Notes: By 1830 Leeds had long been an important town, having become prosperous initially through the manufacture of woollen cloth. The Leeds & Liverpool Canal was complete and the Aire & Calder Navigation connected Leeds to the Ouse, and thus to the North Sea and beyond. Selby had grown in importance as a port since the construction of the Selby Canal and had become an important inland east coast port for coastal and foreign trade. As early as 1814 the Leeds Mercury had printed letters promoting the idea of a railway from Leeds to Selby.
The Leeds & Hull Railroad Company was formed in 1824 in Leeds, and George Stephenson was appointed as engineer. Nothing came of the scheme owing to the stock market crash of 1825. The scheme was revived in 1828 when the shareholders agreed that the railway should be built as far as Selby with the remainder of the journey to Hull being made by steam packet. The shareholders passed the proposal at a general meeting in Leeds on 20 March 1829, and the Leeds and Selby Railway Company was formed.
Construction of the first two miles out of Leeds started on 1 October 1830. By 22 September 1834 a single complete line of track had been built, and the railway was officially opened. After the station at Marsh Lane in Leeds there were stations at Cross Gates, Garforth, Micklefield, Milford, and Hambleton. Both lines of track were complete by 15 December 1834, on which date the railway began to take goods traffic.
Although Cross Gates is listed as opening with the line it is uncertain whether it did actually open at that time as it did not appear in company timetables until 1835 or in Bradshaw until 1840. On 29 May 1839 the first section of George Hudson's York & North Midland Railway opened. It ran from York to a point just to the east of Milford station where a short chord connected it to the Leeds & Selby Railway. The line was extended southwards to Burton Salmon by 11 May 1840; and that line connected by another short chord to the junction with the Leeds & Selby on 9 November 1840. The Leeds & Selby Railway offered a direct route into Leeds from the east. George Hudson had his own route into Leeds (through Castleford via Whitwood and Methey Junctions) accessed via a working arrangement with the North Midland Railway. The Leeds & Selby had the potential to offer opportunities to rival companies, as well as a competing route to Hudson's.
On 9 November 1840 George Hudson arranged a lease of the Leeds & Selby for £17,000 a year. Hudson's first act was to close the line to passengers west of Milford (which included the stations at Cross Gates, Garforth, Micklefield); despite his line being 4 miles longer passengers now had no choice but to use it. In 1848 the line west of Milford was closed to freight as well; Marsh Lane station in Leeds was at that time still a terminus, and so useless for through traffic to Manchester and beyond. Passenger services were reinstated in 1850, but freight continued to run to Leeds via Castleford and not Marsh Lane.
Before the coming of the railway, Cross Gates was a small village on the eastern outskirts of Leeds. Despite its shaky start and ten years of closure, the railway would eventually transform Cross Gates from a pit village into a commuter suburb. In 1841 there were only 15 separate trades listed for village residents, and most of them related to mining industry or work on the local farms. By 1871 the population had nearly trebled to 749, whilst the number of different occupations had risen to 67.
The original station was in a cutting and comprised two facing platforms that ran under the road bridge. The main station buildings were on the down side and comprised a single-storey range of brick buildings with a hipped slate roof and tall chimneys. These buildings also extended under the bridge. The up platform had waiting rooms at the east, and the two platforms were connected by a footbridge to the east of the road. There was a signal box at the east end of the down platform; this controlled the junction with the Wetherby line (North Junction) and access to the goods yard. Although the yard was quite large it had only a pair of parallel sidings, one of which served a dock. There was also a saw mill in the yard. The yard was at street level behind the down platform with its entrance on Station Road.
Cross Gates became a junction station on 1 May 1876 with the opening of the Leeds to Wetherby line, which ran from a junction just east of Cross Gates station. A new station at Cross Gates was authorised on 11 February 1870 at a cost of £807, but it was not built until the line between Neville Hill and Cross Gates was quadrupled in 1902. At this time, the station was completely rebuilt and re-sited slightly to the east. The new station possessed two wide facing, but slightly staggered, platforms, with two fast lines running between them. The booking office, a rectangular brick building with a hipped slate roof, was on the bridge on the down side from where two long ramps ran down to the platform. Halfway down the ramps were landings linked by a lattice bridge. Both platforms had pitched canopies supported on cast iron columns. The usual offices, waiting rooms and toilets were located below the canopies with four rooms on the up platform and six on the down. Existing station cottages on the west side of Station Road were demolished and replaced with a new terrace of cottages to the south of the station. The ’Station Hotel’ in Station Road was opened.
A new signal box was provided on the up side between the station and the Wetherby line junction which was now called East Junction. The 1904 Handbook of Stations lists only limited goods facilities - general goods, parcels and livestock and no crane - so it is a fair assumption that the yard remained unchanged at this time. However the 1908 Ordnance Survey map shows considerable expansion. Although the yard took up the same area it now comprised the original two sidings and dock on the north side of the yard. Another siding ran past a second dock, with a 2-ton capacity crane standing on it, and through a large brick goods shed behind the down platform but at a much higher level. There were a further three sidings between this and the original sidings. In 1914 private sidings were laid into the new Royal Ordnance Factory at Barnbow, just east of the junction with the Wetherby Line. From 1915 until 1924 a halt for workers at this factory was provided about 1½ miles east of Cross Gates station.
The new Cross Gates station instilled pride in local residents and made a good impression on visitors. They could admire the attractive gardens, hanging baskets and tidy platforms which ensured that the station won a number of prizes. At this time about 80 trains a day stopped at Cross Gates providing a frequent service to Leeds, and enabling Cross Gates to become a much sought-after place of residence. The station was the common thread of local history providing the means for a pit village that grew around the original wayside halt in 1834, to develop into a desirable commuter suburb by the early twentieth century.
In 1911 the station had a catchment area with a population of 6.403. 138,421 tickets were sold that year, and the main freight handled was iron ore, with 269 tons being dispatched, but only 6 wagons of livestock were loaded at the station.
Cross Gates was initially considered for the joint LNER-LMS locomotive testing station, before Rugby was chosen. Under British Railways (North Eastern Region) management the station received totem name signs, probably before 1957, but gas lighting and the LNER running-in nameboards were retained. Cross Gates ceased to be a junction with the complete closure of the Wetherby line from 27 April 1964, the passenger service having been withdrawn on 6 January. Goods services from Cross Gates were withdrawn shortly afterwards, on 1 June 1964. The Arndale Shopping Centre, which opened in 1968, is now located on the site of the goods yard.
The fast lines were taken out of use and lifted, probably in the late 1960s. The down platform canopy was demolished c1970; its replacement was a small brick building with a narrow canopy. The up platform buildings survived longer but eventually all buildings and canopies were cleared away and replaced with ‘bus’ shelters. By July 1972 gas lamps had been replaced with electric lighting. The first generation of bus shelters has given way to more modern bus shelters in recent years. In the 1990s proposals were put forward to reopen the southern end of the Wetherby line as a single track to the A64 York Road at Scholes where a new park-and-ride station would be built. A new island platform was to be provided in the centre road at Cross Gates but nothing ever came of this scheme. In June 2006 Cross Gates won the award for 'Best Kept Railway Station' in Yorkshire, major strides in its refurbishment having been made. The footbridge, which had been blocked off for many years, was demolished in August 2008. Today only the street level building survives.
In the past sign-writers have been unsure of the correct spelling of Cross Gates, with ‘Cross Gates’ on the westbound platform and 'Crossgates' on one sign on the eastbound platform, and tickets have given both forms of the name. This confusion is historic: it is also spelt as either one word or two in early records and sometimes without ‘s’ at the end of 'gate'. Nowadays only the 'Cross Gates' spelling is used.
Today most services through Cross Gates are operated by Northern Rail. From Monday to Saturday the daytime service is half-hourly to Leeds, with most services going beyond to Bradford Interchange and onwards to Blackpool North or Huddersfield. In evenings and on Sundays the service is hourly only, and it travels to Blackpool North. Eastbound, there are hourly services both to York and Selby during the day on Monday to Saturday. Evening and Sunday services run hourly to York. In addition to these, First TransPennine Express also runs one service in each direction on weekdays to Manchester Airport via Huddersfield, and to Middlesbrough.
With the country in the grip of 'railway mania' in the 1840s Harrogate was an obvious target for railway entrepreneurs who were eager to cash in on the town’s popularity, with its wealthy clientele able to pay high fares. In Harrogate local townsfolk and businesses initially opposed the railway, fearing that an influx of people from Leeds and Bradford would lower the tone of the area; but this opposition was overcome. It was going to be a race to see who would be first to reach the town.
Additional sources: Wikipedia - some text copied under creative commons licence. Cross Gates - from Pit village to Commuter Suburb from East Leeds History & Archaeology Society web site.
Click here for s short video of Tornado passing thorough Cross Gates on 19 February 2009
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHURCH FENTON - HARROGATE RAILWAY & THE CROSS GATES TO WETHERBY RAILWAY
Notes: Harrogate was known as 'The English Spa' in the Georgian era, after its mineral-rich waters were discovered in the sixteenth century. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the chalybeate waters (containing iron) were a popular health treatment, and the influx of wealthy, but sickly, visitors contributed significantly to the wealth of the town.
The Great North of England Railway (GNER) made the first proposal. Having opened their main line between York and Darlington in 1841 they proposed a branch from Pilmoor, 16 miles north of York, to Harrogate via Boroughbridge and Ripon.
The York & North Midland Railway (Y&NMR) opened in 1839, connecting York with the Leeds & Selby Railway and, in 1840, with the North Midland Railway at Normanton near Leeds. The line was largely financed by ‘Railway King’ George Hudson who invested a substantial inheritance in the North Midland, becoming a director. He then took an active part in the promotion of the route and commissioned George Stephenson to construct the line. Having completed the York line, George Hudson then turned his attention to Harrogate, proposing a branch to the town from a junction with the Y & NM at Church Fenton, ten miles south of York.
The final player was the Leeds & Thirsk Railway (L &TR) who had an ambitious scheme for a new main line linking the industrial regions around Leeds with the north-east. George Hudson had an interest in this scheme as well.
George Hudson was clearly keen to increase the size of his empire, and by 1845 he had taken a lease on the GNER, and he immediately withdrew the Pilmoor - Harrogate proposal to leave the way clear for the two other routes.
The Y&NMR obtained their Act for the Church Fenton - Harrogate line in 1845, and the eighteen-mile route was staked out in September of that year. It was opened in two stages, with the first 13-mile section between Church Fenton and a temporary terminus at Spofforth opening on 10 August 1847. There were intermediate stations at Stutton, Tadcaster, Newton Kyme, Thorp Arch and Wetherby, with passengers being conveyed the last five miles into Harrogate by horse-drawn omnibus. The only engineering feature of note was a two-span iron girder bridge over the River Wharfe between Newton Kyme and Thorp Arch.
The shorter five-mile section between Spofforth and Harrogate took a further year to complete owing to much more difficult terrain, with a gradient of 1 in 36 taking the line up to the unusually narrow 825yd Prospect Tunnel in which trains were not permitted to pass; then 300yd from the tunnel portal, the line crossed the 624yd, 31-arch, Crimple Viaduct which towered 110ft above the valley floor at its highest point. Beyond the viaduct the line went through the 400yd Brunswick Tunnel before entering the terminus at Harrogate Brunswick. (This was the official name of the station, although in timetables it was shown only as Harrogate). The extension to Harrogate opened, without prior announcement or ceremony, on 20 July 1848.
The initial service was five trains per day in each direction with no trains on Sunday. Within two years this had been reduced to three trains each day, probably owing to the opening of the Leeds & Thirsk Railway just five weeks later on 1 September 1848; their station was 1¾ miles to the east at Starbeck. When completed in July 1849, this line provided a more direct route to Leeds without the need to change at Church Fenton. The L&TR had planned to extend their line into Harrogate, but this had to be shelved because of the higher than expected cost of completing their line between Leeds and Starbeck.
In an attempt to prevent competitors from encroaching on its territory, a direct Leeds to York railway was promoted by George Hudson through the Y&NMR. The construction of the line was authorised in 1846 and was to run from Copmanthorpe on the outskirts of York to Cross Gates, several miles east of Leeds, joining the Church Fenton to Harrogate line between Tadcaster and Stutton.
In 1849 George Hudson was forced to resign as chairman of the York & North Midland Railway following his involvement in dubious business activities. The collapse of railway investment in 1849 resulted in the abandonment of the project, but a ten-arch stone viaduct over the River Wharfe at Tadcaster had already been constructed. The need for the line evaporated with the opening of the Micklethorpe to Church Fenton line in 1869 although the viaduct did eventually see rail traffic in the form of a siding serving a flour mill on the east side of the river. The siding closed in 1955. The viaduct is Grade II listed and is owned by Tadcaster Town Council; it now carries a public footpath and cycleway.
The L&TR was renamed the Leeds Northern Railway in 1851, and it was joined by the East and West Yorkshire Junction Railway from York at Knaresborough, east of Harrogate. In 1854 the York & North Midland Railway amalgamated with the Leeds Northern Railway and the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway to form the North Eastern Railway (NER) which brought control of all the railways in the region under one company. The fledgling NER was quick to improve the railway layout around Harrogate.
The NER built a spur from the former L&TR line at Pannal to join the Y & NMR line west of Prospect Tunnel. Just short of Brunswick Tunnel another new line was built to join the line from Starbeck enabling trains to run into a new central station which opened on 1 August 1862. Brunswick station was closed; initially it was retained for goods traffic, but this was short-lived. By 1880 the service between Harrogate and Church Fenton was restored to five trains per day.
The North Eastern Railway soon had plans for other new lines in the region. One of the most ambitious was for a direct route between Leeds and Scarborough by-passing York. For much of its route it would utilise existing lines, but it included new construction from Cross Gates to a junction with the Church Fenton - Harrogate line at Wetherby. On 5 May 1866 The York Herald reported that the Leeds - Wetherby Railway Bill had been put before the Select Committee of the House of Commons for a single line to run from the Leeds and Selby branch, near Cross Gates, to the Church Fenton and Harrogate Branch at Wetherby - a length of 10 miles 66 chains. New capital to be raised was £210,000, with borrowing power of £70,000. The work was to be completed in five years, under penalty. Tenders for the project were invited in November 1871 and seven firms responded with bids.
The Leeds to Scarborough line was eventually abandoned owing to the economic downturn, although some sections were completed including the Cross Gates - Wetherby line which opened on 1 May 1876 with intermediate stations at Scholes, Thorner, Bardsey and Collingham Bridge. The junction at Wetherby faced Church Fenton so it was not possible to run trains into Harrogate. This was rectified in 1901 when the line was doubled and a new curve facing Harrogate was built at Wetherby.
Cross Gates - Harrogate now became an important alternative route to the L&TR which was used increasingly by goods traffic and by the recently introduced Liverpool to Newcastle passenger expresses, which we now able to avoid a reversal at Leeds. As this route by-passed Wetherby station, which was sited to the east of the town, a new Wetherby station opened on 1 July 1902 at the south end of the new triangular junction, with the old station being retained for goods.
In 1902 the Great Northern Railway started running express services from Kings Cross to Harrogate via the Church Fenton to Harrogate line, with three daily trains in each direction. These continued after the grouping in 1923 and included the prestigious 'Harrogate Pullman'. Although the Cross Gates to Harrogate line was always considered the major route, the August 1906 timetable shows a good service on both lines with a mixture of stopping and express services. Express trains from London over the Church Fenton - Wetherby line had stopped running by 1947.
Wetherby racecourse opened in 1891, and an untimetabed station was opened c1924 to serve it. This was last used on 18 May 1959, but racecourse specials continued to run to Wetherby station from Bradford Exchange on race days until 1963. A new station called Penda's Way, between Scholes and Cross Gates, was opened on 5 June 1939 to serve the growing residential development in that area.
centres of population, possessing a reliable water supply, good rail links and proximity to the A1 trunk road. Workers were brought in from Leeds, Selby, York and all surrounding areas. 10,000 people, mainly women, were employed there at the height of production, and it is believed to have had 619 buildings. In World War II it produced light and medium gun ammunition, heavy ammunition, mines and trench mortar ammunition for the Army; medium and large bombs for the RAF; and 20mm and other small arms ammunition for all three services.
It was linked to the London & North Eastern Railway, which was used in its construction, for supplying raw materials and for transporting away filled munitions. The factory was served by a 6½-mile single-track circular railway with four platforms for munitions workers: these were named River, Ranges, Roman Road and Walton. Special workmen's trains ran from Leeds and Bradford Exchange and from as far afield as Hull and Doncaster on Monday to Saturday calling at the four halts. The last passenger traffic was in 1957 when the five unadvertised trains were withdrawn.
ROF Thorpe Arch closed twice: once after World War II and then finally after the Korean War in April 1958. Once production had halted, the site was gradually de-contaminated. In the early 1960s George Moore, a local businessman, bought most of the site and the development of the area as a trading estate began. The estate was later owned by Thorp Arch Limited Partnership, but is now known as Thorp Arch Estate and is owned by the trustees of Hanover Property Unit Trust. It comprises an area of over 100 businesses, including the Thorp Arch Retail Park. The most notable addition to the estate is the Northern Reading Room, Northern Listening Service and Document Supply Centre of the British Library, occupying what was the locomotive shed and engineering department. Another part is a prison, originally HMP Thorp Arch, now HMP Wealstun.
Whereas the route between Cross Gates and Harrogate maintained a reasonably frequent weekday service the train frequency via Tadcaster was drastically reduced after WWII. The winter 1937-8 LNER timetable showed 7 trains from Church Fenton to Leeds via Tadcaster on Monday to Friday in each direction, whilst there were twice as many between Leeds, Wetherby and Harrogate. No trains ran on Sunday. The first British Railways (North Eastern Region) timetable of summer 1948 had only three Monday-Friday trains via Tadcaster, but five on Saturday. In summer 1950 only three trains to Leeds and two to Church Fenton were shown. By 1961 there was only one local morning train between Church Fenton and Leeds via Wetherby, and another, also in the morning, from Leeds to Tadcaster, which ran only as far as Thorp Arch on Saturday. No passenger service was shown from Tadcaster to Church Fenton. By 1963 only the 7.44 am departure from Church Fenton to Leeds was shown in the public timetable, the train actually having run from Leeds via Garforth. It is likely that its principal role was to carry parcels. In 1961 there were four trains between Harrogate and Leeds in each direction, with two additional trains between Wetherby and Leeds and one in the opposite direction. Long distance traffic between Leeds and Newcastle had continued to use the line, but this ended with the completion of the quadrupling of the East Coast main line in 1959. The earlier twenty freight trains between Harrogate and Wetherby (in each direction) had fallen to five by 1960.
In 1961 the recently introduced diesel service between Liverpool and Newcastle was switched from the Arthington route bringing new traffic to the Wetherby line. Although this route was slower it avoided a reversal at Leeds. This renewed importance could not however save the lines. At the time of the Beeching enquiry, there was a maximum of eight passengers on the one train a day between Church Fenton and Leeds via Wetherby, with no regular passengers. There were a few more passengers on the Leeds to Wetherby route but competition from an improving bus service
eventually made passenger numbers unsustainable despite the increase in the number of commuters living in Wetherby. Stations had received minimal investment since Nationalisation, amounting to little more than painting the nameboards in BR(NE) tangerine and installing totem name signs at Wetherby.
Given that all stations were manned, together with sixteen signal boxes and three manually
A notable headline at the time read 'First lamb to the Beeching slaughter', cheerfully further stating 'No regular passengers object at inquiry’, which was the case, but only for the Wetherby - Church Fenton line. It was also inaccurate in that the Newcastle – Washington service, earmarked by Beeching, had closed the previous September! A decision was reached on 24 October 1963, the inquiry having taken just three months, with both lines closing to passengers from 6 January 1964. The original Wetherby station remained open for goods traffic until 4 April 1966. The only section of the original route to remain open is the short section of line from the Crimple Viaduct (where the spur from Pannal joined the Church Fenton route to the junction with the line to the former Brunswick terminus. This section is used today by the frequent Leeds – Harrogate – Knaresborough – York services. A new station called Hornbeam Park opened just south of this junction on 24 August 1992.
operated level crossings (requiring 35 staff in total), and the number of steep gradients requiring the use of banking engines, it is of little surprise that it was considered uneconomical. At Wetherby station alone, 14 staff were employed attending to the needs of only 30 passengers per day. The economics of the Wetherby lines were, in fact, worse than the cautionary examples given in Beeching's report. It had a yearly operating cost of £57,000 compared to receipts of £9,000, though some argue that the Wetherby to Leeds route could have been made profitable with some adjustments. Local freight now consisted largely of house coal, the use of which was declining.
In the late 1960s, it was evident that Wetherby was going to grow. In 1965 it was estimated that by 1981 the town's population would double to 12,000 and this estimate proved quite accurate. There were ambitious plans to relieve growing congestion through the town centre and on the A58 and A661 by converting the disused railways into relief roads. These suggestions never came to fruition. In Railways around Harrogate, Volume 3 (1998) Martin Bairstow presents a compelling case, headed ‘A lost commuter route?’ for the restoration of passenger services between Leeds and Wetherby. He also remarks that the dieselisation of the service in January 1959 could have increased the use of the trains, but without improved frequency of trains that some neighbouring lines enjoyed, there was really no incentive to use them.
The track was lifted in 1966. Some parts of the former railway tracks between Wetherby and Leeds have been used for housing development at Bardsey and Collingham Bridge. Sustrans National Cycle Network routes 66 and 67 use some of the remaining trackbed. This line is walkable from Cross Gates to a point south of Collingham where a landowner refuses access to a short section of the line. At Scholes muddy conditions are encountered, but this soon gives way to a grassy embankment with lots of sandstone bridges in situ. The most impressive stretch is just north of Thorner where the line passes through a very deep, narrow cutting with the Seacroft road soaring above on a high brick bridge. At Collingham the road bridge must be used to cross the Wharfe, but from the north bank a footpath follows the embankment, sandwiched between a golf course and the river, into Wetherby. A public footpath and cycleway follows the trackbed from the A1 (M) to Thorp Arch station and from Wetherby to Stofforth - this section of the path is known as Harland Way..
Tickets from Michael Stewart. Bradshaws from Chris Totty . Totem from Richard Furness.
Route map drawn by Alan Young.
Thanks to Martin Bairstow (author/publisher), Peter Tuffrey (author) and the Wetherby Historical Trust who supplied many of the photos used in this feature.
To see other stations on the Harrogate - Church Fenton line
click on the station name:
Harrogate Brunswick, Hornbeam Park, Crimple, Spofforth, Wetherby (1st site), Wetherby Racecourse, Thorp Arch, Newton Kyme, Tadcaster,
Stutton & Church Fenton
See also River Platform, Ranges Platform, Roman Road Platform &
Walton Platform on the ROF Thorp Arch Militery Railway.
Special feature: Royal Ordnance Factory 8 - Thorp Arch
To see stations on the Cross Gates - Wetherby line click on the station name: Penda's Way, Scholes, Thorner, Bardsey, Collingham Bridge
and Wetherby (2nd site)