•  1885: Glynde & Beddingham Cricket Club founded•  1887: Queen Victoria's Jubilee
Telpher Line: 1885-1890
A fanciful view of the telpher line at Glynde. Clearly the artist had no idea of the topography of Glynde Reach and the surrounding fields.
A fanciful view of the telpher line at Glynde. Clearly the artist had no idea of the topography of Glynde Reach and the surrounding fields.
A view of the sidings at Glynde where the skeps deposited the load they had carried from the clay pit (from an article entitled Telpherage in Practical Use by Frederik Atherton Fernald in Popular Science Monthly, July 1890)
A view of the sidings at Glynde where the skeps deposited the load they had carried from the clay pit (from an article entitled Telpherage in Practical Use by Frederik Atherton Fernald in Popular Science Monthly, July 1890)
The Telpher line at Glynde (from an article entitled Telpherage in Practical Use by Frederik Atherton Fernald in Popular Science Monthly, July 1890)
The Telpher line at Glynde (from an article entitled Telpherage in Practical Use by Frederik Atherton Fernald in Popular Science Monthly, July 1890)
Owner
FromNameUntil
1885The Telpherage Company1890
Occupier
FromNameUntil
1885The Telpherage Company1890

The Telpherage Company opened this, the first telpher line in England, on 17 Oct 1885 to carry gault clay from a newly opened pit north of Glynde Reach and east of Decoy Wood in a raised field called the Great Milbourn Field.

The York Herald reported in May 1885 that at a meeting of the Cleveland engineers, on Monday evening, Mr A C Hill presiding, a discussion took place respecting the automatic transport of goods by electrical means. Professor Jenkin, of the Edinburgh University, said the system had been named Telpherage, and was the outcome of an attempt to design an overhead road and rolling stock which would be especially suitable for the employment of electricity in the transmission of the power required. It was stated that the first contract for the posts and street rods for a Telpher line, which was now being erected in Glynde in Sussex, for the conveyance of Portland cement, was being carried out by Messrs Wilson, Pease and co, of the Tees Ironworks.

Telpherage was an innovative approach to moving heavy goods on an overhead wire by means of electric motive power, the clay was carried to Glynde railway station, tipped into railway trucks and conveyed to the newly constructed Sussex Portland Cement works at South Heighton. Many guests from the military, science and engineering were invited to the opening ceremony for which a printed programme of events was published. Reports of the opening of both the cement works and the Telpher line appeared in the local press and made up the main part of an article by Andrew Lusted in The Glynde Archivist, number 2, 1985.

A number of articles also appeared in science and electrical publications of the era, as well as other newspapers and magazines. Unfortunately, few of the reports attempted to give a detailed account of how the electrical transmission worked, and when they did the reports were often inaccurate. This was probably because of a combination of patents taken out on the system but also a lack of knowledge of the reporters on what was a brand new technology.

The Pall Mall Gazette of Tuesday 31 January 1888, for example, carried a report of a 'success experiment with telpherage' supposedly by a correspondent who had recently visited Glynde, expressing surprise that the system was not attracting more attention and that the apathy with which it was regarded illustrated the slowness with which scientific aids to industry were made use of. He noted that 'Telpherage has been successfully used at Glynde for the past two years, but had not yet been turned to account anywhere else, although calculated to be of universal utility. At Glynde the telpher train conveys Portland cement from the quarries to the railway station, 360 tons being removed every week at a much smaller cost than carting' However, the reporter then stated that the line, about a mile and a half in length, 'passed over a winding river several times'. And the train carried 'a ton of cement'. The trains, of course, carried clay, and the idea of the line crossing a winding river several times appears to be taken from the highly misleading print shown below.

The following month, in February 1888, at the annual meeting of the Sussex Portland Cement Company the chairman reported that 'the Glynde Telpher line,which had proved an extremely cheap carrier to the company, had been purchased on exceptionally advantageous terms. It had cost over £3000, but they had bought it for £250 down and £150 more to be paid if it proved altogether satisfactory. This was a first-rate bargain. The line would be carried further, right to the pits, and by this means no doubt a considerable economy would be achieved.'

However, despite this warm praise and optimistic view from the chairman by July of the following year the telpher line had fallen out of favour.

The Sussex Express of 16 July 1889, reported on a meeting of the Watercourt for the Lewes and Laughton Levels held the previous Saturday. Mr J F Plaister, secretary to the Portland Cement Company, had written stating the directors intended to lay down a tramway to connect the company's clay pit with their siding at Glynde Station, which would supersede the telpher line then in use. To do this it would be necessary to construct a bridge across Glynde Reach, and it was proposed to erect it where the telpher bridge now stands. The headway and waterway would be the same as at Glynde bridge. He requested the necessary permission from the Court, and in a subsequent letter wrote 'your immediate attention to this matter will oblige'. The tramway would be laid down for a distance of a mile, and would be used for horses or steam engines, as the case might be, and the company were very desirous of doing the work during the winter months, and then it would be used in the spring. They were very anxious to have the Court's assistance in saving time, suggesting the telpher line was giving them problems. The matter was referred to the Watercourt who would, if they thought fit after examining the plans sent in by the company, consent to the work being carried out.

Despite this, a report appeared in the West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser in September 1889 where a letter had been received from Messrs Henderson and Son of Truro with reference to an announcement at a recent meeting at East Pool mine [near Redruth and now part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site] that the Telpherage line at Glynde was 'altogether stopped'. Messrs Henderson had written to the engineer of the Mines and General Telpher Co Limited who had replied 'I went down to Glynde today (5th inst). I find that the line is working satisfactorily and, with one exception (some four weeks ago), has been working continuously since my last visit more than a year ago. There is every reason to have increased confidence in the system rather than the reverse.'

The confusion about the closure of the telpher line continued as the two illustrations below, accompanied an article entitled Telpherage in Practical Use by Frederik Atherton Fernald, appeared in Popular Science Monthly, July 1890, apparently after the line had already been replaced by the tramway.

Whatever the truth may have been in the report of the engineer of the Mines and General Telpher Company the Sussex Express of 25 Oct 1890 reported that, at the annual meeting of the Sussex Portland Cement Co, it was stated that 'the tramway which has superseded the Telpher line at Glynde is found satisfactory, the clay being forwarded with regularity, and an appreciable economy being effected in the working charges'.

The replacement of the telpher line by the tramway was confirmed in February 1891 when it was reported that the Watercourt committee had approved of the plans for the construction of a 'telpher' bridge over the river at Glynde by the cement company. Presumably, they meant a bridge for the new tramway.

Although the telpher line at Glynde only had short lifespan from 1885 to 1890 it is generally recognised as he forerunner of all the electric cableways in the world today. The main difference being that, whereas the telpher line had a fixed cable with trains moving along it, modern cable cars are attached to a moving line.

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