[In preservation, 7802 Bradley Manor and 7812 Erlestoke Manor meet at Bridgnorth station. Photo: Leo Roberts]
The GWR 7800 Manor class 4-6-0 was designed under the auspices of Charles Collett in the late 1930s as a lighter version of the 6800 Grange class to meet a traffic department requirement for modern, powerful locomotives that could work over ‘Blue’ category routes, for which purpose a new standard number 14 lightweight boiler was introduced. An initial order for twenty locomotives (numbered 7800 – 7819) was placed in 1937. Like the Granges, the GWR built batch of Manors used reconditioned parts from twenty withdrawn 4300 class 2-6-0s. There is no conclusive evidence on what proportion of each withdrawn 43xx was re-used, but it is generally accepted that at least the wheels and motion components were reused, and firm evidence of this does exist on 7812 Erlestoke Manor. A further twenty locomotives were ordered in 1939, but this was cancelled owing to the outbreak of the Second World War. However, a batch of ten more locomotives (numbered 7820 – 7829) were eventually constructed by British Railways in 1950.
As constructed, the Manor class were reputedly indifferent performers due to poor steaming rates, which was not investigated further at the time, probably owing to the outbreak of war in 1939. Finally in 1952, the reasons behind this were investigated, with evaluation and testing leading to modifications to the chimney, blastpipe and firebars. This made a great improvement to steaming rates and performance, raising the steam rate from 10,000 pounds per hour to 20,400 pounds per hour, and the resulting transformation in the performance leading to the recognition that the Manor class gained during their later years in service and preservation. British Railways rated the class in the 5MT power classification.
During their later years in services, the Manor class developed a considerable enthusiast following, both in the West Country, but in particular on the Cambrian network of lines west of Oswestry and Shrewsbury, where the class developed a strong association lasting until November 1965. On the Cambrian section, Manors became synonymous with working the Cambrian Coast Express and the ‘York Mails’ workings, often turned out in immaculate condition late in the steam era, by which time clean locomotives were an uncommon site. Both preserved EMF Manors 7802 and 7812 were officially withdrawn from service at Shrewsbury on 6th November 1965, however 7802 was noted in traffic on 9th November and 7812 as late as the 13th of the same month. 7808 and 7829 were the final two Manors in service, lasting at Gloucester until the very end of official Western Region steam operations on 31st December 1965.
From a class of only thirty locomotives, remarkably nine have survived to be preserved. 7808 was purchased directly from service by the Great Western Society in 1966, with the other eight (7802, 7812, 7819, 7820, 7821, 7822, 7827 and 7828) surviving by dint of being in a group of locomotives withdrawn from Shrewsbury shed in 1965 and sold for scrap to Woodham Brothers of Barry. Subsequently all were purchased for preservation and restored to steam.
In preservation operations, Manor class locomotives have proved ideal as they are economic, reliable with relatively light axle loadings and are popular with visitors and footplate crews alike.
Primary additional sources: Peto’s Register of GWR Locomotives Volume 2, SVR Stock book 9th Edition, SVR Wiki.