Parbold Village History


A history of Parbold and the Railway

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                       Parbold Hill                                                          Station Road

Situated on the edge of the South West Lancashire plain, the village of Parbold has grown up around a number of small, relatively scattered, agricultural communities through which the river Douglas meanders on its’ route from Wigan to the Ribble estuary.  with no evidence of Roman habitation and no mention of Parbold in the Doomsday survey, it can be assumed that, during those times, there was no main centre of population in a sparsely populated area.

First references to Parbold appear in the late 12th century in the documents of Burscough Priory, to whom grants of land were made.  Following the Norman Conquest, the area around Parbold was within the Barony of Manchester which was held by the Grelley family, but, by the mid 13th century, Parbold was held by the Lathom family.  From this period until the mid 18th century there was no economic development or significant social change, the area consisting of scattered rural hamlets whose economy was almost solely dependent on food production, either by farming or related industries such as milling.  Several water mills have operated in the Parbold area since the 13th century, although all traces have long since gone.

There are no physical remains of Parbold dating earlier than the late 17thcentury with the oldest surviving stone houses, Common House and Manor cottage, dating from that time.  Parbold Windmill, whose structure still remains, was built in 1794 but ceased operating in the mid 19th century.  Douglas Chapel, which served the religious needs of the people of Parbold and surrounding area from the 13th century, was demolished in 1878 and the stone used to build the school on Parbiold Hill.  The new church, Christ Church, was consecrated in 1875.

It wasn’t until the River Douglas was made navigable in 1742 and the subsequent construction of the Leeds and Liverpool canal which passed through the heart of Parbold less than 40 years later, that any significant economic development occurred.

On the western edge of the South Lancashire coalfield there are occasional thin coal seams, which in the 18th and 19th centuries supported 3 small collieries in the area.  The underlying sandstone provided the basis of a number of quarries in and around Parbold and was well known for its’ resistance to erosion.  Parbold stone was used in many projects in and around Wigan, including Haigh Hall.  The navigable waterways were therefore able to provide a means of transport for the coal and stone trade, as well as the area’s agricultural products.  This outward trade, along with the inward trade of corn for milling, lime and general goods, required the building of wharves and stockyards, which were connected to the quarries by rail systems.  Boat building in the 18th and 19th centuries also added to the economic development of the area during that time.  However, in contrast to the economic revolutions occurring in other parts of Lancashire, the changes in Parbold were minor and the population increased only slightly during the 19th century, being 255 at the beginning and 598 by 1891.

It was the arrival of the railway in the mid 19th century which provided the biggest boost to the population as Parbold became accessible as a commuter area for the better off.  Prior to this there had been no real centre of population, but with new domestic building and shops springing up, the scattered housing became more integrated and, by the 20th century, the village had almost assumed the layout which exists today.  With Parbold becoming clearly identifiable as a physical entity and its’ inconvenient distance from the mother church at Eccleston, the village became a civil parish in 1894.  It has continued to expand as a commuter town from that date.  what had been a rural community is now a popular dormitory town.

The gradual evolution of Parbold has therefore taken place over the centuries without any dramatic events having taken place in the locality.  Major political and social upheavals, which significantly affected other parts of Lancashire, impinged only slightly on the area around Parbold.  However, the very fact that the village has been a passive bystander rather than an active participant in the great moments of History has meant a continuity in it’s development and has provided a social cohesion which has given Parbold its’ appeal as a residential area.

Bibliography:  A History of Parbold – J.M Virgoe.

 The Railway through Parbold by John Sloane

The railway finally arrives

The station at Parbold was a relative latecomer to the railway system. The national and regional rail network had become well established long before the line to Southport through Parbold was constructed.

The Southport line had first been promoted in the mid 1840’s having been authorised by the Manchester and Southport Railway Act of 22nd April 1847 and was to run between Pendlebury and the coast. However financial constraints delayed a start to the scheme for several years before pressure from interests in Southport forced the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway finally to instruct John Hawkshaw, their engineer, to prepare an estimate of costs. Time continued to pass with no action from the L & YR and it was only in August 1855 that as a result of an Order of Mandamus being obtained from the Court of the Queen’s Bench, the railway was compelled to construct the line. In doing it, however, the railway were concerned to reduce costs and the line was initially to be built as only a single track railway. The contract for the construction of the formation from Wigan to Southport was awarded to Thomas Davies, who had been recommended by Brunel. The line had been constructed by early 1855 and following a Board of Trade inspection the formal opening took place on 9th April 1855. The line was converted to double track on 1st November 1861.

The stations on the line were described at the time in the Bolton Chronicle as being “solid, substantial, well built of stone in the Elizabethan style, neat without undue ornamentation”. Parbold station together with the similar ones at Burscough Bridge, Appley Bridge, and Gathurst and the crossing keepers houses at Deans Lane and Chapel Lane were constructed using red sandstone obtained from the cuttings between Gathurst and Appley Bridge. A level crossing was provided immediately next to the station at Parbold and a signal box was added later. Around 1871 a small halt was added at Hoscar Moss which was later renamed Hoscar.

1. Burscough Bridge station   2. Parbold station and crossing   
 3. Appley Bridge station   4. Gathurst station 

At Parbold, ancillary buildings were later added together with a timber shelter and canopy on the down (Southport) platform.  By 1904 an underpass had been added to enable passengers and pedestrians to cross the line when the level crossing gates were closed. This underpass was roofed over both on the steps to the platforms and to the road. A small goods yard for the handling of coal and local produce was provided on the north side of the line immediately east of the level crossing. Thus, by this time Parbold station was an impressive and attractive feature of the village.

5. Parbold station and staff c1911. Note the canopied waiting rooms and the covered underpass exits either side of the crossing gates

The station continued in broadly this form for the next 50 or so years but by the early 1970’s rationalisation had resulted in the removal of the ancillary buildings, the canopies and the roofing over the subway and also the goods yard had closed. The station master’s house which formed a part of the station building had ceased to be used for railway purposes and was leased out as a private dwelling.

6. Parbold station - June 2020


7. Parbold station master's house - June 2020

Regrettably, the house now lies vacant and uncared for by Network Rail who are still the owners. The timber shelter on the down platform was later also removed and replacement bus stop style shelters were placed on each platform. In 2003 the ticket office and waiting room were completely refurbished and a disabled toilet was provided whist some interesting old photos were placed on the walls. In more recent years the station has been adopted by local volunteers and the Friends of Parbold Station, with financial assistance from the railway company, the Douglas Valley Lions and the Community Rail Partnership have provided planters, planting, hanging baskets and the noteworthy “Welcome to Parbold” feature disguising the unattractive bike shelter.

8. Parbold Station "welcome to Parbold station" feature on the "Up" (Wigan) line

9. Parbold station - June2020  View of Down (Southport) platform

10 Up platform waiting shelter and "Welcome to Parbold" feature 11 The ticket machine and bike shelter on the Up platform
 12 The ticket office - June 2020   13 Waiting area with framed photographs and newspaper cuttings on display

The original owners of the line, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (known as the Business Line) amalgamated in 1922 with the London and North Western Railway (known as the Premier Line).  In the following year the railways of Britain were grouped into what was known as the Big Four companies and the L&NWR then formed a part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway. On nationalisation in 1948 Parbold lay within the London Midland Region and on later sectorisation it was in Regional Railways before privatisation and the franchising to various companies under the name of Northern.

When the railway first arrived, Parbold was little more than a cluster of dwellings around the canal and Mill lane area together with a scatter of larger houses in the vicinity of Common Lane, Tan House Lane and Lancaster lane. At that time the station was not named after Parbold but was named “Newburgh”. As Parbold gradually grew in size, in part as a result of the coming of the railway, the station name was changed, first to “Newburgh for Parbold” and later “Parbold for Newburgh”.  It was only in 1968 that the reference to Newburgh was dropped and the station became simply “Parbold”.

Map of Parbold 1848 Map of Parbold 1907 
Map of Parbold showing station named as "Newburgh Station" showing development of the area around the station including the sidings to the east. On this and subsequent maps the station is refered to as "Parbold Station" or "Station"

The Signal Box

14. Parbold Cabin 2020

The signal box to control trains and the level crossing was erected in 1877. It was provided by the firm of Saxby and Farmer who up to that time had built a number of such boxes for the L&YR although shortly afterwards the railway company decided to build the boxes itself. The box at Parbold is an attractive S&F type 9 design and is now a Grade II listed building. It carries the name Parbold Cabin which was an early alternative to the more usual term “Box”, especially on the L&YR. It is now believed to be the last surviving signalling structure still referred to as a Cabin. The Cabin was refurbished in 1983 and again in2008 and contains a 20-lever frame to operate the signals and points. It is now somewhat altered from its original appearance most notably with the lower part of the windows facing the track being now boarded rather than the original glazing. Some years ago, the name board had fallen into disrepair and it was restored by local volunteers with the agreement of Network Rail and funding assistance from Douglas Valley Lions.

15-Parbold Station and Cabin – 1905 16-Parbold Cabin – 1956
Note the station name-board “Parbold for Newburgh”

Note the siding track, platform and crossovers behind the Cabin. The fields in the distance would have the Brandreth Drive Estate built on them a few years later.

17-Parbold Cabin - 1968 18-Parbold Cabin - October 1989

The gates have been removed and the barriers are about to be installed

 The signal cabin now controls the road crossing, the rail traffic, the semaphore and colour light signals and the little used rail crossover. It also supervises the crossing at Chapel Lane where the crossing keeper has no control of rail traffic and only operates the crossing gates.  The crossing gates at Parbold were once heavy wooden gates surmounted by large oil lamps. They were operated by means of a large wheel sited inside the cabin. 

 19-The Interior of Parbold Cabin when the crossing was gate controlled. The wheel was used to open and close the gates.  20-When the Cabin was upgraded, the signal levers and block instruments were transferred to the other side of the Cabin.

21.The track section diagram showing the track from Burscough Bridge to Wigan Wallgate


22-These are the Block Instruments that are used to communicate with the sections either side of Parbold controlled by Burscough Bridge and Wigan Wallgate signal boxes. 


23-Chapel Lane Crossing from the Beacon c2000 24-Chapel Lane Crossing House 2020
   The signalman is based in the white cabin and needs to contact Parbold Cabin to check if traffic can cross the line.
 25-Chapel Lane Crossing   26-Chapel Lane Crossing
 Chapel Lane Crossing 2020 showing the Chapel Lane down home signal above the Parbold distant signal

Wigan-bound train at Chapel Lane up home signal 2020

The gates at Parbold crossing were severely damaged in an accident in 1971 when a signalling error led to a train crashing through the gates and hitting a car. Subsequently some less attractive metal gates were provided which were later replaced by lifting barriers in 1989.


27-Parbold Cabin c1987-9

On occasion, the crossover at the east side of the crossing is used during engineering works. Below is a rare picture of hand signalling by green flag when trains from Wigan were terminating at Parbold and had to use the crossover to return eastwards. This was taken on 18th November 2019 when the bridge near Hoscar was being replaced. 

28-Hand Signalling trains across the crossover 

Passenger Traffic

 In the early days, passenger trains were few in number but had grown very considerably by the end of the 19th Century by which time a large amount of excursion traffic was also being handled. The basic train service has always been one of local trains between Southport and Wigan, or beyond, and faster trains running between Southport and Manchester Victoria, the HQ and hub of the L&YR. Around 1900 there were fast, non-stop “residential” services for morning and evening business commuters from Southport to Manchester. These trains were formed of quite plush gas- lit corridor coaching stock - the best such trains owned by the Company.  These residential, or “Club” trains as they were sometimes referred to (despite them not having the premier Club carriages of the true Club trains from Blackpool to Manchester)  would leave Southport at 8.10 and 8.30 in the morning and reach Salford and Victoria some 50 or 55 minutes later. The return trains were at 5.00 and 5.40 pm with the first taking a mere 45 minutes to reach St Luke’s. The operation of these non-stop trains was assisted by the existence of the set of water troughs at Hoscar which enabled which enabled the steam locomotives to replenish their water supply without the need to stop.


29-A typical L&YR Southport to Manchester express of about 1912 hauled by a "Highflyer" Atlantic type locomotive. (Painting by George Heiron)

In the early 1960’s the service from Parbold comprised stopping trains to Southport and Wigan, with some of the latter starting from Burscough Bridge, together with semi-fast services to Manchester Victoria and Rochdale. The residential and other fast Manchester trains ran non- stop through Parbold as did the excursion and weekend traffic to Southport from places throughout the North of England and the Midlands. Following the end of steam hauled trains on the line in the mid 1960’s the service was taken over by diesel multiple units working a more simplified timetable to and from Manchester Victoria but during the Regional Rail period the residential train concept was revived with diesel locomotives and corridor coaches working commuter trains which ran fast between Victoria and Wigan and then served principal stations including Appley Bridge, Parbold and Burscough.


30-Steam Locomotive 42630 at Parbold Station  September 1963

31-Steam Locomotive leaves Parbold Station c1960s
32-Class 104 DMU approaching Parbold Station
33-Class 142 DMU departing from                    Parbold Station c2010

Since privatisation the service has been worked by diesel multiple units including the much derided and recently retired Class 142 Pacer trains. The service evolved into two trains an hour travelling alternately to Victoria and Piccadilly or beyond. More recently the services ran simply to Victoria but were extended as through trains to either Leeds via Bradford or Blackburn via Todmorden but this was unpopular and unreliable and the earlier pattern has been restored. The intention at the time of writing is that in future the services on the Southport line will be worked by Class 769 bi-mode trains capable of operating under electric or diesel power. The converted electric multiple units to work the service are currently being tested and staff are being trained to use them.

 34-Class769 bi-mode on a training run through Parbold

In addition to the regular service trains there are also very occasional excursion trains for particular eventssuch as the Southport Flower Show or the Open Golf Tournament and also occasional day excursions to distant places of interest elsewhere in the country. During the 1980’s there were several steam-hauled excursion trains to Southport including on one occasion an excursion hauled by the famous engine, the “Flying Scotsman”.

35-4472 “Flying Scotsman” passes Burscough Bridge Junction signal box 1986

Freight Traffic

The line through Parbold had a number of small freight yards and sidings besides the goods yard at Parbold itself. To the east, just beyond Alder Lane bridge, the brickworks had a siding on the north side of the line as also did Parbold Hill stone quarry further east beyond Chapel Lane crossing.  At Parbold Quarry siding there was a further signal box and a crane to load stone brought down from the quarry on a wagon way. This wagon way was actually the second such from the quarry as the first had only served the canal and had been abandoned early in the 20th century. At Appley Bridge there was another small goods yard and sidings to serve the quarries, Grove chemical works and the glue and linoleum factories. At Gathurst the small goods yard provided transhipment facilities to the little narrow gauge railway which connected the station area to the Roburite explosives factory via a spindly steel viaduct which was demolished in 1982. Goods facilities also existed at Burscough Bridge and of course at Southport where there was extensive provision including a coal yard. Over the years a number of these sidings became disused as the facilities they served either closed or their functions changed.

36-Platt’s Siding Brick Cabin 

37-Wagon way

Platt’s Siding Brick Cabin between Chapel Lane and Alder Lane was opened in 1878 on the Platt’s up siding. It was a Saxby and Farmer type 9 18ft long by 12ft wide.

It controlled a crossover, connections from both up and down main to the up siding and a connection from the up main to the up goods yard at Parbold It closed between 1933 and 1935

The right-hand side of this photograph shows the original wagon way from Parbold Hill stone quarry leading down to the canal.

At the top left-hand side of the photograph is the Parbold Bottle in its original position

38-A rare photograph showing a wagon at the quarry running down the track to the siding

The Quarry at Parbold 1893 The Quarry at Parbold 1928

Two maps of the quarry at Parbold from 1893 and 1928 showing the wagon way tracks. The wagon way at the western side seems to have been added to serve the railway and was later extended to the canal making the original wagon way redundant 

 39-Appley Bridge Station and Goods/Quarry sidings on the up main side. c1912  40-A later view of Appley Bridge station and sidings. The chimneys on the right-hand side of the photograph are the Appley Bridge Brick and Tile company and the Grove Chemical and Glue works.

41-Gathurst Station and Sidings.

The Gathurst Viaduct in the background carrying the M6 motorway over the Douglas Valley was built in 1961. The narrow-gauge lines at the right were for the Roburite explosives factory.
 42-The narrow-gauge viaduct linking the Roburite explosives factory to Gathurst Sidings

By the 1960’s those declining goods yards and sidings that remained were served by both daily pick up freight trains operating from the exchange sidings alongside Wigan North Western station (where the multi storey car park now stands) and by through freights running from Bamfurlong sidings south of Wigan to Southport.  By the late 1970’s the only goods service remaining was an occasional explosives train to Gathurst. 

43-A mixed goods freight train heading for Appley Bridge passes under Alder Lane Bridge in the distance.
The train is pulled by 42953 Stanier Lobster Class 2-6-0 which was withdrawn from service in 1966
44-A freight train passes the houses in Fairhurst Drive on its approach to Parbold Station.
In the distance a Southport train passes the start signal which will be lowered by the signalman to secure the block ahead

Matters changed however in 1981 with the reopening of Parbold Hill and Appley Bridge West Quarries which were to be filled with domestic waste from the Manchester area brought in by rail. To facilitate this the siding next to East Quarry was reinstated and for nearly 15 years waste was brought in on container trains running to Appley Bridge from Northenden and Dean Lane at Newton Heath. In order to reach the siding these trains, like the explosives trains, had to run to Burscough Bridge in order for the locomotive to run round its train and return on the correct line to reverse into the unloading siding. Since 1995 there have been no freight trains through Parbold although it does see the very occasional test train and in autumn the special leaf clearance trains run regularly.  

45-The container train on its way back from turning around at Burscough Bridge passes through Parbold station on its way to Appley Bridge quarry sidings. 46-The container train pulls past the quarry sidings at Appley Bridge. Once the back of the train has passed the turnout into the sidings, the train will reverse into the sidings to allow the containers to be unloaded and empty containers to be reloaded.
47-The container train reverses back into the sidings.

48-The container train waits in the siding as a Southport bound train passes.

The buildings on the left are Thomas Witter and Co Ltd Lino works or British Hydroflex as it became known

At the time of writing there is a possible proposal to reopen the Apply Bridge siding in order to bring in a very large quantity of inert waste to fill the East Quarry but this will no doubt be a highly contentious scheme which has not yet reached the stage of being a formal planning proposal. If it were ever to come about it would see freight trains running again on the line for years to come.

Onward Connections

Further information on the history of Parbold  is contained in “A History of Parbold” by J. M. Virgoe whilst the full history of the whole of the L&YR is in the three volume book “The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway” by John Marshall. For anyone particularly interested in details of the passenger and freight services through Parbold these can be found in the remarkably detailed accounts and tables in Chris Coates’s book “Wigan (L&Y) Motive Power Depot”. A history poster at the station has recently been prepared by the Friends of Parbold Library in conjunction with the Friends of Parbold Station and Community Rail Lancashire. An associated video can also be found on the internet. Finally, contacts for the Friends of Parbold Station, and the local railway photographic group, the Red Lion Railway Circle can be found in the village newsletter.


A History of Parbold                    By John Virgoe

Wigan (L&Y) Motive Power Depot By Chris Coates

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway By John Marshall

49-The unveiling of the Parbold Station History Poster on the down platform noticeboard

The Parbold Station History Poster

(Community Rail Lancashire)

Photographic Credits                                                                                                             

Photograph Credits:

John Sloane - 1,3,4,8,27,28,31,32,34,35,44,45,46,47,48,50 

John Sloane Collection - 2,17,33,37,43   

Alan Gilbert (Courtesy of the Manchester Locomotive Society) – 30

Eric Bentley (Courtesy of the Manchester Locomotive Society) – 41 

Allan Heyes (Courtesy of Chris Coates) – 42   

George Heiron (A painting by him) – 29

Mark Dowding – 6,7,9,10,11,12,13,14,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,49 

Paul Mackenzie – 18,19

Parbold Library – 5,15,16   

Tony Graham – 36,39,40                                                                                                           

Unknown – 38.

Related Links: 

Community Rail Lancashire (Parbold History Poster)

Community Rail Lancashire (Parbold Virtual History Poster)

Parbold Library Official Site

Friends of Parbold Library Facebook Page

Produced by John Sloane (Friends of Parbold Station) in conjunction with Mark Dowding and Chris Abel

(Friends of Parbold Library)

John Sloane was a Town Planner and former Local government Chief officer who has lived in Parbold for many years. He has had a lifelong interest in railways both in this country and overseas and has visited some 65 countries in pursuit of his interests. For many years he has run the local Red Lion Railway Circle and more recently the Friends of Parbold Station Group.

Mark Dowding worked for 36 years as a Railway Electrification Design Engineer so has a professional interest in railways. In his spare time he has been singing songs about industry around the country - Cotton, Coal and Steam amongst others. He has been involved in producing a radio documentary about the passing of the steam age on the railway where he used the words of the people who worked in the days of steam alongside songs that people had written about the railways in those times. He has appeared on local radio as a performer and presenter and also on television when programme researchers have contacted him to talk about songs.

 John in Patagonia in 2004  Mark on local radio




50-Cast Iron Trespass Notice at Chapel Lane Crossing

27th February 1885

Text on notice

(Today's value of 40 Shillings, about £135)


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