so, what’s going on?
Today it is hard to imagine Spetisbury station as once part of the much loved Somerset & Dorset railway. Until its closure in 1966, this important cross-country railway linked Poole and Bournemouth with Bath, Bristol and further north, with a branch running to Burnham-on-Sea on the Bristol Channel. Visit the station history page to learn more about the station. During May 2012 volunteers started to clear the overgrown and derelict station site, working under license from landowners Dorset County Council. The first job was to excavate tons of demolition rubble by hand from the platform buildings and signal box, revealing the foundations for the first time since the late 1950s. Many artefacts were uncovered in the process, and these have been cleaned and preserved off-site. Many years of overgrowth and vegetation has also been cleared or cut-back, allowing benches and picnic tables to be provided for visitors. The long-term ambition is to restore the platforms and reconstruct the buildings as close to the originals as possible, to form a railway heritage centre for this rare example of a Dorset Central Railway station and the Somerset & Dorset railway in general. There is no intention to lay any track as this is not permitted under the terms of our license, and we fully support the North Dorset Trailway which uses the trackbed between the platforms. Subject to planning permission, we aim to provide a small timber building that will act as a café and information point for the station and Trailway. This structure will be in keeping with the site’s railway heritage. An article about us in Dorset Life magazine in 2016 further explains our hopes and ambitions
what to see on site
Please be aware that we are not your average heritage railway project. There are no preserved station buildings, we don’t run beautifully restored trains and there isn’t a gift shop! What we have are the remains of a former Dorset Central Railway / Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway station within a landscaped rural setting. On work party days, team members are on hand to chat to visitors and answer any questions. Light refreshments are usually available in return for a donation to the Spetisbury Station Project. However, visitors are welcome at the station at any time to explore the site or maybe enjoy a picnic overlooking the Stour Valley, and there are several grassed areas and benches / picnic tables around the site. Birds of prey and other wildlife can be seen from the station, and we help nature by providing bird boxes around the site and not cutting back vegetation during the nesting season. It is also a perfect base to walk or cycle the North Dorset Trailway, which starts at Spetisbury station and goes as far as Sturminster Newton mostly along the old railway, or explore the nearby Spetisbury Rings iron age hill fort. Why not download and print our Spetisbury station guide. To find us, please click here.
The ‘down’ platform is the station’s original platform, which opened with timber booking office and waiting rooms on 1st November 1860. The platform was extended and a separate brick-built ladies’ waiting room was provided in 1888. The concrete floor and fireplace you see today is the foundation of this building. During reconstruction of the station around 1900, when double track was laid, this platform was again extended to a total length of 300ft. It then became the ‘down’ platform for trains to Bailey Gate, Broadstone, Poole and Bournemouth (West). You can clearly see the different methods of construction where this platform has been extended. Plans show a group of small buildings existed between the bridge and platform end. These included a lamp room where oil would have been stored. We have discovered the foundations of one of these buildings, but the others have been lost. An area has been set aside for the proposed café and information point which we hope to provide in the near future, subject to planning permission. The replica station nameboard is situated near the position of the original.
The ‘up’ platform is 300ft long and was built during reconstruction of the station around 1900. It was used for trains to Blandford, Templecombe, Evercreech Junction (change for the Burnham-on-Sea branch) and Bath (Green Park). This platform opened on 29th April 1901 and was provided with a brick building containing a booking office, waiting rooms and lavatories. You will notice that the rear retaining wall of this building still survives, and the foundations of the various rooms with the three fireplaces can still be seen today. Also look out for the tiled floor of the ladies’ lavatory and the remains of the gents’ urinal. The station became an unstaffed halt from 13th August 1934, and closed altogether on 17th September 1956. The replica station nameboard is situated near the position of the original, as is the approx. 2/3 scale replica disc & crossbar signal.
The signal box was a ground level structure which came into use on 29th April 1901. It was probably a Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway Type 2 design box and had a nine-lever frame controlling the crossover points between the two lines as well as the signals. The signal box was a block post to break the six mile gap between Blandford and Bailey Gate, but it was little used and closed on 10th August 1952. During excavation, several intact glass Leclanché jars were found, which were early cell batteries used to provide current for the signalling equipment. Look out for the piece of ironwork just outside the front wall made by the Railway & General Engineering Company Ltd of Nottingham which would have supported the signal and pointwork pulleys. Due to its proximity to the road bridge parapet, the site of the signal box has been fenced off.
The bridge was originally built for double track around 1857, although a second line was only provided in 1901. It crosses the lane to South Farm and was designated by the S&DJR bridge number 213 Spetisbury Station Bridge. It is likely the iron railings on top of the parapets were added during station reconstruction around 1900.
The steps were provided to the ‘up’ platform when the station was rebuilt around 1900. Until then, access to the ‘down’ platform was up a steep, curving path from the main road through the village. This path has now been lost due to housing development. There are a total of 30 steps, and originally there was an iron gate at the bottom.
want to get involved?
Spetisbury station is maintained by volunteer members of the Spetisbury Station Project Group. Work parties take place every fortnight on a Sunday, starting around 10.00. Visit the events diary page for a list of work party dates and special events for this year. We are only a small (but very friendly) group and new members are always welcome, in whatever capacity you are able to contribute to the work we are doing. These are some of the tasks we need help with now and in the future:
- maintenance of platform furniture and construction of new timber items
- provision of railway-style signage
- grass cutting and general landscaping
- taking care of the flower beds
- maintenance of the station building and platform brickwork
- help in running the café when we have it in place
If you are interested in becoming a member, please click here.
Visitors to the station site are reminded to be careful of the uneven platform edging, deep building foundations and loose masonry. Please respect the areas of the ‘down’ platform where access has been discouraged. Overnight camping on site, barbeques and fires are not permitted.