Wollaton Wagonway/waggonway - overview & resources list
(Last updated 7 Jun 2007)
The waggonway (or wagonway depending which part of the UK you come from) was the earliest form of surface level, embryonic, railway. No one is yet sure whether waggonways evolved or were specifically invented. The early examples used wooden bodied vehicles, hauled by horses. In general they had flanged wheels running on an edge rail. These wheels and rails were also made from wood until much later in the development of the systems when iron began to be introduced.
In a period in the late 1700s and early 1800s some were also built using an L shaped iron rail system and plain flanged, normal, cart wheels. However despite some merits to the system when routes were operating on small scale with horse haulage as the railway era with steam locomotives expanded the L rail system was seen as a "blind alley" and it faded from the scene.What we know for certain, from surviving documentation, is that between the Autumn of 1603 and 1st October 1604 a waggonway was built near Nottingham in the English East Midlands. It ran for approximately two miles specifically for carrying coal from the pits at Strelley to a land sales/transshipment point located within Wollaton Manor.
Earlier examples may have been built but the Wollaton wagonway is currently the earliest recorded surface level waggonway anywhere in the world and is therefore believed, currently, to have been the first.
It was built by Huntingdon Beaumont who was the partner of the local land-owner Sir Percival Willoughby.
The Wollaton Wagonway is currently the earliest, surface level waggonway anywhere in the world proven by record, and therefore is attributed to be the first. Other, short length, waggonways were recorded in operation at Broseley alongside the River Severn in 1605, but may of course have been built earlier, and transport historians debate which area did, in fact, have the primacy. The Wollaton wagonway’s long running length of two miles would have required a substantial input of capital investment at a time when Sir Percival Willoughby was in financial difficulties. The building of such a substantial waggonway, from scratch, as an untested experiment seems unlikely. It is probable that other, short, waggonways did pre-date construction of the two-mile line to Wollaton with their use in the Strelley area pre-dating 1604.
The Wollaton Wagonway ’s significance in the long-term evolution of the cross-country railway is undoubtedly twofold. Firstly the fact that its builder proved a waggonway could work successfully over a two-mile length and secondly because its builder took the technology to the North East where it was later adopted by others. The significance of those two points will remain even if records of earlier, short length, waggonways are discovered in future.
|Click here for a map of the route
|Route map and surrounding area.
|John New / Wikipedia
|Wikipedia entry about the WW
|Public domain version of the history of the Wollaton Wagonway.
John New (NB On external webSite - link repaired 4 Feb '06 and last rechecked 1 Apr 07)
|Wollaton & Huntingdon Beaumont
|A comprehensive web based overview of the Wollaton wagonway ( or Wagonway) and its builder, Huntingdon Beaumont.
|400 years of English railways - Huntingdon Beaumont and the early years
|Comprehensive article in Backtrack Magazine (Vol 18 No 11 - November 2004) about the Wollaton wagonway (or Wagonway) and its builder Huntingdon Beaumont. Also referred to occasionally as the Strelley Tramway.
|John New (NB on SLS WebSite)
|On from Wollaton - 400 years of railways | A look at the Wollaton wagonway in its context and outlining what it lead to.
|WRC spread of waggonway technology
|The spread of of waggonways / wagonways over the first 20 years mapped.
|Pictures of the Wollaton area relating to the waggonway
|Self explanatory. Index list page to several photographs of the Wollaton area.
|Dr Richard Smith
|England's First Rails - A reconsideration.
|A long out of print work - p119 - 134 of Renaissance and Modern Studies Vol 4 1960. Pub Univ of Nottm.
|Dr Michael Lewis
|Early Wooden Railways
|Comprehensive study of the development of early railways with full section about the Wollaton Waggonway. (Out of Print) First published 1970, Routledge Kegan and Paul. ISBN 0 7100 7818 8
|Dr Michael Lewis
|Overview of the events of 1604
The ER3 Conference papers were intially issued on a subscription only basis but the publisher's are to issue a short reprint run. The book is fully recommended by the WRC Webmaster and includes a chapter covering 1604. Publishers flyer for the reprint.
|WebSite Site coordinator
|Updates to Waggonway (Wagonway) Research Circle webSite