Verwood Station

VERWOOD STATION LOOKING NORTH TO SALISBURY. 

THE ALBION HOTEL AND RAILWAY ARCH ARE ALL THAT NOW SURVIVE.

 

THE SALISBURY & DORSET JUNCTION RAILWAY

"The line from Alderbury Junction, on the Eastleigh line 4 miles south of Salisbury, to West Moors was the outcome of a meeting held at Salisbury on 20 October 1860, when support was given to build the Salisbury & Dorset Junction Railway to link with the Southampton & Dorchester at Wimborne.  It received its Act on 22 July 1861 authorizing a capital of 160,000 and 53,000 in loans.  A cheerful crowd watched Countess Nelson ceremonially cut the first sod at Downton on 3 February 1864"  COLIN G. MAGGS

So begins the chapter "Daggons Road to West Moors" in Colin G. Maggs' "Branch Lines of Dorset" edition published 2000 by Budding Books, Sutton Publishing Co. Stroud.   This fascinating book gives much illustrated information on the subject with more details than can be included here.

Countess Nelson was the former Lady Mary Jane Diana Agar, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Normanton and married to Horatio Nelson, 3rd Earl Nelson, great-nephew and namesake of the Admiral.    They lived at Trafalgar House near Downton, Wiltshire.

The line opened on 20 December 1866 but the School Log Books fail to mention this momentous fact.   They merely record that the children were dismissed for two weeks holiday.    It was hardly to be expected that the children would bother with school whilst this much more interesting event was taking place so the school Christmas holidays might have been planned or merely a fortuitous coincidence.   

The line which linked Salisbury to the coast at Poole and later Bournemouth West, transformed the fortunes of Verwood which had until then been a fairly unimportant hamlet in the parish of Cranborne, notwithstanding the local fame of its pottery industry.

The line was single track except through the stations and a "tablet" was handed to the driver and surrendered by him to ensure that no more than one train was on a section at the same time.

The Albion Hotel was built in the Station Yard in the early 1860s.   Note the heart shape picked out in white Ebblake brick which has been obscured since the building was painted.   The stables, seen far left, which served the patrons' horses and those of the local "taxi" firm, still remain.

Older villages remember that on a still night the porters' shouts of "Verwood", the slamming of the train doors followed by the clip-clop of horses' feet as passengers were carried to outlying villages, could clearly be heard across the area.

Although the station bore the official name "Verwood" the original name of the village "Fairwood" was picked out in pebbles and flowers on a bank.    Imagine the scene at night, illuminated by the old gas lamps.   A row of fire buckets hangs on the wicket fence.

STATION AND TRACK STAFF ABOUT 1910

Many young men, who previously would have had no choice but agricultural occupations, seized the opportunity provided by the railway for employment and in some cases moved further afield to work on distant stations.   One such young couple, living in Godalming, Surrey, brought their children back to be baptised at Verwood Church.

The railway provided a means for other Verwood folk to travel further afield.   Mothers took their babies in prams in the Guard's van for shopping in Poole and Verwood schoolchildren travelled to Grammar School, boys to Wimborne and girls to Parkstone.     Sometimes there were day trips to London.   Conversely the trains brought "outsiders" into the village and so broadened the population.

The station attracted a great deal of trade and industry.   Small feeder lines connected to the local brick and tile works.   "Dorset Farmers" had a depot as did the Coal Merchant.   High quality sand from Verwood sandpits was exported to the glass making centres of South Wales.    Bricks and timber were other commodities transported.  Local produce could be sent for sale and the pottery "higglers" doubled their rounds by sending a cartload ahead to Salisbury.   Imported were coals, slates and ironically lighter enamelled houseware which eventually led to the demise of the Verwood potteries.

The early morning train brought mail and newspapers and also supplies from wholesalers in the nearby towns.   A pair of shoes ordered in Verwood could be brought from Salisbury the same day if not the next.  The line also brought the telegraph to Verwood which proved a lucky break for one young Boy Scout.   As the office was unmanned he took down an incoming message in Morse Code and was rewarded with a job on the railway.   When telephones arrived the Post Office was Verwood 1 and the Station Verwood 2.    The Station and The Albion became a hub of social activity.

As it was the nearest station to the "Big Houses" of Cranborne Manor, Wimborne St. Giles and Crichel House, Royalty often alighted here en route to visit.   On one occasion, at least, King Edward VIII and Queen Alexandra toured the village in an open carriage before continuing their journey, a gesture which was much appreciated.   On another occasion in the 1940s the Station Master kept his little girl at home from school one day without telling her why.   Later he took her onto the platform where through the train window she saw King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

A more poignant story from the early 20th century concerns the two village schools, Church and Chapel.   The Church School children had learned a special song to sing at the station when the Royal visitors appeared but the Chapel children cheered so loudly that their efforts were completely drowned out.   

THE LAST PASSENGER TRAIN THROUGH VERWOOD.   SATURDAY 2ND MAY 1964

The line had been sold to L.S.W.R. in 1882 but was identified in the Beeching Report as one of many unprofitable small branch lines.   To general dismay it closed to passengers in 1964 and to goods the following year.   On the last day, ironically, the trains were packed with those wanting to say a last "goodbye" to a means of transport which had been available throughout living memory and no doubt held many fond memories for themselves.

Dilapidation soon set in as the lines were taken up and the buildings dismantled.    It is now hard to find more than a bare trace of its former route though some of the old bridges remain in Horton Way and across the Eastworth to Alderholt road as well as the one preserved in the Albion Hotel garden.

The area was developed for a number of industrial enterprises, the most important being Lesser's portable buildings, a major employer in the area.    The new houses of Albion Way now stand on the former station yard.

There was never a station at Three Legged Cross but the line travelled under the Horton Road.    Since the road has been levelled there, near the junction with the West Moors Road, there is again hardly any trace.  

So the line from Salisbury to the coast passed out of history in just under a hundred years.  

 

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