There was a time when Leigh actually had railway stations

West Leigh and Bedford railway station

Local historian Alf Ridyard looks back at the history of the railways in Leigh..

Today we look back at everyday sights that our older readers would take for granted, yet younger readers would, in most cases, be unaware of.

We do it with the help of supporting pictures to rekindle memories and show the younger ones some things around the town in the 1940s and, in most cases, up to the 60s.

It is well documented by all, the fact we have no station or rail link passing through the town.

Back in the 1950s we had five stations: West Leigh halt(Westbourne Avenue); the end of Railway Road; Pennington on the Bolton to Kenyon line (now the bypass); there was one on the guided bus route (on the corner of East Bond Street) on the Tyldesley- Kenyon line; and last of all the oddly named West Leigh and Bedford which was out in the wilderness down Crankwood Road, on the line from Wigan Central through to Manchester, some three miles from Leigh town centre.

Our picture shows this station just before closure in 1954. I chose this one as some younger readers may well be aware of the others, due to many discussions of reintroducing a station.

Staying with our railway theme and the many pit lines around Leigh, the only way out of Leigh in days gone by without possibly being held up by a coal train crossing the road, was to go along St Helens Road.

From Howe Bridge colliery the pit line firstly crossed Leigh Road near Hendon Street, then Orchard Lane, The Avenue and Holden Road, before disappearing underground through a tunnel to a tipping molly for loading into barges on the canal.

Wood End (Bedford) colliery line also crossed Holden Road near Guest Street where the wagons were unloaded for the local coal men to purchase coal for their businesses.

The line from the pit also went across country and crossed Green Lane (pictured) and Queensway on its way to Nook Pit coal washery and Gin Pit.

The system from Nook also crossed Manchester Road at Marsland Green again to a tipping molly on the canal (pictured).

Many Higher Fold children of the early 1960s will have memories of St Mary’s or Manchester Road school busses being held up either on Queensway or Manchester Road.

The tipper ceased to be used in the late 1960s. Pit lines from Parsonage crossed Kirkhall Lane until the 1970s and also Twist Lane until the 1950s.

Further along on Firs Lane, at a much earlier date, one pit line crossed by the side of the Firtree pub, again leading to the canal, and lastly from Plank Lane pit up the now long gone Talbot Road.

We also see a picture of Parsonage taken from the top of the Parish Church, also in the shot is the old Windermere Road School, also no longer with us.

Another industry long since gone is the cotton industry Leigh had, over the years there more than 20cotton mills and nine silk mills with more than 10,000 people employed from the town.

One can imagine the throngs of people when the shifts were over-spilling into the streets. Some of these monoliths are still standing and are now used for small businesses.

Our picture shows one of the iconic mills, the Alder Mill at Butts Bridge ,again long since gone - no more the melodic, if somewhat loud, rhythm of the looms or the sounds of clogs clattering along the terraced streets.

Another form of transport no longer with us is the trolley bus ( pictured) gliding almost silently along, apart from a low hum and the occasional sparks flashing from the wires.

Our picture also shows the popular Woolpack pub and the Regal cinema, two more places to stir the memories of older readers.

And whilst we mention pubs, how about the Ring O’Bells on Kirkhall Lane (pictured).

Youngsters would wonder what was happening when the landlord came and poured your beer from a jug, after filling it from a barrel in the back room, possibly, the last pub in Leigh to have pumps installed.

This long-since demolished pub joins an ever growing list of lost pub totalling almost a hundred since the 1940s.

We even lost our police station in Church Street (pictured), closed at the end of the 1960s after almost 100 years, to be replaced by one on Chapel Street.

This sadly is now drastically under-used and undermanned.

These are just a few of the more notable changes we have seen in the town.

There are, of course, many more nostalgic memories of Leigh and district, others will have their own past memories.

Rugby fans, when in 1967 Leigh introduced the first Sunday game vs Dewsbury at Hilton Park, will no doubt recall the old gentleman with his placard castigating all the supporters as heathens, shouting the end of the world is nigh and repent your sins.

All that for daring to attend a game on a Sunday.

Of course if Leigh had lost, then he would have got the blame.

Some may have even thought he was right.

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