HUDDERSFIELD AND MANCHESTER RAILWAY COMPANY.
ON Saturday week a numerous and highly-important meeting of the shareholders in this undertaking was held in the Guildhall, Huddersfield. The room was well filled, and the proceedings (which extended over seven hours) had principal reference to a recommendation of the Directors for an amalgamation with the Sheffield and Manchester Company, and all their confederacies.
The chair was taken by Mr. Carbutt, of Leeds, (one of the Directors) after some opposition, who called upon the Secretary (Mr. William Gilmer) to read the following Report of the Directors and that of the Engineer:—
In meeting the proprietors on the present occasion, your Directors beg leave to refer to the accompanying Report from your Engineer (Mr. Alfred S. Jee) as to the progress of the works, and to the accompanying balance-sheet of the Company's income and expenditure to the 31st December last.
The Directors are proceeding with all practicable dispatch in procuring possession of the land, but have had to encounter unusual delay and difficulty from having had to comply with the special requirements of the Act of Parliament relating to the canal proprietors, and from the unusual pressure upon the time and occupation of the surveyors during the past summer.
They are now happy to say that these difficulties are at length surmounted, and that the land purchases are progressing satisfactorily.
With the sanction of the shareholders the Directors have made application to Parliament for the various branches, and they beg to Iteport that the whole of them have passed the ordeal of the Standing Orders Committee, and are in a satisfactory position as to future prospects.
Owing to the great difficulty which other Companies have experienced in obtaining their supply of locomotive engines, your Directors have thought it prudent to give a timely order for engines, so that no delay may occur in the opening of the Cooper Bridge branch.
They have also contracted for the whole of the rails and chairs which are already in course of delivery.
In terms of the provisions of the Company's Clauses Consolidation Act, the whole of the Directors retire from office, and are by law re-eligible.
(Signed) FRANCIS CARBUTT, Chairman.
Gentlemen, I beg to lay before you the following Report of the progress made in the construction of the works on this railway.
Immediately on the Act of Parliament being obtained, the staking out of the line commenced, and the whole of this is now completed, and in many places the side widths have been set out.
At the Stalybridge end of the line, and also between Marsden and Huddersfield, the works have only been partially commenced, owing to the delay and difficulty in getting possession of the land ; but the contractors, Messrs. Nowell and Hattersley, are prepared with materials to proceed with vigour as soon as the land can be obtained for Nearly the whole of the landowners' plans have been prepared for the above-mentioned districts, and furnished to the solicitors.
Between Huddersfield and Cooper Bridge all the land has been purchased, and great progress has been made with the works.
About 80,000 cubic yards of earthwork have been removed, and there are at present about 500 men and 50 horses employed upon them.
The viaduct at Huddersfield has been commenced, and as this is the heaviest work between Huddersfield and Cooper's Bridge, I have given directions that it shall be pushed forward as fast as is consistent with its future stability, in order that this portion of the line may be opened at the earliest possible period.
Mr. Nicholson, the contractor for the Standedge tunnel, has commenced operations there, and is getting on well with the widening out and securing of the old canal shafts, which shall be made available for drawing out a portion of the material for the new tunnel. He is also preparing the engines and engine houses for this purpose.
My attention has been directed to the station at Huddersfield, which is a point of great importance, and requires much consideration. Plans have been already prepared and laid before your Board, and I expect in a very short time we shall be able to commence upon it. The earthwork on its site is now being removed.
The materials for the permanent way are already in the course of delivery, and l think that the progress made altogether, and especially between Huddersfield and Cooper Bridge, has been very satisfactory.
(Signed) ALFRED S. JEE.
The Chairman, in proposing the adoption of these Reports, stated that the whole of the land between Huddersfield and Cooper Bridge had been purchased, and the works were proceeding with favourably; upon other portions of the line land was also purchased, and the Directors were proceeding with their work of securing the whole of the land. The Oldham, Bradford, and Cooper Bridge extensions, had passed the ordeal of the Standing Orders Committee without opposition. He thought this was very much to the credit of their Engineer and Solicitors, who had not only upon this occasion, but also upon application for their Bill, got up the case with extreme care. Owing to the great demand for locomotives the Directors had thought proper thus early to order four passenger and two goods engines — the passenger engines to be delivered in 12 months, by which time he hoped the line would be opened from Cooper Bridge to Huddersfield. A contract had been entered into for chains and rails, which were now in course of delivery. The Reports were then adopted.
The CHAIRMAN said that they were now coming to the pith of the business; although the meeting was not called for the special purpose of finally assenting to or dissenting from the proposed amalgamation with the Manchester and Sheffield Railway Company, inasmuch as they had not the proposed Bill to lay before them that day, yet in consequence of the proceedings of the last meeting it had been thought proper to bring this discussion to a close; and although in making a proposal for an amalgamation the Directors did that which they believed would be for the best interests or the Company, still they were ready to pledge themselves to abide by , the decision of the meeting that day. They hoped that those gentlemen who had thought proper to advocate a contrary view, would, if the meeting were against them, cease their opposition. If those gentlemen who had a seat at that Board said, “we are ready to abandon our private views and submit to the majority,” he thought the other party should abandon their views also. It was agreed upon that proxies should be forwarded to all the shareholders, and they would be made use of, on both sides, on the present occasion.
Mr. T. F. Bennett, of Liverpool, said that his connexion with the Liverpool Committee would cease that day; still he could not pledge either himself or any of the members of the Committee as to what course they would pursue after the proceedings of that day. He had distinctly stated that he should oppose the proposed amalgamation to the very last, and therefore they called upon him for a pledge which he could not give when they asked him to give up all opposition. He believed that before they went to the House of Lords they must have a majority of 3/5ths of the shareholders, and he should, therefore, wish one question to be answered — when speaking of a majority of that meeting, did the Board mean a majority of 3/5ths?
The Chairman replied that he should require a majority of 3/5ths of the present meeting, and if there was not such a majority, the Directors pledged themselves to abandon the proposed amalgamation. (Some further interruption ensued, and the Chairman then resumed) — In order that they might be made fully aware of the magnitude of the proposed amalgamation, Mr. Jee had prepared a map to which he now begged to call their attention. (The Chairman's future remarks were so mixed up with repeated references to the map that we cannot make the whole of them intelligible to our readers, without the map.) In reference to the capital required for the formation of the proposed lines, the Chairman said that the Great Grimsby and Sheffield line were 59 miles in length, and would require a capital of £600,000 for a single line of rails, but a decision had since been come to, to lay down a double line of rails, and an additional capital of £230,000 would, therefore, be required, making a total of £823,000 ; there was a deviation at Brigg of 4 miles, requiring a capital of £60,000 ; the line to Lincoln, would cost £265,000 ; the line to Bolton and Newark, £300,000 ; then there were the Grimsby Docks, the expense of which was calculated at £420,000, and the purchase of the Humber ferries £40,000 ; then there was the Sheffield and Lincoln line of 36 miles, costing £550,000, and the extensions of their own Company costing £250,000. The whole of the proposed lines were 165½ miles in length, and the capital required £2,718,000 ; the average cost of the lines being after the rate of £14,000 per mile. He now came to the Sheffield and Manchester line, £1,600,000 had already been expended, at a cost of £30,000 per mile. The several branches applied for by that Company were — the Barnsley branch, capital £150,000 ; the Whalley Bridge branch, £400,000 ; the Glossop branch, £15,000 ; and the Sheffield Junction (or an enlargement of the present station), £20,000, Making a total capital of £5,250,000. In addition to this, there was the Nottingham and Newark branch; but as it was not likely they would pass the Standing Orders, he had not taken them into the account. There were two other lines towards which that Company intended to subscribe the sum of £310,000, making a grand total of £5,560,000. To this they had to bring a capital of £850,000, and if they had obtained their branches a further capital of £688,000. The Peak Forest, Macclesfield, and Ashton Canal had been leased at a rental of £28,400. The total capital of the amalgamated Companies would therefore amount to £7,100,000. And now came the desirability of the amalgamation. They were all agreed upon one point — that there was a line to the north with which it was desirable to unite—the Leeds and Dewsbury as well as the Leeds and Thirsk. They had had repeated interviews with the former Company, and had succeeded in making arrangements with them. With regard to the Manchester end of the line, the case was different. It was a misnomer to call it a Manchester and Huddersfield line. Many shareholders thought they could carry their line to Manchester without any difficulty; but they were just in the same position they were at the Dewsbury end — they had to go over 7 miles of another line. It was therefore desirable that they should get to Manchester with every facility, and to make arrangements with other parties there who would send goods over their line. When the Manchester and Huddersfield line was first projected it was taken up by the Manchester and Sheffield; in fact, without the assistance of that Company it would have had no existence. After the Act was obtained an arrangement was made to go over their line, but when the amalgamation was proposed that was given up. The Chairman with much warmth urged the amalgamation upon the grounds of gratitude, and honour, and good faith. Suppose they refused to amalgamate; they would then be separated from any other Company by a distance of 7 miles: they would be placed in the same position as they would be suposing they wanted to get to Leeds without the Leeds and Dewsbury. Who so likely to get traffic for them in Manchester as the Sheffield Company, who had better station accommodation than any other Company in Manchester. There might be minor defects in this great scheme, but as a whole a better one could not have been proposed. Look at the proposed cost – £45,000 per mile for their own, £30,000 for the Sheffield schemes, and £14,000 per mile for the others with which they proposed to amalgamate. They had hitherto been much deceived with the amount of traffic on the agricultural lines ; it had always increased beyond the anticipations of the promoters. It was certainly looking a long way before hand in contemplating the prospective advantages which would arise from the port of Grimsby, but he thought they were justified in doing so. With regard to a station at Manchester ; where were they to be accommodated? Would it be prudent to expend a large amount of money in obtaining a station when they could have every accommodation they needed by uniting with another Company? With regard to working the traffic, they could not do it as an independent Company. All those different lines he had named ought to be placed under one management. Whatever might be the result of that day's meeting, he did not despair of their line, because it was so placed that it could not but be a good line ; but in honour and honesty they were bound, if they did amalgamate with any Company, to amalgamate with that Company who had helped them from the beginning. The Chairman then formally proposed, “That it be a recommendation to the Directors to proceed with the Bill before Parliament for the amalgamation of this Company with the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne, and Manchester Railway Company, and its confederates.”
Mr. W.L. Brook seconded the motion, and repeated the statement made by the Chairman, that unless they had a majority of 3/5ths of the present meeting, they should abandon it.
Mr. Bennett, in proposing an amendment — “That the proposed amalgamation ought not to be further proceeded with, but that the independence of this Company be preserved” — said, that the proposed amalgamation was quite unnecessary. What difficulty was there about the use of the seven miles of railway into Manchester? It must be a matter of great importance to the Sheffield Company to get them to travel over that portion of their line, and especially as the traffic taken over that portion of the line would not compete with them. Had it ever been proved to their satisfaction that if they did not amalgamate with the Sheffield and Manchester Company they would not let them travel over their seven miles. If they denied that, another means would be tried of getting to Manchester. He thought the alliance was untimely. They had already made an amalgamation with the Leeds and Dewsbury Company, and he thought it would be now much better to mind the expenditure of their own capital, and perfect their own works, and not enter into an amalgamation with a Company having a capital of £5,000,000, part of which was not yet raised. If he wanted a vindication of the proposed amalgamation, he should look to the speech of Mr. Parker, at a late meeting of the Sheffield Company, and not at the speech of their Chairman that day. Any one coming there would have taken it to have been a Sheffield and Manchester meeting. Their Chairman had shown them the great interest which the Sheffield and Manchester had in the amalgamation, but the interests of the Huddersfield and Manchester were only as a drop in the bucket. There was another point he had considered the proposed amalgamation was not an eligible one. It was an unnatural amalgamation, and if they would only maintain their independence a little longer, he had no doubt a better purchaser would offer himself. He did not ask them what they would take, but he should like to have a fixed price and a steady revenue. Mr. B. then descanted at some length upon the great advantages offered by the Huddersfield and Manchester line, from which he argued with increased force that they ought not hastily to enter into an amalgamation with any Company, especially as they were only seven months old. He had no doubt if they only waited a little, there would be plenty of suitors, and some one with a paid-up capital and paying large dividends. He had no doubt the Directors had the interests of the shareholders at heart, but somehow they had the misfortune never to look at them except through Sheffield spectacles.
Mr. Heaps, of Huddersfield, seconded the amendment in a very lengthened address, and during which he frequently referred to the map prepared by Mr. Gee. It appeared from what the Chairman had stated that a mileage rate had once been agreed to on the part of the Sheffield Company, which was subsequently given up when amalgamation was proposed. He had no doubt, if application were again made for a mileage rate, it would be granted. The Manchester and Leeds Company had been opened four years, and now paid 8 per cent., although at the Leeds end they passed over 10 miles of the Midland line. The Grand Junction, until lately, ran over one half of the Manchester and Liverpool line, and into their station also. So that they had two most striking proofs of the practicability of their railway thriving even with a mileage rate. But the question of amalgamation was purely of a business character. He then entered into some elaborate statistics, in order to prove the superior advantages of their line over the Manchester and Leeds line, in point of competition, and that they would be enabled to convey the traffic over their line at a smaller cost. In the Chairman's speech they heard enough about expenditure. But not one word about the income. Again, he had told them of a capital of £7,000,000, but he had not told them how much of that was unpaid. Certainly they ought to have been told something of the advantages of an amalgamation with the Sheffield Company ; and had the Directors been able to prove that the Sheffield and Manchester line possessed advantages equal to their own, no doubt that would have been brought forward as a strong argument in favour of amalgamation. That railway had been seven years in constructing, partially opened for four years, and entirely opened for two months. But according to the traffic returns of last week only 3 per cent, would be paid. What had the Huddersfield and Manchester proved before Parliament? Why, this — that they should pay 8 per cent. He would take their traffic tables to be honest, he would take the Great Grimsby traffic tables to be honest also, and what was the proposed advantage? If a Great Grimsby proprietor came to them (and he had a larger interest in that line than in the Huddersfield one) and said, will you join your £69 with my £43 and then divide equally, would they hesitate what to do for a moment? The Sheffield and Lincoln, and the Sheffield and Barnsley, neither of which proved returns equal to theirs, or even the Great Grimsby, but the three lines would require a capital of above £2,000,000, they would not throw one pound of traffic upon the Huddersfield line; and yet they were asked to amalgamate with them their superior income, and then divide it equally . Mr. H. then proceeded to shew that, as a Company, they had had two great evils to contend with — first, the Sheffield and Manchester Company; and, secondly, the canal interest. (The speaker was most indecently interrupted during his address, and as if to disconcert him still more while dealing with statistics and elaborating a well got up case, the Chairman announced that news had just arrived that Sir Robert Peel's measure had been carried by a majority of 97; several rounds of cheering followed.) Mr. H. then argued that an amalgamation with the Great Grimsby Company would reduce their stock from £6 per share premium to 36s. per share, and concluded by seconding the mendment.
Jo. Brook, Esq., said, that the proposed amalgamation was not called for. He not only looked at the advantages which would arise to the shareholders if they refused to amalgamate, but also to the town of Huddersfield. The only argument he had heard advanced (and it was a very flimsy one) in favour of the amalgamation, was — the difficulty of getting to Manchester. But was it to he supposed that the Sheffield Company would not suffer them to run over their line at a fair mileage rate? And supposing they refused, was there no means of compelling them? And if not, would not the Manchester and Leeds Company be the first to take the thing up? As an Huddersfield man, and looking at the future prosperity of the town, he must say that by the proposed amalgamation they would make the line merely a branch of the Sheffield line, and not a through line. The Directory would also be a foreign Board, consisting of gentlemen in no way interested with the town. By amalgamating with the Sheffield Company they would put themselves in a position that would prevent them amalgamating with other Companies who were naturally connected with them. He admitted that they were indebted to the Sheffield Company, but they were not bound to carry out that feeling by amalgamating with them. They would be amply repaid for all they had done, as the whole of the traffic would be sent over seven miles of their line. They could not have got the traffic from the north, while at the same time they would reap all the benefit of it. He implored them as they valued the town of Huddersfield, not to make the proposed amalgamation. Huddersfield had been thrown aside too much. He hoped they would not now throw away their advantages. The proposal was entirely uncalled for, and came, he understood, from a divided Board. How then could the Directors come and ask them to do that about which they were divided in opinion themselves?
Mr. Freeman said that as a holder of 200 proxies he should scarcely be doing his duty did he not state that all he had heard had been to his mind quite conclusive that if they amalgamated they would place themselves at a disadvantage — giving every thing and receiving nothing. One thing he was surprised at ; seeing so many. Sheffield gentlemen present, that not one of them had replied to Mr. Heap's statements. He had a right therefore to assume that those statements were correct. At a previous meeting held in that town, Mr. Aldam, the Chairman, stated that if they amalgamated with the Sheffield Company, they would only have four Directors out of twenty. What influence therefore could they ever possess at that Board? The Chairman who presided over them that day advised an amalgamation, but gave them nothing in return. Their Chairman appeared before them as an advocate of the Sheffield Company, and not of the Huddersfield and Manchester Company. It would have been much better if they had heard something of the advantages and the disadvantages of the proposed amalgamation. There was no difficulty started except that of getting to Manchester. When their Bill was before Parliament, Mr. P.M. Stewart (and he would have it known that that name was highly honoured in Huddersfield, said it was their wish that it should be a through line from the north to the west. Certainly it was intended that the Manchester and Sheffield, and all other railways, should be put upon the footing of highways; in the same way that they could now travel upon a high road although they had come off another trust. He hoped that every Huddersfield gentleman would exert himself to keep Huddersfield upon a through line, and not suffer it to become a branch line with sixteen out of twenty Directors to control its traffic.
A desultory conversation ensued, and it was said that some 1,000 or 2,000 shares had been purchased lately by Sheffield gentlemen, and divided and registered in tens for the purpose of swamping the meeting.
Mr. Jos. Armitage, Mr. John Brook, and Mr. Joseph Stocks (who said he was the largest share holder in the Company), spoke against the amalganiallon.
Mr. FREEMAN complained that the advertisement calling the meeting had only been inserted in the Bradford Observer — a paper which no one in Huddersfield hardly ever saw.
Mr. Gatliff said, that nobody knew of such a paper; and, for want of proper information, he was unable to get some shares transferred in time.
The Chairman explained that the non-insertion of the advertisement in papers where it was likely to be seen had been a pure oversight, and would not occur again; and, in his reply, was repeatedly stopped by cries of “don’t advocate.” He admitted that he felt himself placed at a disadvantage after the speech of Mr. Brook, a gentleman greatly and deservedly respected by his fellow-townsmen, and then proceeded briefly to argue that although the Sheffield line only paid 3 per cent. upon the two months traffic since it was opened, yet there was every prospect of its being a good paying line.
The motion and amendment was then put, and the show of hands was about equal. This, of course, decided the fate of the proposed amalgamation. A poll was, however, demanded by those in favour of the amalgamation, and it was at one proceeded with. While the voting papers were in the course of collection.
The Chairman inquired whether the decision of the amalgamation should decide that of who should compose the new Board He suggested that which ever, side had the majority it should be taken as if the parties had voted for the new Directors, and then read the following list of Directors proposed on behalf of the Board: — Mr Aldam, M.P., Doncaster; Mr. G. Loch, Warrington ; W. L. Brook, Esq., Meltham ; Mr. Randall, Sheffield ; Mr. T. Firth, Huddersfield; Mr. Lees, Saddleworth ; Mr. Baily, Staleybridge ; Mr. Joseph Starkey, Huddersfield; and Mr. Carbutt, Leeds.
Mr. Bennett then proposed the following Directors on behalf of those opposed to the amalgamation:— Mr. Aldam, Mr. W. L. Brook, Mr. G. Loch, Mr. T. Firth, Mr. James Lees, Mr. W. Baily, Mr. Jos. Brook, Greenhead, Huddersfield, Mr. Jos. Starkey, Mr. Joseph Stocks, Shibden Hall, Halifax, and Mr. Bennett, Liverpool.
The Chairman inquired if it was the pleasure of the meeting that the election of these gentlemen should be decided by the majority of the meeting?
Mr. T. Hodgson, of Halifax, said that if the proposed amalgamation were carried, he should move that the gentlemen upon Mr. Bennett's list should form the new Board.
The meeting, however, agreed that the result of the scrutiny should decide the fate of the new Board for the ensuing year, and the Chairman adjourned the meeting for an hour for the purpose of ascertaining the number of votes, two scrutineers having in the meantime been appointed.
Mr. W. L. Brook, and the other gentlemen who had been conducting the scrutiny, returned into the Hall about 15 minutes before 8 o'clock, when the numbers for and against the amalgamation were announced to be as follows:—
Thus leaving a majority against the amalgamation of of 2791 shares or 613 votes.
Upon the Chairman announcing the majority, it was received with loud cheering. The names of the new Directors were then read over, and the Chairman exhorted the meeting to let all feelings of animosity cease from that moment.
The meeting was also addressed by Mr. Bennett, who concluded by moving a vote of thanks to Mr. Carbutt for his unwearied exertions when in London, and since for the promotion of the interests of the Company. Mr. J. Freeman seconded the vote, which was duly responded to.
Mr. Freeman said that upon going through the register they had found a large number of “ten shares” which had been registered just before the closing of the transfer books, and by parties residing in the quarter suspected; he was sorry to lay this before the meeting ; but he thought it was only right the meeting should know that the charge had not been made without sufficient grounds for it.
The business of the meeting then terminated.