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Stamford Railways - Off the Rails

With the introduction of the railways, Stamford feared losing its coaching industry and being bypassed, and wished to be placed on the direct Great Northern Railway link to London.

A public meeting at Standwell’s Hotel (now the Stamford Hotel) on 22 May 1844 supported the line, but the disappointment was great when the decision was taken in August to send the line through Peterborough.

The Syston to Peterborough Line

The first railway to be built in Stamford was the Syston to Peterborough line of the Midland Railway in 1846-8. The 2nd Marquess of Exeter would not allow the line to cross the Great North Road just south of the town bridge, but insisted on it being hidden in a tunnel under High Street St Martin’s, further south.

The east section of the line from Peterborough opened in July 1846. This stopped at the east end of Water Street with a temporary station, until the tunnel under High Street St Martin’s and the cutting along Barnack Road were completed in 1847.

Stamford Town station was designed by Sancton Woods and built in the local limestone, and the line and station were open for traffic in 1848. Station Road was opened in 1849.

The Stamford to Essendine Line

The 1847 parliamentary election in Stamford was fought over the GNR route. Requests had been made to make the line deviate into Stamford, but there were 3 petitions against the deviations:

  • from the Midland Railway Company,
  • from the Earl of Lindsay
  • from the Marquess of Exeter on the grounds of residential injury.

The GNR London to York line opened in 1852, and connecting coaches were run to Tallington until the Stamford to Essendine line was opened in 1856, which finally gave the desired link to London on the GNR. A later branch line to Wansford was opened in 1864.

The Midland line via Peterborough to London became the favoured route as it was more direct, and its timetable fitted better with the connecting London trains. As train use declined in the mid-20th century, Stamford could no longer justify two stations. Stamford Town station was chosen to remain open as it was already on a Peterborough to Birmingham cross-country route and connected with London via Peterborough.

The Stamford to Essendine line closed in 1959.

“The Marquess of Exeter’s Railway”

In 1852, with support from the 2nd Marquess of Exeter, William Hurst surveyed for a railway line from Stamford which would join the Great Northern Railway at Essendine station. The Bill for this railway was passed in August 1853. Thomas Hayton was the only contractor to submit a bid, and he died before it was finished.

The line was just under 4 miles long, with no major earthworks or tunnelling to be carried out. The estimated cost was £46,000. It took 2 years to build because technical difficulties arose. There were bridges over the River Welland and over the Ryhall to Belmesthorpe road, and 2 stations - Essendine, and Ryhall with Belmisthorpe (sic). The bridges imposed weight limits for the line, so that only light tank engines could be used. The line finally opened on 1 November 1856.

The Wansford Branch Line

In February 1857, the Stamford and Essendine Railway opened an 8½ mile branch from Stamford East station to Wansford, on the Northampton to Peterborough line of the London and North Western Railway, with stations at Barnack, Ufford, Wansford Road and Wansford.

Known locally as The Bread and Onion Line, it had very limited traffic potential and closed to passengers in 1929, and to goods in 1931.

Between 1864 and 1872 the GNR stopped working the Stamford to Essendine line, and the Marquess of Exeter assumed responsibility. From 1872 the GNR again ran the Stamford and Essendine line, and also the Wansford branch line.

In 1887 a railway siding serving the Priory Lime Quarry and Blackstone and Company opened; this was extended to serve Martin’s Cultivator Company further up Ryhall Road in the early 20th century. The siding only closed in 1969.

When Stamford East station closed in 1957, the line itself carried on, and trains were run into the Stamford Town station.

The Stamford and Essendine Railway line finally closed in June 1959. The last train from Stamford to make the journey to Essendine was driven by Jack Day.

Railway People - and Stories

The Welland Diver

On 18 July 1878, an engine pulling a truck loaded with lime came off the rails and fell into the Welland. The driver had to leap from the train. The engine was raised 10 days later, put back on the tracks and continued in service for several years, although it had left its chimney on the river bed. The engine, 0-4-2T No 502, was known ever after as the Welland Diver.

1881 Derailment

In this occurrence the 4 carriages remained upright, and there were no injuries. An enquiry found that passengers had complained about drivers from Stamford East station racing trains against ones from Stamford Town station as they ran side by side for a short while. Apparently the GNR driver overhauled a MR train travelling at about 40mph: meaning that the GNR train was running at about 50mph!

James Cherry

His father and grandfather were in railway service at Peterborough, and he started work at the East Station, as a junior clerk in 1902. He occupied all the clerical positions in succession at the station and retired in 1949 as station-master.

John Pridmore

He spent all his working life (apart from war service) on railway stations. His father had been a station-master, and John became station-master at Stamford Town station after the 2nd World War. Later, he also became responsible for Stamford East and Ryhall with Belmisthorpe (sic) stations.

The Bull - a modern echo of Bull Running?

A story told in DL Franks’ book ‘The Stamford and Essendine Railway: A bull’ was brought to Stamford in a cattle wagon, but broke loose and ran amok, chasing railway staff around the yard. A vet was sent for, and managed to get a ring through its nose, but it broke away again. Finally, the bull jumped into the river, but became stuck in the mud and had to be rescued.

Jack Day

He was a local driver with 47 years service. He drove the last train to make the journey to Essendine; it departed Stamford Town station at 4.53pm on June 15th 1959, with 117 passengers aboard.

Stamford East Station

The Stamford East station was a handsome building, designed by William Hurst in a style which echoed the grand Tudor mansion Burghley House, and the Marquess of Exeter’s arms are incorporated into the gables of the stone-built station.

The large, timbered booking hall had an upper gallery on which were offices, and private rooms occupied by the stationmaster’s family. The simple wooden platforms in the brick-built train shed behind were reached through doors at the back of the building. Unfortunately, during the building frost damaged much of the new brickwork, and it had to be rebuilt. Later, an awning was added over the entrance.

The engine shed was also brick-built. It could accommodate 2 tank engines, and had a 10,000 gallon water tank incorporated above the front end.

Stamford East station was completed in October 1856, and just after came the official opening of the line on 1 November; there was no ceremony. Being next to the river, the station frequently found itself flooded. In the 1880 flood, which washed away the Albert Bridge nearby, the platforms were under water. Stamford Police apparently refused to attend any disturbances there, because the terminus was just outside the town.


Stamford East station closed to passengers on 4 March 1957, after just over 100 years of service. George Lilley drove the last train, with R.C. Middleton as fireman; it closed to goods in 1959.

From about 1959 to about 1969, Oates Removals had their warehouse on the site. The haulage firm of H E Musgrove occupied the station yard and buildings with their fleet of vehicles from 1967 - 1987, and converted the station building to private housing.

When the site and buildings were sold in 1986, there were a variety of different plans for it; a sheltered housing scheme was finally chosen, and gradually it has been built on. The 2 storey brick-built goods shed, the only other building to survive, has been converted into the Welland Mews communal lounge.

A Brief History of British Railways

First Steps

Richard Trevithick, John Blenkinsop, William Hedley and others all designed effective locomotive steam engines between 1804 and 1814, to haul coal. The first commercially viable railway in Britain was the Stockton to Darlington Railway which opened in 1825, using George Stephenson’s Locomotion engine, and later his famous Rocket. The Liverpool to Manchester Railway followed in 1830.

Railways provided the swift movement of goods and labour needed for industrialisation, and could be built in places where canals could not. By 1850, over 2,500 steam locomotives were operating and there were 4,000 miles of lines. Like coaching inns, stations began to offer refreshment facilities and other services.


By 1914, there were 130 railway companies in Britain, and 20,053 miles of lines; but this company competition was wasteful and in 1923 Parliament merged 123companies into just 4 railways:

  • Great Western Railway (GWR)
  • London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMSR)
  • London & North Eastern Railway (LNER)
  • Southern Railway (SR)


On 1st January 1948 British Railways was created to operate the whole railway system. BR was divided into 6 regions and had to face the problems of a war damaged system, shortages of raw materials and coal, and rolling stock of nearly 450 different types, some of which were 70 years old.


In 1947 Britain’s first main line diesel electric locomotive was introduced, and between 1955 and 1961 nearly 2,000 diesels were bought by BR. These were less polluting and more economic, but required more maintenance. By 1969 the 13,000 BR steam locomotives had disappeared to the scrap heap, heritage groups or museums.

The Beeching Axe

Following the Beeching Report in 1963 over 6,000 miles of track and 4,000 stations were shut down, and by 1970 the railway map of Britain again looked like that of 1850.


The railways were de-nationalised in 1996. Network Rail is responsible for the rail infrastructure, train operating companies run passenger services, freight operating companies provide freight services and rolling stock companies lease rail vehicles to the train operators.

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Last updated: 24 February 2011

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