by Brian Haworth

During the days of rapid expansion of the country’s railway system many planned lines got no further than their Prospectus. The Burnley, Clitheroe and Sabden Railway was one in particular which, had it been constructed and had the Fleetwood, Preston and West Riding Railway ever got beyond Longridge, would have had an impact on our own Ribble Valley Line to the extent that Clitheroe would have rivalled Blackburn as a railway centre.


The BC&SR was planned to branch from the L&Y’s North Lancashire Loop Line immediately after Martholme viaduct and pass down the valley of the River Calder towards Whalley joining the Ribble Valley Line at Barrow.


Its main purpose was for freight traffic, and below is reproduced the line’s prospectus.








The company has been incorporated for the purpose of constructing a railway from the North Lancashire Loop Line of the LYR at Read to the Blackburn and Hellifield line of the same company, between Whalley and Clitheroe, and a branch line from Read to the town of Sabden, which at present has no railway facilities whatsoever. The length of the through line, including a southern junction, or Blackburn fork with the loop line is nearly four miles, and the length of the Sabden branch is a little over two and a half miles, the total length of new railway to be constructed being six miles four furlongs and two chains.

The want of these railways has long been experienced by the public, and the accompanying map of the locality shows the great saving that will be effected over the extremely circuitous and inconvenient existing railway communication between Burnley and Clitheroe.

The through line will connect two of the most important railways of the LYR’s system, and will enable traffic to pass direct from one to the other without it first having to make, as at present, a long detour through the crowded station at Blackburn, involving changing of passengers and shunting and marshalling of goods and mineral trains with all the attendant delays, expense and inconvenience.

The proposed line will reduce the distance in the railway journey from Burnley, and places East thereof, to Clitheroe and the North by ten and a half miles, the new line from Burnley to Clitheroe being a little under eleven and a half miles, as against the present route of twenty two miles.

One result of this great shortening of distance will be to establish a new main route between the important manufacturing town of Burnley and its rich surrounding coalfield on the one hand, and the manufacturing town of Clitheroe with its adjacent extensive lime quarries and the increasingly important junction of Hellifield on the other hand.

It will be seen from the accompanying map, which is copied from the LYR companies public timetable, that the new line will form part of the shortest through route between the Eastern stations of that company and Scotland.

The Burnley coalfield is rapidly becoming one of the most important in the North of England. The present annual output is about 1,000,000 tons of coal and 150,000 tons of coke. On account of its geographical position this coalfield is of the utmost importance to the iron and steel manufacturing districts of Barrow In Furness, Westmoreland and Cumberland, and large quantities of both coal and coke are annually sent from the Burnley collieries to the works in these districts. Over 90,000 tons of coke alone are annually sent from Burnley to Barrow-in-Furness. The new through line is designed to accommodate this considerable traffic.

A heavy passenger traffic is assured by the density of the surrounding population, there being 300,000 inhabitants within a radius of six miles from the centre of the line. Further, this population is rapidly growing, and in Burnley it is estimated to have increased by 30% since the date of the last census.
To the North of Clitheroe there are inexhaustible supplies of limestone, which are extensively worked between Clitheroe and Chatburn, and from whence large quantities of lime and road materials are annually sent into the Burnley and Yorkshire districts.

There does already exist a large through traffic for which this line will be the shortest route in one of the busiest districts of Lancashire, the saving in distance being ten miles. This railway, which, providing as it does, increased facilities, must rapidly increase and greatly develop the present traffic.

The local traffic proper to the new main line will be of considerable value and capable of great expansion. The railway passes through and will open up to the inhabitants of Padiham and Burnley the picturesque district of Whalley Abbey and the Ribble and Sabden Valleys.

The local traffic proper to the new main line will be of considerable value and capable of great expansion.

continued in the next column . . . .

. . . . continued from the previous column

The railway passes through and will open up to the inhabitants of Padiham and Burnley the picturesque district of Whalley Abbey and the Ribble and Sabden Valleys.

During the summer season excursionists from all parts of Lancashire flock to Whalley and the district, not withstanding its present inaccessibility by railway from Burnley and East Lancashire. It may be safely estimated, therefore, that the new line, by placing Whalley and Pendle Hill and the surrounding district within easy reach of the manufacturers and workpeople of East Lancashire, will secure for itself a valuable residential and excursion passenger traffic.

Near to the commencement of the main line at Read there are large mills employing a number of workpeople. It is proposed to build a station at this point to accommodate the inhabitants of Read and the traffic of these mills, and to facilitate the interchange of traffic between the new line and the LYR. It is also proposed to construct a station at Whalley. This station will accommodate the inhabitants of Wiswell and Barrow.

At Barrow, there are very extensive Calico printing works, recently enlarged, from which there is an annual traffic inwards and outwards of over 25,000 tons. This is at present carted either from the existing Whalley station or from Burnley and district. The new line will give siding accommodation at these works, and thus secure this important local traffic.

The town of Sabden, at which the Sabden branch terminates, is four and a half miles from the present Whalley station The weight of goods and coal carted this distance during a year has been ascertained to be 13,853 tons for the mills at Sabden alone. This is exclusive of the wants of the population, agricultural and excursion traffic.

There are extensive stone quarries in the vincinity, and the place is noted for its excellent supply of water for calico printing and other manufacturing processes With railway facilities there can be no doubt that Sabden will develop into a still more important manufacturing centre.

An agreement of a very satisfactory character dated 10th June 1886, scheduled to and confirmed by the Act of Parliament, has been entered into with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company by which that company undertakes the working of the new lines at five and a half per cent of the gross receipts. By this agreement the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway are bound to work and use the line as if it were their own, to develop the traffic and to convey all traffic originating between Hellifield and Burnley and districts over the new line.

The company have express power under their special Act of Parliament to pay interest out of the capital during the four years authorised for the completion of the works, providing the aggregate amount so paid shall not exceed £15,000.

An agreement dated 1st December 1886 has been entered into with Mr George Barcley Bruce junior of 2 Westminster Chambers London contractor for the construction, completion and opening of the line within two years from the date thereof. This agreement also provides for the purchase of land and the payment of every liability of the company up to and including the final handing over of the line to the satisfaction of the LYR Company.

What is striking about the prospectus is that all the Directors were London-based. The prospectus is dated December 1886, well after the initial surge of “Railway Mania”, in fact eleven years after the completion of the Settle & Carlisle line but, unfortunately and for whatever reason, the line was never constructed, the RV Line missed out on additional traffic and the Burnley, Clitheroe and Sabden Railway became another line that never was.

Brian Haworth
Jan 2005




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By Brian Haworth

Alight from the train at Whalley and on leaving the station turn left and head for the centre of the village.

Make your way to the bus station, and at stand B catch the X1 Clitheroe/Manchester service, alighting from the bus nine minutes later at Harwood Bar.

Cross over Accrington Road and head right for a few yards until Mill Lane is reached.

Turn left into Mill Lane, and proceed down the hill for about a quarter of a mile. The golf course, which has been on our left since starting down Mill Lane, ends and almost immediately on the left is a footpath sign for Martholme Lane.

Take this inclined path and at the top of the slope you find yourself stood on the track bed of what was the former North Lancashire Loop Line.

This line, surveyed in December 1865 by Sturges Meek, who estimated that the cost from Blackburn to Padiham would be in the region of £200,000, was opened in 1877.

Thomas Stone and Sons were contracted to build the line under the direction of Chief Engineer, Mr. Bower.

Follow the well-made path along the raised embankment. There are several benches dotted along the path where one can admire some lovely views, to the left rolling countryside stretches away beyond the golf course towards the higher ground above Bowley and to the right the splendid view across the valley towards Read, Simonstone and Altham.

The railway section of the walk is in its entirety on a high raised embankment, which caused many problems during the railways construction slipping on numerous occasions. Most of the material used in constructing this embankment was excavated from the major cutting at Cunliffe further down the line towards Blackburn.

After about a mile of embankment walking we arrive at the fenced off Martholme Viaduct. Steps lead down the embankment on our left.

At the foot of the steps take some time to admire the ten arched stone viaduct (below), which is in excellent condition.

Problems were encountered during the construction of the viaduct when coal seams were discovered during foundation work. The original plan, which called for a wooden viaduct, was abandoned and the cost for building a stone viaduct and buying the coal deposits came to £18,000. (Incidentally the cost for the wooden structure was estimated at £11,500).

From the foot of the embankment turn left into Martholme Lane and stroll up the lane until Accrington Road is reached.

Cross the road and head right to the Gamecock Inn. The bus stop for your return journey is outside the hostelry but there is always time for a pint or a bite to eat prior to your journey home.

Information and timetables for the X1 service can be obtained from Clitheroe Interchange.

Brian Haworth
Oct 2004


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