Not quite Spetisbury, but this train would have soon been passing through. Here we have a 2-4-0 tender locomotive number 16A at Blandford station in August 1892 with a ‘down’ goods train from Templecombe to Wimborne. A cattle wagon is coupled next to the tender. It is unlikely that this train would have stopped at Spetisbury, as there were no sidings to handle goods wagons, and any small goods traffic such as milk, watercress or parcels would probably have been carried in the guard’s compartment of passenger trains. This locomotive was originally built as number 20 for the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway in 1866 at the Vulcan Foundry. It was one of six identical engines ordered by the company, but due to financial difficulties on the S&DJR only two (numbers 19 and 20) were actually delivered. Number 20 became number 16 during 1873 and both engines were heavily rebuilt in 1881. Due to the introduction of newer locomotives, it was renumbered 16A in 1891, the A suffix denoting engines with a limited life expectancy. In 1899 it was pressed into service at the S&DJR’s locomotive works at Highbridge whilst one of the works’ boilers was being repaired. Number 16A generally worked trains from Templecombe, then Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge before withdrawal in January 1914. Notice how clean and polished the locomotive is, and the smart appearance of the driver and fireman too – all very typical of the era.
Over the years the Spetisbury Station Project team has compared itself to the ‘Time Team’ from the tv series, and it has been very interesting work excavating the station site and piecing together its history. But it has been equally fascinating doing behind-the-scenes research and coming across historical documents, plans and photographs. This was published in The Times newspaper on 3rd November 1857 :
“INTERESTING RELICS – The navvies employed on the first section of the Dorset Central Railway, extending from Wimborne to Blandford, on making a deep cutting in Castle-hill, one side of the road leading through the village of Spettisbury, disinterred on Monday, the 19th ult., a large quantity of human bones, among which were as many as 70 skulls. The whole of the bones were detached, and when found presented a crushed and broken appearance. In one of the skulls was discovered a spear head firmly fixed, the shaft having been evidently broken off before the body was interred; various weapon of war, such as swords, daggers, spear heads, with ornamental buckles and other fastenings for the dress, and a brass boiler-shaped vessel, evidently used for culinary purposes, exhibiting superior workmanship, were found with the human remains. The probability is that the disturbed burial place was a large grave, in which the bodies of the slain were hurriedly and promiscuously deposited with the fragments of the weapons of war they had used in the fight. No doubt can be entertained but that the spot where the remains were discovered formed part, 1,600 or 1,700 years since, of a Roman encampment, surrounded by earthen outworks, and was probably occupied at the time the Romans advanced from the western coast into the heart of the country. The weapons of war and other ancient curiosities found have been compared with those of known Roman character, and correspond in every essential particular. The whole of the remains have been carefully preserved by Mr. Davis, the contractor of the railway, who appears to feel much gratification in exhibiting them to those who are curious to examine them“.
Evidently the railway company tried to keep this quiet so as not to delay construction, but word soon got out! If you would like to find out more about the history of the station, please click here.
Today was our first work party of 2018, in bright but cold and windy conditions. Our first job was to clear the steps leading up to the platforms of leaves and moss. The steps are not actually our responsibility, but we sweep them a couple of times every year to make them safer and more welcoming for visitors. Then we divided our efforts between weeding some of the flower beds, and starting work clearing the foundations of the old signal box. The signal box work is one of our projects for 2018, and we plan to reveal and preserve the foundations and provide an information panel detailing its history and explaining how it worked. Basically, it was built around 1901 when double track was laid. It was probably a Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway Type 2 signal box and cost £450 to install. The nine lever frame controlled the signals as well as the crossover between the two tracks. However, it saw very little use and seemed to have been allowed to deteriorate into a poor condition, and was permanently closed on 10th August 1952. Other projects for this year include spelling the name SPETISBURY in rock on the bank behind the ‘up’ platform, as seen in old photographs of the station, also constructing a replica disc and crossbar signal which was a feature of the station in its early years. A replica gradient post has already been made, and just awaits final painting before it is fixed into position.