Chester and Holyhead Railway Notice to Treat 1846
A notice to treat was an early form of compulsory purchase order.
The Chester and Holyhead Railway was designed for speed, providing the fastest route from London to Dublin. With links to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester it also played an important role in developing travel and tourism from the nineteenth century industrial towns and cities.
For many years the government had been trying to improve communication and travel between London & Dublin. With the coming of the railway, the race was on to find the fastest possible route and domination of the lucrative Irish Mail service.
As early as 1838 the Chester & Holyhead Railway Company were drumming up support for their line. At Chester the new railway would join already established lines to Crewe, Birmingham and to London Euston. Seeing the potential for the Irish Mail service, the London & Birmingham Railway became a major shareholder in this new company.
The Chester & Holyhead Railway appointed George Stephenson to survey the route and draw up plans for the new line. His route was designed for speed; taking the railway west from Chester along the North Wales coast he was able to plan wide curves and long, straight sections of line that avoided the hills of Snowdonia and therefore any steep gradients. The company was authorised to build its railway between Chester and Holyhead in July 1844. They appointed Robert Stephenson, George’s son, the chief engineer for the 84 miles of railway.
The line itself would require major engineering works, not least in crossing the River Conwy and the Menai Straits. Robert Stephenson’s tubular bridge at Conwy was a design and construction prototype for the much larger tubular bridge he planned for crossing the Menai Straits at Bangor. At Conwy the bridge’s portals were designed to blend in with the ruins of the medieval castle while the towers of the Britannia Bridge at Bangor have an Egyptian style. The Penmaenmawr tunnel incorporated an avalanche shelter to protect it from falling rocks form the headland. The Penmaenmawr viaduct was Robert Stephenson’s alternative to a sea wall.
The Chester & Holyhead Railway opened between Chester and Bangor on 1 May 1848 and from Llanfair PG to Holyhead on 1 August 1848. The company ran a coach link between Bangor & Llanfair using Thomas Telford’s road bridge as the Britannia Bridge was being built. When the bridge was opened in March 1850 the line was complete.
The London & North Western Railway, which ran trains on the line from the beginning, bought the company in 1859. It quickly established new branch lines in order to take advantage of links to the slate mines in North Wales as well as tourism to the coastal towns.
History Time Line
The Chester & Holyhead railway is authorised to build its line.
March: work begins on constructing the line.
November: the first 2 miles of the line from Chester to Saltney Junction opens. Robert Stephenson’s Dee Bridge at Chester collapses.
The line from Chester to Bangor (including the Conwy Bridge) and from Llanfair PG to Holyhead is opened. Trains are operated by the London & North Western Railway. Chester station is opened jointly by the Chester & Holyhead, London & North Western, Shrewsbury & Chester and Birkenhead railway companies.
Conwy Bridge is opened, the prototype for the larger Britannia Bridge.
March: The Britannia Bridge is opened, completing the line and allowing through traffic from Chester to Holyhead.
The Company leases the Bangor & Carnarvon Railway.
The St Georges Harbour and Railway company opens a branch from Llandudno Junction to Llandudno
The Chester & Holyhead Railway is taken over by the London & North Western Railway.