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.
The Spetisbury Station Project Group is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (company number 12172152). In 2012 volunteers 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. 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, in the near future we aim to provide a small timber café and information point. An article about us in Dorset Life 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 the former station within a landscaped rural setting, accessible to the public at all times free of charge. On work party days, volunteer 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 any time to explore the site or maybe enjoy a picnic overlooking the Stour Valley, and 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. If you are visiting the site, why not download and print our Spetisbury Station Guide. To find us, please click here.
A visitor had this to say about us: “Just wanted to say how much your hard work is appreciated at Spetisbury Station. Just cycled back along that way and felt we are so privileged to enjoy the fauna and flora and especially the little touches like the train which I see is looking pristine at the lovely station. Keep up the good work, and thanks again.”
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. 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 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 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 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 single-storey 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 acted as 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 jars were found, these are early cell batteries used to provide current for the signalling equipment. The two lengths or 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 frame that supported the pulleys and wires connecting the levers to the points and signals. Excavation of the signal box area is currently ongoing.
The bridge crosses the lane to South Farm and was designated by the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway as bridge number 213 Spetisbury Station Bridge. Like most bridges on the old Dorset Central Railway it was originally built for two sets of rails. It is likely that the iron railings on top of the parapets were added during station reconstruction around 1900.
The station is a real haven for wildlife and we are doing our bit to help out. We have built 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, but the replica lamp on top of the gate is actually a bug hotel. We also have a bat box and a slow worm habitat. Bird boxes have been provided around the site and we have left a small area of woodland, hawthorn and blackthorn bushes 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 we have 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.
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. See the events diary for a list of work party dates and any special events for this year. We are only a small (but very friendly) group and new members or supporters are always welcome. 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
- adoption of one of the flower beds
- maintenance of the surviving 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 uneven platform edging, deep building foundations and loose masonry. Overnight camping on site, barbeques and fires are not permitted.