The item I have selected for December’s ‘Letter of the Month’ is a programme of events issued by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway in August 1887, pertaining to a ceremony headed by William Gladstone himself. Gladstone was to lower the first cylinder of what is now Hawarden Bridge, a railway bridge which crosses the River Dee at Shotton, Flintshire. This was to be proceeded by a luncheon provided for the guests near to the site of construction.
The ceremony illustrates Gladstone’s enthusiasm to get involved in a community to which he became very attached during his many years residing in the area, in addition to demonstrating his popularity and far-reaching appeal; shown by the special trains provided to transport visitors from as far as Manchester and Wrexham in order to attend. From the schedule provided, we also gain insight into the local rail-networks of the 19th Century, which interestingly features several routes that are still in operation to this day. Subsequently, this exhibits the great level of infrastructural development that was achieved during the Victorian era, and it is pleasing to see that Gladstone played something of a ‘hands-on’ role in aiding this.
Jamie Donhue, Graduate Work Experience student