Believe it or not, there are now just two work parties left this year! Weather permitting (and we have had an awfully lot of wet weather lately….) we shall be at the station on Sunday 8th and 22nd December. As has become traditional, on the last work party on 22nd December we shall be offering seasonal refreshments from 10am to about 2pm in exchange for a small donation to the Spetisbury Station Project. Why not come along and join us and also see the Christmas decorations we have added to the station site including Santa stuck yet again in the booking office chimney, and Santa’s post box.
During August the Spetisbury Station Project Group became a Community Interest Company. Registered with Companies House, this will enable us to negotiate with Dorset County Council for a long term lease to continue our work at the station site.
More good news is that at the beginning of October we were awarded a runners-up prize in the People’s Project category at this year’s Dorset Best Kept Village competition. So well done to all our green-fingered members and supporters who help keep the station site looking so good!
Please support the Poole & District Model Railway Society annual exhibition, this year on Sunday 20th October at Poole Grammar School, Gravel Hill, Poole. As well as a good selection of quality layouts, there will be trade stands selling new and used items and the Spetisbury Station Project stand, where you can meet some of the team, view artefacts discovered at the station and learn more about the Project. Light refreshments will also be available.
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 contact with 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.