FOCUSING on Earlestown as usual, my first call is upon the Victoria County History, written in 1901, which tells us “Earlestown has the less pleasant surroundings of bare open country and few trees.

“The open country consists of arable fields and pasture land, the former yielding crops of potatoes and corn, with occasional turnip fields.

“In the west there are still a few patches of mossland, gradually becoming invaded by factories and railways.”

It is literally Earle’s Town, named after Sir Hardman Earle.

He was born in 1792 and was one of the original promoters of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. He joined the board in 1828, and was present at the opening of the line on September 15, 1830. He was also one of the original promoters and directors of the Grand Junction Railway, when that joined the Manchester and Liverpool and further amalgamated with the London and Birmingham, as the London and North Western Railway.

He was elected to sit on the LNWR board. In July 1831, the Warrington and Newton railway was opened. A station was built at the junction of the two railways, and was given the name Newton Junction, the world’s first railway junction. In 1837, the name of the station was changed to Earlestown.

Locomotive manufacturer, Jones Turner & Evans, later Jones & Potts, opened in 1837 with subcontracts from Robert Stephenson and others. They even provided locomotives for the Great Western Railway and exported to Austria (imagine locos sailing along the Danube on barges). However, business tailed off and the company closed down in 1852.

The works were leased by the London and North Western Railway, who then bought it outright in 1860, forming the nucleus of the railway works.

The LNWR had decided in 1853 that their Edge Hill works would concentrate on locomotive building and repairs. On March 1, 1853, the Chairman, Hardman Earle, signed the Viaduct lease from Messrs Jones and Potts for the London and North Western Railway. In 1860, the foundry was purchased outright for £15,000.

As the foundry expanded, the company built houses to accommodate the influx of workers. A large number of men were transferred from Salford for employment in the works. The well-worn streets were named after LNWR directors – Lawrence, Booth, Chandos and Rathbone streets among them. Another who left his mark was J. Watson Emmett, for 36 years the Viaduct superintendent. He then lived at what was Earle Cottage at the top of what is still known as Emmett’s Brow.

By 1900 it was producing 4,000 new wagons, with 13,000 major repairs, along with 200 new horse drawn vehicles. The works provided all of the railway’s needs for ironwork, and continued into the first half of the 20th century. At the 1963 rationalisation of British Railways, Earlestown was closed, and the work transferred to Horwich. There were railway lines from the railway station to the collieries in Haydock and to Newton Racecourse. There were lines down to the canal. They have all gone.

The Sankey Viaduct is a magnificent feat of civil engineering, and is the only Grade One listed building in the borough. It consists of nine arches and was built to carry the Liverpool and Manchester railway over the valley of the Sankey. Each arch has a 50 foot span, and varies from 60 to 70 feet in height. The piling for the foundation of the piers consists of about 200 piles of 20 feet to 30 feet in length.

The border between Merseyside and Cheshire goes under one of the arches, as did England’s first canal of the ‘canal age’.

It was opened in 1757, and financed by Liverpool merchants to bring coal to Liverpool and the Cheshire salt fields.