The East & West Junction railway (E&W) proposed a new line from a junction with the Northampton & Banbury Junction Railway at Greens Norton to Stratford Upon Avon. In 1864 Lady Palmerson came and cut the first sod. The E&W became a part of the SMJ in January 1st, 1909.
Blakesley's station built around the SMJ's main single track and a passing loop had two platforms. Even in BR days it was frequently a place where up and down trains crossed. The main station building was located on the down platform. There was one long siding in the goods yard and a signalbox, cattle ramp and dock and a platelayers' hut on the downside too. The main use for the siding after passenger services were discontinued was for coal deliveries; Ted Botterill had regular deliveries of coal wagons and in addition Wiggins and Williams also had coal delivered to the siding. Latterly Ted had a garage for his lorry erected next to the station building. It can be seen in many 1960s photographs of the station. The weighbridge was still much in use by Ted in particular. The cattle dock was still occasionally used as well and was kept in good order right up to the closure. A wooden waiting shelter stood on the up platform. There were two approach roads, one which still exists as a private drive led down from Blakesley's High Street to the up platform, the other led into the goods yard from the Woodend direction. There was no footbridge just board crossings at either end of the platforms. The station was protected by fixed distant, home and starter signals, a ground banner signal protecting the siding. The down starter signal, which progressively dropped less and less in the clear position as it got older, was eventually replaced sometime in the mid 50s by a modern one. About the same time the metal fence was removed that separated Blakesley Minature Railway from the SMJ main line as they both passed under Bridge 24, as was the shelter on the up platform. All that remains of Blakesley station nowadays is the end ramp of the up platform which is visible from Bridge 24, two homes have been built on the site.
Sometime in the late 50 / early 60s a Northampton 4F failed at Blakesley with a burst steam pipe. It's believed one of the crew was slightly scalded and taken to Northampton General Hospital by road. The fire was dropped and the engine was left in the goods siding for a couple of days until it could be towed away.
There was a foot crossing between Blakesley Bridge 24 and Dunkley's (aka. Cattle) Bridge 25. It was much nearer to Bridge 24 than Bridge 25 not many yards west of the up home signal, but obviously the quoted distances don't make sense. My 'guesstimate' would be around 8 miles & 46 chains. It carried a much contested public footpath from a point half way down School Lane right through a property's garden, then through Blakesley Hall grounds to Woodend. Squire C W Bartholomew constructed a metalled footpath along side the Woodend Road from a point near Blakesley Station to Woodend, then declared that the footpath that crossed the E&WJR had been closed. It is doubtful that he got official approval for this 'closure'. Certain villagers continued to use the footpath and the crossing just to make their point but it largely died out of use and may well have been unofficially fenced off. CWB was a major shareholder in the E&WJR and carried a lot of clout. Many years after CWB's death in 1919, people (mainly children) began reusing the footpath and crossing in the 1950s, usually as a short cut to the village cricket ground and this annoyed the owner of the property whose garden it crossed so much that he successfully went through the official channels to get the footpath and the crossing closed. So from around the late '50s onwards in BR days there was no longer any foot crossing or footpath. Undeterred, the children of the village made their own unofficial crossing from a field at the end of School Lane much nearer to bridge 25, frequently crawling under the couplings of up goods trains held at the up home signal much to the consternation of those trains' crews.
Blakesley Hall was to be found near the Northamptonshire villages of Blakesley and Woodend. The boundary between the two parishes is a little stream known as the 'Black Ouse'. Actually the hall was located in Woodend parish but much nearer to Blakesley. Blakesley's name comes from 'Woodland clearing of (man called) Blaecwulf'
Charles William Bartholomew, the owner and self-appointed 'Squire' of the parishes was a land owning civil engineer and in 1903 installed a full 15" gauge miniature railway system in the grounds. Mr Bartholomew bought a Cagney locomotive and with the help of Alex Wyatt modified carriages and trucks. He also had built two steam outline internal combustion engines, 'Petrolia ' by Groom & Tattersall of Towcester and 'Blacolvesley' (which still exists) by Bassett - Lowke of Northampton. Along with the system around the grounds , Mr Bartholomew had a half mile section built, which ran from cowsheds at the far end of his estate to the then East and West Junction Railway's 'main line'' station at Blakesley passing under the same Bridge 24 as the E&WJR to approach the station! No doubt with the help of his position as a major shareholder in the E&WJR. The line brought supplies and goods up to the hall, and the odd passenger from a small yard in the goods yard of the main station. Mr Bartholomew died in 1919, his widow bringing the trains out on 'High Days and Holidays'. After lying derelict for over ten years the Hall was demolished in 1957. To discover more, here's a link to the Blakesley Hall webpage.
Pictures : Top Left - Steam outline loco 'Blacolvesley' Top Right - Blakesley Hall
Bottom Left - Folly at Blakesley Hall Bottom Right - tidiest Station certificate awarded to Blakesley station by BR (LMR)
Most of the following stories came from Dick's grandmother. As a child her family had to move from their farm, Fox Farm at Moreton Pinkney to a house in Blakesley, as it was no longer commercially viable as a result of the compulsory purchase of much of their land for the GCR' s Culworth Station to be built. She lived to be 91 and outsurvived the Great Central!
Blakesley station anecdotes
Blakesley station staff in SMJR and LMS days seem to have sometimes carried on like characters in Will Hay's 'Oh Mr Porter'. One day a passenger train was held at Blakesley for what was believed to be a special perishable fish train to pass eastwards. It took ages to appear and consisted of just one wagon. Stationmaster Broomfield was getting irate as the crew, almost certainly a Woodford crew, seemed to be deliberately slowing down just to annoy him. He started waving for them to hurry up and shouted ' We are being held up by one empty wagon, a tarpaulin, two sprats and a mackeral'. The footplatemen replied repeatedly with the infamous one long and one short whistle response, they must have been Woodford men! 'Listen to them, they're whistling a***holes at me!', he exclaimed to bemused bystanders. Well of course although those listening thought the stationmaster had lost his reasoning that's exactly what they were doing to him!
When a so called 'express service' was due to run non stop through the station for the first time, the man responsible for handing over the token staff was so scared that he might be dragged into the slipstream that he insisted that the rest of the station staff hung on to his coattails.
One porter, Johnnie Moore, according to his late sister, used to sleep walk thinking that he was still on duty. One night he threw the cat into the oven, slammed the door and shouted ' All aboard'. On another occasion a pioneer motorist, who had suffered a breakdown near the station, demanded rather abruptly ' How long's the next train?' 'Two coaches', came the reply. 'You're smart', the motorist sarcastically retorted . 'No, but he's somewhere around', was the porter's answer. ( One of the other staff was a Mr Smart). It's also alleged that trying to be helpful he once pushed an overweight lady, who was reversing down onto the platform, back onto the train, the lady making an unwanted journey to Moreton Pinkney, but as I've read a similar story about a different station in Jordan's 'History of the SMJR' perhaps this wasn't Johnnie's doing.
A well known character on the line in LMS days was a guard known as 'Old Worcester'. He liked to chat to station staff and could ' swear for England'. One of his tricks was to wave off a goods train and jump on his guards van as it passed him, he'd obviously watched too many silent movie cowboy films. One day he annoyed a young porter at Blakesley, who very irresponsibly decided to get his own back by placing a sod of earth on top of 'Old Worcester's' stove chimney, while he was chatting to the station master. On departure, 'Old Worcester' jumped onto his van's veranda, opened the door, only to be surrounded by billowing smoke as he disappeared, uttering oaths under the road bridge. On another occasion he was in charge of a special working taking 'a small locomotive', probably an iron ore line engine, even possibly one of the Edge Hill Terriers up the line, when the train locomotive broke away. 'Old Worcester' was left stranded for some time and by the time the locomotive crew eventually realised and returned the air was blue with his rantings. 'What are you moaning about, you've still got an engine?' was the guilty driver's only response."
Pictures Top Left - Blakesley Signalman Tommy Townsend (far right) with Blakesley & Woodend FC which he mananged. Top Right - Blakesley Hall's lodge gatehouses
Bottom Left - Nuneaton Super D approaching Blakesley Station while deputising for a failed Northampton 8F on a Byfield Ironstone Siding to Blisworth minerals
Bottom Right - The trackbed west of Blakesley
A Collett 0-6-0 2210 with a railtour at Blakesley on 17/11/1962 ( Copyright Barry Taylor)
Moving on to more recent times, during the Second World War Dick's dad was travelling on a troop train from Cornwall to North East England, when by a remarkable coincidence it pulled up at Blakesley's home signal, a few hundred yards from his home. Dick's dad shouted to a family friend who was working in the adjoining field. He in turn ran and fetched my gran who was able to have a quick chat with her son. No doubt he told her about the girl he had met while stationed in Cornwall.... later to be his wife and Dick's mum.
Sometime in the late ‘50s Cecil Smart the stationmaster complained to a guard of a passing train about the plague of mice that was eating his paperwork. I better explain that dear old Cecil, a real Blakesley local character who caused no one any offence, for some unexplainable reason was the subject of many well intentioned jokes from fellow railwaymen and other visitors to the station such as Ted the coalman who passed on this story to Dick. The guard advised Cecil to get some of the new metal traps that had just come onto the market. ‘Where do I get those?’ asked Cecil .
‘Woolies in Northampton’, replied the guard. ‘I’m far too busy to go there’, complained Cecil despite the relaxed nature of his job as station master at sleepy Blakesley. To be fair Cecil also ran a smallholding and on Saturdays ardently supported the village football team, managed by Blakesley signalman Tommy Townsend. So the guard offered to fetch some and Cecil gave him the money. These new metal traps had their instructions printed on them, harbingers of the H & S movement no doubt! They didn’t catch any of Cecil’s mice and he complained vociferously to the guard next time that he arrived at the station. The guard asked to see the traps and pretended to examine them carefully. Finally he looked Cecil straight in the eye and pronounced, ‘Well, no wonder.... you’ve left the instructions on them’. What difference would that make?’ irritatedly demanded Cecil. With a deadpan expression the guard answered, ‘Well, you don’t expect a mouse to stick its bloody head in there if it can read what’s going to happen to it, do you?’ !!!
Tommy Townsend was a man of few words but a very successful spare time football team manager with a droll sense of humour. Dick's father went to the station to ask the duty stationmaster about trains to Truro when he was intercepted on the platform by Tommy who asked, 'Truro, that's in Cornwall, isn't it? He put on serious but helpful expression then slowly and deliberately pronounced, 'Well.... what ever you do... don't ask his advice or you'll end up in Glasgow!'.
Dick and his friend the late Doug Blake (Blakesley's village historian and author of two books about the village) shared information from their researches about Blakesley's rail links. Here are a few things that Doug discovered when researching for his second book.......
During WWII three local farmers specialised in growing sugar beet which required several movements of sugar beet laden trucks a week from Blakesley's single siding during the harvesting period. Signalman Tommy Townsend used to fill his kettle from a spring which fed into a small pool on the allotment near his box. He also used to grow water cress on the edge of the pool. Lou Hawtin, legendary* SMJ relief signalman of LMS & BR days, used to serenade the young ladies of the village on his piano accordian from the doorway of the signalbox during his spells at Blakesley. A sad story Doug was told by a Blakesley centegenarian was that many years ago a man commited suicide on the line foot crossing just east of Blakesley.
To see an article about one of Blakesley's signalmen who also earlier worked on the Blakesley Minature Railway follow this link-
To view an album of photos of Blakesley's rail connection follow this link-
To see extracts from Blakesley Signalbox's Register in LMS days follow this link-
* Why was Lou Hawtin legendary?
Well here are just a few things he did while on duty! He sometimes decorated signalboxes with bunting to advertise his presence. He used to make use of Byfield station's crane for lifting car engines that he was repairing for people. He was late for shifts at Blakesley in winter because he had gone skating on Canons Ashby ponds. He used to sit on Blakesley signalbox steps and accompanying himself on his accordion giving impromptu concerts to serenade the young ladies of the village. He played in a local semi-professional dance band in his spare time. On one occasion when a Christmas party was being held for Blakesley Women's Guild in the Public Hall, uncontrolled loud screams of laughter coming from the usually reserved ladies could be heard some fair distance away, sure enough they had hired Lou as 'an entertainer' for the party. Despite making enquiries I never found out exactly what his act consisted of ! He ran an unofficial hair dressing business in Byfield signal box. Ralph Radford in his excellent book 'Coal Dust to Computers' describes passing by Byfield signalbox while firing a Woodford WD and witnessing a line of pensioners sitting on chairs outside the bunting bedecked box awaiting their turn for a trim. Lou even confused station master Evan Dines' hound, which Lou was rather wary of, into running away from Towcester station on a wild goose chase to attempt to follow the hounds by imitating the sound of the Grafton Hunt's horn on his bugle!
TFC and Dick Bodily ( updated 5th February 2019)
If you have any information or photos, sign up and leave us a comment
Add a Comment