Posts Tagged ‘station’

Soldiers at the station

December 4, 2015

Just a couple of days ago we looked at a card of Pond Farm Camp and commented that the summer camps up on Salisbury Plain probably helped the prosperity of the area. We even mentioned the railway as a local beneficiary.

We have just been given a postcard of soldiers at Lavington Station and here it is.

Soldiers at Lavington Station in 1910

Soldiers at Lavington Station in 1910

It isn’t the sharpest postcard we ever saw and the cutter seems to have got a bit off the next image, but nonetheless, we rather like this. The caption is not at all easy to read.


But with a bit of added contrast we can see it says 6th Lancashire Fusiliers Salisbury Plain 1910.

It is the card writer who informs us this is Lavington Station.


Card message

The message reads:

Hope you arrived safely and had a good view. I am not sure if you are going back to Malvern on Sat or not. This is a photo of our buglers taken at Lavington Station. With love Roddie.

Posted from West Down Camp South

Posted from West Down Camp South

The card, we can see, was posted from West Down South Camp on 19th May 1910.


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.

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.

Lavington Station in the 30s

March 7, 2014

It’s a regular question at the museum.

‘Where was Lavington Station?’ people ask.

Nothing of the actual station remains but there are tell-tale signs. One is that a building which looks like a former pub stands at the point where the main A360 road between Devizes and Salisbury passes under the railway just north of West Lavington. The other, for those who venture along the road that runs parallel to the railway next to that bridge is that there is a scrap yard right alongside the railway. The former pub was once the Station Hotel although for a while, after the end of the railway it was given the unlikely name of The Chocolate Poodle. A scrapyard seems to be quite a common use for former goods yards.

The station building was along the road that now leads to the scrapyard. The platforms, made long to cope with military traffic, reached across the road bridge.

All that has gone, but in today’s photo we see the station in the 1930s.

lavington Station in the 1930s

Lavington Station in the 1930s

As is usual in photos of the station, the expensive infrastructure is devoid of passengers. The track looks beautifully maintained with no sign of any weed growth but there is a complete absence of any activity.


That’s blown up a bit large, but what a polite sign. ‘Passengers are requested to cross the line by the bridge’.


Lavington Signal Box

Beyond the station we can see the West Signal Box which outlasted the station but has gone now.

Near the signal box there is a mass of points and crossovers.


Heading off to the left, a track leads to the goods shed although it would appear that access was only from the up (London bound) track on the right.

This photo shows a siding on the right curving away behind the signal box. This line does not appear in other photos and we are not sure what its purpose was. But surely, somebody who reads this will be able to tell us.

Lavington Station entrance

October 20, 2013

A railway station could be seen as an interface between the road network and the rail. Even in times long past a station required a frontage that could accommodate road vehicles and a building from which people could obtain their tickets for the rail journey.

Lavington Station was no exception to the rule. It had an approach road from just south of the railway bridge over the A360 road and quite a substantial road vehicle concourse in front of the station building. This concourse must have been invaluable when the old GWR used the station for excursions to Stonehenge and whole train loads of passengers decamped into Fred Sayer’s charabancs at the station.

The building was small, as our photo, taken soon before the line closed in the mid 60s shows.

Lavington Station entrance in 1965

Lavington Station entrance in 1965

Nearest the camera we have the corrugated iron parcels shed. There was a time when pretty well every station was also a parcels depot. The railways were deemed as common carriers and had to accept any item offered to them for transport. Before the little shed was constructed, parcels had been stored under the over-bridge stairs.

In this photo the bridge looks massive. Not all customers at stations were as lucky as those at Lavington, with a covered bridge to take them to the other platform.

Beyond that we see the small neat building which housed ticket office, staff facilities and waiting room for passengers.

Lavington Station opened in 1900 when the GWR built a connecting line from Patney and Chirton to Westbury as part of its shortened route between London and the West Country. Like many a country station it fell victim to Dr Beeching’s infamous axe (although to be fair he was only doing what politicians required him to do) in 1966.


Lavington Station – a new photo

September 28, 2013

Railways are always popular so it is probably no surprise that there are many photos of Lavington Station. The station was sited close by where the main road between Devizes and Salisbury crosses the railway – technically this is in the parish of West Lavington but the station served all of the Lavingtons including Easterton. A permissive path – the cinder path – was made alongside the embankment so that people from Market Lavington had a mud free walk to the station.

Our new photo shows trains as well as the station and poses a few questions for us. We hope a railway  enthusiast will be able to provide answers.

Lavington Railway Station - busy with trains

Lavington Railway Station – busy with trains

The photographer was standing on the plank construction down platform. We are looking approximately due west.


Gas lamps? Radio mast? Can anyone put us right please?

Let’s break the photo down a bit and pose our questions. We’ll start on the left.

We have a fine lamp but can anybody tell us what fuel it used? If it was gas, then where did the gas come from?

And what was that structure outside the station which looks to be some kind of radio mast. When was it built? When did it vanish? And just what did it do?

Lavington Station building and yard

Lavington Station building and yard

Here we see the main station building. The Lavington sign is too sideways on to read and the only sign we can make out is the one which indicates ‘gentlemen’. There is a bicycle and members of staff. Is that an early railway enthusiast on the far end of the platform? Can anybody make out enough of the train apparently departing? It appears to have passenger carriages, but the end vehicle looks odd. Do tell us about it. And is that a large goods shed visible just under the footbridge?

The train standing at lavington Platform is.... Can you help us?

The train standing at Lavington Platform is…. Can you help us?

The train standing at the up platform appears to have a very mixed rake of carriages. maybe somebody could tell us about them and date the picture for us. It’s a shame we can’t read the route board on the near coach.


Is that a gas tank on the roof?

 These two carriages could have the numbers 3458 and 7098 although they are not clear and so may be mis-read. Does that help anybody to tell us more? And what is that tank on the roof of the leading carriage? Our guess is gas storage for carriage lighting.

So we have a photo which is delightful in itself, but we hope to learn more from it – with your help.

Lavington Station again

June 27, 2013

We recently acquired four photos of Lavington Station very soon after closure. The station buildings still looked in good order and these images give us a chance to imagine the station in its heyday.

Today we’ll look at the up or London bound platform. The main buildings at the station were on the down, Westbound platform. The facilities were smaller on the other side. This platform could only be reached by going up the steps and over the bridge although possibly staff might have helped some people across the wooden crossing that porters with barrows could use.

The up platform at Lavington Station

The up platform at Lavington Station

That is the up platform. We can see the covered bridge that could bring passengers from the main station entrance. The little building has a canopy to provide shelter and there is a waiting room in the brick built building. The sign still hangs outside this room.


The Waiting Room sign is still there, but this photio was taken soon after trains ceased calling at Lavington

The presence of a chimney suggests that in cold weather, a fire could be lit in the waiting room for the benefit of intending travellers.

The whole station, which was sited close to the bridge which carries the A360 road under the railway, has been swept into total oblivion. No traces of the old days survive for passengers to see as their trains race through.

Lavington Station

June 13, 2013

One of Market Lavington Museum’s 2013 displays is a time line of photos showing the history of the railway line through Market Lavington up to (almost) the present day. As a late build line, opening in 1900, we have good photos of construction in progress. For the most recent era we have the steam loco, Tornado (completed in the year 2010) passing through with a steam special.

But some superb photos of the station, just after closure in 1966, were recently given to the museum – and they arrived too late to be a part of the display.

This one shows the main buildings on the down or westbound platform as viewed from the up platform.


Lavington was blessed with a solid little station. It was actually in the parish of West Lavington in an area that gets called ‘Chocolate Poodle’. For a while, the former Railway Hotel traded under that unlikely name.  The station was sited where the line crosses the main Devizes to Salisbury Road and the old goods yard is now the yard of a scrap metal merchant.

We’d guess the station was built from local brick. The nearest brick works was actually in Cheverell. The bigger works in Market Lavington were not far away.

The station is equipped with all facilities (save a refreshment room). There is a booking office and general waiting room, a ladies waiting room and a gentleman’s toilet. The nearest door is marked ‘PRIVATE’ so must have been something the staff used.

It is all swept away now. Travellers racing through on the high speed trains would not recognise that there has ever been a station there.

Lavington Station in 1954

April 23, 2013

This year, we have a photographic display concerning the railway and station at Lavington which you can find at the top of the stairs at Market Lavington Museum. We are able to cover the entire history of the line so far, for we have photos showing construction in the 1890s and can come right up to the newest steam loco, Tornado, passing through Market Lavington just a few months ago.

Here we see a couple of members of the station staff on the platform in 1954.

Lavington station and staff in 1954

Lavington station and staff in 1954

That’s John Sainsbury on the left, with a colleague. No doubt, back then, working at the station felt like a secure job but Lavington went the way of many stations, falling victim to Dr Beeching’s plans to reshape British Railways. Closure came on 22nd April 1966 although the goods yard lingered on until the following year.

John Sainsbury remained a railway man, but worked elsewhere. He still lives in the area and we have a recording of his memories as part of our Oral History project

Market Lavington Museum Oral History Prioject

Market Lavington Museum Oral History Prioject