On the motion of Mr. Walford, the Rev J.W.D.Merest was called to the chair.
The CHAIRMAN, in opening the proceedings, said he believed they were called together to take into consideration a bill which is to be brought into the House of Commons to gain an extension of time for making the railway from Shrewsbury to Crewe. They were met to consider the propriety of assenting to or opposing that bill. They were all very well aware that the bill was passed in 1953 by which the North Western Company was allowed five years to make the line; two years and a half of that time had now expired, and not a single spade had been put into the ground between Shrewsbury and Crewe. And those gentlemen now came forward requesting an extension of time for another year, as they said to get a fresh terminus at Shrewsbury, He for one had a great suspicion of railway directors, and he looked upon this bill- he would not say as a fraud, but as evidencing an intention on the part of the North-Western to throw them overboard, in other words not to make the line at all. And therefore it would be wise in those interested in the making of the line, to consider whether it would not be prudent to enter into a subscription to oppose the bill- at any rate to watch it.
Mr. C. F. Barker, at the request of the Chairman, then read the notice by which the meeting had been convened, and afterwards the clause from the proposed bill, which provides that the time for making the line shall be extended from August, 1958 to August, 1859.
The CHAIRMAN wished to add one more observation to what he had already said. The meeting must take into consideration that there had been plenty of time to construct the railway, if the North-Western were in earnest- at any rate they might have made the line fro Crewe to Wem. And if they required another year to get into Shrewsbury, which he did not admit, their act still left them nearly two and a half , which was more than sufficient for a great company, like the North- Western to construct a branch of about thirty-five miles in length.
Mr. Walford then moved the first resolution, which together with the others adopted at the meeting, will be found in our advertising columns.
The resolution was seconded by Mr. WILLIAM HEATLY, and carried unanimously.
Mr A.S. CRAIG said he had requested to move the next resolution, and had great pleasure in doing so, inasmuch as he was much interested in the line, as a landed proprietor, like many of his neighbours whom he saw around him, and because he always had much pleasure in doing what he could for the well-being of the town of Wem, of which he was a native. He looked upon it as exceedingly good work to get railway communication to the town at once. To any person taking an interest in the place the present state of things was lamentable. Proprietors of land had the greatest difficulty in getting to or from the neighbourhood for want of a railway, which would make coal and other things cheaper for the poor. Shopkeepers, and in fact all classes of the community, would be benefited by having railway communication. The conduct of the London and North Western Company, as regarded that town, and the fact that the country through which this line passes disentitled them, in his opinion, to any further indulgence at their hands (cheers). In the year 1845 this same company obtained an Act of Parliament for a railway to the town. Instead of making a railway they let four of five years elapse and them applied for an extension of time and ultimately abandoned the scheme altogether. In 1853 a company was established for the purpose of making a railway, but again the great company came forward, and through the influence of Mr. Dod, one of the members for the Northern Division, the scheme was handed over to the North Western, on the understanding that they would make the line. They undertook to make the line at once, and no doubt that scheme was given up on the faith that the London and North Western Company would perform their undertaking. The time allowed for making the line, as they had heard, was five years and there was a clause in the same act providing that no dividends were to be declared on their stock except they completed their undertaking. There was consideration also- the whole line did not exceed 40 miles, and along the whole length there was no engineering difficulty whatever- the only work of magnitude was a bridge over the river Weever (sic) at Nantwich. So that even now there is ample time left by their act to complete the line. By meeting together along the whole line of the railway the inhabitants would convince the London and North Western Company that they were really in earnest and would not any longer be put off with flimsy excuses (cheers). If the tightness of the money market at present was an excuse, it was not the case in 1853, when the act was obtained. Mr Wagstaff told the committee then that the whole of the capital had been subscribed for. No doubt the company had expended some of that money in the purchase of land; but during the whole of the time they had kept back this part of the country from having railway communication. If the present bill get into the House of Commons, and was not opposed, the time could be altered to 69 or 79 or 89. So that the thing may be put off for 20 or 30 years. Now he asked them if that was the way proprietors of land any others along this line of country were to be dealt with by the London and North Western Company? He believed they would answer by a very decided and emphatic “no” (cheers). Referring to the proposed bill, Mr Craig said the most important clauses- those which were vital to this part of the county, - were printed in italics. The words in italics were to be altered in committee. So that the extended time, viz August, 1859, may be altered again in committee. Let them fancy that,, without closely watching the bill to what time this would be extended when in the House of Commons, with all he Parliamentary influence which the London and North Western Company undoubtedly possess. Why, their railway may be put off till 1879, and then put off altogether (hear, hear). If they had no other ground, this was quite sufficient for all those interested in the scheme to take the prudent step of giving a “watching brief” to some counsel: and thus shew that the inhabitants of this neighbourhood would no longer be tampered with (cheers). The experience of this district with respect to the conduct of the L London and North Western Company – in first of all getting an extension of time for the other line and then abandoning it altogether- made it incumbent on them to express their determination to be tampered with no longer (cheers). There was a consideration too; the London and North Western Company were every year going to Parliament for some alteration of their immense undertakings, and it would be very easy for them to introduce into one of these annual bills a few clauses putting off the making of the line for an indefinite period. They ought certainly to have some guarantee against being delayed to some remote future. It was alleged that the time is not sufficient to make the railway but surely there are plenty of contractors who would undertake to make most of the line in twelve months and as there were no engineering difficulties, there was ample time to finish the whole. But what is the paltry excuse- for paltry it assuredly was- which is made for asking for an extension? Why, forsooth, because thee is to be a deviation of five miles and a half near Shrewsbury. Now , he would ask them if this paltry distance was a sufficient excuse to extend the time? But even supposing this were a ground sufficient to extend the time, there was no reason why the act should not be carried out in all its integrity for the rest of the way. The London and North Western Company were no doubt acting on the dog in the manager principle, in not making a line into this district themselves and preventing others doing so too (hear, hear, and cheers). Now as they had a great company to fight in opposing this bill it would be impossible to do so without the sinews o war. It was a matter of the greatest importance to all classes that the railway should come, but unless they subscribed towards the object in view they would again be disappointed. He would himself give what he could afford towards it. Mr Craig having disclaimed any interest in the matter beyond the common good of the district, he concluded by moving the next resolution.
Mr EDWARD ELKES seconded the resolution, which was also carried. The third proposition was moved by Mr. THOMAS WALMESLEY, seconded by Mr. J.G.WILON, and agreed to unanimously.
Mr. C.F. BARKER here read the draft of the covenant, by which the parties contributing to the fund for opposing the bill are secured against being called upon for more than the amount of their subscription.
Mt. THOMAS WOOD proposed a fourth resolution, observing that in all matters of business of this nature it wa necessary that some solicitor should be employed to carry out the intention of the meeting. It was of no use their meeting together and adopting resolutions unless steps were taken to act upon them. It was desirable that the solicitors employed should be men of ability and integrity, and in proposing that Messrs. Barker be instructed to oppose the bill of behalf of that meeting, he was assured that those gentlemen were too well known in the neighbourhood as men of business to require any recommendation on his part. He agreed with Mr. Craig that The London and North Western Company would avoid the making of the line if they could. At the time the act was obtained in 1853,the North-Western were hostile to the Shrewsbury and Chester, now a part of the Great Western Corporation, but having since arranged their differences with the latter company they now had no object in making the Shrewsbury and Crewe line, and would abandon it if they could. With the exception of a few months’ work, in the shape of making purchases of land, nothing whatever had been done except what was some previous to the undertaking to make the line. He thought it the duty alike of landed proprietors in the neighbourhood, the tradesmen, and the inhabitants of Wem, to contribute as far as their means would allow to oppose the bill, and to oppose it to the last. Mr. JOHN EVERALL seconded the proposition, which was also carried.
Mr TAYLOR moved that the resolutions adopted at the meeting be advertised in the Shrewsbury newspapers; this was seconded by Mr. T.D.BROWN, and unanimously agreed to.
A vote of thanks to the Chairman was then unanimously accorded by the meeting, on the proposition of Mr.J.H. WALFORD , seconded by Mr.A.S. CRAIG.
The CHAIRMAN, in acknowledgement, said he was at all times happy to do anything to further the advantage of the town. At the commencement of the meeting he explained to them the necessity for opposing the bill, and that he was quite sure that hereafter they would all agree that he had given them very proper advice. Most assuredly if the bill was not opposed they would have no railway at all.
A subscription was then entered into, and we understand that a considerable sum was promised.
This article was published in an un-named newspaper at the time. Its author is unknown but it was scanned by Tom of Wem , presumably from county archives.