A GWR Branch Line Station in South Devon
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Station for sale
Loddiswell Station is now on the market. For an electronic copy of the brochure please click here (If not legible with your browser please try Internet Explorer):-
Summary:- Main house Five bedrooms (1 en-suite)
Signal box annexe:- Large studio/reception room. Heated indoor swimming pool (see:-http://www.endlesspools.com/idea-kit.php) sauna and cinema.
Outside:- Platelayers Hut, plumbed and wired for use as a small kitchen serving cream teas.
Office and store. Greenhouse and summerhouse.
Workshop/small stable and tack room. With flower meadow/paddock
Private trout and salmon fishing on the river Avon (Devon) from the garden.
The Kingsbridge Line
The line ran from the London to Paddington mainline at South Brent, through Avonwick (a station very similar to Loddiswell) to the passing loop at Gara Bridge, then on to Loddiswell and finally to the terminus at Kingsbridge. Loddiswell Station is nearer the village of Woodleigh but was named after the larger village which was described as "A brisk walk away".
All the branchline station buildings were by the architect William Clarke.
Some Pictures from the story of this station:-
Mid 1950s Steam still working the line. Then by 1971 it had been derelict for some years.
These pictures show 'Then and now' similar views before and after restoration.
The Signal Box
The Working Years
Operations started on 19.12.1893 and ended on 16.09.1963, despite a vigorous local campaign to keep the line open. (The station had been an unstaffed Halt from 1961).
It would be impossible to detail all of the operational movements that took place in that time, however the following notable events took place.
In the early part of the 20th Century a group of French Monks moved to England to avoid persecution in their homeland. They brought a 'flat pack' Monastery with them which was shipped to Kingsbridge and delivered to Loddiswell Station by train. From there the Monks used Percheron Horses to pull carts up to the Monastery site in Woodleigh. These horses were so intelligent they did not need reins or instructions, they knew where to go. The local Policeman was not impressed however and told the Monks to use reins and control their horses. They just replied 'Je ne comprend pas' and continued on their way.
By World War II the Monks had returned to France as the era of persecution was ended. At one time a contingent from the Indian Army arrived at the station. Having formed up on the platform they then marched up the hill to Woodleigh, through the village and took up residence in the former Monastery. This was used by the Military as a supply depot and presumably formed a staging post for troops coming to and going from the country.
There are two conflicting stories told about this:-
Version 1) Unfortunately the troops were billeted on one floor and the ammunition on the floor below. We will never know what went wrong but the subsequent explosion killed many of them. Being wartime this was hushed up. Indeed when the book about the Kingsbridge branch line was written no-one could, or would, tell the author where the military depot had been. Only subsequently has more of the story come to light.
Version 2) They may have been evacuated from somewhere like Northa Africa and have been billeted at Wood Barton Before being sent out to the Italian Campaign. They aparently had mules with them which they limbered up to ammunition wagons and exercised in the lanes. Two Mules per wagon hitched to a central shaft. There was no explosion and nobody hurt, damage was caused to Wood Barton just before D-Day when American troops were there and a bren gun carrier fell through the floor.
Current research suggest that Version 2 is the correct one but there is an underlying belief that there may be something in Version 1 too. Any evidence in support or one or other of the two versions would be very welcome.
Similarly there is a story that the Stationmaster of Kingsbridge Station kept illicit records of all the 'coffin trains' that were sent up the line after the ill fated D-Day practice at Slapton during the war. Regrettably these records were destroyed after his death.
One Guard did keep records and his log-book shows that General Montgomery visited the D-Day exercises via this line:- http://www.devon.gov.uk/localstudies/100095/1.html
It is nice to have such evidence for once as it sometimes seems that Kingsbridge and Kingswear get confused in the telling of some stories.
A more peaceful aspect of operations was the provision of Camping Coaches (The GWR called them 'Camp Coaches'). Loddiswell was among the first sites to have these. Old coaches were 'converted' to provide holiday accommodation and sited in sidings at attractive locations. You had to arrive by train, no great hardship in days before universal car ownership, and the station facilities for Ladies and Gents were left unlocked for holidaymakers' use. Water was availble from a stand-pipe at Loddiswell which was hardly convenient being at the far end of the station yard in the Cattle Dock. However at least an unending supply was available, at Avonwick the water had to be sent in Milk Churns by train. These were not particularly cheap holidays but must certainly have been very restful by any standard.
One member of staff stands out from the rest.
Harold John Henry Ellis. Born in Thurlestone where he lived in Glebe Cottage with his parents John Edmund and Elizabeth Ann Ellis. Enlisted in Kingsbridge (14868, Devonshire Regiment), Transferred to the 17th Battalion Manchester Rifles (Service No. 42132). Killed in action 22/3/1918 (aged 22) defending ‘Manchester Hill’. He was the only member of the branchline staff to be killed in action in WW1. He is commemorated on Thurlestone War memorial and on the GWR one in Chester Station (see 'Useful Links' below). Also at the Pozieres British Cemetery, Somme , France (Panel 64 to 67). Served under Lt. Col. Wilfrith Elstob V.C., D.S.O., M.C. (Who died the previous day) one of the most decorated commanders of WW1.
It is possible that he transferred to the Manchester Rifles because they needed people with railway experience for the narrow gauge supply trains they used. These two links show the type of trains involved:-
1) A preserved WW1 narrow gauge system near 'Manchester Hill'. http://appeva.club.fr/index_e.htm
2) A restored WW1 engine, Axe, now running on the revived Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. http://www.lynton-rail.co.uk/
Loddiswell Station and Agatha Christie.
Being near to Bigbury, Loddiswell Station would have been known to many visitors to Burgh Island. Either because they alighted here and continued their journey by road or went through to the Kingsbridge terminus. Evidence for this is in the novel "Sleeping Murder" by Agatha Christie where the station appears in the guise of Woodleigh Bolton.
The Cream Tea Years
After restoration the (then) owner provided cream teas which were served on the platform. These were deservedly famous and people today still ask if they are available. (Sorry, no they are not!)
In addition to being a private home the grounds of the Station, totalling nearly four acres, form a wildlife reserve. Rare plants on the site include Early Purple Orchids, Pyramidal Orchids, Yellow Bartsia and Rattle. Animals include Roe Deer, Otters, Adders, Grass Snakes, Bats (Pipistrelles, Horseshoe & Whiskered) and Dormice. For the dormice over fifty nesting boxes have been provided and monitoring of these provides statistics to the national survey of these creatures.
Left, Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis). Right, Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula)
The Station is not open to the public. Visits by bona fide Railway Societies and local schools working on projects involving the railway can sometimes be accommodated. Applications should be made by post in the first instance to:- Loddiswell Station, TQ7 4DE.
The History that never was.
The badge above was a nationwide one for the British 'Resistance' the Auxiliary Units. These people were nominally (purely as a cover) part of the Home Guard. Forget anything you have seen on "Dad's Army" they were well trained and organised and would have sabotaged targets such as railways if Britain had been invaded. There is good reason to believe that they had a base in the grounds of Loddiswell Station. This is a subject on which people have kept very quiet and are only now starting to come forward with details of what went on. If anyone has any specific knowledge about this site they are asked to contact the Station.
This picture shows the possible remains of the resistance site, they were all officially 'destroyed' (see links)
Since writing the above, extensive research and inspection by one of the country's experts on the matter suggests that one trench might have been a store for explosives. These would have been used to cause as much damage as possible once the country had been invaded. A list of those involved in this activity for the whole of Devon has now been compiled. It looks as if command for this area was centred on Ivybridge with at least one member in the Diptford/Avonwick area.
The following links make interesting reading:-
A history of the resistance:- http://www.btinternet.com/~david.waller/gbradfordhistory.htm
The Devon Connection:- http://www.btinternet.com/~david.waller/gbradfordintro.htm
Typical base design and Museum:- http://www.parhamairfieldmuseum.co.uk/broabout.htm
The destruction of the bases:- http://www.parhamairfieldmuseum.co.uk/brohistory.html
Anyone researching the Kingsbridge line could not do better than consult the following:-
Branch Line to Kingsbridge (The Primrose Line) by Vic Mitchell & Keith Smith. Published by Middleton Press ISBN 1 901706 98 2.
The Kingsbridge Branch (The Primrose Line) by Ken Williams & Dermot Reynolds. Oakwood Press ISBN 0 85361 493 8
The Kingsbridge Railway (Railway Gateway to the South Hams) by Colin Henry Bastin. Privately Published
British Railway Journal, Number 8 Summer 1985 The Standard Buildings of William Clarke.
Camp Coach Holidays on the G.W.R. by Mike Fenton. Published by Wild Swan. ISBN 1 874103 53 4 .
Back Along the Primrose Line, Published by Aarchive Films of Plymouth. (http://www.aarchive.co.uk/videos/railway.asp)
Other William Clarke Stations
This list has been compiled from stations mentioned in the BR Journal
(Where no pictures of the actual station have been found models have been included for research purposes)
(Excellent picture of Abbotsbury in the 'Camp Coach Holidays' book mentioned above)
Barbers Bridge (http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/stations/b/barbers_bridge/index.shtml),
Brislington, (on the site of the current Tesco store)
Camerton (Somerset not Yorkshire),
Great Alne (Clarke's only two storey station) (http://www.search.windowsonwarwickshire.org.uk/engine/resource/default.asp?theme=893&originator=%2Fengine%2Ftheme%2Fdefault%2Easp&page=&records=&direction=&pointer=3296&text=0&resource=1527),
Loddiswell (additional page) (http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/stations/l/loddiswell/index.shtml),
Midsommer Norton & Welland (Welton) (I am not convinced this is a Clarke Station) (http://groups.msn.com/MidsomerNortonStation/midsomernortoninsteamdays.msnw?action=ShowPhoto&PhotoID=69),
Radstock West (http://www.r.heron.btinternet.co.uk/hradstock.html#atradstock),
Rowden Mill (http://clutton.fotopic.net/c1034407.html),
West Bay (Maybe Clarke's smallest, a gem!) (http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/stations/b/bridport_west_bay/index.shtml).
(Errors & omissions excepted!).
Devon Diesel Society:- http://www.devondiesels.org.uk/index.htm
Disused Stations:- http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/
GWR Society (Didcot):- http://www.didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk
GWR War memorial in Chester:- http://www.carlscam.com/chester/gwrmem.htm
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¦Top¦The history that never was¦Old Pictures¦
On departure I hope you will find the following items of interest:-
(c) All material copyright.
Credits:- Nick Catford the 'Before' Photos. Harry Moss 1950s picture. Sheila Hall the 1973 photo.
In collecting old pictures for a site such as this it is sometimes difficult to establish copyright ownership. I hope I have not infringed anyone's copyright but if this has happened I will remove any picture upon request.
These have come from various sources, credited where possible.
Above:- Left: 1910 Just 17 years after construction . Right: 1920, Canopy teeth are painted in alternating colours and an allotment has been established.
Above:- Around time of closure showing siding for camping coach [(c) B.Gibson, with permission] and shed on right for pump truck.(Ken Williams collection).
Above:- Left 10 June 1921 (note canopy colour scheme) Right A closer view showing telephone outside Ticket Office.(Ken Williams collection).