About Coalville

Belvoir Road: north end.

Coalville is situated in North West Leicestershire and was originally little more than a few dwellings situated around a junction where two minor tracks crossed. For a very brief time it was known as Long Lane after the name of one of the tracks, it would be inaccurate to call them roads, it was also known as ‘Ditching Lane’. No one knows for sure who actually coined the name of Coalville but it came into use in the early 1830s and has stuck. Following is the historical background, written by local historian Denis Baker, on the birth of the Leicester & Swannington railway, one of the earliest in the world, and the subsequent discovery of coal deposits in the Long Lane area that initiated the development of the thriving town of Coaville.

When William Stenson, proprietor of Whitwick Colliery, returned from an investigatory trip to the Stockton-Darlington railway he carefully studied land between Long Lane and Leicester and, taking into account the mines at Ibstock and Bagworth, he planned the line of a possible railway. Realising that considerable finance would be needed for such an undertaking, he sought the opinion of John Ellis, an enterprising landowner who had connections with George Stephenson. Ellis persuaded Stephenson and his son, Robert to view Stenson’s proposed route.

Stephenson approved the scheme with few amendments and a meeting was called at the Bell Hotel, Leicester in February, 1829 to appoint a provisional committee to prepare a scheme for presentation to Parliament. In June the plans were approved but a little difficulty was encountered raising the £90,000 capital. Stephenson used his northern financiers to make up the deficit.

John Ellis was elected Chairman of the promoting committee and Robert Stephenson, then aged 27, was appointed Engineer. The company’s Act of Parliament was gained on 29th. May 1830 incorporating the proprietors under the name ‘Leicester and Swannington Railway Company’ authorising them to construct within five years a Railway “for the passage of waggons and other carriages, to be drawn, propelled, or moved thereupon by Stationary and Locomotive Steam Engines, Horses, or other adequate power” from West Bridge in Leicester to a termination “at the public Turnpike Road from Hinckley to Melbourne Common” with four branches.

The company quickly set about the construction of the line which began on 1st. October when one of the contractors placed a stone slab on the doorstep of the new West Bridge offices. The construction of the line was given out to various contractors. On leaving West Bridge Station the line passed over Fosse Road before entering a cutting leading to Glenfield tunnel which was 1,796 yards long. Much trouble was encountered in its construction and one of the contractors was tragically killed in a fall down one of the working shafts.

From Glenfield the line ran through Ratby, Desford, and Merry Lees to Thornton at the foot of an inclined plane up to Bagworth. The lower level of this line was the first to be operated at the official opening of the line on 17th July, 1832.

By 1833 the line had reached Long Lane and was opened for coal traffic on Monday 22nd. April and on the following Saturday for passengers, completing the link with Whitwick Colliery which Stenson had so carefully planned a few years previously. The extension past Long Lane to Swannington was complete by 12th. August 1833. From Spring Lane, Swannington, an incline was constructed up which wagons of coal were hauled by a stationary steam engine at the top which was eventually reported to be working in November, 1833.

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