Posts Tagged ‘railway’

The Andover and Radstock Railway

July 15, 2016

Just how different would Market Lavington had been if this proposed railway line had actually been built? Probably it would have transformed the place which was at the end of its life as a market town to rival Devizes when the line was proposed.

We do not know the precise route the line might have taken, but some evidence has emerged in the shape of an auction sale document for land at Fiddington.

Auction catalogue page for land at Fiddington

Auction catalogue page for land at Fiddington

The sale was of land in Fiddington and the auction was to be held at the Workman’s Hall on Wednesday 16th May 1866. And the plots are advertised as being within a quarter of a mile of the proposed railway.


We believe the line might have passed more or less along The Clays – right in the heart of Market Lavington.

We do know that James Neate upped sticks and brought his wine, spirit and brewing business to Market Lavington believing this railway would bring much prosperity to the area. He survived financially (just) without the railway.

Rails eventually reached the parish in 1900. The local station was nearly two miles away from the village centre. Had that Andover to Radstock line been built there would have been a village centre station.


A wagon kit

February 27, 2016

John Davis was a coal merchant in Market Lavington at the time when coal was king. If you wanted to keep warm or cook things then the chances are you used coal. Huge quantities were moved around the country, mostly by rail. Some merchants had their own dedicated wagons and although no actual wagons survive, a model company produced a kit of a Davis of Lavington wagon. We have seen this photo before on this blog which shows a made up wagon, ready to run on an OO gauge model railway.

OO gauge Davis and Co of Market Lavington coal wagon

OO gauge Davis and Co of Market Lavington coal wagon

We also have a nearly identical wagon in unmade kit form.

A very similar wagon in kit form

A very similar wagon in kit form

It looks as though Davis had at least seven wagons for this is number 7 whereas the made up kit is number 5!

The kit looks as fiddly as these things often are, but also has some information with it.

The kit contains some historical background information

The kit contains some historical background information

Our decision is to leave this one in kit form as we have the made up model. Our luck is that a company decided to make a model with a Market Lavington connection.


From the goods yard

July 4, 2015

Lavington had a railway station. It was by the bridge which the A360 road uses to get under the line. The road has traffic lights to control the road traffic under that bridge.

A station was more than a halt. Stations had facilities including the ability to handle parcels and, often, freight. Lavington had both. Parcels were handled on passenger trains, but a yard and sidings were needed for larger items of freight. This included milk at Lavington. This photo of the station was taken from the goods yard. It was taken in the 1960s, not long before closure.

Lavington Station from the goods yard in the 1960s

Lavington Station from the goods yard in the 1960s

The goods shed is on the left with the main running lines passing behind it. We can’t tell you anything specific about the carriage and guard’s van on the right. Back then, many goods trains were made up of wagons with no brakes. The guard, in his heavy van, was part of the driving team. He needed to know when the line was going uphill or down dale so that he could apply his brake to keep the troublesome trucks in order. That’s why a guard’s van is often called a brake van.

Further into the picture we can see there was a coal storage area.

Davis and Sons had the coal yard

Davis and Co had the coal yard

We can see that Davis and Co made use of a coal yard at the station. They were the Market Lavington coal merchants.

We can also see the impact steam trains had on infrastructure. Look at the blackened paintwork on the station footbridge. That’s filth from steam engines on London bound trains.

The telegraph pole with, potentially about fifty wires is also a reminder of times past. Such sets of wires often made use of railway line sides and so a view from a carriage window was often of wires.

This is living memory, but methods of working fifty years ago seem impossibly outdated now.


Another photo of Lavington Station

January 17, 2015


Today we show a bit of a goods train standing in the up or London bound platform at Lavington Station.

A goods train at Lavington Station in Wiltshire

A goods train at Lavington Station in Wiltshire

It is a lovely photo which captures the spirit of a long vanished age – although we don’t have a date for the image. Station staff and, possibly a potential passenger have clearly taken note of a photographer and have made sure they were in shot. What a change from these days when people seem to worry that the photographer is capturing the soul of the person as well as just a picture. On the right, seemingly behind the lad there is a milk churn. They are now relics of a bygone time.

The mixed goods train, too, is also a thing of the past and so, too is the whole idea of a goods train being parked, albeit, no doubt, temporarily, on the West of England main line. The station, of course, closed in 1966 and not a trace remains.

So what is that train doing? We can only guess, but presumably it is either picking up additional trucks or leaving some behind in the Lavington goods yard which was situated behind the photographer. The hefty brake van which all loose coupled goods trains had has been removed and no doubt the guard who had his space in that van is assessing what might be attached to his train, making sure all is in order. The train loco, or possibly a separate loco would be busy shunting trucks around to make sure all was in the correct order. And meanwhile the line between Exeter and London was blocked. But at least all this happened under the watchful eye of the signal man in his box at the west end of the station.

Do have a go at dating this photo for us.

Tickets Please

July 21, 2014

We seem to have had a bit of a railway theme on this blog recently, what with goods wagon labels and a brand new Hornby West Park Dairy tank. Now we add a ticket to the collection.

This is just as things happen. These three items have all been given to the museum – quite separately – in the last week or so.

Take a look at the ticket – and then wonder why we have it.

Edmonson style ticket issued by the GWR and now at Market Lavington Museum

Edmonson style ticket issued by the GWR and now at Market Lavington Museum

There’s no mention of Lavington station. What we have is a ticket for a single journey between Bath and Westbury, travelling third class. The ‘via Bradford’ is, of course, Bradford on Avon. The fare of 1/4½ is very much at the old ‘parliamentary’ rate of a penny per mile. It is about sixteen and a half miles from Bath to Westbury. The company was, of course, the old Great Western Railway. We love the ticket inspectors S shaped clip mark.

The reverse of the ticket has the date of issue on it.

The ticket was issued on 24th May 1905

The ticket was issued on 24th May 1905

The journey was made on 24th May 1905. It was a Wednesday.

So what has this ticket got to do with Market Lavington? Well, it was recently found in a cellar at Clyffe Hall. It has, presumably, been there since 1905.

The cellar it was found in was converted to a cold room when Clyffe Hall was operated as a hotel. Maybe that helped to preserve the ticket.

But who used it? The most probable owner of Clyffe Hall in 1905 was Sir Thomas Rolls Warrington. He had become a High Court judge in 1904. We can’t believe that a judge travelled third class. So the simple answer is that we have no idea who used the ticket, but it has become Market Lavington history by virtue of its long sojourn in the cellar at Clyffe Hall.



West Park Dairy tank wagon

July 20, 2014

Not all items in a museum are old and here is one that is brand new. Back in the 1930s West Park Dairy, based at West Park Farm in Market Lavington had six milk tanker wagons which ran milk from Wiltshire up to London on the Great Western Railway. We have featured a photo of one such wagon in the past. You can click here to read that page but as a reminder, here’s the same photo again.

West Park Dairy tank wagon of the 1930s

West Park Dairy tank wagon of the 1930s

Recently, Hornby produced an OO gauge version of this tank wagon – we’d like to think our blog was in part responsible for this model hitting the market. We have just been given one of the models.

Hornby model of a very similar wagon - 21st century

Hornby model of a very similar wagon – 21st century

And there it is, in its box and packaging – but we’d better take it out for a closer look.

The Hornby 00 Gauge wagon

The Hornby 00 Gauge wagon

We can see that, with the exception of the standard Hornby couplers, it is a pretty good copy of the original wagon. Let’s have a photo to match the one of the real wagon – sideways on.

Sideways view - like the photo of the real wagon

Sideways view – like the photo of the real wagon

It isn’t the same actual wagon and so the differences may be due to that.

What a delightful item to have in a museum – brand new, yet recalling the 1930s.

A Goods Label

July 16, 2014


Today we look back to a time when the railway companies were compelled, by law, to be common carriers. Anybody could present a consignment of goods at a depot and the company would do all necessary counting and weighing, and would look up the rate for the product in a huge tome. The consignee would pay over the right amount and his goods would be labelled and placed in an appropriate truck.

Later, a ‘pick up’ goods train would arrive and would add the trucks waiting to its train and haul them off to a central depot for resorting.

It wasn’t the quickest way of getting goods from one place to another, but it worked.

We have recently been given one of the labels issued at Lavington.

Great Western Railway goods label issued at Lavington station

Great Western Railway goods label issued at Lavington station

We can see, and it is no surprise, that this label was issued by the Great Western Railway. It appears to have been issued on 1st July 1919 at Lavington. Christopher Williams was sending his consignment to Bristol – the Redcliffe Sidings. We know the wagon number it went in and the sheet number.

It would be lovely if it told us more. We have no idea what Christopher Williams was sending.

Sadly, we have no idea who the consignee was, beyond his name.

Perhaps somebody might be able to help us with that?


Shem Butcher

April 18, 2014

It was back in 2012 that we came across the story of Shem and his donkey shay, pictured on October October 1st 1900 at Lavington Station – the day the railway line opened. Back then we hoped to come up with a better quality photo and we have got one that’s a bit better – excuse enough to revisit this wonderful story which was actually published in a 1930s newspaper. This time we have transcribed the story and here it is.


Our picture is not one of “the wonderful one-hoss shay” which Holmes immortalised in “The Deacon’s Masterpiece”. It is what might be aptly termed “Shem’s shay”.

Shem Butcher and his donkey cart - ready for a customer on the opening day at Lavington Station - October 1st 1900

Shem Butcher and his donkey cart – ready for a customer on the opening day at Lavington Station – October 1st 1900

To the younger generation it will appear to be only a picture – probably as an amusing one – but to the older residents of Devizes and around about, it is one in which they will recognise an old personality, who used to’ be as familiar in our Market Place as Drew’s pigeons. Those of the older school will recognise in it Mr. Shem Butcher and his donkey-cart, who in days gone by used to be a regular attendant at Devizes Market. Shem and his equipage were the observed of all the observers in those days – an old favourite with the locals and, his cart tied up with string and his donkey’s harness similarly kept together, were the subjects of curiosity on the part of those who saw them for the first time. Shem, now gathered to his fathers, was an old man, but it was a moot point whether he was senior in years to his donkey. What has happened to his faithful companion we do not know; according to the laws of nature it should now be enjoying its last rest, but seeing that the “oldest inhabitants” are said to have rarely seen a dead donkey one would hesitate to say that Neddy has brayed for the last time.

Shem and his shay, as seen in the illustration, are drawn outside Lavington railway station, upon the first day when the Stert – Westbury route of the Great Western Railway to the West was opened. It was there that the photographer Burgess’s camera made a picture of them which has now become historic. Upon the opening of the route the writer was at Patney Station when the first train steamed in from the Lavington direction on a beautiful October morning in 1900. But it is obvious that he went to the-wrong place from the point of view of public interest. That was surely at Lavington, where, according to an endorsement on the back of the photograph, Shem’s shay represented “the first public vehicle that plied for hire at Lavington station upon its opening.” Whether it was patronised by any of the passengers we are not told. For years after the route was opened the photograph was given a place on one of the walls of the station. It remained until, having regard to the changes which the efflux of time brought, the picture began to lose its significance because those who knew Shem Butcher became fewer and fewer. Eventually the photograph became the property of Mr. H.J. Sainsbury, the local builder, which was appropriate, as it was Mr. Sainsbury who, in a light spring cart which he made himself, drawn by a fine little upstanding cob, took the first load of goods either to, or from, the local railway station.

Shem was often the butt of jokes on the part of the younger generation, and a story as to that is perhaps worth telling. The donkey and cart were standing unattended in the drive of Clyffe Hall at Market Lavington while the aged owner was doing business inside the house. A few young rascals of the locality came along and removed the donkey and cart to the other side of the road, where the Awdrys used to have their cricket pitch. There was situate a five-bar gate, which was locked, but one of the perpetrators of the joke had the key. He with the contrivance of the other young scallywags, unlocked the gate, unhitched the donkey from the cart, and Put the shafts through the bars, hitching Neddy in again on one side of the gate with the cart on the other. Then they locked the gate and awaited the arrival of the owner. What Shem said can be imagined. The culprits of the incident were in hiding, and eventually one of them, having heard the owner’s story, “happened to have a key in his pocket and wondered if it would fit and unlock the gate!” Needless to say it did.

Mr. Butcher who latterly resided in a cottage adjacent to the Clock Inn at Lydeway was formerly a farmer at Cheverell Common, having a herd of some 20 cows. He made a speciality of producing mangold seed, with which in those days he supplied a number of farmers in the neighbourhood.

It may be of interest to recall that this first section of the new short route to the West from Stert to Westbury was opened for goods traffic at the end of July 1900 and for passengers on 1 October the same year. From the new station, called Patney and Chirton, to which the single line of the old Berks and Hants extension railway from Hungerford had already been doubled, it is 14½ miles long, and for the first mile runs alongside the old line to Devizes. Save for a brick viaduct, 120 yards long and 40 feet high, near Lavington, there are no engineering features worth mentioning, but the earthwork was heavy and much trouble and delay was caused in the early stages by slips. Until the opening of the Castle Cary and Langport line, which had not then been begun, its only effect was to shorten the distance between London and Weymouth, and of course all stations below Westbury, by 14½ miles. This, however, was of some importance in connection with the competitive Channel Islands traffic, which was constantly increasing. Two new twin-screw boats, Reindeer and Roebuck, similar to Ibex, had been placed on the station and a summer daylight service established in 1897, in addition to the regular night service.

A Railway Lengthman

February 3, 2014

The lengthman used to be vital for the safe running of a railway. His job was basically to look after a length of track, deal with minor problems and, in the event of a major problem he’d get the trains stopped. It was a job requiring good eyes and plain basic common sense and a degree of fitness because the lengthman was expected to walk his length regularly.

In the old days, rail known as bull head rail was used. This rail sat in heavy metal chairs and was kept in place by means of a wooden block (sometimes metal) known as a key. Keys could work loose and a lengthman would always be on the alert for loose keys which he could knock back into place with his heavy hammer. He’d deal with blocked drains or any signs of subsidence. He’d make sure fences were animal proof.

Yes, it was a tough and vital job.

Each year teams were judged on the quality of their work and in 1951 the Lavington Station gang won the prize. Each member of the team was awarded a certificate and we have one of them at Market Lavington Museum.


Certificate awarded to Leslie Cooper for high quality work looking after track on British Railways, Western Region in 1951

Leslie Cooper was a Market Lavington man. In the 1950s he lived with his family on Spin Hill. He had been born in about 1908, actually in Little Cheverell. In 1931 he married Gertrude Topp who came from Easterton.

The couple had three daughters who all still live in the local area.

Much of the job the lengthman used to carry out is now performed by rather ghostly little trains which travel the lines at night recording imperfections

Western Emperor

January 25, 2014

If people have an image of Lavington Station in their mind at all, they probably think of trains hauled by Castle or King class steam locos racing through whilst the more humble, local trains wheezed their way along hauled by more humble ex GWR engines.

Yet the station outlived steam traction in the west, so towards the end of Lavington station it would have been diesel locos racing through with the expresses and diesel trains growling along with the locals.

Because the railway network retained a regional flavour, the Western Region was able to indulge in that age old game of ‘let’s be different’. Whereas the rest of the UK went in for diesel engine locos that generated electric current to drive the engine along, in the Western Region they chose diesel engine locos that used a hydraulic transmission system.

Most people would say that those Western Region locos, introduced during the early 1960s were amongst the most handsome of diesels. They certainly delivered more power than the diesel electrics of the same weight.

The most powerful class were dubbed the Westerns. All 73 of them had a name of ‘Western something or other’. The first was Western Enterprise. These diesels ended up generating almost as much fanaticism as their steam predecessors.

And here is one of them, number D1036, Western Emperor, passing the signal box at Lavington. The goods shed can be seen in the background.

Western Emperor passes Lavington Signal Box in about 1965

Western Emperor passes Lavington Signal Box in about 1965

This picture is dated at around 1965, a year before the station closed. It is interesting to note that the train has just passed an old GWR lower quadrant semaphore signal.

These days, of course, there are no stopping trains and what are now elderly, high speed trains carry passengers bound for distant places. Those passengers won’t realise there ever was a station, signal box and goods shed here.