Introduction 27-11-2009

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The bold text in the article indicates my personal highlighting of interesting phrases. No such highlighting with bold text appears in the original. AVB 27-11-2009

The Workington Star and Harrington Guardian, Friday, April 17, 1903

The North Side Bridge Question

Local Government Board Inquiry

Mr A. A. G. Malet, M. Inst., C.E., an Inspector for the Local Government Board, held an inquiry at the Albert Hall yesterday morning into an application by the Town Council for sanction to borrow £15,048 for the purpose of completing the road and bridges to North Side. the Corporation were represented by Mr Mayer, barrister, of London, and Mr John Warwick, Town Clerk. Mr A. Hodgson and Mr Bell, County Surveyor, Carlisle, were on behalf of the County Council. Amongst those present were the Mayor (Alderman Highton), Alderman McAleer, Councillor Hill, Alderman Milburn, Mr J. Taylor, C.E., Mr J. Howes; Mr J. Eden, C.E. Mr J. Bintley, the engineer for the works; Mr Eaglesfield, Borough surveyor, Mr J. Noble, Borough Accountant; Councillor Leitch; Councillor Walls, and others.

The Town clerk having read the notice convening the inquiry.

Mr Mayer said he appeared on behalf of the Corporation. As the Inspector knew, the Corporation sought power to borrow £15,048 for the purpose of constructing bridges and a road.

The Inspector asked if he could have statistics first.

Mr Mayer then gave the population, showing how it had increased from 6,430 in 1861 to 26,143 in 1901. The number of burgesses was 4,436. The ratable value for the poor rate was £95,800, assessable value for the general district rate was £78,740. The outstanding debt on the 31st March was £155,787 17s 8d.

Mr John Noble, Borough Accountant, said that sum included what had been borrowed. They had power to borrow more under the Corporation Act of 1899. Under that Act the Corporation had power to borrow £95,000, of that they had borrowed £56,000, and they would probably only require another £4,000 or £5,000.

The Inspector: Is there any opposition to this application?

Mr Hodgson said he did not oppose; he was there to watch the proceedings on behalf of the County Council.

Mr Mayer: By a resolution of the Council?

Mr Hodgson: No, there's been no resolution.

Mr Mayer said the position was a very simple one. The Corporation at the beginning applied to the County Council to allow Mr Bell, their surveyor, to carry out the work as it would become a county road; but, unfortunately, the Highways Committee of the County Council could not see their way to accede to the request. After that the Corporation decided to engage Mr Bintley, who had 35 years experience in the class of work, and who was the county surveyor for Westmorland, and had erected their bridges. That gentleman had designed and carried out the works, and though the highest tender was more than double the amount of the lowest, that accepted was almost to a penny identical with Mr Bintley's estimate.

Mr Bintley then produced the plans, which he explained in detail; explaining the construction of the five bridges, the width of the roadway-40 feet inside the walls-and other particulars

In reply to the Inspector, Mr Bintley said the river bridge was on the square.

Mr Mayer said he understood there was some objection to the height of the Maryport Road bridge; but it was as high as one existing at each side of it, and to make it any higher it would make it a very heavy gradient. Continuing, Mr Mayer said a new road had been made, practically from the station to the bridge. He further explained that it was only in December 1902 that the Corporation were able to say what the extras were likely to be, which was the explanation why the application was not made earlier. They had power to borrow £5,000; they had applied to the County Council for £7,500, which they hoped to get, and the application was for power to borrow the balance.

Mr Noble, in answer to the Inspector, said the actual expenditure on the bridge works had been £24,115 0s 7d. There was an overdraft on the whole of the works of £19,000, but having moneys in hand for other purposes, the actual overdraft was £5,042. He put in details of the money spent on the works.

Mr Mayer read the tenders received for the work. The accepted tender was £20,300, and the highest was £47,759 6s 7d.

Mr Bintley said he prepared the plans, which had been practically followed. He made out the specifications, also. The plans accurately showed the whole of the works. He estimated that the total cost of (t)he works, when complete, would be £27,547 14s 2d. He put in a copy of the specifications.

Witness then went through all the items not included in the specification. There was a culvert to make for Cammel and Co's water pipes, which went under the road; and office for the clerk of works; the Lowther Iron Company's water pipes had to be altered to meet the wishes of the Company; a cut-water to the river bridge, which was thought necessary on account of the scour of the river[1][2]; the iron fencing had been considered too light, so a heavier railing had to be substituted for it; the west bank of the embankment had been pitched, as a protection against high tides; wing walls had been extended, also to slope the roadway. In his opinion the work done would prevent flooding in the lower part of Church-street. There was also extra excavation necessary. There had also been an alteration to improve the roadway at North Side, and the size of a cattle creep had been increased to meet the wishes of Lord Lonsdale's trustees, who had given the land necessary for the works. A concrete retaining wall had been made higher than was specified. Stronger and better girders had been substituted for those originally intended to be used in the railway and Maryport-road bridges; and another extra was the expense of arbitration proceedings in connection with the purchase of land and a cottage, and for compensation, at North Side.

Mr Warwick said the cottage and land had been held on lease by the North Western Hematite Steel Company but the Corporation had had conveyed to them the reversion.

Mr Bintley said the only, other land purchased was a piece near to the Bessemer Arms, which cost £50. There was yet to be constructed a road across the present road, near to the Mill Stream, and the side of the river below the river bridge would have to be spiled[3], to protect the land from the scour of the river. The estimates for this work were included in the extras.

In answer to the Inspector, Mr Bintley said the works did not interfere with any sewers or water mains. The works were commenced on July 4th, 1901. He thought his estimates of the total cost would not be exceeded. It might be by a few pounds, but it would be very trifling.

Alderman Mc Aleer said he would like to know what the additional costs of the girders was.

Mr Bintley: About £1,700.

The Inspector: What do you mean by the extra costs?

Mr Bintley explained how the girders had been strengthened, and further pointed out that the original plans showed a railway bridge with a 25 feet span; but the London and North Western Railway Company insisted upon it being 50 feet 8 inches. The work had now been approved by the London and North Western Railway Company's engineer.

The Inspector said he gathered from Mr McAleer's question that the original girders were useless.

Alderman McAleer said that that was so.

Mr Bintley said the original girders for the railway bridge were not made. In the contract a 25 feet bridge was specified. The girders for the mill stream were made and fixed; but the Council said they were not strong enough, and insisted upon having them taken off. They were rejected, and the girders received for the Maryport road bridge were placed over the mill stream. New iron girders were made for the Maryport road bridge. The rejected mill stream girders had cost £270 or £280, and they would be sold.

Mr McAleer said Mr Bintley specified 80 tons of girders, and they were not strong enough. He did not know whether the railway girders were ordered or not. The first girders were supplied by Mr Bintley himself, and he did not think they should pay that-

The Inspector: Ah! You must go to the Town Council with that. That is Town Council work.

Alderman McAleer said he wanted the difference in the cost.

The Inspector said there was more than the difference in the cost of the old girders and the new ones.

In answer to the Inspector Mr Mayer said Mr Bell had prepared an estimate before application was made to Parliament, that accounted for the £10,000 mentioned in the Act. That, however, only included three bridges; a 36 feet road; and no branch road. His plan showed no bridge over the Maryport road. Mr Wood and Mr Eden also prepared estimates-one of £17,000 and another £18,000. reverting to Mr Bell's plan Mr Mayer said that at North Side he proposed to raise the main road up to the bridge, which would have swamped a lot of houses there. At any rate, the plans were not followed. Then the width of the bridges and road were 36 feet.

Mr Bell: That is the width I was asked to make them.

Mr Mayer: Quite right; I didn't say it wasn't. In Mr Bell's plan there was no branch road, and the railway bridge was only a 25 feet span.

Mr Bell: That's all I was asked for.

Mr Mayer: That may be so. You're perfectly right.

Mr Bintley then gave an estimate of the difference in cost between the work suggested by Mr Bell and the work actually done, which accounted for the difference between his estimate and the actual cost.

Mr Mayer said that when the Council went to Parliament ,for some reason best know to themselves, they had put in the lowest estimate , as Corporations often did.

Mr Bell pointed to one of his plans and said that was the work that the Joint Committee had agreed to, and that was all that he had been asked to do. It was not right to say that the houses at North Side would have been swamped, and no compensation would have been necessary-not a farthing. He knew what he was talking about. He slewed the road from the Vicarage into the side of the hill to cross the railway. Now they had raised the road and blocked the houses.

Mr Mayer explained the difference in the plans.

The Inspector said that if they wished he would make Mr Bell a witness. he would like to know how he would have avoided the compensation.

Mr Bell said that if the Inspector viewed the place he would explain it to him. He did not include a cattle creep and the bridge over the Maryport road, and he thought a lot had been done that need not have been done according to the instructions he received. He was determined to make the road his own way, and as the Council could not agree he made the road straight from North Side to William street.

The Inspector said the Town Council thought a branch road was necessary, and they had a right to have it.

Mr Bell, in reply to Mr Mayer, said he did not know the width of William-street. Some property would have to be purchased, and he advised the Town council to purchase the houses before they started the bridge works, so that the owners would not unduly increase the price.

Mr Mayer said that Mr Eden's estimate of the cost of carrying out Mr Bell's plans exclusive of purchase of the property, or making the cattle creep and a bridge over the North Side road, and only for a 36 feet road, was £18,000.

Mr Bell said that was some time after his estimate was made.

The Inspector asked Mr Hodgson if he could call Mr Bell as a witness as to the sufficiency of the works. He wanted to know why the Town Council had considered £10,000 sufficient, and now required this extra amount.

Mr Mayer said he thought he had explained that, and they very much regretted that the County Council had not allowed Mr Bell to carry out the works.

Mr Bell said he was told to supervise it, and he advised the Town Council to appoint Mr Eden to carry the work out.

The Inspector said they could not go into that. He would like to hear if Mr Hodgson had anything to say about the application for a contribution towards the cost.

Mr Hodgson said the Workington Corporation had applied for a grant of £7,500; but it had been refused. He could not yet say that it had been agreed to grant the £5,000. He could not say what would be done in the future.

The Inspector said the County Council had power to contribute £5,000 if the roads and approaches were to the satisfaction of the County Surveyor.

He would like to know what the County Council would do, because it affected the present application.

Mr Hodgson said he did not know; but he did not think the County Council had considered the question of borrowing money outside the Act.

The Inspector: Then it is extremely improbable that they will grant more than £5,000.

Mr Hodgson: Extremely improbable.

In reply to the Inspector, Mr Hodgson said the plans of the present bridge had not been approved of by the County Council and he did not think there was any obligation on the County Council to pay anything. Alderman McAleer asked if that was a fact. He asked the question at Town Council meetings, and had been told that the County would have to give them £5,000. It was a great shame that they should be misled that way.

Mr Mayer said that was a legal question; his opinion was that the County Council were bound to grant £5,000.

Mr Hodgson: That is a matter of opinion.

The Inspector said the County Council had asked the Local Government Board if they had power to borrow the money; and the reply was that the permission of the Local Government Board was not necessary.

The Inspector asked what caused the scour of the river. Mr Bintley said it was due to the wide area served by the river. Mr Bell said the rapidity of the river was certain to make it scour.

In reply to the Inspector, Mr Bintley said there would be five or six feet of water on the Cloffocks at high spring tide. It rose and fell gradually. He did not remember worse floods than they had experienced lately. Regarding the cut-water at the river bridge, a similar protection had to be provided at the railway bridge higher up. Mr Hodgson said the County Council strongly objected to the height of the Maryport road bridge.

Mr Mayer said it was the same height as the bridges at each side of it.

Mr Bintley said it would cost £500 to heighten it.

Mr Hodgson said that argument had been used by the promoters of the Maryport Harbour Bill; but they had seen that it was poor argument. If they did foolish things 20 years ago, it was no reason why they should continue to do them now. In my view of electric trams becoming popular the County Council were insisting upon bridges being 17 feet 6 inches high.

Mr Mayer: But you have bye-laws to that effect.

Mr Hodgson: I can't say that there is a bye-law. The inquiry then closed, and the Inspector and others went to view the roads and bridges.

Source: The Workington Star and Harrington Guardian, Friday, April 17, 1903.

Thanks to Janet Thompson for finding the article. As our photocopy was in small print and hard to read it was re-typed. I accept responsibility for any omissions and mistakes. Please refer to the original library copy for verification. Andy V Byers 26-11-2009