Monday, 2 January 2017

Between The Lines

Passengers wait atWingham Colliery Station in Kent in 1919

Trouble in Gloucestershire

 The Trouble House Inn near Tetbury in Glocestershire was built in 1754. Originally known as the Wagon and Horses it was said to be "troublesome" being poorly built and prone to flooding. Troublesome too for its landlords. An early tenant had the misfortune to see several wives die at an early age; the next lost most of his customers to the press gang. There was a landlord who say his father, a priest, defrocked for immorality.  A new owner started renovations but when he ran out of money he hanged himself in desperation. The work was continued but again there were insufficient funds, this owner drowned himsel.. The pub gained its present name in 1856 although troubles have continued in the guise of "The Lady In Blue", a resident ghost who makes a nuisance of herself by moving things around. 

When diesel railcars appeared on the local railway branch, a diminutive station was built to serve the pub. The platform at Trouble House Halt was so low that the pub's landlord provided a beer crate to help passengers climb up into the train. The railway closed just 5 years later in 1964 and the landlord made a coffin which was taken aboard the last train with all due ceremony. Filled with empty whisky bottles, it was carried by bowler hatted mourners. Progress of the train was held up though by a barricade of burning hay bales.

Black Dogs of Wiltshire 

Black Dog Halt, a little known station in Wiltshire was opened in 1863 at the behest of Lord Lansdowne. A private station, it served nearby Bowood House, home of the 5th Marquess who had his own reserved compartment on the local train from Tetbury. Black Dog Halt was provided with a siding from where valuables were transferred to Lansdowne House, his Lordship's London home.  The station didn't appear in the timetable until 1952 although it was always available to the public.  During World War I, the outbuildings were used by the army and on one occasion the Cabinet met in a carriage parked in the siding.. Lord Lansdowne was a Government minister serving as Secretary of State for War and Foreign Secretary as well as Governor General of Canada and Viceroy of India.

Wiltshire, like many parts of England has legends of black dogs, ghostly hounds with dripping fangs and flashing eyes. The Black Dog Inn, named after a spectral hound, had closed well before the coming of the railway, but still gave its name to the station as well as to a nearby hill. 

The station closed in 1965 along with the branch line to Calne.

Hauled by a donkey

The branch line to Delph in Lancashire was only just over a mile in length from the junction near Greenfield. It was served by trains from Oldham Clegg Street.

The train was popularly known as "The Delph Donkey" so named because a legend stated that the first trains in 1851 comprised a single carriage pulled by a donkey. The last train in 1955, carrying over 500 people,  was met at Delph by a donkey.

The penultimate station had the curious name of Measurements Halt. Opened in 1932, only one train called in each direction, transporting workers to the Measurements Factory. This was a business that began making clocks and watches under the "Limit" brand. As trade grew, the company diversified into making optical and aircraft instruments, radio sets, counters and gas meters. Taken over by Parkinson Cowan, the factory closed in the 1970s.

Delph Donkey passes Measurements Halt

Orchids, Straw Hats  and The War Cry

Sander and Sons of St Albans grew orchids in such quantities that they needed a railway siding for speedy transport to market. Established in 1881, Sanders produced up to 2 million orchid plants a year in their 60 greenhouses. A large team of collectors explored Asia and South America seeking new plants.  Seeds were produced in large numbers in their conservatories. 

A private station, a single wooden platform, opened in 1897 for the convenience of their staff. It only appeared in the public timetable between 1929 and 1942.
Nearby was the printing works of the Salvation Army whose employees also used the tiny halt.  It came to be known as Salvation Army Halt and continued in use until the railway between Hatfield and St Albans closed to passengers in 1951. Sander's Siding was used to despatch large quantities of Salvation Army periodicals such as "War Cry" which were distributed around the world.  Luton, not far distant, was renowned for the manufacture of straw hats. These were carried to Sander's siding from where they were despatched to London.

A Great Northern Railway Orchid Van
For Baptist End and Bumble Hole

If one changed trains at Blowers Green Station in Netherton, the branch line to Old Hill journeyed through the heart of the Black Country. This was the quaintly named Bumble Hole Line and passed through stations such as Baptist End, Windmill End and Darby End.
This was a heavily industrialised area criss crossed with canals. Manufacturing included nails, chains, ship's anchors, boilers cranes and furnaces. Coal was mined and clay dug from large pits.

The first station was at Baptist End, a district that perhaps took its name from the Baptists who had met here since 1654. One of the many chapels had the delightful name of "Sweet Turf Chapel". It is said that adherents were baptised in the local canal, the waters being warmed by industry.

Windmill End Station was in the district known as Bumble Hole. The origin of the name is uncertain although in the clay pit was a shed housing a steam hammer. It made a clanking "bum-hul" noise, a name which perhaps became corrupted. The dialect survey however, defines Bumble Hole as being an ash midden behind an earth closet.

Next was Darby End, probably named after the prominent Darby family although another suggestion refers to nail-makers from Derbyshire. In the 19th century the area became known as "Darby Hand"

Stations on this line were platforms made out of old sleepers and offered very basic passenger accomodation. Traffic was light and trains were seldom of more than a single coach. Extensive mining subsidence resulted in an uncomfortable ride. The line closed in 1964 by which time there was only one train outside the morning and evening peak. A guard at the time said of the 6.30pm train "If we get one passenger on this particular train, that's as many as we'll ever get. We may get him twice a week and he usually gets off at Windmill End".

Bumble Hole

Twice A Week To Poison Cross

  Eastry is an ancient village near Sandwich in Kent. Here in the 7th century was the palace of the Saxon King Egbert of Kent and here, two young princes, Ethelbert and Ethelred were murdered. Eastry Court is the oldest house in Britain. Behind a Georgian facade, an inner hall dates back to the year 603. In the 9th century it became an abbey and it is said that having fallen out, the monks murdered each other giving rise to the name "Poison Cross"
There is an extensive network of caves and one legend claims that Thomas a'Becket hid underground in 1164 waiting to escape to France.

Railway bridge under construction. Eastry 1911
Eastry is only a village, yet it once had three railway stations.  The East Kent Railway was built between 1911 and 1925, largely to serve the developing Kent coalfield. Poison Cross Station opened in May 1925 and for the first year trains only called on a Saturday. Thereafter, two trains ran on Wednesday and Saturday until the station closed in November 1928. Passengers on this private railway were of secondary importance a coach being added to a goods train. Wagons were shunted at each station making a mockery of the timetable. In order to make up time, the drivers would often pass stations without stopping even when passengers were waiting.

End of the line. Passengers wait for the train in 1919

Wrong Side of the River

 Not far out of Lincoln, the village of Fiskerton was served by a station called Five Mile House. The station however, was on the wrong side of the River Witham and until a footbridge was built in 1957, passengers had to cross by a chain ferry, operated by the railway.  The station took its name from a  riverside pub which catered for boat traffic and which also served as part of the station.

In 1919 a spark from a passing train set the station alight. Station Master's House, Waiting Room, Office and Signal Box were all destroyed. They were later replaced by two huts.

The station closed in 1958 although for the follwing six years a train called each Saturday, a fishermen's special from Sheffield.

The Five Mile House Ferry

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