The Start of the Railway Era



L & M

The 24th May 1824 does not appear in many history books, but a meeting held on this day was to have far reaching consequences for travel, not only in England but also throughout the world. The meeting was held between a group of influential businessmen who were subsequently to raise £333,000 to promote an Act through Parliament for the construction of a railway line. Of the 3,000 share certificates issued No. 2653 was held by a Charles Tayleur, of whom we shall discover more as our story progresses. Finally in 1826, after much opposition, the Act was passed through Parliament and construction of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway commenced.

After three years’ hard work the line was nearing completion, and the Company had yet to decide how the freight trucks (for they did not envisage passenger traffic) were to be drawn. On April 25th, 1829 the Company advertised that trials would be held to find the most suitable means of hauling the trucks on the line. The competition was to become known as the famous Rainhill Trials, which were convincingly won by George Stevenson’s locomotive the Rocket.

During 1830 George IV died and was succeeded by William IV, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened and the previously mentioned, Charles Tayleur established his engineering and locomotive works at Newton-le-Willows, in the North West of England. When it was built the works covered an area of 1,600 square yards (1350m 2 ) and the plant and yard covered three and one half acres (1.4 hectares).

Charles Tayleur

The Tayleurs were an old Shropshire family and a deed, dated 1271, relates to ‘Galfred le Tayleur and Agatha his wife’, who were holding the manor of Longdon-upon-Tern. Longdon Grange was to remain the family home until the family moved to Rodington Hall in 1640.

Charles Tayleur was born in 1785 and his father, William of Rodington, purchased Buntingsdale Hall near Market Drayton. The Tayleur family were extremely rich; Charles’s father owned about ten thousand acres of land (four thousand hectares) including Upton Castle, Pembrokeshire, and it is known that he settled the sum of £100,000 on each of his younger grandchildren alone. Charles spent his early days at Buntingsdale and was the youngest of three brothers, after he received his patrimony of £10,000 he left home to seek his fortune. After his marriage to Jane Hill, the daughter of a Liverpool merchant, they set up home in Liverpool.

Records show that Charles gambled some of his patrimony in Liverpool when he bought, at a bargain price, a much overdue ship which was laden with hides and tallow from the Argentine. The ship did eventually arrive, and Charles’s investment paid a handsome dividend. From this time on, the details of Charles’ various business ventures are none too clear although it is known that he was a merchant involved in importing and exporting, and was at various times a ship owner, a director of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company, and involved in the canal trade.

Baines’ Liverpool Directory of 1814 listed the home address of Charles Tayleur as 19 Rodney Street, Liverpool. This street was the home of many influential people ~ for example William Ewart Gladstone who was later to become Prime Minister, was born at 62 Rodney Street.

The business of Charles Tayleur and Company was shown as having a counting house in Wolstenholm Square, Liverpool. In 1818 Charles moved house to 61 Duke Street, Liverpool, and then in 1823 he moved to Parkfield Hall, Toxteth Park, which was among the best residences in Liverpool at the time. In 1824 Charles was listed as a ship owner, and in 1827 the Company title was changed to Tayleur and Son; the following year the business moved to 69 Seal Street, in Liverpool. In 1834 Baines’ Liverpool Directory recorded Charles’ sons for the first time and John Tayleur is shown as a merchant of Parkfield Cottage, Toxteth, and William Tayleur, was listed as a merchant of Bedford Square.

With the fortune that Charles made he bought estates in Leicestershire ~ at Charnwood, Hucclescote, Charnley and Donnington-le-Heath; all to the west of Leicester. He also bought estates in Devon ~ at Sandwell, Morleigh, Woodley, Place Captain, Hendham, Higher and Lower Preston, Harberton, Hazzard, Belsford, Babbercombe and St Mary Church in the Torquay and Totnes areas and he later lived at Hampton House, Babbacombe.

Robert Stephenson

In 1832, Robert Stephenson, who was the son of one of the famous railway pioneers, George Stephenson, joined Charles in partnership at the Vulcan Foundry. At this time Stephenson was managing his own locomotive works in Newcastle-upon-Tyne when he found himself unable to cope with the increasing demand for his locomotives. The increase in orders, coupled with the natural hazards of transporting locomotives across the Pennines or by Clipper ship around the coast of Scotland from the Tyne, justified Robert entering into partnership with Charles Tayleur.

Strict conditions were placed on Robert joining Charles by his other partners; finally at a meeting on 27 th June 1832 they resolved:

That the said Robert Stephenson shall be allowed to enter into and carry on business in co-operation with other persons upon the following conditions, viz;

1. That he shall bind himself to devote an equal share of his time and attention to the existing establishment at Newcastle.

2. And also pledge himself not to hold a larger interest in any other factory than he does in the Newcastle factory and to divide the orders which may be received for Locomotive Engines so that not less than one half of the engines shall be built at Newcastle.

3. That the firm at Liverpool shall be Charles Tayleur Junr. And Co or any other firm not embracing the name of ‘Stephenson’ so as to distinguish it entirely from the Newcastle House.

Over the next few years Robert maintained a close working relationship with the business at Newton-le-Willows but, as time progressed, the greater demands of his railway construction skills required his full attention and he ceased to be an active partner in the business; he finally parted with the company in 1836.


The first two locomotives to be built by the partnership were delivered, in 1833, to a Mr. Hargreaves, the General Manager of the Bolton and Leigh Railway in Lancashire. These were four wheeled engines of the Planet type, and were appropriately names Tayleur and Stephenson. In the same year they also built two engines, named Fire Fly and RedRover which were exported to America for the Camden and Woodbury Railroad.

Daniel Gooch

Daniel Gooch ~ later to become Sir Daniel, and an outstanding designer with the Great Western Railway as well as Chairman of the same company ~ began his distinguished career at Vulcan Works as an apprentice in January 1834. He recorded in his diaries………

On the 28th January 1834, I left home to go and work at the Vulcan Foundry, near Warrington in Lancashire, under Mr. Robert Stephenson. He and Mr. Tayleur of Liverpool had just built their works ~ indeed they were not quite finished ~ when I went there. The works were constructed chiefly for building locomotives. When I arrived at the Newton Junction late in the evening. I found Mr. Charles Tayleur, the Manager of the Vulcan Works, in the waiting room. I had a letter from Mr. Stephenson for him, and presented it with my great awe to him, as the arbitrator of my future. He, however, spoke in a kind, friendly way to me, and this did much to reassure me.

Daniel continued his entries by writing…..

The works were situated about a mile from the Moss; down a wretched dirty lane with ruts a foot deep. I had to be in the works not later than ten minutes past six in the morning, and a dreadful walk it was in the dark when I first went there.

Joseph Ruston

The history of the Vulcan Foundry is necessarily entwined with many other organisations. Names such as Ruston, Dick Kerr, Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn, Willans and Robinson, and English Electric will appear throughout this account. We will start by introducing the name of Ruston…..

In February 1835, on the threshold of the Industrial Revolution, Joseph Ruston was born at Chatteris in Cambridgeshire. He grew up on his father’s farm where he developed an interest in its machinery and future potential for improvement.

In 1857, also the time of the Indian Mutiny, Joseph went into partnership with Burton and Proctor, a Lincoln firm of millwrights and smiths, to form a new company called Ruston, Burton and Proctor. By 1860 the new company had won prizes for their threshing machines and traction engines as far as field as Gothenburg and St Petersburg.



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