The Railway Mania in the mid 1800s was a classic bubble. Middle-class money was thrilled to be part of this huge social enterprise. From 1843 to 1846 hundreds of companies were formed with shares duly issued in anticipation of the required Act of Parliament to commence the purchase of land. Sadly in 1845 Bank interest rates rose providing a less risky home for savings. Overnight share prices collapsed and the nascent railway boom hit the buffers. Large landowners, though, had the capital to acquire bankrupt companies and proceeded with plans to open up their estates to commercial exploitation.
The Duke of Devonshire saw a line to Eastbourne open in 1849, while three years earlier Sir Richard Hotham’s Bognor was rail linked to London. On the east coast the Earl of Scarborough’s landholding in the wilds of Lincolnshire was developed into the happy holiday resort of Skegness, offering relaxation and frivolity for the tobacco workers of Nottingham and industrial powerhouse of Derby. Once a railway was planned, entrepreneurs soon grasped the opportunities for housing development.
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