James Edwards, Companion from London to Brighthelmstone, c.l820
CHAPTER 5 BUILDING THE CROYDON, MERSTHAM AND GODSTONE IRON
The one positive outcome of the London and Portsmouth Railway project was, as we have
seen, the formation of the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Iron Railway Company, which was
authorised to "build a railway from a junction with the Surrey Iron Railway at Croydon, to
Reigate, with a collateral branch from Merstham to Godstone.
Table of Charges [78.8kb]
The preamble to the Act of incorporation stated the advantages of the railway. It would:
"be of very great advantage to several considerable Manufactories established in the
neighbourhood, and to the Inhabitants of many Towns and Places, and of a very populous
Country lying on or near to the Line of the said intended Railway, by opening a cheap and easy
communication for the Conveyance of Coals, Corn, and all Goods, Wares, and Merchandize to
and from the Metropolis, and other Places, and likewise will be of great publick Utility."
A list of 73 proprietors was given, who were constituted the "Croydon, Merstham and
Godsone Iron Railway Company", and empowered to raise the sum of £60,000 by the issue of
siiares of £100 each, and a further £30,000, if required, by the sale of additional shares, or by
mortgage of the prdperty or the tolls.
The general clauses of the Act were similar to those of the Surrey Iron Railway Act of
incorporation, modified where necessary to take account of the different route. One such
variation was that the width of land to be taken was not to exceed 60 yards, and 80 yards where
turning places or buildings.were to be provided. The increased width over that permitted for the
Surrey Iron Railway (i.e. 20 yards) was to allow for the construction of the higher embankments
and deeper cuttings which would be required on this line.
The toll charges were the same as for the Surrey Iron Railway, but timber was added to the list
of carriable goods, at 4^.- per ton per mile. Restrictions were placed on the route of the railway
at South Croydon: it was not to pass through properties owned by William Chatfield and by
William Parker Hamond.
In accordance with the provisions of the Act, the first general meeting of the company was held
on 7 May,1803, at the King's Arms Inn at Croydon, with George Tritton in the chair. The Act
was read, and it was -ppsolvfid that it be carried into execution as soon as possible. Thirty-four
subscribers were appointed to be a committee of management. - Of these, 18 were also
shareholders of the Surrey Iron Railway, and the remainder were mostly local landowners and
"businessmen, notably Hylton Jolliffe and William John Jolliffe. An interesting addition was
that of three members of the Barclay family of bankers, and their inclusion was probably due to
the influence of George Tritton. His elder brother, John Henton Tritton, after working in his
grandfather's bank, had joined Barclay and Company in 1782, and became a partner in 1783. In
the same year he married Mary, daughter of his partner John Barclay.
This firm, by this time titled Barclay, Tritton and Sevan, was appointed as bankers to the railway
company, and John Henton Tritton nominated as treasurer. William Bedcott Luttly was
confirmed in his post as clerk and solicitor, and William Jessop as consulting engineer. An
initial call of £10 per share, including a deposit of £3, already paid, was made on the
shareholders, to be paid by 1 July.
Two weeks later, the company advertised for tenders for "the forming of the Ground, furnishing
Materials, and executing the necessary Work for the Iron Railway intended to be made from
Croydon to Merstham and Godstone", to be delivered to Luttly on or before 18 July.
This advertisement indicates a curtailment of the route which had been authorised, in that the
section from Merstham to Reigate was omitted. This decision was probably made while the Bill
was passing through, which may account for the fact that "Reigate" does not appear in the name
of the company, and was presumably due to a shortage of subscriptions. Jessop's Parliamentary
estimate for the railway was £52,347, but only £43,600 had been subscribed for at the time of
the petition for the Bill. It seems curious that it was this section that was relinquished rather
than the branch from Merstham- to Godstone, insofar as the promotion of the London to
Portsmouth Railway, via Reigate, was still "being pursued.
In fact, the branch to Godstone seems to be a curious conception altogether. There was little
commercial justification for it. It did not go conveniently near the fullers' earth pits at Nutfield,
and was to stop about a mile short of the stone mines at Godstone. It had apparently survived
as the first part of the branch from Merstham to Lindfield, described in the earliest proposals of
1801. In the event, this branch was also abandoned.
Presumably the tenders received for the line as advertised were in excess of the building fund,
so it was decided to "build only as far as the junction point, at the Merstham lime works and
stone mines. The successful tenderer was Outram and Company (the name was later changed to
the Butterley Company), with an offer of £36,350, which included for supplying all the
materials and carrying out all the work.
The first consignment of 406 rails was dispatched on 22 August, 1803, and further deliveries
were made at approximately fortnightly intervals throughout the duration of the contract. On 13
September, twelve wheels 21 inches in diameter together with twelve axles were sent.
The "building materials of six houses and a barn in Church Street, Croydon, on the route of the
railway, which were about to be demolished, were offered for sale, "by order of the Croydon
Iron Rail-way Company", at an auction to be held on the premises on 22 February,1804. This
late date confirms the validity of Outram and Company's claim, in their final account, for an
extra for expenses "occasioned by being prevented from executing the work through Croydon
for 7 months." To the southeast of Church Street, the route ran through the grounds of the former
Archbishops' Palace, then used for calico-printing, and entailed the demolition of a mill leased
to John Freeborn.
The first consignment of stone sleeper blocks, obtained from a ' quarry at Cromford near
Outram's foundry, was sent on 21 March,1804" Later, blocks were also supplied from a quarry at
Little Eaton. On 14 August, four bearers and ten centre ribs for a bridge over Woodmansterne
Road at Coulsdon, were dispatched.
Benjamin Outram made his first visit of inspection in September, 1803, and made a number of
subsequent visits. George Leather junior, who had worked as assistant to his father on the Surrey
Iron Railway works, checked the levels as the sleepers were laid, and probably acted as'resident
engineer. Josias, William Jessop's son, set out the line and probably supervised the work until he
went as resident engineer on the Bristol Dock Company works in February,1804- William
Jessop may have made occasional inspections, but he was much occupied with other projects at
The management of the contract was by the firm of Oswald and Anderson, who usually acted as
Outram's agents for works and deliveries in the London area. Their address in 1802-1804 was
Little Alie Street, Goodman's Fields, London. In about April,1804, Alexander Oswald left '
the partnership, and was replaced by George Harrison Eades. The firm's name was changed
accordingly to Anderson, Eades and Company, with an address at 104 Leadenhall Street,
They received a commission of one per cent of the cost of the works,
paid in instalments as the work proceeded, and for this arranged for
the hiring of workmen, delivery of materials, and general administration.
It would seem that a few subcontractors were employed, and on one
occasion, specialist labour from Outram and Company: "To cash paid
blocklayers expences going to Croydon, 6th.April (1805) £4-10-0."
appears as an item in Outram's account book.
We do in fact know the names of three workmen employed on the
works. The parish registers of Merstham record the burial in 1804 of
the daughter of Valentine Cannon, who was "working on the railway",
and in 1805 of Samuel Richardson, "labourer on the railway", and of the
son of another labourer named Bath.
Following the initial call for a payment on shares made in June,
further calls of £10 each were made in September and November,1803,
and in January, February, March, April, May, July and August,1804, thus
completing the subscription.
A special general meeting of the proprietors was convened for
26 September,1804, to be held at the London Tavern, "to take into
consideration the present state of the Works, and of the means of completing
the Contract for the same by Christmas next; and also to consider
the propriety of empowering the Company to lett the Tolls thereof."
It is not known what resolutions were passed at this meeting, but whatever
action was taken, it did not result in the completion of the railway
by December,1804. It was perhaps in anticipation that it would be
ready soon afterwards that the following toll ticket was printed:
CROYDON AND MERSTHAM IRON RAILWAY.
THE COMMITTEE of the CROYDON and MERSTHAM IRON RAILWAY
COMPANY hereby give Notice, That the Railway from Croydon to Merstham is now
open for the Use of the Public, on Payment of the following Tolls, viz.
For Dung...............1d Per Ton Per Mile
For Limestone, Chalk, Lime, and all other Manure (except1
Dung) Clay, Breeze, Ashes, Sand, Bricks, Stone, Flints, and Fullers Earth .....2d per Ton per Mile
For Timber, Tin, Copper, Lead, Iron, Charcoal, Coke Culm, Corn and Seeds, Flour, Malt, and
Potatoes........3d per Ton per Mile
For Coals....... 3d per Chaldron per Mile
And for all other Goods ........3d per Ton per Mile
By Order of the Committee,
W. B. LUTTLY,
Clerk of the Company.
Wandsvorth, 8th January, 1805.
Charles Lee, referring to this notice, pointed out that the name "Groydon and Merstham Iron
Railway" was never used on any other of the company's notices or documents, and suggested
that it might "be a proof copy prepared for an intended opening.  JTo other evidence has
"been found for an opening date in January,1805, and in fact several consign- ments of rails and
sleeper "blocks were dispatched after January, the last being sent in July. An advertisement for
the sale of Surrey Iron Railway and Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Iron Railway shares,
published early in January, stated of the latter railway that it was "in a state of forwardness. "
And a meeting of. the proprietors was called for 31 May,1805, "to take into consideration the
present state of the Works, and the best means of completing the Capital of the
The actual opening date is generally considered to have been 24 July,1805, when a wager was
made as to the load one horse could pull along the railway, and a trial was held. An account of
the event was published in a number of contemporary newspapers and magazines, the fullest
being given in The Morning Chronicle under the heading, "Extraordinary Peat of a Draught
"An unparalled instance of the power of a horse when assisted by art was shewn near
Croydon on Wednesday last. The Surrey Iron Railway being compleated, and opened for the
carriage of goods, all the way from Wandsworth to Merstham, a bet was made between two
Gentlemen, that a common horse could draw thirty-six tons for six miles along the road, and that
he should draw this weight from a dead pull, as well as turn it round the occasional windings of
the road. Wednesday last was fixed for the trial; and a number of Gentlemen assembled near
Merstham to see this extraordinary triumph of art. Twelve waggons loaded with stones, each
waggon weighing above three tons, were chained together, and a horse taken promiscuously
from the timber cart of Mr.Harwood, was yoked into the team. He started from near the Fox
Public-house, and drew the immense chain of waggons with apparent ease to near the Turnpike
at Croydon, a distance of six miles, in one hour and 41 minutes, which is nearly at the rate of
four miles an hour. In the course of this time he stopped four times, to shew that it was not by
the impetus of the descent that the power was acquired - and after each stoppage he drew off the
chain of waggons from a dead rest. Having gained his wager, Mr.T Bankes, the Gentleman who
laid the bet, directed four more loaded waggons to be added to the cavalcade, with which the
same horse again set off with undiminished power; and still further to shew the effect of the
Railway in facilitating motion, he directed the attending workmen, to the number of fifty, to
mount on the waggons, and the horse proceeded without the least distress, and in truth, there
appeared to be scarcely any limitation to the power of his draught. After the trial the waggons
were taken to the weighing machine, and it appeared that the whole weight was as follows:
12 waggons, first linked
4 Ditto, afterwards attached
Supposed weight of 50
The report went on to laud the advantages of the railway, and the qualities of the lime and stone
produced at Merstham.
The reference to the railway "being compleated and opened" perhaps points to an earlier opening
date. The article on canals in Rees's Cyclopaedia stated, "Ibout the month of June last (i.e. 1805)
this railway between Croydon and Merstham was opened."
The presence of 50 workmen at the trial suggests that some tidying-up work remained to be
carried out. This was probably completed by 1 August, the date of Outram and Company's final
account. This amounted to £41,991-5s-(-)d, an increase of some £564 over the contract sum.
The major extra work was for "cutting and earthwork done more than the specification" at
£3645. Other additional work included a bridge to carry the railway over Hooley Lane north of
Hooley, an extra length of 250 yards (which may have been due to variations made to the route,
rather than an extension of it), a branch to a gravel pit, a variation near the turnpike gate at South
Croydon, and the seven months delay previously mentioned.
Benjamin Outram did not live to see the completion of the railway. He died in London, after a
short illness, on 22 May,l805, at the age of 41.
The Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Iron Railway commenced by an end-on junction with the
Surrey Iron Railway at Pitlake in Croydon, and a description of the route thence was given by
James Malcolm in 1805:
".....-it enters Messrs. Lane and Lay's calico and printing grounds,
at the college (i.e. the Palace) in Croydon, and proceeds through
the same and some other fields in a. curvilinear direction until it
meets Mr.Hammond's park, when it takes off a corner of it, and passes
in the front of the turnpike house at Croydon. .... the road proceeds close along the turnpike road
on the west
side until it passes Mr.Barratti's grounds and fields, it then
recedes from the road, and winds up the hill in the open fields,
still keeping the road in view, and within about 150 yards of it,
until the road quits Croydon parish for the lower road to Godstone;
the railway however proceeds in its regular elevation or rise, every
here and there cutting away the side of the hill on the north side
of the railway, and filling up valleys until it arrives at the Red
Lion at Smitham-Bottom, where on passing it, is a valley of some considerable width, which they
have raised above twenty feet perpendicular,
and in the direction of the railway an arch is built of
sufficient height to admit a waggon loaded with hay, straw, faggots,
or the like, to pass underneath from the downs to Smitham-Bottom.
The railway continues to wind the hill, and to approach the
Merstham road from Croydon until it passes "by Colonel Byron's, and
for some considerable distance "beyond it, then crosses the road
over an arch of about the same capacity as the preceding, but in
order to make it quite so they are obliged to sink the old highway
road of a sufficient depth for that purpose: they are compelled to
adopt this method (though it may ultimately prove disadvantageous to
the highway road) because if they had carried the arch high enough
to admit of the largest load of hay, straw, faggots, furze, hops,
&c. that may at any time have occasion to pass under it, it would
have thrown the crown of the arch too high, and consequently the
plane of the railway too much above the regular elevation or rise
which they are obliged very carefully to attend to, as will hereafter
be made manifest and evident. After crossing the road the
railway takes its course parallel with the road on the south or left-
hand side of it, and finding the ground to be far too high for their
plan, they now begin to sink it, and so continue to do so with such
an increase of depth as will make a cavity or hollow roadway of
thirty or more feet perpendicular for a considerable distance in its
approach towards Merstham."
Malcolm ended his account at this cutting, on which work was "only beginning" at the time of his
visit. This ran for about a mile and a quarter on the east side of the present A23, and where this
road bends to the south just before its junction with Shepherds Hill at Merstham, the railway
continued in a southeasterly direction through the former stone mines and limeworks site, where
Until the Butterley Company records, which revealed that Outram
and Company had been the contractors, were examined by Philip Riden
in the early 1970s , it had been generally assumed by modern writers-
that the railway had been built by Edward Banks. This attribution was
due mainly to a reference in Samuel Wells's biography of Banks,
published in 1830, wherein he wrote, "in the year 1803 he came into the
county of Surrey and set out the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone
railways.."  Another declaration was made by James Edwards, who wrote
in about 1820, "This railway was executed under the superintendence of
of Mr.Banks." It will be noted that neither of thses references
state that Banks was the contractor, but indicate a supervisory role.
Edward Banks was born in 1770 at Hulton Hang near Richmond in
Yorkshire. He went to sea at the age of 17 for two years, and on his
return he was engaged on some works in connection with the sea-banking
and drainage at Holderness. Wells gave an impressive list of canals
on which he worked prior to 1803, including the Leeds to Liverpool,
the Lancaster, the Ulverston, the Huddersfield, the Peak Forest, and the Ashby-under-Lyne, but it
seems likely that he was only a small contractor on these works. One account of the Ulverston
Canal mentions him merely as a labourer.
He became involved with Outram and Company in about 1802 when he
did some subcontract work for the firm on the building of a railway
at Pinxton. He carried out several other works for them, and was the
largest subcontractor on their contract for constructing the Alfreton
and Derby turnpike road during 1804-5.
Outram and Company's accounts make no mention of Banks in relation
to the Croydon, Merstham, and Godstone Iron Railway, but he was almost
certainly the "Mr. Bankes, the gentleman who laid the bet" at the trial
on 24 July,1805 (spelled "Banks" in some accounts), which seems to
indicate some connection with the railway. One can speculate that he
may have been called in, in some advisory or supervisory capacity, after
Josias Jessop left the job in February,1804, or after Outram's death in
May,1805. About this period he became involved with George Anderson and
George Harrison Eades, together with Hylton Jolliffe, in the management
of the limestone works at Merstham (as will be recounted later). This
partnership was, most probably, suggested by Anderson and Eades, and it
was perhaps this undertaking, rather than the railway, that brought
Banks to Merstham.