The railway came to Hungerford as a terminus station in 1847, and was extended west through the town in 1862.
This article includes some material carefully researched by John Allen, whose father Archie Allen was Station master between 1935-39.
The large Photo Gallery of over 110 items is at the bottom of this article.
Brunel's GWR London to Bristol:
Some years earlier, in 1835, Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Western Railway Act had been passed, and such was the speed of railway construction that the main line from London to Bristol was fully open by June 1841. However, this was the line through Didcot and Swindon - many miles north of Hungerford.
The 1840s were a decade which saw an enormous number of new railway lines built - it was the heart of "railway mania". Various schemes were proposed to extend the network west of Reading. (For much more about this, see "A history of the Berks and Hants line, Reading to Westbury, by Peter Simmonds, 2014.)
The Berks & Hants Railway:
One of the proposed lines involved extending a line west of Reading, splitting at Southcote Junction, with a branch south towards Basingstoke, and a branch west through Newbury to Hungerford. This "Berks & Hants Railway", proposed by the Great Western Railway, took shape in the autumn of 1844, and eventually received Royal Assent in 1845. The subscription capital supporting the project was £400,000. 8,000 £50 shares were issued. Five of the eight directors were Robert Frederick Gower, Frederick Ricketts, Frederick Platt Barlow, George James and Thomas Richard Guppy.
The Reading to Basingstoke line would be 13½ miles, and the Reading to Hungerford branch would be 25½ miles. Both were for the GWR's preferred broad gauge track.
Once the Act was authorised, the GWR then took over the company and obtained an Act for its absorption (Great Western Railway Act 14 May 1846).
Acquiring land at Hungerford: Land had to be acquired from a variety of private owners, including John Matthews, William Tours, George Martin, George Earl, George Willes, John Satchell, Rev Charles Townsend, John Rees, Thomas Longford, George B Cundell, Mary Spearing, and Henry A Cundell.
In addition, of course, land on the Common had to be acquired from the "Borough and Manor of Hungerford", and a meeting of all Commoners was arranged by the Constable, Daniel Allen, in the Town Hall at 10.00am on Tuesday 24 February 1846. George Willes (of Hungerford Park) and 40 Commoners were present, and all agreed that the sale should go ahead.
"Jim" Davis tells us that "The first reference to a railway across the Port Down occurs in the minute of the Trustee meeting of February 1845, when the Constable reported to his Trustees that the Great Western Railway wanted certain lands on Inglewood Down and Everlands and that it was proposed that the land be made available on the basis of a rent of £4 per acre based upon thirty years purchase and compensation at twenty years. Messrs. Fuller and Marsh were appointed Agents for the Feoffees.
The following month (Mar 1845) it was reported that Mr Brunel, the Railway Engineer, valued the land required at £1 5s 0d per acre at forty years purchase and that Mr Fuller had valued the land at £2 per acre at forty years purchase, but that he (Mr Fuller) thought the railway would give £100 per acre to include compensation.
A week later the Constable was able to tell his Trustees that the Railway had offered £120 per acre and would undertake not to deviate from the plans deposited with the Clerk, that fences and bridges would be constructed to the satisfaction of the Agents and that all disputes should be referred to the Engineer of the Kennet and Avon Canal.
Follow this to see one page of the table of Land and Compensation paid, Aug-Sep 1846.
It was resolved that the offer be accepted and that if thought necessary, the Clerk be authorised to employ Counsel to watch the progress of the forthcoming Act of Parliament through its stages through the House. It would seem that the Railway authorities were dragging their feet, or the Trustees thought they were, because on the 22nd of April that year the Trustees agreed to send a petition and a deputation to the House of Commons because of the lack of a satisfactory assurance from the Railway. Consider that only two months had elapsed since the matter was first mentioned and think what a ball the planning authorities would have over a matter like this today!
However, matters moved on and in February 1846 the Clerk explained the workings of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act as it applied to the sale of Common Land and it was resolved to call a meeting of the Commoners to explain the intentions of the Trustees with regard to the money resulting from the sale. In July 1846 plans to connect the Lower Common (as we call it today) with the Port Down by means of an archway suitable for the passage of cattle under the railway were approved.
In 1847 the Great Western Railway completed the line to Hungerford, passing through the Port Down and the allotment of the Enclosure Act, taking in all 10 acr 2r 38p at £120 per acre. The agreed price was £1288 10s 0 inclusive of the standing timber and interest at 4 per cent until payment.
The actual sum paid was £1384 10s 0d and this was invested in 1853 in the purchase of two parcels of land of 16acr 1r 23p and 9acr 2r 36p both adjoining the Port Down on the south west corner and then thrown into the Port Down as Common Land. The purchase price of the two parcels was £1673 10s 7d the balance of the purchase price being found from Common Funds.
In view of the eagerness of the Trustees to have the Railway to Hungerford the comments of Rev. Summers as to its effect on the town are interesting.
He says "As has be on the case with many small towns, the railway has perhaps taken away more trade than it has brought, and the population of the Berkshire portion of the parish, which between 1801 and 1851 had increased from 1,987 to 2,096, decreased during the next 50 years to 2573 and had fallen in 1,901 to 2,364.
A double track broad gauge extension line was extended from Newbury to Hungerford, built by Rowland Brotherhood of Chippenham.
The new terminus station (with the adjacent turntable) was opened on 21 December, 1847. It was a one-sided station , with 'up' and 'down' buildings on one platform, which was on the 'down' side. Expecting the station to be a temporary structure, the buildings themselves were of a temporary nature. In 1977, when a trench was dug across the present level-crossing to instal additional sewage pipes, evidence of the old "engine pit" was found, dating from the original terminus station.
Hungerford was at last in rail communication with the outside world!
The initial weekday service (Monday to Saturday) was for five passenger trains each way Reading to Hungerford, whilst on Sundays the service was reduced to two trains only. Journey time from Hungerford to Reading was about 75 minutes.
The Stationmaster in 1850 was Henry Dyer.
The Berks & Hants Extension Railway:
Back in November 1845, the GWR had deposited plans for a "Berks & Hants Hungerford Extension Railway", linking Hungerford with the Wilts, Somerset & Weymouth Railway (WS&WR) at Frome, becoming part of the main line to Exeter. Branches were planned to Marlborough and Dexizes.
Other schemes, which did not ever come to fruition, included a line skirting south of Newbury, passing near Kintbury, Inkpen and Ham before terminating abuptly at Shalbourne.
Eventually, in 1847, the House of Commons agreed to this scheme.
It was not until 1859 that the 'Berks and Hants Extension Railway' (B&HER) was authorised by an Act of that name on 13 August 1859. This was for a 24½ mile extension of single broad gauge track onward from Hungerford westwards to Seend near Devizes, where it was to link with a branch of the Wilts, Somerset & Weymouth Railway.
Building work started in early 1861. The engineers were Messrs Smith & Knight, supervised by GWR Chief Engineer, Michael Lane.
The new line, along with the new re-aligned station, was formally opened on 4 November 1862, with public traffic starting a week later on 11 November 1862. A new station had been built including two new passenger platforms, slightly west of the old station building. The 35ft turntable remained on the north side of the site.
The new station building was in red brick with segmental arches in yellow brick over the doors and windows, a feature of several stations on the Berks & Hants line. The small canopy on the station had cast iron brackets steadying the support beams, these brackets each having a delightful "ear of wheat" motif.
Its construction had a considerable effect on the appearance of Hungerford.
In the first place, the original terminus station was altered to allow through traffic, and for the first time the broad High Street was spanned by a railway bridge (later replaced in 1896 when the line was converted to double track). A high embankment was built through the very heart of the town, and three more bridges were built, in Croft Lane, Parsonage Lane, and Marsh Lane (all later enlarged to carry the double track).
The railway bridge carrying he track across Hungerford High Street was considerable engineering feat.
The Timetable, February 1856:
The timetable for February 1856 cost 1d. The service provided 1st and 2nd class.
Bradshaw's Tours, Section II, 1866, describes Hungerford thus:
A telegraph station.
HOTEL - Black Bear.
MARKET DAY - Wednesday.
FAIRS - Last Wednesday in April and Sept., and first Wednesday in Oct.
HUNGERFORD is a market town which stands partly in the county of Berks, and partly in that of Wilts. The Kennet flows past this town, which opens a communication with the river Thames on the east, and the Avon and Bristol Channel on the west. The town principally consists of one long main street, with a few smaller ones branching from it.
In the centre stands the market house, over which there is a large room for public business and here is still preserved the Hungerford Horn, presented to the corporate body by John of Gaunt. It is made of brass, and is blown every Horn Tuesday to assemble the inhabitants for the election of the town constable.
From Hungerford you may follow the Berkshire Downs round to Reading, past Lambourn, Ashdown (where Alfred beat the Danes). Uffington Castle, Wayland Smith's Stone, the White Horse Hill (893 feet high with the figure of a galloping horse 370 feet long, cut in the chalk). Wantage, along Ickleton Street (a Roman way on the ridge) to East Ilsley (noted for its great sheep fairs), and so to Reading, a strip of about 40 or 45 miles, never to be forgotten by a light-heeled pedestrian.
The Berks and Hants, a railway 24½ miles long, begins here and runs through a nearly level country. Although the title would seem to imply, it forms no connection between the two counties named, taking as it does a westerly direction from the borders of Berks through the very heart of the county of Wilts.
Station fire, 1867:
On Saturday morning 16th November 1867 the 'up' buildings of the original "temporary" station (which were positioned on the original 'down' platform) were found to be on fire, and as they were composed chiefly of wood and canvas, were soon reduced to the ground although the local fire brigade had attended.
A contemporary account reported: "On Saturday morning 16th November 1867, after the 8.30am train had left, a building on the up platform was found to be on fire.
The building, which was composed chiefly of wood and canvas covered with paper, was old and dry, and as the wind at this time was blowing a perfect hurricane broadside upon it, there was no possibility from the start of saving any part of it. At the time of the outbreak there was no one about the premises except the company's servants.
Mr. Harper, the station master, was engaged in the office, and seems to be the first to discover the flames, running over the inside walls and ceiling of his office so rapidly, that he had not time to secure the whole of the cash from the drawers in the office before he was compelled to quit the place for his life, without even being able to secure his hat.
An immediate alarm was given, and in less than 10 minutes, the police and a large number of townspeople were on the spot.
The fire engine also (if we may be allowed to so call it) arrived soon afterwards. There was an abundant supply of water in the company's tank close at hand, but as there was neither buckets nor suction pipe attached to the engine, the task of getting water into it was a tedious one.
Meanwhile the fire, which had been increasing in fury, had enveloped the entire building in flames and presented a spectacle awfully grand in appearance, and not soon to be forgotten by those who witnessed it. The roof fell in with a tremendous crash, and soon burnt out. In fact from the commencement, the place was levelled to the ground in less than half an hour. The whole of the company's books and papers in the station were totally destroyed, together with the whole of the fixtures, furniture etc. The money left in the drawers in the office was discovered upon careful search being made in the ruins after the fire was out, but of course greatly discoloured. There was little interruption to the trains.
Immediately upon the outbreak of the fire, a telegram was sent to Reading, and before 11am, Mr. Besant, the district Superintendent arrived in a special train, and assisted by Mr. Sainsbury, inspector of the permanent way, and a staff of labourers, soon effectively. cleared the site.
Several absurd rumours have been in circulation with reference to the origin of the fire, but there is not a shadow of foundation for the supposition that it was the result of anything but pure accident, and the general belief is that it emanated from a flue in the booking office. Great numbers of people visited the spot on Sunday afternoon, many from a distance."
A new station was opened in 1871, replacing both 'up' and 'down' buildings.
Switch from broad to standard gauge, 1872-74:
Brunel's wider "broad" gauge (7' 0¼" = 2140mm) track added to passenger comfort but made construction much more expensive and caused difficulties when eventually it had to interconnect with other railways using the narrower gauge. As a result of the Railway Regulation (Gauge) Act 1846 (after Brunel's death) the gauge was changed to standard gauge (4' 8½" = 1435mm) throughout the GWR network.
In 1872 local tradesmen were seriously disadvantaged by the local line still being broad gauge whilst the main lines had been converted to standard gauge. A petition was signed by around 95 traders in Newbury, Hungerford and the surrounding towns and villages urging the Board of Directors of the GWR to convert the "branch line".
The Reading to Hungerford track was converted to standard gauge later in 1872, but it was not until 1874 that the single track line (from Hungerford to Holt Junction) was changed from broad gauge to standard gauge. During the conversion, the line between Hungerford and Newbury had single line working, on the up-line only, the donw-line being used for stabling old Broad Gauge rolling stock.
A temporary road coach service was used between Hungerford and Devizes whilst the work was carried out. The Parish magazine records that "Hundreds of labourers have been engaged for the last fortnight in effecting the change from broad to narrow gauge on the Hungerford Branch of the Great Western Railway, the Berks and Hants, and Wilts and Somerset Railways.
For five days the traffic was entirely suspended between Hungerford and Marlborough and Devizes; and on Sunday, June 28, the line was entirely closed. "It is hoped that the ordinary service of trains will be resumed on Saturday, July 4". It was!
Swindon, Marlborough & Andover Railway:
On Wednesday 28 July 1875 "the first sod of the Swindon, Marlborough, and Andover Railway was turned - with the usual ceremony and much local rejoicing". It was anticipated that the new line would benefit Hungerford by giving better rail access to Gloucester and Birmingham to the north, and to Southampton in the south. It was anticipated that the Railway would be completed by the end of 1877. In fact the Marlborough to Swindon line did not open until August 1881.
The line from Savernake to Andover opened on Tuesday 4 April 1882, the line from Newbury to Didcot on Wednesday 12 April 1882.
Snow blocks the line, 1881:
In 1881 the line through Hungerford was completely blocked by snow for two days.
Berks & Hants Extension Railway bought by the Great Western railway, 1881:
In 1881 the Great Western Railway Company applied to Parliament for a Bill to authorise the purchase of the Railway of the Berks and Hants Extension Company, between Hungerford and Devizes. The resulting merger was completed on 1 July 1882 - B&HER shares of £100 were exchanged for GWR shares of £87 10s 0d in value.
The was part of the GWR strategy to improve the railway between Hungerford and Westbury, to form a direct line to the west.
The cattle track onto Hungerford Common, 1897:
In September 1897, the Town Clerk Mr Astley informed a meeting in Hungerford that theh GWR wished to open an outlet from the Cattle Yard at the station on to the Common Port Down. It was agreed that this could only be allowwed if the railway purchased a strip of Common from the Railway Station to the road and fenced each side, and that the outlet would only be used on Sheep Fair days, and would be kept locked at all other times.
From single to double track, 1898:
In November 1882 the community became aware that the doubling of the track to Devizes would necessitate the rebuilding of the High Street "Railway Bridge which at present disfigures the High Street; and it is to be hoped that timely steps will be taken to induce the Railway Company to erect a structure more worthy of its position in the principle Street in the Town of Hungerford".
Application was made by the GWR in December 1882 to make a railway from Woodborough to Westbury, and from Castle Cary to Langport, "so as to render the line through Hungerford the most direct route to the West of England."
The GWR (Additional Powers) Act of 1897 authorised the purchase of lands at Hungerford to further improve the line. Bridges carrying the track across roads in Hungerford were widened to take the second line, two new spans were provided across the High Street, and the bridge crossing the canal to the west of the town was rebuilt. These works were carried out by Pauling & Co Ltd of 26 Victoria Street, Westminster.
The High Street railway bridge (and the Croft Road and Parsonage Lane bridges) were upgraded to double width in 1896,
The track was upgraded to double track between Hungerford and Bedwyn in 1898. As part of the line improvement, a new track from Stert to Westbury was built.
Messrs Smith & Sons opens, 1886:
In January 1886 the Parish Magazine reported that "Messrs Smith & Sons have lately opened a temporary Book and Newspaper Stall at our Railway Station with a view to ascertain whether there is sufficient demand to induce them to provide permanent accommodation of the kind."
A weighbridge was situated near the entrance to the goods yard for weighing vehicles carrying coal and other materials. It was also used for non-railway traffic, as it was the only weighbridge in the town.
The new station, 1899-1902:
On 2 May 1899 a letter was sent from the GWR to the Board of Trade requesting permission to commence work on rebuilding Hungerford station as per the proposed plans. These showed realignment of the track through the platforms along with realigning the down-line buildings. A further letter was sent from GWR requesting the plans to be returned for modifications prior to starting the work. The Board of Trade gave permission for the work to start.
In 1901 remodelling of the whole station took place, including the erection of a footbridge for passengers going from one platform to the other, the construction of a horse dock, the extension of the Goods accomodation, the provision of an up-refuse siding and the associated full re-signalling. Waiting accomodation and conveniences were provided on both platforrms, and a new 55ft turntable was installed on the up-side.
Letter from the Board of Trade dated 28 March 1902 regarding the "Remodelling of Hungerford station and lines on the GWR" (PRO MT6/1067/5):
I have the honour to report for the information of the B.O.T., that in compliance with the instructions contained in your Minute of the 8th February, I have inspected the alterations at Hungerford station on the Great Western Railway.
These comprise of the remodelling of the whole station, the erection of a footbridge, the construction of a horse dock, the extension of the goods accommodation, the provision ef an up refuse siding, and the resignalling of the whole place.
Waiting accommodation and conveniences are provided on both platforms and the arrangements are satisfactory.
There are two signal boxes viz. the West box, which has been rebuilt, and the East box, which is entirely new,
The East box contains 29 levers in use and 10 spare, and the West box contains 11 levers in use, 4 spare, 1 gate wheel, and 2 small levers for controlling the wicket gates.
The inter-locking being correct, I can recommend the B.O.T. to sanction the use of the alterations at this place.
signed H.A.York Col.
On the down platform was a tin shed which housed a water pump for supplying water for station use, but when mains water was connected, this shed was then used for storing bicycles and any overflow parcels from the Parcel Office.
In 1906 this line became part of the shortened route to the West Country.
More on the Platform Bridge:
The original pedestrian bridge, installed in 1901, was a rather unusual plate-sided bridge. The landings were supported with angle steel and the stringers were timber beams. Up to the landings, most of the construction was wooden until the bridge itself sprung upwards and outwards. This part was in steel plate for the sides with timber decking resting diagonally on the steel beneath.
The bridge was classified as "No 45" - with a span of 45' 6".
In November 1983 the steel plate sides of the bridge up to the landings were removed on both sides and replaced by wire mesh on a steel pipe framework.
Lighting of the station:
The platforms, offices and signal boxes were lit by gas for many years. The meter was housed in a small brick chamber at the twn end of the station path (now The Cuttings).
Electricity was slow to follow. It was installed first in the signal box in 1940-41, but the platforms were not converted until many years later.
The temporary tramway on the common, 1909:
When the Mains Sewerage and Drainage Works were installed in 1909, the works were carried out by Messrs Collier & Catley, of St Mary's Butts, Reading. On 1 Apr 1909 they took out an agreement with the Great Western Railway to instal a 2' gauge tramway from the railway siding in the mid part of the common, to assist their workers with transfering materials from the railway to the lower common.
There are copies of the plan in the Photo Gallery; follow this link for the GWR agreement 1 Apr 1909. (With thanks to Roger Day for this information, Mar 2016).
Mr Frank Hunt:
Mr Frank Ernest Hunt (of Shrivenham) was appointed Station Master in 1908. The first GWR General Manager under whom he served was Mr J Grierson, later replaced by Sir Felix Pole, who had long been aquainted with Mr Hunt. It was an unusual compliment and (presumably) a token of friendship that some time later Sir Felix presented a signed portrait of himself to Mr Hunt, in whose office it was afterwards prominently displayed until Mr Hunt's retirement in 1926.
After his retirement, he moved to Priory Road.
The GWR Road Motor Service between Marlborough and Hungerford:
On Sat 2 Oct 1909 the GWR introduced a Road Motor Service between Marlborough, Ramsbury and Hungerford. It operated on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. "Road Motor Cars with accomodation for Luggage, Parcels, and Light Goods, ran ... condition of roads permitting". The journey took 1h 20mins, and single fares weree 1s 6d. [See images of the poster in the Photo Gallery].
The King's Visit, 21-26 Oct 1912:
In October 1912, King George V came by train to visit Sir John Ward at Chilton Lodge. The proposed visit captured the enthusiasm of the whole town, which set about the task of preparing and decorating the town with enormous energy.
The King's train came from Paddington, and arrived punctually at 7.15pm. The Constable (Mr John Adnams), the Station Master (Mr. Frank Hunt) and many other dignitaries were on the platform to welcome the King and his party to Hungerford. One photograph shows that the station staff at the time totalled about 26 men!
In the 1930s much watercress was despatched by Passenger train to various destinations. The extensive watercress beds at Ramsbury (14 acres run by John Wootton) sent their produce from Hungerford, as did the watercress beds near Shalbourne mill, which had been established in 1929. They grew varieties such as "Morning Dew" and "Mill Brand", and continued for over 40 years until the Shalbourne business closed in 1972. Other local beds at Oakhill, Bedwyn and Kintbury used their local stations.
At the height of the season (late spring and early summer), watercress was picked throughout the day to keep up with demand, bundles were tied with raffia, then packed into in 7 lb chips, 28 lb flats, or 56 lb hampers, according to market requirements, and "Motorised vans" then took the loads to Hungerford station. A photo in the Photo Gallery shows piles of hampers and flats of watercress awaiting despatch. Watercress was sent for markets in Covent Garden, Birmingham, Manchester and South Wales. 6-7 tons were sent each week through Hungerford alone. See "Watercress - an Interesting Railway Traffic", Great Western Railway Magazine, 1933.
Staff costs and finance at Hungerford, 1903-1938:
|Year||W. Staff||Paybill Exp||Total Receipts|
Traffic through Hungerford, 1903-1938:
|Year||Tickets issued||Season tickets||Passenger receipts||No. of parcels||Receipts||Total receipts|
Changes in the 1920s and 1930s:
Track plans dated 1922 show that the turntable had been removed, and two additional sidingsa had been added to the Goods yard.
On 23 Feb 1922 there was a proposal to instal a halt at Froxfield.
Jun 1925: Motor vehicle weighbridge installed.
On 16 May 1928 the redundant engine pits were removed.
In 1935 there was a branch of Wymans Bookstall situated on the Down platform, just in front of the general waiting-room. It remained in use for several years.
1938: New signalling system installed.
Goods Shed fire, 1936:
A timber shed used by L. Beard & Son as an office in the Goods Yard was destroyed by fire on the 15th January 1936.
The NWN reported: "At 1.30am (yesterday, Wednesday) morning, the fire alarmrang and in the east there was a big glare sue in part to fog.
The outbreak was in the Goods Yard of the GWR station and the building involved was a tarred timber shed formerly used as an office by L Bear & Sons, coal merchants.
The fire was discovered by P C Robinson who rang the fire bell, but within a few minutes. the building was a mass of flame, and practically burnt out when the fire brigade arrived."
When Mr Hunt retired in 1926, he was succeeded as Station-Master by Mr Pyke, who served for the next 9 years until his "age of retirement" in Nov 1935, to be succeeded by...
Mr Archie Allen:
Archie Allen (father of John Allen) came to work at Hungerford station in 1926. Archie had worked for the GWR for many years at Windsor station and in 1926 he was appointed Clerk in Charge of the Goods Depot at Hungerford, becoming Station Master in 1935. See "Mr A.J. Allen promoted to Stationmaster", Marlborough Times.
Archie was a very keen Ambulance man and formed his own Railway Ambulance team in the 1930s. One of Archie's duties on Sundays accompanied by his son John was to fill up the many chocolate and cigarette machines, but John has no knowledge of any extra chocolates being handed to him.
At the beginning of 1939 the station was staffed by the Stationmaster (Archie Allen), two Booking Clerks (Derick Stoneham and ANO), Clerk in charge of the Goods Depot (Bruce Richardson) and six Signalmen (until the East Box was closed on 19 January, after which there were only three - Harry Bennett, Fred Liddiard and Harold Prout). The Lorry Driver was Fred Didcock; Porter in charge of the Parcels Office was Fred Cox; along with Harry Buxey, Bert Humphries and young Reg Knight the Lad Porter (who was soon to joi the army).
There were two gangs looking after the permanent way. Their tool sheds were situated inder the bank on the south side of the Goods yard. One member of one of the gangs was Charlie Rosier of 13 The Croft, who had started in a relaying gang in 1901. After seven years at Kintbury he returned to Hungerford and progressed to be a Sub-ganger. Charlie worked for GWR for 45 years, and had a proud record of never being late for work. He was a keen First Aid worker, and joined GWR First Aid classes in 1914 - and passed 26 annual examinations.
Prior to the Second World War, several automatic cigarette and chocolate machines were in use at the station, the stocks usually replenished each weekend by the Stationmaster.
There was a mileage post on the up platform.
Archie Allen died suddenly and unexpectedly in April 1939. See Several obituries of Mr A J Allen, 1939.
Other Stationmasters at Hungerford:
W. Hunt, 1908-13.12.1926
P. Pyke, 13.12.1926-31.10.1935
A.J. Allen, 1.11.1935-3.4.1939
C. Redman, 4.1939-?1953
L. Green, Nov 1953-Feb 1960
S. Knapp, Jan 1960-Sep 1960
Relief, Sep 1960-Dec 1960
W.R. Gregory, Dec 1960-Sep 1964 (transferred to Pewsey).
There were two signal boxes at Hungerford for many years, until January 1939.
Hungerford East Box controlled traffic to and from Kintbury, and also ran the entrance to the goods yard including the coal sidings, and cattle pens, where cattle could be unloaded and taken through a gateway to Hungerford Common.
Hungerford West Box controlled traffic to and from Bedwyn, as well as the road level crossing.
When the East box was closed 19 January 1939, all traffic was controlled from the West box (along with a small ground frame positioned opposite the old East Box). The signalman was Harry Bennet, who died aged 50 years in 1956.
More detail on the Signal Boxes:
There have been several signal boxes at Hungerford. The first East box was opened in 1884 and closed in 1899. The second box was opened in the same year, and on the 9 September 1919 this box with 30 levers plus 9 spare was open continously and three signalmen were employed.
On the 10 May 1922, an application was sent by Signal F.S.Slade, W.Clements, and H. Frost to Inspector Percy at Newbury for reclassification from class 5. At this time Kintbury box was class 4. The application was refused, and the men appealed, but received a further refusal.
On the 30 June 1921, there were 29 working levers, 8 spare, and 2 placers, and a further application for regrading to class 4 was made, but the names of the signalmen is unknown. However, this was granted as from week ending 30th June 1921.
The East box was used for controlling traffic to and from Kintbury, also the entrance to the Goods yard, including coal sidings, cattle pens, where cattle could be unloaded and taken to Hungerford Common.
The first West Box was also opened in 1884 and closed in 1899, and as this was a non block post, it seems it was.used for controlling the level crossing only.
The second West Box was an all timber construction 21' x 12' x 8' and was a block post. On the 10 September 1919 the box was open continously with 3 signalmen employed, and it had 14 levers and 3 spare. The box was graded Class 5 and on the 19 January 1928 an application for regrading was sent by Signalman W.J.Lane, and D. Kelly to Inspector Percy at Newbury. It was stated 4 passenger trains terminated at Hungerford daily from the direction of Reading, and trains were also shunted from 'main to main' to allow other trains to pass. The reclassification to Class 4 was approved as from Week ending 19 January 1928. At this time the West Box was open daily from 0600 - 2200 with two signalman, 11 working levers, 2 placers, and 2 spare. The duties included sorting and forwarding of tickets for audit, also dealing with register entries for road buses.
In 1938 the West box was extended to cover the workings of the East box which was closed on the 19 January 1939. It then had 37 levers at 4" centres, the locking was vertical tapped 5 bar, and some parts of this box were second-hand (but which is unknown). A hand generator was also installed for changing points from the Down Main to the Down Loop, which was a considerable distance from the box.
With the closurer of the East Box, the West Box was renamed simply "Hungerford", and a small ground frame was positioned at the rail entrance to the Goods Yard, the levers of which were released electrically from the Signal box.
On the 5 November 1943, the box with 35 working levers, and two spare, was open continously and an application for regrading from Class 4 was made by signalmen H.E.Bennett, F.G.Liddiard, and H.Prout. The regrading to Class 3 was approved as from week ending 11 May 1944.
The level crossing gates were worked by a wheel in the signal box, and wicket gates by a two lever frame.
A lampman's hut was situated on the west side of this box.
In 1956 H E Bennett, J.P., a signalman at Hungerford, was taken ill in the signal box, and died soon after being taken home. See "Hungerford railwayman J.P. died after being taken ill in signal box" NWN, 6 Sep 1956.
The main Hungerford box was partly demolished in the crash of 10 Nov 1971 (see below). Its replacement was demolished in Nov 1978 (see "End of an era" - NWN 16 Nov 1978).
Mail and passenger traffic:
Post Office Mails, and many people travelled by train until the 1960s when cars became a more popular means of transport.
Second World War:
During the 1939-1945 war years, very heavy goods traffic was dealt with at Hungerford. Goods included
- coal and coke for the four coal merchants Alexander Bros, L Beard & Son, W Lewington, and T D Barnes of Aldbourne,
- feeding stuffs and fertilizers for John Adnams & Sons, and James & Co., of Great Western Mills.
- agricultural implements were received for Oakes Bros, and I A Bennett & Son.
There were many extra Passenger trains ("troop specials" and "leave specials") put on for the movement of English and American troops. Loading and unloading docks for cars were also available.
Post Office mails were also received and despatched by Passenger train at this time.
At this time the station was staffed by a Station Master, (A J Allen) and two booking clerks, a Senior Porter (F. Cox) was in charge of the Parcels Office also two Junior Porters. Bruce Richardson was the clerk in charge of the Goods Depot assisted by one Junior Clerk. A lorry driver (F. Didcock) was provided for the collection and delivery of parcels in the town and outlying villages. The signalmen employed were Harry Bennett, Fred Liddiard, and Harold Prout.
There were also two gangs with a total of 16 men looking after the permanent way.
A large turntable crane was installed for handling agricultural impliments and other heavy goods. One 2-ton rigid vehicle was permanently stationed at Hungerford for the collection and delivery of parcels and other goods. There was a weighbridge situated at the entrance to the goods yard. Milk traffic was collected by road vehicles from various local farms, and usually sent by passenger trains to London.
Many large trees, cut from local forests, were loaded away by goods train, as well as pit props for collieries in the South Wales area.
There was a 20-ton weighbridge situated at the entrance to the Goods Yard. A small grey brick builoding at the west side of the weighbridge was used as an office by L. Beard & Son, Coal Merchants, and Mr Bill Jepp was the manager there for many years.
The total wagon capacity at Hungerford was 125 wagons.
Originally the Goods Office (a small bridk building with room for two clerks only) was situated at the west end of the Goods Shed, and the Checkers office was another small building at the east end of the shed. During the war, witthe increased activity resulted in there being five clerks and the Checkers Office was enlarged to become the new Goods Office, the old one at the west end becming a Checkers Office.
In 1970 the station ceased to deal with Goods traffic, Reading being the railhead for this area. See Correspondence relating to closing Hungerford to freight traffic, 1968-70.
The Bedwyn to Paddington Service:
Many people puzzle why there is such a good service between Great Bedwyn, a very rural village, and London Paddington. The explanation is that Sir Felix John Crewett Pole (1 Feb 1877 - 15 Jan 1956), Chairman of the Great Western Railway, lived at Great Bedwyn, and it is said that he travelled to London each day from Gt Bedwyn.
The model railway of Hungerford:
A very large an detailed model railway layout of Hungerford Station and surrounding area was built in the early 2000s by Mike Evans, an enthusiast from Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
Replacing the railway bridge:
The main station buildings, dating from 1862, were demolished in September 1964. Hungerford ceased handling "Goods Traffic" on 1st July 1970.
In 1966 the railway bridge across the High Street was replaced. It was a prototype welded construction without rivets or bolts. It was 81ft long, weighing 136 tons,, and cost approx £150,000. It was built in Wellington, Shropshire and installed over the weekend of 29-30 May 1966 and the following weekend. It is said to have the longest span on the GWR. See "Preparing to replace the bridge", NWN, 5 May 1966.
It was repainted (in brown and cream) in ?the 1970s, and in 2013 in dark green with black, red and gold markings in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the original Berks & Hants Extension Railway being built through the town in 1862.
The remaining station buildings were demolished in 1971, and Hungerford station became an un-manned halt.
In the early morning (about 01.30am) of Wednesday 10th November 1971, a goods train from Westbury to Theale, with 41 wagons containing 1000 tons of stone, was derailed whilst on the high embankment just west of the High Street bridge.
28 wagons came off the track, blocking both lines, crashing into the signal-box and strewing wreckage and ballast over the platforms.
Relief signalman Robbie "Bob" Bowden (of Southcote, Reading) had a lucky escape when two of the waggons jack-knifed into the signalbox. Although he had concussion and shock, he managed to restore all signals to danger before calling for assistance. He was trapped in the box for half an hour before being rescued by firemen.
Despite such a catastrophic crash, it is remarkable that no-one else was injured.
After the crash, a temporary ground level structure was brought into use the following day until a modern wooden structure, second-hand from Bristol East Main line, 39' x 13' x 12' was erected at the same site as the former signal box. It contained a 38 lever frame at 4" centres, vertical tappet 5-bar lockings, and was brought into use on 19 Mar 1972.
The manual semaphore signals were replaced on 17 Jul 1978 after colour light signals (MAS - Multiple Aspect Signals), controlled by the Panel Signal Box at Reading. The box itself was removed in 9 November 1978. (See "End of an era" - NWN 16 Nov 1978). See also "Signal of significance to couple who are retiring - for a while" - NWN 10 Sep 1981 regarding John & Brenda Newton's retirement and the Hungerford signal they bought).
At the same time, the level crossing gates were replaced by crossing barriers controlled by closed-circuit TV from Kintbury Crossing box, with emergency telephone provided at the crossing.
For many years from 1939 onwards a Public Telephone Box was thought necessary at the station but it was not until December 1990 one was erected opposite the Railway Tavern Pub.
The only remaining evidence of the old station up to 1999 was the 1902 footbridge, but this was replaced by a new footbridge on 6th June 1999. No sign of the original G.W.R. station now remains.
(Much of this was based on information from John Allen, Dec 2005)
More recent changes, post 1960:
1962: The cover of the footbridge was removed as it was considered unsafe.
1964: Passenger station closed for business. Bus stop scheme - guard to collect fares on trains because of low volume of traffic.
1971: May-Jun: Buildings on ddown platform demolished.
1971: Jul-Aug: Buildings on both platforms now demolished. Only goods shed and offices remain.
1972: Goods shed and offices demolished.
1972: Small hut and offices on up platform for issuing tickets.
1979-80: A new level crossing was installed. During the digging out operations for the new level crossing, evidence was found of an old 'engine pit' used when Hungerford was a terminus station.
1985: Wooden office built on up platform for issuing tickets.
1992: Automatic ticket issuing machine installed.
1993: Guards once again collecting fares on trains.
1999: (6th June) The old footbridge was removed and replaced by a modern one.
Replacement of Croft Road railway bridge, 2012:
In April 2012, the Croft Road bridge was replaced. The old bridge had probably been in position since c1951, as the NWN of 18 Oct 1951 reported "The railway bridge over Croft Road, Hungerford, is to be replaced by a new structure".
150th Anniversary of the Berks & Hants Extension Railway:
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the line west through Hungerford, a heritage train of 13 coaches headed by LNER Bittern stopped in Hungerford station for about 20 minutes, to take on water - and 81 passengers! The train had started from Victoria station, London, and went on to Minehead, before returning in the early evening.
See also the following items kindly sent by Tony Bartlett:
- Press Release of Cathedrals Express heritage train
- Photo-gallery of 12 pics of the event
- Hungerford station, Aug 2001
- The front page of the Berks & Hants Railway Act, 30 Jun 1845
- Flyer for meeting of Commoners regarding sale of part of the Common to the Berks & Hants Railway, Feb 1846
- Tracks and buildings of the 1847-1862 station. Note the 35' diameter turntable.
- "The last GWR broad gauge train", 1874. This is not at Hungerford, but is typical of trains from that period.
- Hungerford station, c1892. The original G.W.R. broad gauge track was changed to standard gauge in July 1874, but this photograph still shows the track laid on longitudinal sleepers (baulk road track), rather than the more familiar type seen today. This view looking west towards the town shows the station building (on the "down" platform) before the footbridge was built. These station buildings are thought to have been opened in 1871.
- Alexander Bros. 10-ton open coal wagon No. 37, made by Midland Railway Carriage & Wagon Works, Co. Ltd., in their Midland Works at Birmingham for use on the Great Western Railway.
- The railway at Denford, postmarked 27 Aug 1906 (E Barnard 111082).
- The Stationmaster and staff, c1905 [A Parsons]
- GWR bus service, c.1910. To improve the service to nearby towns and villages not served by the railway, GWR provided a bus connection service. Shown here is GWR service no. 29, the Marlborough to Hungerford bus, which was routed via Ramsbury. The bus is a 20hp Milnes Daimler, first registered (AF157) in Cornwall in August 1905. The Hungerford-Marlborough service started in October 1909, and was extended to a Hungerford-Swindon service in October 1911. (Thanks to Paul Lacey)
- Hungerford Station, c1910. [Freeman's Series]
- Steam railcar at Hungerford c.1912. In 1902 new station buildings were built to serve the 'up' platform, these being linked to the main station building by a footbridge. This photograph shows a steam railcar – incorporating engine and carriage in a single unit. The idea was never very successful, probably because of the limited amount of seating available. See also: Didcot Steam Railmotor project, c1970.
- Visit of King George V, Oct 1912: The Constable and Feoffees. The town officials were all on parade to welcome His Majesty to Hungerford.They include (from left to right) Edward Bushnell (Town Crier), Francis Church (landlord of the Three Swans Hotel), Thomas Freeman (tobacconist), George Platt (brewer), Thomas Alexander, Henry Astley, John Adnams (Constable, corn and seed merchant), George Wren, Alfred Allright, Thomas Walter Alexander (grocer), Louis Beard (coal merchant, in Burberry coat), William Mapson (watchmaker), and (on the extreme right) Frank Hunt (station-master).
- The King on his way to the station. The day of the King's departure from Hungerford was spoiled by heavy rain. Despite this, the band (on the left) played on, and a large crowd came to cheer. Sadly the profusion of umbrellas must have reduced the view considerably. The King's journey to Hungerford had been non-stop from Paddington, and one hour and ten minutes, arriving at 7.15pm. He left at 10.40am on Saturday 26 October.
- The approach to the railway station decorated for King George V's visit, Oct 1912. Note the engine and train in the station.
- Railwaymens' Supper 1912
- Hungerford station, c1916. Railway staff are standing on the "down" platform with a pile of wicker baskets, possibly watercress crates, for which there was a very busy trade from Hungerford.
- Hungerford West signal box, c1920
- Hungerford Station, c1928-30
- Track changes 1898-1973
- Hungerford station, c1933. The piles of wicker baskets are watercress crates, for which there was a very busy trade from Hungerford.
- Watercress beds at Broad Chalke, on River Ebble, Wiltshire, 2 Aug 2013. Reminiscent of Mr Wootton's at Ramsbury in the 1930s
- Looking north from the Common to Eddington. Note the Hungerford East signal box (closed Jan 1939). [Albert Parsons]
- Hungerford Station, looking east, 1946
- Replacing the railway bridge, 1966
- Railway crash, 10 Nov 1971
- DMU at the level crossing, c1972.
- Looking east, Jun 1974
- New Signal Box, 4 Jun 1977
- Inside the signal box, undated.
- Looking west c1979. (No signal Box, but weighbridge office building still standing)
- Railway Bridge, Jun 1990 (John Allen).
- New waiting area, May 2001
- Passenger bridge, Dec 2003
- Replacing the Croft Road railway bridge, Apr 2012
- Heritage train of 13 coaches headed by LNER Bittern pulling in to Hungerford Station 21 Jun 2012, where she took on water on her Cathedrals Express trip from London Victoria to Minehead. The event was to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Berks and Hants Extension railway through Hungerford.
- Bittern took on water and stood in the station for about 20 minutes.
- A total of 81 people joined the trip at Hungerford, and hundreds of onlookers gathered to celebrate the event.!
- The High Street railway bridge in its new livery, Jun 2013
- Hungerford station, looking east, c1975
- "A History of the Berks and Hants line - Reading to Westbury", by Peter Simmonds, 2014.
- "The Geology of the Berks & Hants Extension, and Marlborough Railway" from the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, Vol 9, No 26 (1866).
- Parish magazine, esp Jul 1874, Jul 1875, Aug 1881, Dec 1881, Nov 1882, Dec 1882, Jan 1886.
The HHA Archive also holds the following files:
- "Berks & Hants Line – Theale – Bedwyn – Stations and Staff" by John Allen [S69]
- John Allen - Railway Certificates [M]
- The Great Western Railway - Timetables Jan-Apr 1902