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Leigh Brewery & The Rail Network

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George Shaw

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From 1866, the Bedford Brewing & Malting Company of Leigh, Lancashire (renamed George Shaw & Co., Ltd., Leigh Brewery from 1902) and until the sale of the concern in 1931, would have variously used road, rail and canal networks to take in raw materials to the factory and to distribute the finished products across the NW of England.

I'd welcome details of the extent to which company management utilised the railway network for these purposes.
 
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This question was an excellent excuse to spend an hour or two browsing through books on the history of the area.

I was intrigued by several historic Ordnance Survey maps (e.g. this one) showing a minor railway line terminating close to the brewery at Guest Street.

I wondered if the Leigh Brewery had had a similar arrangement to Magee Marshall's in Bolton (at the other end of the Bolton & Leigh Railway) where a railway siding ran directly into the brewery premises and was used for delivery of rail tankers of water from Burton upon Trent. Local legend had it that a tankard was permanently chained in place by the siding, allowing the railway crews making these deliveries to sample Magee's product before proceeding to the rest of their day's shunting work around Bolton.

In the case of George Shaw's Leigh brewery, it seems the nearby railway was a private colliery line, used only to connect the Bedford Colliery just to the north with a landsale yard in Guest Street - basically where the local coalmen would go with their horse & cart to pick up sacks of domestic coal for delivery around the town. This private line did connect with the main L&NWR line at Speakman's Sidings between Leigh and Tyldesley, but it would only have been used for the colliery's own coal traffic.

This means that incoming raw materials and outgoing "products" from the Leigh Brewery probably went via the town's general goods yard adjacent to Leigh station which opened in 1864 (a couple of years before the brewery) and replaced an earlier goods yard located at Westleigh station on the older Bolton & Leigh line. However I've not found any reference specifically to the brewery's activities and rail transport.
 

George Shaw

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Being a local lad and being familiar with the area I would agree with all you have written. It makes total sense. When I researched the Brewery and its potential use of the canal network I was fortunate enough to find the old Canal Boat Registers for the Leigh area which listed boats dedicated to moving grain, but not hops. Also, although the Brewery had been known as the Bedford Brewing & Malting Company from 1866, it had existed in one form or another since around 1823. The road network is reported as having been in an appalling condition right up to the end of the Victorian era. So I provisionally concluded that rail played a major part in enabling the movement of raw ingredients and finished product. Hops, for example are recorded as having been sourced by the Brewery from Kent and other southern counties and from Germany around 1880's. To date, I can only guess at the quantities moved by the various methods.
 

Bevan Price

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Details & detailed maps of industrial railways in the area can be found in "The Industrial Railways of Bolton, Bury & the Manchester Coalfield, Vol. 2" by the late CHA Townley et al. This includes the Leigh, Atherton & Tyldesley areas - on a quick scan, I can find no mention of the brewery.

(Westleigh, Bamfurlong, etc. are covered in the equivalent book for Wigan & St. Helens area)
 

George Shaw

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Details & detailed maps of industrial railways in the area can be found in "The Industrial Railways of Bolton, Bury & the Manchester Coalfield, Vol. 2" by the late CHA Townley et al. This includes the Leigh, Atherton & Tyldesley areas - on a quick scan, I can find no mention of the brewery.

(Westleigh, Bamfurlong, etc. are covered in the equivalent book for Wigan & St. Helens area)

Thanks for that. Not too surprised. The main station was so close to the Brewery that special infrastructure was possibly unjustified.
 
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