Archaeologists unearth Victorian railway history in Huddersfield

PictureFoundations for the old railway sidings in Hillhouse, Huddersfield. Photo by Network Rail.

A long-forgotten railway siding dating back to the 19th Century has been discovered in Huddersfield close to where Huddersfield Civic Society called for Victorian coal chutes to be preserved.

The siding at Hillhouse – used for parking off-duty trains – was unearthed while teams studied maps from 1850 during a multi-billion pound rail upgrade to transform the region’s Transpenning route.

It’s thought the siding, which featured train sheds and railway turntables, was used to house and maintain trains as well as transport cattle, coal and other materials across the UK when the line formed part of the Manchester & Huddersfield Railway.

Over the last three months Network Rail has been carefully uncovering the historic site near Alder Street to prepare the route for twice as many tracks in the future, making way for faster, more frequent trains running along a greener, electrified railway.

The archaeological site is next to some historic railway coal chutes in Hillhouse at risk of being damaged by the work to build a temporary station at the site or falling into total ruin. Huddersfield Civic Society has called for more to be done to preserve them and you can read the full story lower down the news section.

A programme of survey work to unearth the old sidings was carried out with support from the Archaeological Services run by West Yorkshire Archive Service. The results confirmed that the foundations of the old sidings were buried just below the surface, spurring the specialists to bring the area back to how it would have looked over 172 years ago.

Hannah Lomas, Principal Programme Sponsor at Network Rail said: “This is an amazing insight into what the siding would have looked like over a century ago.

“Working closely with ASWYAS has allowed us to carefully excavate the site at a much faster speed while also providing useful information about the origin of the materials used and how the sidings helped transport goods around the UK.”

Delicately extracted samples of the brick and mortar will now help the team of experts to learn as much as they can about the site.

Kevin Moon, Project Manager at ASWYAS said: “As part of the planned development of Hillhouse Sidings, ASWYAS investigated the remains of the mid-19th century railway sidings underlying the modern industrial buildings on the site.

“During the project, the team of archaeologists uncovered two train turntables and a series of brick-built engine sheds, providing valuable information on the early development of the railway system in Huddersfield.”