what’s going on?
Spetisbury station was opened by the Dorset Central Railway in 1860 and later became part of the much loved Somerset & Dorset Railway. Until its closure in 1966, this important cross-country railway linked Poole and Bournemouth with Bath and the Bristol Channel coast. Read more about the history of the station and the history of the railway that served it, also visit the station archive for historical photographs and railway recollections of Spetisbury station.
In 2012 volunteer members of the Spetisbury Station Project began clearing the overgrown and derelict station site, working under license from landowners Dorset Council. The first job was to excavate tons of demolition rubble from the station building and signal box remains, revealing the foundations for the first time since the late 1950s. Many artefacts were uncovered and these have been cleaned and preserved off-site. Decades worth of overgrowth and vegetation have also been cleared or cut-back, improving the station site and allowing benches and picnic tables to be provided for visitors. If you are interested in joining us as a volunteer to help look after the station site, please click here.
what to see on site
Please be aware that this is not your average heritage railway project. There are no preserved station buildings, no beautifully restored trains and there isn’t a gift shop! Visitors can explore the remains of the former station within a landscaped rural setting, accessible to the public at all times free of charge, and maybe enjoy a picnic overlooking the Stour Valley. There are several grassed areas with benches and picnic tables around the site. The station is a perfect base to walk or cycle the North Dorset Trailway, which starts at Spetisbury and goes as far as Sturminster Newton mostly along the old railway, or explore the nearby Spetisbury Rings iron age hill fort. Other local walks can be found on the Spetisbury Village website. To find the station, please click here.
The ‘down’ platform was originally the only platform when the station opened on 1st November 1860. Facilities consisted of a timber-built booking office and waiting room. Access to this platform was up a curving path from the main road through the village, but the path has now been lost due to housing development. The platform was extended and a separate brick-built ladies’ waiting room was provided in 1888. The concrete floor on which the picnic benches stand are the foundations 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. A group of small buildings once stood between the bridge and platform end, including a lamp room where oil was stored.
The ‘up’ platform is also 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, Bridgwater and Wells branches) and Bath (Green Park). The rebuilt station 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. The foundations of the various rooms and their fireplaces can also clearly be seen today. Access to this platform was up a flight of 30 steps which are still in use today. A wooden barrow crossing also connected the two platforms. The station became an unstaffed halt from 13th August 1934, and closed altogether on 17th September 1956. The approx. 2/3 scale replica disc & crossbar signal is positioned near to the site of the original. Also look out for the replica gradient post at the southern end of this platform. The original, made of concrete, informed engine crews of a change of gradient from 1 in 100 to level through the station.
The signal box was a single-storey structure which came into use around 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 acted as a block post to break the six mile gap between Blandford and Bailey Gate signal boxes, but it was little used and closed on 10th August 1952. During excavation several intact glass jars were found, these are early cell batteries used to provide current for the signalling equipment. The two lengths of rail still visible within the signal box supported the lever frame. Just outside of the front wall we also uncovered part of the cast iron framework that supported the cranks and pulleys connecting the lever rods and wires to the points and signals. Visit the signal box webpage for more detailed information.
The bridge crosses the lane to South Farm and was designated by the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway as bridge number 213 Spetisbury Bridge. Like most bridges on the old Dorset Central Railway it was originally built for two sets of rails.
The station is a real haven for wildlife. On the ‘down’ platform is a small pond featuring high and low water levels as a permanent water source for frogs and toads. It is protected by a railway-style fence and gate. There is also a bat box and a slow worm habitat. Bird boxes have been provided around the site and a small area of woodland, hawthorn and blackthorn bushes has been left undisturbed for nesting birds. Numerous species of wild flower including poppy, bluebell, speedwell, common mallow, comfrey and foxglove grow around the station, with planted flower beds attracting bees and butterflies. For this work the station has been awarded ‘Wildlife Friendly Garden’ status by the Dorset Wildlife Trust. Birds identified on site include hawks and kestrels, great spotted woodpeckers, tawny owls, sparrow hawks, nightingales and chaffinches. View our wildlife document for a full list of flora and fauna seen at the station.
Visitors to the station site are reminded to be careful of uneven platform edging, deep building foundations and loose masonry. Overnight camping on site, barbeques and fires are not permitted.