Train and Terrain

 

 

 

By

David Williams

The right of David Williams to be identified as the author
of this work has been asserted by him in accordance
with the Copyright Designs and Patent Act 1988
Copyright © 2003: David Williams

Index

Intoduction   4

Woking   5

Brookwood   7

Farnborough   8

Fleet   10

Winchfield   11

Hook   12

Basingstoke   13

Michildever Station   14

Winchester   15

Eastleigh   17

Southampton Airport   18

Southampton   19

Beaulieu Road Station   20

Brockenhurst   21

New Milton   22

Christchurch   23

Bournemouth   24


Train and Terrain

 

Introduction

This is a sort of railway travel book, although I suspect that it will never be really long enough to be a book, the basic idea came from my father. I was given some floppy discs with some saved Microsoft works files on to see if there was anything important on them after my father had died.

It took some time to find a way of reading the floppies as they were not in good condition and the type of files on them went back to what appears to be the very first version of Microsoft works that was ever written.

But in the end, I did manage to get a load of files off the discs and a programme to convert them into files that more modern word processor programmes can read.

What I found, where a lots of files, it appears that at some time or other my father did a writers course and so produced a lot of files to do with the course. It so happens that he appears to have completed the course and then for some little time afterwards, while his health was good went on to produce some more written items of his own.

One such item was a series of notes that he put down on describing a journey from Woking train station to Bournemouth train station, with him describing some of the things that you could see from the railway line or of places that the train stopped at or passed through. The notes are, unfinished as the journey stops at Eastleigh , and it misses out some of the stations between Woking and Eastleigh . So in total it misses out eight train stations that are on the line between Woking and Bournemouth .

Reading thorough it gave me the idea to have a go and see if I could finish the notes and then to see if I could write the notes up into a small book or a long article. I must admit that the research has been a lot of fun and that I have learnt a lot about places that I have been to many times over the years and not realised some of the fascinating history that is all around me.

I suspect, that what ever I end up with, will not be the same as what my father had in mind but at least I have carried out something of the idea that he originally had. So in one way this article or book is my small tribute to my father.


  Woking

This is the start of our little journey and it still evokes a thrill of excitement. Steam has faded but the crowds and the bustle are still there. The main line station from which all adventures seemed to start. The scurrying of travellers their luggage being carried pushed and dragged or moved by any means, some luggage so large you wonder what the owner is taking with them.

We stand on the platform and check our watch then check out our surroundings. The station is like many others on this line, starting to show its age but with bits of modern technology dropped in here and there, as if no thought had gone into what the final result would be. As I slowly give this main line station the once over I see the tannoy system with its harsh metallic voice. The indicator boards now multi-coloured and electronic flashing away. Gone now and lost to the past, the large square or round station clock with its large hand that you could see from tens of feet away. In its place the oblong electronic box whose figures continually count away the days and hours without as much as a tick. They might be more on time but in bright sunshine, when we get it, are hard to read and you find you have to be much closer to see what time it says it is.

The tannoy booms out a phrase heard so many times through the years “The next train to arrive at platform two will be the London Waterloo service to Bournemouth calling at”. So goes on the tannoy with the list of places that the train we will board, will visit over the next few hours, so come with me from Woking to Bournemouth .

On the way I will point out places and things that have peeked my interest or items that you might never have heard about that this part of the country likes to hide.

Finally the train pulls into the station, and the mad activity on the platform increases as people change places some getting off, some getting on with lots of luggage, some with none. On to the train we look for a space not in a smoking carriage and not with children screaming and shouting somewhere quite with only an odd passenger deep into book who hardly gives you a glance as he does not want to loose his place. Finally we find just the right spot.

A window seat away from the door, with the modern coaches the doors are at the ends of the carriage no fear of trampled toes by ones fellow travellers; Settle down for a panoramic journey through the beautiful ever changing Surrey and then Hampshire countryside. Most of the journey from Woking will be in Hampshire

Hampshire is a county in southern England . It faces the English Channel about halfway along England 's southern coast. Gently rounded hills, fertile valleys, pleasant villages, and woodlands make the county one of the most beautiful in Britain . Traditionally an agricultural county, Hampshire has several growing centres of industry. Along the coast are seaside resorts and the large harbours of Southampton and Portsmouth . In 1991 the Population of Hampshire was some 1,511,900 people, just how big is Hampshire? Well about 3775 square kilometres in area, making it one of the larger counties of England .

With a lurch the train gets underway soon we are leaving behind the seemingly ever growing town of Woking with its ever increasing industries. Woking is the home to one of the world’s best Formula One racing teams McClarene, not that you can see them from the railway. As they are lost amongst all the other industries. The town has grown over the years and now sports some high rise building that all look the same.

Woking had a population of some 84,000 people in early 2000 and is mainly a residential town in Surrey , England , and is about 40 kilometres southwest of London . Many people who live in Woking commute daily to work in London . Woking is a rapidly growing commercial centre. Light industries include the manufacture of packings and jointing, aircraft accessories, and electronics equipment. A railway line to London , laid in 1838, began Woking 's development as a residential area, this is the track that we will start our journey on

The clatter of points and some lurches this way and that, soon we leave Woking and the train accelerates on the smooth welded track and very soon Woking is lost to our sight. The endless steell rails pass out of our sight and onto the horizon in an almost straight line.


Brookwood

A long stretch of straight parallel tracks lead into Brookwood Station. A well used golf course flits by the window. There seems to be a great many pine trees in this area as we reach the walls surrounding the London Necropolis (Greek for city of the dead) opened in 1889. The railway company had a train to take the deceased to Brookwood where it was taken off the main line into a siding adjacent to the Necropolis. This has now been abandoned for many years. The station is very quiet at this time of day the morning commuter rush is over.

We pass through the old village of Pirbright where at the church is a large monolith of Dartmoor granite; Stanley of Livingstone fame spent his last years in this area. Henry Morton Stanley spent most of 1871 in Central Africa searching for the explorer David Livingstone . When Stanley found him, Livingstone was short of food and medicine. Later they explored Lake Tanganyika together, and proved that it could not have been the source of the Nile River , as had been assumed. In 1872 Stanley returned to England and Livingstone continued his search for the Nile .

On either side of the tracks are to be found Pirbright army camp, part of which is used as a training area for summer camps appropriately called Stony Castle and it is how the army make it comfortable I do not know, but succeed they must do as every year they come back for more than six weeks each summer.

Looking down the embankment we glimpse through the trees stretches of water and locks this then the restored Basingstoke canal, restored after many years of dereliction by volunteer workers taking some ten or more years and clearing thirty or more years of neglect. Mature brick built buildings nestling among the pines show us the training camp of the R.A.M.C, Rudolf Hess was also imprisoned in this area during the 2nd world war at a place called Mychet Place . Hess was born 1894 in Alexandria , Egypt and died in 1987; he served as secretary and deputy to Adolf Hitler . In May 1941, he piloted a plane to Scotland to persuade the United Kingdom to get out of World War II. Hitler denied knowledge of Hess's plan. Hess was imprisoned in the UK during the war. In 1945, he was returned to Germany and, at Nuremberg , was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes.

Quite suddenly we have crossed the border from Surrey into Hampshire. The next station in our travels is Farnborough


Farnborough

Farnborough is listed in the Doomsday book as Ferneberga, which means Fern Hill; it remained a small village until the mid-nineteenth century and the establishment of the military camp at Aldershot in the 1850’s. Aldershot by the way is about 2 miles from Farnborough. The establishment of the military produced the south Farnborough shopping centre of North Camp. Farnborough itself did not expand until the transfer of His Majesty’s Balloon factory to Farnborough in 1906 which was the humble start to what became the Royal Aircraft Establishment R.A.E which I will talk of later.

As our train speeds into the outskirts of Farnborough we spot a hill which dominates the skyline. A quick glimpse ahead reveals surmounted on that hill the Abbey and mausoleum of St Michael this a Cistercian order far removed from where one would expect to find such an order.

The mausoleum is the burial tomb of the Empress Eugene and Napoleon III who both resided here for many years.

Eugenie Marie de Montijo to give her full name was born in Granada , Spain in 1826 died in 1920, became Empress of France as the wife of Napoleon III. She married Napoleon in 1853, soon after the Second French Empire was proclaimed. She gave beauty and charm to Napoleon's reign but became noted for her extravagance. Empress Eugenie favoured the Roman Catholic and conservative group and tried to delay a more liberal government in France . She urged a warlike policy on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War. After 1870, she was forced to live in exile.

Napoleon III born 1808 and died 1873, ruled as Emperor of France from 1852 to 1870, and was closely associated with major European political changes.

St Michael ’s Abbey was built at the request of the Empress Eugenie as a memorial to house the remains of the Imperial Family that where in exile. Designed by the French architect Gabriel Desailleur building started in 1883 and was completed in 1888, the magnificent Grade I listed building was designed in the late French Gothic style.

If you visit the building you will see that behind the High Altar is a late 19th century Cavaille-Coll organ. This is a rare and outstanding organ and is the only un-restored example of its type in the United Kingdom . Beneath the Abbey is situated the Imperial Crypt which contains the tombs of Emperor Napoleon III , the prince Imperial and Empress Eugeine .

Though not seen from the railway Farnborough was the home of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, of which I spoke earlier which has now changed its name to Quentic, what ever that means.

The Royal Aircraft Establishment was where Colonel William Cody an aircraft pioneer carried out his experimental flights. He was an American who became a naturalised Brit. He became the first man in Britain to fly in a heavier than air powered aircraft which was of his own design. Sadly he also became a victim of an airplane accident, while testing an airplane with floats on, on the Basingstoke canal near by.

Over the last decade housing has increased to such an extent that fields and woods have decreased as a boundary between Farnborough and Fleet, if it continues they will both lose their identities and become one large sprawling mass of houses with now hint of green to break up the bricks and glass.

The train soon passes Farnborough and in no time we are on the outskirts of Fleet which by rail is some 3 miles from Farnborough.


Fleet

Fleet has changed from a sleepy town into an ever advancing township surrounded by woodland and pasture as we pass through the station, on one side is a large expanse of water, called strangely Fleet pond, this pond was one of many stocked to provide fish for the clergy of Winchester, seems a long way to come for fishing. Another nod from the past, during the 1920's the railway company ran excursion trains from London bringing to Fleet pond the ice skating fraternity.

Pleasant walks in the wooded surrounds of the pond are recommended, numerous water fowl are to be seen. Our metal road takes us takes us onward deeper into the Hampshire countryside.

The original name of this station was Fleet Pond Station back in 1847 and it became known as Fleet Station on 1st July 1869 and is some 36 miles from London Waterloo, some 3 miles down the line we come to.


Winchfield

Winchfield is upon us in a blink of the eye, straining to the side one sees just below the station the Beauclerk Arms seemingly an Inn in isolation but a remarkable trade goes on with passing trade. Copses of trees, open fields all under cultivation pass by on either side.

Winchfield railway station is some 39 miles from London Waterloo and was originally opened on 24th September 1838 and was originally called Shapley Heath Station it became known as Winchfield Station in 1841.


Hook

In a short while Hook station goes by not much of note can be seen from the railway, the countryside around Hook is well wooded and there is a very extensive Hook Common near by.

The oldest building in the village the White Hart Hotel, an old coaching Inn is from the 17th century. The only other fact that I could come up with is that the Inn or Hotel has the original large stable yard doors. The only other building of note is the Hook Mill which is in a very picturesque setting, the church, though modern apparently has design connections with the Guildford Cathedral and is of some interest to those who like that sort of thing, and links the past and present in a nice way.

Rumour has it that Oliver Cromwell 's holster was based in the village. With the advent of roads the village has been bisected and a lot of its character has been lost forever.


Basingstoke

Basingstoke is the next station on our journey, this was an old market town until the 1960's when the majority of the old town was put to the developers the new development, high blocks glass fronted concreted forms can all be seen from the railway many of the towns roads pass beneath numerous flyovers.

After leaving the station the sprawling housing can be seen stretching in all directions to the right hand side light industry has popped its head up. Basingstoke is the nearest point to Old Basing which was the site of a siege between roundheads and royalists at old Basing house of which now only ruins remains.

Shortly after leaving Basingstoke the line crosses the B3420 the old Roman road leading to Winchester strange to think animals, human feet and carts, then the road monsters of their day are now crossed by the rail this in turn crossed by air corridors all in one spot. The stratum of man’s progress is many layers deep. So we continue on our journey ever deeper into Hampshire and very soon we arrive at


Micheldever Station

This station is some 58 miles from London Waterloo


Winchester

Winchester station is next on the line after Basingstoke surprisingly for an old capital of England not a very imposing station edifice, its as if the railway company of the time was not sure what to do once it had got to Winchester, perhaps they were short of money and so just put up something that they could afford.

Winchester was the chief town of England in Anglo-Saxon times.  At that time, it was the capital of Wessex .

Wessex was the kingdom of the West Saxons , was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in southern England .  The centre of the kingdom consisted of the present counties of Berkshire and Hampshire, but at times the power of the kings of Wessex extended to Essex and Kent in the east and Cornwall in the west.  In the 900's, the kings of Wessex became kings of all England .  Archaeologists sometimes apply the term Wessex to the large area of open chalk downland centred on Salisbury Plain.  This area has been inhabited since Stone Age times, and was the centre of a Bronze Age culture known as the Wessex culture.

But let’s get back to the here and now and tell you something more about the city of Winchester .

Today, it is the chief town in the district of Winchester, which has a population of about 93,700 in 2000.  It is a religious, service, and light industrial centre.  It is also the administrative centre of the county of Hampshire . Winchester is one of the most prosperous towns in the United Kingdom .  It lies on the River Itchen in southern England

Both Alfred the Great and the Danish King Canute are buried at Winchester .

Alfred the Great born in about 849 and was dead by 899, was king of the West Saxons in England .  He saved his country, Wessex , from Danish conquest, laid the basis for the unification of England under the West Saxon monarchy, and led a revival of learning and literature. He was such an outstanding leader in both war and peace that he was called The Great. 

Alfred was born in Wantage, which is now part of Oxfordshire.  As a boy, he was curious and eager to learn.  There is a story that his mother offered a prize to the first of her five sons who learned to read.  Alfred, the youngest, won the prize, a book of Anglo-Saxon poems.  Before he was 7, he had travelled to Rome twice, and was confirmed by Pope Leo IV . These travels showed him the contrast between the civilized parts of Europe and his more backward England

Alfred became king in 871, after the death of his fourth brother.  The West Saxons had been at war with the Danes for many years.  After several losing battles, Alfred made peace with the invaders.

But the Danes renewed their attacks four years later and defeated Alfred at the Battle of Chippenham. Alfred finally defeated them at the Battle of Edington in 878. The Danish leader, Guthrum, agreed to be baptized a Christian. After the Danes broke the peace again, Alfred won his greatest victory, the conquest of London in 886. The Danes withdrew to the eastern third of England , called the Danelaw. All the English people, both in and out of Wessex , who were not subject to the Danes recognized Alfred as their king and paid him homage. 

Alfred built forts at strategic points and stationed a fleet of ships along the coast to protect his kingdom and guard against invasion. He also issued a great code of laws to improve government. 

Education declined because the Danes had looted the monasteries and churches, the only centres of learning. Few even among the clergy could read or write. Alfred brought teachers and learned men to Wessex from Wales , northern England , and Europe . He himself helped translate books from Latin into Anglo-Saxon. He also kept a record of current events. Called the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, it was continued after his death until 1154. It is the best source for Anglo-Saxon history that we have.

King Canute is believed to have been born in 994 and died some time in about 1035. He was a Danish prince, his name can also be spelled Cnut he became king of England in 1016. He completed the Danish conquest of England that same year. Canute divided England into military districts ruled by earls. In 1019, he succeeded his brother as king of Denmark . He acquired Norway in 1028, thus uniting a great Scandinavian empire. 

In England , Canute ruled wisely and enjoyed the strong support of the church. His code of laws restored and enforced Anglo-Saxon customs. He was the first Norse ruler to be accepted as a civilized Christian king.

After the Normans conquered England in 1066, Winchester continued to rival London as a trade and political centre.

William of Wykeham completed Winchester 's famous cathedral in the 1300's. This cathedral, which is 169 meters long, is the longest church in England . William also founded Winchester College , one of the leading English public schools.

A little outside the rail station the layout and interest of the city becomes evident the cathedral, the old gatehouse, medieval hall purporting to have the original round table of Arthur and many other sites of interest.

Pulling away from the station heading down country we pass on the left the high walls of Winchester prison. The hills surrounding the city can now be seen quite clearly. The area is so steeped in history, what wondrous tales could the hills relate.

Flat tilled pastures stretch away in all directions from our path still wending our way to the south into the heart of Hampshire.


Eastleigh

The train carries on into Hampshire and very soon we find ourselves at the next station on the line. Eastleigh station is next the old centre for the rail junctions Winchester being too hilly. It became the railway Interchange for the Gosport and Salisbury lines.

Eastleigh in early 2000 had a population of some 103,200 and is a local government district in south-western Hampshire. The district is mainly a residential area for people who work in Southampton and Winchester

Eastleigh as a town developed in the 1880's when a railway workshop was established. Today, the town also has several small industrial estates and a factory producing telephone cables. Boat building is carried on at Hamble, a popular sailing resort.

The railway repair and carriage works were moved from Nine Elms to Eastleigh in the 1880’s so busy and populated did it become, a railway town was built to the South of the present town centre to accommodate all the workers. Many and varied are the present day industries.

As we move through we notice how the countryside has changed so much since the start of our journey in Woking .

As we leave the town of Eastleigh behind and continue on our journey the next place we stop at is


Southampton Airport


Southampton


Beaulieu Road Station


Brockenhurst


New Milton


Christchurch


Bournemouth