its issues is given, not in ordinary form, but in the manner especially adopted by the Quakers, so that in lieu of saying the 2Oth of June, the date is given as the 20th of Sixth Month, and that in the case of the monthly issue, the name of the month does not appear, but the time-table bears the figures of the 4th or 5th or 6th Month, as the case may be. I wonder also how many have ever examined the first of the editions of this famous book, or thought that there were first editions of it, and how surprised they would be if they compared the present portly volume with the tiny thin book which was really the first issue of Bradshaw’s Railway Guide. This very first edition of all was a little book issued at 6d. on the eigth day of the Tenth Month in 1839, and what has been called the second edition was issued on the 25th of the same month in the same year. In between these two books, there appears to have been issued another for the little volume, printed on the 25th of the month, is called No. 3, but of No. 2, only a single copy is known still to remain. It has just been discovered in the possession of Bernard Quaritch, Limited.
It was regarded as of such slight importance that copies were not kept, and no public or private library has at present, so far as I know, been able to produce any copy of Bradshaw’s Railway Time-Tables bearing the statement that it was
No. 2. As a matter of fact, in all probability, the two books to which I have just referred were not first and second editions, because the railway time-tables, issued by George Bradshaw, were in two forms, one for the Liverpool and Manchester districts, and one for London and Birmingham districts, and, to a certain extent, the two overlapped one another. One was issued at 6d. the other at a shilling. It is not easy to account for the difference in price, because there was very little between the sizes of the two volumes, although certainly the shilling one was slightly the stouter of the two, but not sufficiently so to account for the doubling of the price. It was probably ascertained, immediately after the issue of the first book, that 6d. was not a sufficiently high price for it, and other issues were made is. The first little book is bound in green cloth, is 4! by 6 inches, and is lettered in gold on the side ” Bradshaw’s Railway Com- panion.” The other is bound in purple cloth, 4$ inches by 3^, and it has on the cloth an attached label in which is lettered in green relief on gold, ” Bradshaw’s Railway Time-Tables, price one shilling.”
Who, we might ask, was the man whose name has passed into a household word, the issuer of this first little railway time-table, whose name it still bears ? He was George Bradshaw, a Quaker, who lived in Manchester in 1835, and followed the calling of an engraver of maps and plans of cities. He was the son of Thomas Bradshaw and his wife Mary Rogers, and was born near Salford on the 29th of July, 1801. His parents were of humble origin, but they determined to give their son a good education, and after being instructed for a while by a Mr. Coward, a Swedenborgian minister, to whose Church his parents were attached, the boy was sent to school at Overton, a school kept by Mr. Scott. Later on, he was apprenticed to an engraver in Manchester, named Beale. In 1820, his parents went to Ireland, and George Bradshaw appears to have accompanied them, and there commenced work on his own account, as an engraver, but the business was not successful, and he returned to Manchester. Here he set to work at land surveying and the production of various maps, the first of which was of Lancashire, and that one was followed by maps of the canals of Lancashire and Yorkshire, which a recent writer has described as in all probability ” still the most complete record of our inland navigation.”
By this time, George Bradshaw had left the Swedenborgians, to become a member of the Society of Friends, and was active in the cause of peace, in working in schools for poor children, especially on Sundays, and was also associated with a very well-known temperance advocate of the day, Elihu Burritt. In 1839 Bradshaw married Martha Derbyshire, also a member of the Society of Friends, and it was then that he commenced to issue his time-table, and is believed to have done so, in the first place, with a view to illustrating his beautiful work as a map engraver. He tells us, in the very first issue, that the necessity for the book was so obvious, to need no apology, that he published it by the assistance of the several railway companies, and that therefore the in- formation might be depended upon as being correct and authentic, and he himself vouches for the accuracy of the maps and plans with which it was adorned. He announced that the next issue of the book would be on the 1st of First Month, 1840. There were three editions of the first book. The first, dated 19.10.39, contained however only the Liverpool, Manchester and Northern Railways, the second dated 29.10.39 the Southern Railways, the third volume was an amalgamated edition of the Northern and Southern tables. The price was raised then to a shilling, and the figure 3 appears on the right corner of the title. All three books were published concurrently for a year or two. Their popularity decreased as the Monthly Guide became established, and the Companion died about 1848.
In 1841 he started another, which is really the more direct progenitor of the timetable of the present day, and which bears the same title ” Bradshaw’s Guide.” He relinquished the phrase ” Railway Time-Table ” and ” Railway
Companion ” which he had adopted in the first two little books, did not attempt any binding in cloth, or the issue of elaborate maps, but brought out boldly on the 1st of 12th Month, 1841, what he simply called ” Bradshaw’s Guide ” and which consisted of thirty-two pages of print, at once the cheapest and most complete book that had been published on the subject.
A little later on, in 1843, he came back again to his old love of maps, and introduced into it ten coloured maps, and some plans, and from this guide-book descend in steady progress, the pre- sent books so familiar to all of us. I need not pursue the long story of the changes, in fact it is not possible for me to do so, because no one quite understands the evolution of this particular book, inasmuch as the September issue of 1844 bore the number of 146, as though it had been the 146th issue, and yet the evidence is quite contradictory, as the previous number, so far as can be traced at present, was No. 40. What there was in between, or what accounts for this curious jump in figures, no one can tell. The story has never been elaborated from a bibliographical point of view, and perhaps it is hardly worth the while of any bibliographer to give it the requisite attention, but the three little books issued in 1839, will bear some careful consideration, and there are many curious features about them which are of interest in the present day. One thing that at once strikes the observer is the extreme beauty of the maps and plans. They are very small, and not easy to use on account of their abundance of detail, but they are marvellously accurate and extraordinarily well engraved, evidence that Bradshaw, even in his earliest days, was desirous of giving the best that he could to his customers. Then,  when we begin to examine the letterpress, there are many strange references. The once accepted tradition that no official of a railway company is to receive a tip, existed even in those early days. We find amongst the important notes that ” no gratuity, under any circumstances, is allowed to be taken by any servant of the company.” It is also quite evident that the trains went slowly and that the people who travelled by them were restless, and inclined to move about at the various stations, because we are told that, ” to guard against accidents and delay, it is especially requested that passengers will not leave their seats at any stations except on the way between London and Birmingham at Wolverton, where ten minutes is allowed for refreshments.” In these early days, the seats were numbered, the number appeared on the ticket, and a pas- senger might claim the seat corresponding to his ticket, and when not numbered, he might take any seat not previously occupied. It is curious, however, to notice that the passenger was not always provided with a seat inside the carriage, and that there were outside seats, for which a lower scale of fares was charged. He could, if he preferred, ride in his own carriage, and that carriage could be put on to the railway.
In that case, he did not have to pay first-class, but ” gentlemen riding in their own carriages are charged second-class fare, and servants and grooms riding with the horses, fourteen shillings for the fare between Birmingham and Manchester.” The railway officials were just as particular about their tickets then as they are now, perhaps even more so. We read ” The check ticket given to the passenger on the payment of his fare will be required from him on leaving the coach, or at the station next before his arrival at London or Birmingham, and if not then presented he will be liable to have the fare again demanded.” There were no smoking carriages, and we read in the time-table, ” No smoking is allowed at the station, nor in the Company’s carriages.” The regulation about children is rather curiously worded. We are told that ” infants in arms, if unable to walk,” are free of charge, and one immediately begins to wonder as to what class of infant in arms would be able to walk ! It was evidently a great favour to the public that waiting-rooms should be provided, and attention was particularly drawn to the fact that there was an attendant in charge, the matter being mentioned twice in one sentence. ” At the Wolverton Central Station, a female is in attendance, where refreshments may be obtained at the Birmingham Station, refreshments are provided, and waiting-rooms with female attendants.”
The second-class carriages were open at the side, without lining, cushions, or divisions in the compartment, but the second-class carriages that were used on the night mail train were closed, and entirely protected from weather. On that train it was mentioned that ” each carriage has a small roof lamp.”
With regard to luggage ” passengers,” we read, ” are especially recommended to have their names and addresses or destination legibly written on their luggage, when it will be placed on the top of the coach in which they ride, unless it be in a bag or other small package, so small as may be conveniently taken into the carriage, and placed under the seat opposite to that they occupy.” I believe I am correct in stating that at the present day no passenger has the right to place his luggage in the rack over his own head in the railway carriage. The place where he should put it is in the rack opposite, the idea being that he can keep his eye upon it, and it will be seen that this was the case in the early days of railway travelling, as the small packages were then placed opposite to the passengers, although they were under the seats, and not above them.
There are many examples similar to these which prove how conservative we have been in England in the matter of railway regulations. When they have once been planned and agreed upon, they remain, and it takes almost an earthquake to alter them. Allusion has already been made to the old-time fiction that no servant of a railway company is allowed to accept a gratuity, and the present custom, which has singularly little to recommend it, and which states that a ticket, once issued, cannot be transferred to anyone else, and cannot be used upon any other day than the one whose date it bears, is another survival of the early regulations. The little time-table before me states that ” A passenger, having once paid his fare, and taken out a ticket, may go by any of the trains that day, but the ticket will not be availale on the following day, unless in any very special instance.”
An odd feature appears with regard to children’s fares. The book states that ” children under seven years of age for first-class carriages are charged second-class price, but for second- class carriages are charged third-class price.”
Probably the result was, however, very much what it is in the present day, when the child’s fare is half-price for an adult.
The division of the trains was, of course, different from what it is now, as in the time-table we read of first-class and second-class trains, as well as quick trains, mail trains and mixed trains, these phrases referring in some cases to the speed, and in other cases to whether the carnages are of all classes, or some are open and some closed. The table of trains is of course a very short one, and the little books only relate to certain districts, the green book giving the trains from Liverpool to Manchester, from Manchester to Littleborough and back, from York to Leeds and Selby and back, from Preston to Liverpool and Manchester and back, and from Manchester to Bolton and back, together with the fares and hackney coach fares from Lime Street Station, Liverpool, and various places in the city.
The second book gives the fares from London to Birmingham and back, from London to Twyford and back, from Birmingham to Liverpool and Manchester and back, from Liverpool to Manchester and back, and from Newcastle to Carlisle, and also, in a very much abbreviated form, the trains for Birmingham and Derby, Manchester and Leeds, Manchester, Bolton and Bury, Nottingham and Derby, Sheffield and Rotherham, London and Twyford. In addition to this, we have, in the second book, the hackney coach fares from Euston Station to various places in London, divided into two groups, either for a coach or for a cab, in the same sort of table as for the various distances in Liverpool.
A little later, a volume was issued which contained the railways from London to Brighton, but the very idea of travelling with a season ticket seemed to be inconceivable, for after announcing that only first-class trains stopped at first-class stations, a phrase which is not very easy to understand, and then having described the trains as containing their best carriages ” glass coaches,” it went on to state that an annual subscription ticket from London to Brighton and back would cost one hundred pounds ! ”
It is sometimes difficult for us to understand that so short a time has elapsed since the first railways were introduced into England. Very rapid progress has been made in all matters connected with them, yet, in the midst of all this, there occur well-defined rules which were laid down at first, and have not been altered to the least extent.
George Bradshaw continued to issue his guide up to the time of his death, and was the founder of the firm which is still responsible for this very useful book. He himself, having taken great interest in Peace Conferences, attending various important meetings in Frankfort, and various places abroad, began to lend a helping hand to the ocean penny postage movement, and was present at a Conference held in its support in Manchester, in 1853.
He was at that time keenly interested in Continental Bradshaws, which seemed to him to offer a wider sphere of circulation than the English one, and, anxious to gather up information himself on the spot concerning the Continental rail- ways, went off to Norway, about the railways of which country little was known at that time. Cholera was raging in Christiania, and three days after Bradshaw’s arrival in that place, he died from this fatal malady, when he was but fifty-three years of age but his name will probably endure till the last train has finished running.