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West Leeds nostalgia: How rail transformed little village of Bramley

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FULL STEAM: In the first of two special features, local historian Denis Angood charts the rise of Bramley Railway Station and how the town it served prospered as a result...

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Bramley began life as Bram’s Lea, a small settlement to the West of Leeds and was included in the Domesday Book.

The history of the village is well documented in other publications, so I will concentrate on the railway, its coming, its prosperity, its demise and its resurrection.

The railway was first muted in 1846 by businessmen who wanted better links from the West Riding to both coasts. The wool merchants looked to the west and east for both supply and export and although the Calder Valley line already existed it was a long way round.

Eventually the Leeds Bradford and Halifax Junction Railway received permission from Parliament to construct the line. It was built from Leeds Wellington Station and after Holbeck Station bore left at Wortley Junction and ran nearly parallel to Tong Road before underpassing the same just before Armley Moor Station.

Leaving Armley Moor it underpassed Whingate and followed the contours round Greenhill under Heights Lane and over Henconner Lane. Now it bridges the Stanningley bypass before going under Hough End Lane and Warrington’s farm bridge and into Bramley Station, bridging Swinnow Road.

On over Swinnow Lane through a cutting into Stanningley and over the viaduct and onto Laisterdyke then Dudley Hill and Bowling Junction where it joined the lines of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. The line followed contours and used cuttings and embankments to keep it as level as possible, Bramley Station is half embankment, as can be seen from south of the station.

The line from Leeds was a steady up gradient all the way to Laisterdyke, and on frequent occasions during the early life of the railway, engines used to run out of water.

The station was built on Gothic lines as were the stations at Armley and Stanningley, pictures of which show a striking resemblance. Level access was provided from the top of Swinnow Road just below its junction with Stanningley Road and this still remains the same with some alteration.

There was a large wooden gate that was locked when the station was closed, as was the gate at the pedestrian entrance on Swinnow Road just above the bridge.

From the level area entry to the station proper was through a gate onto the ‘up’ platform, upon which all the buildings to do with the running of the station were sited.

These consisted of, immediately to the right of the gate, a large house type building which on the ground floor consisted of the waiting room and ticket office. The waiting room was sparsely furnished with wooden benches along two walls, the other two walls consisted of the ticket office window and door, and the other housed a large fireplace in which the fire burned ceaselessly.

The upper floor provided living quarters for the station master though access to those were up a staircase to the rear of the building. The rest of the buildings consisted of a ladies waiting room, a tool store, gentlemen’s convenience and staff room.

In order to reach the ‘down’ platform one had to cross by a footbridge that spanned the lines at the eastern end of the platforms, the only building on this platform being a small shelter.

So it was on the August 1, 1854 the first train, presumably with all due pomp and ceremony, left Stanningley Station 30 minutes late (so setting the precedence for late running) and arrived in Leeds 50 minutes late, much to the consternation of the wool merchants aboard who were late for the market.

At the time of opening there were very little signs of habitation in the immediate area, save for a few dwellings on Back Lane (Elder Road later) and the top of Swinnow Road.

Industry comprised of the cottage workers around Town Street and Elmfield, Victoria, Priestley and Westfield Mills, along with numerous quarries.

The railway contributed to the expansion of industry as other mills were built and as well as serving the traders it also carried passengers from as far as Pudsey and Farnley. The map of 1860 shows the sparsity of buildings in the area of the station.

Fast forward to 1893 and we see a remarkable change, the development of dwellings mushroom in the vicinity spreading North and East.

Bramley Station itself expanded with the construction of buildings to facilitate the movement of goods.

The railway goods wagons being designed to match the height of the carts being pulled by horses and the docks were built to the same level (the width of the railway and the width of carts going back to Roman times).

A crane was installed, worked by a windlass, to aid the handling of heavy and bulky goods.

Mills and other works began to flourish as entrepreneurs looked at siting their businesses in the area.

The map of 1893 shows the diversity that has been introduced into the area with worsted and woollen mills, boot and shoe, tanneries, organ works and fruit preserving amongst the industries.

Housing, consisting of mainly back-to-back with shared outside lavatories were built either side of Stanningley road to the East of the station.

These being the Baths and the Bramleys and the those that fronted onto Stanningley Road being built as shops which provided for the needs of the budding population.

Like most of the factories they have been demolished in the name of progress (covers a multitude of sins does progress) or as it was called slum clearance but they were good homes to many people.

The railway company, Leeds Bradford and Halifax Junction was taken over by the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway which in turn became part of the GNR and the line to Pudsey was established making a loop from Bramley to Tyersal/Laisterdyke.

The companies provided nearly seventy trains per day through Bramley offering passengers a great service.

Approximately half of those going round the loop to service the two Pudsey stations.

The embankment was extended southwards along with two new bridges to provide for doubling the track as the freight traffic grew.

Private sidings were also laid into Victoria Mills and to the Railway Foundry which would eventually become Turner Tanning Machines Ltd.

Doubling of the track meant more trains were able to be accommodated therefore more freight traffic as well as keeping up the passenger flow.

The turn of the century brought competition to the railway in the form of of the tramway which was laid along Stanningley Road and began providing a service to Stanningley and Leeds. The tramway offered the passenger more flexibility and more accessibility to closer areas so some passenger traffic was inevitably lost.

Next week, Denis looks at the decline of the rail line.

 

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