When I first visited Bridport a few weeks ago I was intrigued by the relationship between Bridport and West Bay. When I investigated the link I discovered the importance of the, now long gone, railway line to the names and area. 100 years ago there 3 railway stations in Bridport and I thought it would be a good idea to visit the sites of these stations and see what, if anything remains.
A brief history of the Bridport Railway Company
This company was formed in 1855 (http://www.westbay.co.uk/bridport/railway.php) and the line to Bridport from Maiden Newton, where it joined the main rail network, was completed in 1857. There is really fascinating article about the prime mover of this railway (http://www.dorsetlife.co.uk/2008/03/the-man-behind-bridports-railway/). This article records that between 1858 and 1882 horses had to be used to bring the coaches into Bridport station. So perhaps its completion was not as clean cut as these words might imply. Originally the line had a 7 foot gauge. This was a gauge (distance between the rails) favoured and promoted by Brunel, but he lost the argument and a narrower gauge won the day. The Bridport line was narrowed in 1874. From the start the railway was operated by Great Western Railways and they later acquired the company in 1901.
In 1884 a line extension to West Bay was completed, to meet the needs of an expanding tourist trade. For the interest of tourists some quite bizarre cargoes were carried “Circus animals used sometimes to be carried right down to West Bay; elephants would be allowed on to the beach to splash around in the sea, after their long journey in wagons.”(http://realwestdorset.co.uk/2009/11/old-bridport-to-maiden-newton-railway-line-may-become-trailway/). At the same time a new station was built nearer the town centre of Bridport, called Bridport East Street. The original station was renamed Bridport Bradpole Road and the third station was called Bridport Harbour, later renamed Bridport West Bay. Possibly the origin of the present name of that location.
The line closed for passenger traffic in 1930 and finally for goods also in 1962. In 1965 the line was removed.
The present day
My trip to visit the railway and station remains started at Bridport West Bay station. I took a brief detour to look at the beach and fabulous cliff
Then I crossed back inland and the station was very obvious.
Since there was some track it was fairly easy to follow the path of the old railway back towards the town. This starts off as a gravelled footpath. I knew from my online research using, among others, the very informative website ( http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/b/bridport_west_bay/) that the two other stations no longer existed but I had OS coordinates and an OS map to guide me. I had also examined some old OS maps and established that the Bradpole Road station site was quite extensive with sidings, good sheds and coal yards while the East Street station was little more than a halt. These maps are available online at http://www.old-maps.co.uk/index.html.
The route the railway took towards Bridport town centre was not entirely clear to me once I reached Burton Road but it seems logical that it more or less followed this road up to the roundabout. It then appears to have followed the same route as the present A35 or Sea Road South to the north. The site of Bridport East Street station is just to the south of the roundabout between Sea Road South and Sea Road North where East Road meets them. There is a garage that seems to be occupying some of the old station site.
From Bridport East Street the railway went more or less due north along the route of the present A3066 or Sea Road North until it reached Bridport Bradpole Road station. There is a Cooperative supermarket near to where the station must have stood and a builders’ merchants on the site of the goods sheds and coal yard. I could see no sign of railways until I walked up beyond Aldis and took a footpath away from the road and towards the river. There I soon found an embankment that I think must have been the course of the railway. I followed this back to near the Coop and convinced myself that this was where the station once stood.
While editing this blog the clever WordPress website suggested a few pictures I might like to use. If I was more diligent I might rewrite to take full advantage but I certainly want to include them…