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The History of the Railway in Hampstead Norreys 

The railway, through Hampstead Norreys, was built by the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Junction Company and was opened to traffic on the 13th April 1882. In the early days, it was a single track line managed by the Great Western Railway who operated 5 passenger trains each way, on weekdays only.

The arrival of the railway had a huge impact on village life.  Previously, the movement of goods and people had been restricted to the pace of the horse and cart.  Now, for the first time, people were able to visit nearby towns and villages in a fraction of the time, and a large array of goods could be delivered by the freight trains using the line as they travelled between Southampton and Didcot. Goods traffic was primarily agricultural and included hay, straw, fertilisers, sheep, cattle and the occasional piece of farm machinery. There was also racehorse traffic which originated from the nearby Wyldcourt Stables, owned by Sir William Cook. The local coal merchant, Weedon Brothers, leased a wharf and had a coal office in the yard. In later years the business was taken over by ‘Neddy’ Spencer, who had his own railway wagon but upon his retirement in the 1950’s, he sold the business to William Wheeler from Yattendon.

A rare video of the Newbury to Didcot railway

 

 HN Station

 The station was situated on high ground overlooking the pretty road known as Water Street.The railway crossedover the road by means of a red brick, skew, arched bridge.  The surrounding area was most attractive with the village school at the foot of the embankment and pretty cottages intimately grouped alongside the River Pang.  On the other side of the bridge a new road, built by the railway, climbed to join the Ilsley road and provided access to the station.  The Railway Hotel (now Darrynain) was opened to accommodate weary travellers. 

 Single Track (1882 - 1942)

 
 


At the outbreak of World War 1 the GWR – along with most other major railways in Britain – was taken into government control. Many of its staff joined the armed forces and it was not possible to build and maintain equipment as easily as in peacetime.  Due to its strategic position, the railway had a significant and important role during the War, in supporting the movement of troops and munitions. 
After the War the government considered permanent nationalisation but instead decided on a compulsory amalgamation of the railways into four large groups; The Great Western Railway, London and North Eastern Railway, London, Midland and Scottish Railway and the Southern Railway.

 
1920 Train

 Typical inter-wars steam train

From the end of the First World War up to the mid 1920’s parcel traffic, from the local neighbourhood, continued to increase. Much of this was generated by the two local poultry farms situated in the village. Unfortunately, by the late 1920’s the rail business began a steady decline, as the competition from increased road traffic intensified. 

 HN Railway Plan

Proposed line extension to double track

The outbreak of the Second World War bought many changes to both village and railway life.  Once again, the railway was an important and intrinsic part of the War effort, resulting in a huge demand for rail transportation.  This increase led to the track, from Southampton to Didcot, being extended in size and other improvements were also carried out so as to increase the capacity of the line and the length of trains it could handle. 

There was the provision of a twin ‘down’ line and platform at Hampstead Norreys, as well as a new signal box which was placed on the site of the old box.  The work took eight months to complete, during which time all passenger and daytime goods trains were suspended.  The new infrastructure was re-opened, in stages, between October 1942 and April 1943. 

HN Station 

 New extended uo and down line (1942 to 1964)


 HN Airfield




The Hampstead Norreys station became an important dropping off point for troops and equipment,  with the opening of the airfield on the plateau above the village.  For several years after the war the station was busy handling supplies for the Navy, which had established a store on the old aerodrome site. 

World War II Airfield

 

 

 In January 1948 the railway was nationalised and administrative changes inevitably followed. As passenger and freight traffic began to decline the number of services was drastically reduced.  

The railways became uncompetitive and falling numbers ensured the closer of many lines and stations. Hampstead Norreys station closed to passenger traffic on the 10th September1964, to goods traffic on the 10th August, 1964 and the track was sadly lifted in 1967.

 Rutal steam train