After a wet start, the day turned nice and sunny. We decided to take a break from clearing the area around the former signal box and instead tackled the vegetation which has been slowly taking over the bank behind the ‘up’ platform again. We managed to clear a good part of the bank after a few hours’ hard work. Our replica disc and crossbar signal has also recently benefitted from a repaint, and we think the colours are now closer to the original (although we only have black & white photos to go from).
Sadly we have to report another case of mindless vandalism at the station site. Recently someone decided it was a good idea to throw plant pots and stones into the wildlife pond we had recently created on the ‘down’ platform. We have now cleared away the mess so everyone else can enjoy this area.
Being a minor country station, it’s great when we learn new information on the history of Spetisbury, so we are grateful to our friend Jonathan Edwards for sending us these extracts from the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway Officers’ Minutes held in The National Archives. Note the spelling as either ‘Spettisbury’ or ‘Spetisbury’ – in early days it was often written with two Ts.
8th November 1876:The signals at Spettisbury to be worked from the platform. To be a block post. Estimated cost £60.
8th December 1876 : That the minutes of November 8th have been approved by the Joint Committee, subject to an alteration in Minute No. 388 which should read – ‘The signals at Spettisbury to be worked from the platform. Not to be a block post, &c’.
7th June 1878 : Mr Dykes reported a fatal accident on the 27th May to J. Cox in attempting to cross the Line near Spetisbury. The Coroner’s Jury returned a verdict of accidental death, attaching no blame to the Committee or their servants.
11th July 1882 : The minutes made during the Directors’ tour of inspections the 17th and 18th of May 1882, having been referred to the Officers’ Committee, were taken seriatim, and the following resolutions passed: – (a) That the suggestion that station-master’s house be provided at Spettisbury be postponed for the present.
26th June 1883 : The minutes made during the Directors’ tour of inspection the 10th and 11th May, having been referred to the Officers’ Committee, were taken seriatim, and the following resolutions were passed: – (a) Spetisbury. – That the suggested provision of a flight of steps from the approach to the station be postponed for the present.
The last two issues were raised again, following Directors’ subsequent annual tours of inspection of the line. In 1884, the Officers’ Minutes, 24th June 1884, the flight of steps was postponed again. Following the annual tour in 1885, provision of a station-master’s house was also again postponed – Officers’ Minutes on 23rd June 1885.
23rd June 1894 : under the heading ‘Prosecutions’ it was reported – that A. Martin was fined 15s (15 shillings, 75p) for using obscene and abusive language at Spetisbury on 7th December.
Once again we shall be participating in Spetisbury Open Gardens, this year on Sunday 2nd June. Buy your Gardens Passport for the various gardens from the Spetisbury Village Hall, where afternoon teas will be served from 2pm. Or if you fancy something else, burgers and hot dogs will be available at the station from 12 noon until about 2pm (or when the food runs out). We had hoped to have two miniature steam engines working between the platforms but sadly they can not now attend. See you there!
Warm spring sunshine was on hand for today’s work party. We concentrated our efforts again at the site of the signal box and continued clearance of the area outside of the building foundations. We had hoped to uncover traces of the step up to the door of the signal box, however we could find none. Never mind, we will carry on the excavations another time. Our resident carpenter Mick came up with his wife Angela and carried out some minor adjustments to the miniature level-crossing gate Mick had made for our new wildlife pond on the ‘down’ platform.
Today we were pleased to welcome a new member Rob to the work party, who along with his wife Sally have become active members of the group. It was also good to see a past member Bob who came up to see what progress has been made at the station, also Bea (one of our garden ladies) with her dog Henry. Now that spring has arrived the site is starting to look very green again after its winter sleep, which means much more work for us to keep it all looking tidy. So if you fancy lending a hand, please get in contactwith us – you will be made very welcome!
No sooner had we made a start on continuing levelling the ground around the former signal box when several finds came to light. These are mostly related to the generation of electrical current in accumulator jars for the signalling and telephone equipment. One glass battery jar is stamped with NATIONAL TELEPHONE CO LTD, which existed between 1881 and 1911, later becoming the General Post Office. A ceramic electrical insulator was also found. The team are fans of the TV archaeological series ‘Time Team’ and we tend to get a bit excited when a buried artefact is discovered! The thought that it has likely been hidden and forgotten for over 60 years makes its discovery very interesting historically and every find helps us piece the history of the station together.
As mentioned in our last blog, a new feature at Spetisbury station is a landscaped pond on the ‘down’ platform near the seating area. This features high and low water levels to attract various wildlife. Tadpoles and pond weed have been donated by some of our volunteer members whilst the rocks were donated by a resident of Charlton Marshall (the next station up the line towards Blandford). This area is protected by a low picket fence and miniature railway level crossing gate, with a replica signal provided for good measure. The signal can be made to operate using a lever. All the woodwork has been expertly put together by our resident carpenter Mick and the paint, etc, provided by the Spetisbury Station Project. The ‘lamp’ on top of the gate is in fact a bug box! Thanks to all our efforts to encourage and support nature at the station, we are delighted to have been recently awarded ‘Wildlife Friendly Garden’ status by the Dorset Wildlife Trust and given a plaque and certificate to this effect. Other work today included the pruning of the large pussy willow at the southern end of the ‘up’ platform. This is the final stage of clearing the bank behind this platform. Seeing as it was such a nice day, the mower was coaxed into life and some of the grass on the ‘up’ platform and trailway edges given a trim.
One project we’ve been working on lately is a small pond on the ‘down’ platform at Spetisbury to encourage more wildlife. This has been protected by a low wooden picket fence and railway-style level crossing gate. A replica semaphore signal has also been added, and this can be operated by children (and adults!) if they wish. This is one of the many improvements we have made to the station site to create a pleasant spot for a picnic or just to sit and admire the views across the Stour Valley.
After the snow of a few weeks ago, today started sunny and spring-like at the station. We concentrated on clearing overgrowth from the bank behind the ‘up’ platform, the cuttings were then used to fill in gaps in the hedging on the opposite side to protect nearby residents’ privacy. A project for this year is to install a pond near the seating area on the ‘down’ platform to encourage wildlife. A low picket fence and railway-style level crossing gate will be provided to protect the pond, and today we marked out the position of this fencing. The two replica running in boards which we made and painted a few years ago have sadly suffered from the elements already. When the weather becomes warmer and drier we will look at sanding down and repainting the affected woodwork.
Today was our last work party of 2018, and as has become tradition the team (just Kevin and Dean today) had a little festive lunch on one of the platform picnic benches. But we managed a bit of work too, and continued excavations around the site of the former signal box. A piece of rusted chain came to light, and we wonder if this was part of the signalling mechanism. We thought more remains of the iron framework we had previously uncovered were still buried, and in true ‘Time Team’ fashion we found another piece in the last hour of the last work party of the year!
A few nearby residents had spoken to us about recent hedge cutting which has created large gaps and disturbed the privacy of adjacent properties. We would like to reassure residents that this cutting back was not done by the Spetisbury Station Project, but Dorset County Council contractors using a flailing machine. We shall be passing on residents’ concerns to the DCC ranger responsible for this area.
Dean, Kevin, Moira, Mick and other members of the Spetisbury Station Project would like to thank all those who have supported us over the past year, and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.Click here for work party dates for 2019.