Extract from No 232 Volume LVIII (October 1949)
The Epping Railways Company, 1859-63
By P W Kingsford
The Epping Railways Company is not well known. This is not surprising since it never built a mile of railway. There had been, of course, many railway companies remarkable mainly for their lack of achievement but they were more uncommon by the 1860’s. This company’s real interest is that it is a local example of elbowing for position, parliamentary manoeuvring and wasteful expenditure that characterised railway promotion in England generally.
The Act of Incorporation, which received the royal assent on 13 August, 1859 empowered the company to make an extension of the Loughton Branch of the Eastern Counties Railway to Epping and Chipping Ongar and to raise capital of £100,000 in £10 shares with the customary limited liability.
The directors, who were George Parker Bidder (chairman), John Chevallier Cobbold, M.P., E S Cayley, M.P., and George Josslyn, explained the purpose and prospects to the proprietors at the first half-yearly meeting at Epping on 25 February, 1860. Promotion had been supported by the Eastern Counties as a protective measure against a competing line which was threatened from London, avoiding Epping, to Ongar, Dunmow and Bury. When this line was withdrawn the Eastern Counties said the Epping line was intended only ‘as a foil’ and should be abandoned. The Epping promoters therefore carried their Bill through Parliament against the opposition of the Eastern Counties.
The directors held out the prospect of a highly remunerative line, arising from the beauty of the locality, the close proximity to the metropolis and the ‘fertile and populous district beyond Ongar.’ The estimated cost from Loughton to Epping was between £52,571 and £54,571 for construction and land not including the, always considerable, item of parliamentary and legal expenses. The company’s own common seal was duly approved.
The conflict with the Eastern Counties involved the Epping men in expensive courses. Faced with a refusal to co-operate they deposited a Bill, as a protective measure, to obtain independent connection to Fenchurch Street by a line to the Barking extension of the Tilbury Line; this was the Epping Railways Ilford Bill. They also promoted a Bill to extend from Ongar to Dunmow. Both Bills were opposed in parliament by the Eastern Counties. Negotiations were then begun. The proposal was that the Eastern Counties should come to a fair working arrangement in return for withdrawal of the Ilford Bill, provided the Eastern Counties withdrew opposition to the Dunmow Bill.
The Ilford Bill was accordingly withdrawn. The legal costs had been £1,245. 12s. 11d., the engineering costs about £500. The Ongar-Dunmow Bill was passed since parliament considered the Eastern Counties had no locus standi for opposition, but it never produced a railway. In this case the legal costs were £1,682. 6s. 4d., and the engineering costs about £700.
The end of the conflict came with the approaching amalgamation of the Eastern Counties, Eastern Union and Norfolk companies into the Great Eastern Railway. An agreement between the companies provided that the Epping-Ongar and Ongar-Dunmow lines should be made by the associated companies, the Eastern Counties to deposit five-sevenths of the money required for the Loughton-Epping line. But the Ongar-Dunmow line was to be reconsidered and so it was.
The Epping Company was not quite dead. It had its interests, its assets and, more important, its liabilities to hand on. Its interests were protected by a separate Bill to vest its powers legally in the associated companies, before the proposed amalgamation.
Then, its manoeuvres had been accompanied by other difficulties. In order to dispose of unsold shares it had offered a commission of one-eighth of each share to ‘some of the professional gentlemen of Epping.’
The purchase of land created problems. Notice had been served, in the usual way, on landowners, the chief of whom was the Revd Mr Maitland mentioned by William Addison in Epping Forest as the first clerical lord of Loughton Manor, contracts of sale had been entered into, but the company was not ready or able to pay. And so when the Revd Mr Maitland owners amounting to £9,650 had to be passed with the rest to the associated companies and so to the G.E.R..
Lastly the local people became impatient. They, shareholders and residents in Epping, memorialised the company to start the works. This too was handed on.
In 1863, then, the new Great Eastern Railway inherited from the Epping project firstly legal and parliamentary expenses of £5,029. 10s. 2d., and engineering expenses of £2,525, a total of £7,554. 10s. 2d., of which only £3,414. 11s. related to the line to be actually built, secondly a railway on paper and thirdly a certain amount of local discontent. The Great Eastern became the L.N.E.R. and today the Eastern Region.
This story deals with only quite a small affair but it could be repeated many times over. It is based on the minutes of the Epping Railways Company.