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On 6th October 1846, the railway from Hull was opened at Bridlington. The first train to enter the town had 66 carriages drawn by three engines, the Ariel, Hudson and Antelope. On board were two bands of musicians, and 2,000 people were at the station to welcome it. Later a luncheon was served to 1,600 people. There was a parade through the town with banners proclaiming "God Save The Queen" and "Land of Hope and Glory." To round off the day there was a firework display. The next year, 1847, the line to Scarborough was opened. Bridlington's rise as a modern resort had begun.
Previously, the horse-coach British Queen left the Stirling Castle Inn at the Quay every morning at seven o'clock. The route was by the cliff, passing through Brandesburton and Beverley, arriving in Hull at 11 o'clock. One of the milestones for this route stood for many years in front of Emmanuel Church.
British Queen's rival, the Wellington, at the Old Town, left the Cross Keys Inn at six o'clock, travelling inland by way of Driffield. The former owners advertised the advantages of their service in respect of the beautiful view of the bay, whilst the Wellington drew attention to the safety of their inland route and the danger of the falling cliff at the Quay on the other route.
There had been some controversy about the site of the railway station. Near the sea-front was suggested, but the people from the Old Town objected, and, in their petition to the railway company, they said that the Quay was only a hamlet with 1,000 inhabitants, whereas the Old Town was over 4,000. Furthermore, they asserted, the people at the Quay catered only for pleasure, whereas the Old Town inhabitants were engaged in business, trade and manufacture.
A handbill* for the opening of the railway announced: "In conformity with the arrangements made by the Committee of Management for celebrating the opening of the Hull & Bridlington Railway, and in order to prevent confusion, notice is hereby given that at nine o'clock in the morning of Tuesday, 6th October, the procession will commence forming in the Market Place. Two bands of music, together with drums, fifes, and other instruments, are engaged, and will be placed in such parts of the line as may be thought most expedient. The procession will move to the following order as nearly as circumstances will allow."
There then follows a list of the items in the procession. First was a banner showing the Royal Arms, followed by the District Superintendent of Constables, on horseback. The first of the bands preceded another banner "Success to the Railway," then the Committee of Management on horseback.
Then came a banner showing the the town's arms, the Town Clerk on horseback, then the Lords and Assistants in carriages before another banner, this time "The Queen and Prince Albert."
Magistrates and clergy followed in carriages, then the officers of the Coastguard Service and the Coastguard force. The town's bellman was on horseback in his uniform and he was followed by several banners.
Later in the procession were the Society of Oddfellows, members of the Temperance Society, the Society of Foresters members, then the gentry, farmers and others on horseback.
The route of the procession was from Market Place, through Well Lane, Love Lane, Westgate, High Street, Kirkgate, Pinfold Street, round the High Green, Bolt, Church Green, Bayle Gate, St John Gate to the Quay along Prospect Street, King Street, the Promenade, returning through Cliff Street, Garrison Street, Prince Street, Queen Street, then by West Parade to the railway terminus. There the procession would wait for the train.
After arrival the train's arrival at Bridlington, the travellers accompanied their hosts to the station goods shed** where a sumptuous meal had been provided. George Hudson, "The Railway King," was the recipient of a congratulatory address by the Lords Feoffees and inhabitants of the town. Hudson replied that he hoped "the railways would be the means of extending the commerce of that district and above all that it would be the means of conveying thousands to that place that its invigorating breezes might confer on them renewed health."
After their meal the guests wandered about the "village or on the Quay." The return train left at 3.30pm.
A spectacular firework display concluded the entertainment for the day. A collection to cover the cost of celebrations had been so generous that sufficient had been left to provide "a treat for the aged females of the parish in the refreshment room."
* The original can be seen in the Bayle Museum.
** Now under threat of destruction.
The arrival of the railway in Bridlington has been featured in Railways for November 1947, and Railway Pictorial for July 1950.