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09 August 2009

Alcester Railway

History

Alcester's leaflets say that the town started as a result of the arrival of the invading Roman army in about 47 AD, who set up a fort on Primrose Hill overlooking the River Arrow. The town grew as a defended settlement at the junction of the Salt Way Roman Road from Droitwich to Banbury and Ryknild Street Roman road from Wall, north of Birmingham and meeting the Fosse Way Roman road at Bourton-on-the-Water. The town contained one of the residences of the Kings of Mercia in Anglo-Saxon times. Its name may have evolved from its Roman form of Alauna, through the Anglo-Saxon Alnecestre, both derived from the River Alne which disappears into the River Arrow at Alcester.

The Alcester Railway was authorised on the 6th of August 1872, constructed by engineer William Clarke and opened on the 4th of September 1876. It ran for six miles and 69 chains from a junction with the Great Western Railway North Warwickshire line at Bearley near the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal aqueduct, south of Henley-in-Arden, to connect Stratford-upon-Avon with Alcester. The line was run from the outset by the GWR and the Alcester Railway was vested in the GWR on the 21st September 1883.

From Bearley, the line followed the River Alne through Aston Cantlow, one and a half miles from Bearley North Junction, Great Alne, two and a quarter miles from Alcester, and Kinwarton, with a station at the second village only, before reaching Alcester Station on the Midland Railway 'Evesham and Redditch Railway' line from Ashchurch on the MR Cheltenham to Birmingham line, via Evesham. Alcester station was opened to goods on the 16th of June 1866 and passengers on the 17th of September 1866 and was between Coughton and Wixford. The MR extension from Alcester to Redditch opened on the 4th of May 1868 and eventually provided a route to Birmingham via a junction at Barnt Green at the top of the famous 1 in 37.7 Lickey Incline. Five trains per day were run on weekdays, some of them mixed passenger and goods.

The line was closed as a wartime economy on the first of January 1917, but re-opened from Bearley to Great Alne on the 18th of December 1922 when a new halt was also opened at Aston Cantlow. The service to Alcester was resumed on the 1st of August 1923 and withdrawn again on the 25th of September 1939, but unadvertised workmens' trains ran between Leamington Spa and Great Alne as a result of the bombing of Coventry and the moving of the Maudslay Motor Company from Coventry to a shadow factory at Great Alne in 1941, until the 3rd July 1944. The line was finally closed on the 1st of March 1951.

The GWR junction at the MR Alcester station was taken out of use on 31st May 1953. The line from Redditch to Ashchurch was closed  on 6th July 1964 and Alcester officially closed on 17th September 1963, although the last train ran on 1st October 1962 to be replaced by buses.

'GWR Then and Now' says that both platforms at Bearley were shortened on 10th December 1966 and the signal box was closed on 17th December 1967. It says Bearley East Junction saw little use after the closure of the Alcester line.

The Alcester Railway is now lifted, but the course is clearly marked on Ordnance Survey maps 150 and 151. There were still some traces of Alcester Station remaining when I visited the site on the 23rd February 1990 and took various photographs. These included the station house, the remains of the platforms, a goods shed and a large goods warehouse.

Along the Line

Aston Cantlow had a single track and a wooden platform 200 feet long by eight feet wide and a corrugated iron waiting room.

Great Alne Station was brick built and had a single-faced, curved platform, a station building with an awning on the platform, a station master's house and a corrugated iron shed on the platform. There was a single 300 feet long siding that could hold about fourteen wagons and the station had a twice weekly goods service which ceased in 1947. The station is now a private home.

Alcester Station was also brick built and had a station master's house, station building, two platform faces on a passing loop, a signal box, some sidings and a goods shed. The main traffic was from coal and agriculture. The junction with the GWR branch to Bearley was just to the north of the station and had a water tower and engine shed for the GWR branch engine.

Photograph List

BRiOP P.133 Bearley Station buildings, date unknown.
BRiOP P.134 Bearley Station buildings and goods shed, date unknown.
GWBLs P.98 Great Alne Station in 1958, closed but with track in situ. The caption says the station is now a private residence.
GWT&N P.160 Bearley Station in the 1920s.
GWT&N P.161 Bearley Station on the 15th of November 1993 with 117-210 on the 14:04 to Stratford-upon-Avon.
GWT&N P.160 Bearley East Junction on the 24th of May 1959 with 'Castle' Class 5044 'Earl of Dunraven' on the 09:40 from Paddington to Wolverhampton.
GWT&N P.161 Bearley East Junction on the 15th of November 1993, dismantled.
PttM P.104 Bearley Station, date unknown.
PttM P.104 Alcester Junction. With the closed brick shed and watertower for the GWR branch engine in 1955.

 

Bibliography

  The Alcester Branch by Stanley Jenkins and Roger Carpenter (suggested by the Warwickshire Railways website)
  Alcester Heritage Trail (leaflet) - Advantage Alcester (2006)
BRiOP Alcester Visitor Guide (leaflet) - Advantage Alcester (2006)
  Birmingham Railways in Old Photographs by Mike Hitches - Sutton Publishing (1997).
GWBLs Great Western Branch Lines by C.J. Gammell - OPC (1996).
GWT&N GWR Then and Now by Lawrence Waters - Ian Allan (1994).
PttM Paddington to the Mersey by Dr. R. Preston Hendry and R. Powell Hendry - OPC (1992).
Warks Warwickshire by Vivian Bird - B.T. Batsford (1973).

Websites

http://www.alcester.co.uk

http://www.romanalcester.org

http://www.warwickshirerailways.com/lms/alcester.htm

http://www.warwickshirerailways.com/lms/alcester_gwr.htm

http://www.warwickshirerailways.com/lms/alcester_gwr_shed.htm

http://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/astoncantlow.htm

http://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/bearley.htm

http://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/bearleyjunction.htm

http://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/claverdon.htm

http://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/greatalne.htm

http://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/hattonstation.htm

 

Note

None of these photographs or observations imply that there is public access to any of the sites mentioned. No fences or gates were climbed to gain access to these sites, but the author suggests that anyone wishing to visit them gains permission from the relevant landowner first.

JT


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