The people of Crewe have long been familiar with four Cast Iron Eagles that are at various places around the town but how much is really known about them and their history?
Each Eagle is perched on the top of a grand crest that carries a letter ‘C’ which is believed to stand for Crewe.
The exact story of the Eagles has never been proved but their story may start in the first half of the 19th century.
A new bridge across the River Dee was needed for the Chester and Holyhead Railway, a project planned in the 1840s for the expanding British railway system. It was built using cast iron girders produced by the Horseley Ironworks.
On 24th May 1847, the carriages of a local passenger train to Ruabon fell through the bridge into the river.
The accident resulted in five deaths (three passengers, the train guard and the locomotive fireman) and nine serious injuries.
The Coroner’s inquest into the disaster does mention some decorative Eagles in the report following the incident, the bridge was repaired and scrap metal was sent to Crewe works for recycling, the Eagles were then taken on the journey to Crewe along with it.
The Crewe Heritage centre website says:
It is believed that Francis Webb (later Sir Francis Webb mayor of Crewe) spotted the Eagles amongst the scrap on Stone Yard Bank near Flag Lane and had them rescued. They were then mounted on a bridge across the Crewe to Chester Line which was used to move rail vehicles in and out of Crewe Works, this would become known as the Eagle Bridge.
In the 1980’s the Eagles were taken off the bridge, three were put into storage whilst one was taken to its new location on the West street works entrance where it would adorn those famous gates for many years.
Two of the remaining Eagles were then taken out of storage in 1987 and moved to the Heritage Centre where they can still be seen today.
Locations of the Eagles in 2022
All four Eagles are visible at three different places within Crewe.
Two are located in Crewe Heritage Centre, another is located at the front entrance of Eagle Bridge Medical Centre that stands roughly in the location of the old Eagle railway bridge.
The last Eagle is guarding the entrance of Crewe International Electric Depot (Crewe IEMD) on Wistaston Road.
The local pub (quite rightly named the Four Eagles) was opened by local schoolgirl Mischa Leake on 13th of April 2015 and it stands roughly 200 metres away from the location of the old bridge where the eagles were first placed.
The pub has a wooden Eagle outside to commemorate the history of the area.
I suppose we could call this the 5th (but unofficial) Eagle for the 21st century!