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Around the Village: The Railway and the Dutton Viaduct

Update 29. January 2017 - Historic England Listing reference

Dutton Viaduct

The Dutton Viaduct, with a train crossing

The railway was completed in 1837 for the Grand Junction Railway (later part of the London and North Western Railway Company (LNWR). Its construction divided the main part of the village of Acton (now Acton Bridge) from Milton. It runs through the parish for a distance of 3,660 yards, to cross the River Weaver on the Dutton Viaduct, which was itself built in 1836 by Joseph Locke and George Stephenson. The Viaduct is 457 metres long, 18 metres high and Listed Grade II* by Historic England.

Twenty arches, at a considerable elevation, make up the viaduct, which was a feat of typical Victorian engineering prowess. Older residents remember being told that tons of cotton waste were used in the foundations to give the structure resilience when trains passed over. The first train ran through the village and over the viaduct in July 1837. It travelled from Crewe to Warrington and was pulled by engine number 576.

Dutton Viaduct
The 1881 Census reveals that the LNWR employed numerous platelayers, some of whom lived in cottages near the station. The station master at this time was Ellis Hope, from Crewe. The station porter was Thomas Owen, and Joshua Starkey who lived at Old Lane Cottage was a signalman. Approximately twenty-six people living in Acton were employed by the railway company.

Gravestone of Joshua & Ann Starkey Update 18. June 2007 : photos and biographical notes

Here are some photos kindly sent to us from Spain by Adam Poole. At left is Joshua Starkey's gravestone. The lady pictured below it is Annie Walmsley Starkey, his wife, also buried here.

Adam writes : "Joshua was born in Kingsley, Cheshire on 12/07/1854 and died 04/02/1930 in Stockton Heath. He was one of 12 children of Henry Starkey and Mary Ann Knowles - and the eldest son. Evidence has been found that his great grandfather, Richard Starkey, was descended from the Starkey of Wrenbury family and hence from one of the oldest families in Cheshire, the Starkey family of Stretton who go all the way back to 1170 when they were granted land by Roger Fitz Alured first cousin of Hugh, the first Earl of Chester.

Joshua's ancestors were all farmers and in many ways Joshua represents the start of a significant social change in the Starkey family in that he was the first to move away from the farming world into the world of industry.

Amongst His brother's and sisters were Martha who emigrated to Canada via Australia and California, and Phillip who also worked for the railways before joining the Army. Philip sadly was killed in action in Burma in 1887.

Joshua married Annie Nicholas on 14/02/1878 in Leftwich (often shown as Nichols on official records) who was born in Acton on 22/12/1858. Her parents were Isaac Nicholas and Elizabeth Walmsley. Isaac Was born in Acton around 1834 and died in 1861. Annie had a Brother James born in 1857 also in Acton.

Joshua and Annie had 10 children, two of whom were living in Acton at the time of the 1881 census. Martha Elizabeth Starkey born on 09/04/1879, my great grandmother, and Emma Starkey, born in 1880.

Martha lived to the Age of 97 and never left the Cheshire area. She died in Crewe on 12/08/1977 when I was 12 years old. I remember her as a very kind lady who sadly went blind in her later years. She married Herbert Houghton and had 5 children.

Emma married William Lunt and had 2 children, Ivy and Dorothy.

Whilst both Joshua and Annie were born, lived and died in Cheshire their descendants are now widely scattered around the UK in places such as London, Farnborough, Bradford and Northampton. Some are further afield such as myself in Spain and descendants of Emma Starkey can even be found in California. Occupations of their descendants are just as varied and include Vets, Economists, Marketing Managers, Bar Managers, Teachers, Midwives and Naval Officers."

We are seeking further information about these former residents of the village - can you help?

Gravestone of Joshua & Ann Starkey

Following the amalgamation of the nation's many railway companies in 1923, the line was owned and operated by the London Midland & Scottish (LMS) Company until nationalisation in 1948. Between Hartford and Acton Bridge, a second line of tracks was added in 1928-29.

Today's station car park was originally a coal merchant's distribution yard. Five firms delivered to surrounding villages, and coal was also used during the winter months to power the corn threshing machines. In the 1930s there were eleven dairy and mixed farms in Acton Bridge, the majority sending their produce by rail to Liverpool and Warrington, rushing to catch the 8:30am milk train.

Adapted from "Snapshots in Time", a book about the Village published by the Acton Bridge WI to mark the Millennium in 2000

Update 10. April 2003 : Jack Walne writes :

"I enjoyed the site. I think - in fact I am sure - that, as the viaduct was built in 1837, it was built by the Grand Junction Railway, which was the first line from Birmingham to Earlestown (on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway). The LNWR did not come into existence until 1846.
"Did you know in LNWR days, the Liverpool portion of the 3:00 Newspaper train from Euston stopped at Acton Bridge, where a brake van for Carlisle was detached; this van was taken on to Preston by the 5:50 local train from Crewe and was attached at Preston by the 8:05 Liverpool Exchange / 7:55 Manchester Victoria - Carlisle. This is the one mention of Acton Bridge in the LNWR marshalling circular?".

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