If you read any history of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company’s Meltham Branch Line that is longer than a few paragraphs, chances are it will contain a brief mention of the ill-fated Woodfield Station, which was situated in Dungeon Wood and apparently both opened and then closed for good in June 1874. The reason why the mentions are brief is undoubtedly because the authors could find little information other than the following article, which appeared in the Huddersfield Daily Chronicle on 18 June 1874:
LOCAL AND DISTRICT NEWS.
Closing of Woodfield Station.
Some months ago the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company decided on adding a station on their Meltham branch. A platform was made, a station-house erected, gas lamps put up, and gas conveyed from the road. The signboard was also duly put up, on which was painted “Dungeon Wood,” and every expense was incurred necessary to meet, what we presume was considered, the wants of the neighbourhood. As the work approached completion the signboard underwent a change, “Dungeon Wood” giving place to what was probably thought a more euphonious name — “Woodfield” — and placards duly announced the opening on the first of the current month. All, however, has come to an untimely end. Yesterday the railway company issued a bill announcing that after the 30th of this month the station will be closed ! It would be interesting to the shareholders to know how much money has been spent on this little experiment. Surely it was never expected to be a paying station, and if an average of one shilling per day is the financial result, that sum is in excess of what persons outside official railway circles ever expected would be realised.
The article raises more questions than it answers, particularly when you consider that if the station did indeed open on 1 June 1874, the decision to close it must have been made within a couple of weeks by mid-June.
The notices to which the article refers to appeared in two consecutive Saturday editions of the Chronicle (20 & 27 June):
Despite an exhaustive hunt, the article and the two notices appear to be the only references to the station to have appeared in the newspaper.
Finally, to the best of my knowledge, the station never appeared on any Ordnance Survey map, which implies it was soon dismantled by the railway company rather than being mothballed. This helps explain why authors have never attempted to pinpoint where the station was actually located.
As someone who enjoys a good puzzle, the air of mystery about Woodfield Station was too much to resist!
To my mind, there are three questions about Woodfield Station to be pondered, and I’ll tackle each one in a separate blog post:
- Why was it built?
- Where was it built?
- Why did it close?
But, before tackling those questions, let’s look at the background…
Comprising of several acres of ancient oak woodland, Dungeon Wood runs along a strip of valley between Crosland Moor and the valley bottom, along which flows the River Holme. Along with much of the neighbouring land, it was part of the Beaumont Estate.
Parts of the wood were mined for stone and the open quarries led to several recorded deaths when people tumbled in by accident, e.g.:
- In December 1855, Mary Mellor of Crosland left the path and died after falling into a quarry.
- In July 1860, a group of boys were trespassing in the woods to collect berries when they spotted the local gamekeeper and ran. Thomas Garside accidentally tumbled over the edge and, as the Chronicle rather gruesomely stated, “Deceased evidently fell on his head, as his skull was fearfully fractured, and the brains scattered about the place.”
The 1854 Ordnance Survey map shows the extent of the woods (shaded green) in the years before the construction of the Meltham Branch Line, along with the routes of various paths that ran down through the wood from Starling End and also from the short road below Dry Clough Lane. The footpaths dropped down to join either Woodfield Road (now Meltham Road) near to Dungeon T.P. (Toll Point) or the access road to Woodfield House.
Meltham Branch Line
After considering three possible routes for their branch line to Meltham, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company selected a route which branched off from the Penistone Line before Lockwood Viaduct and then ran through the lower reaches of Dungeon Wood before entering a tunnel at Butter Nab. Mr. Bentley Shaw, the owner of Woodfield House, was a vocal opponent to this choice of route, as it meant the line passed along the edge of Woodfield Estate.
The choice of route also meant that the line would sever all of the traditional footpaths down through Dungeon Wood. Although the railway company was obliged to provide ways by which the paths could pass over or under the railway line, the temporary blocking up of the paths during the spring and summer of 1865 proved highly contentious. On more than one occasion, the Lockwood Local Board ordered the blockages to be removed.
The footpath dropping down from Starling End to Dungeon T.P. was diverted slightly so that it ran in a ditch alongside the railway line (with a wooden fence to stop access onto the track) before merging with the other footpath and then passing under the line at the bridge which will be familiar to anyone who has used the lower entrance to Beaumont Park. The other footpaths, which previously joined the access road to Woodfield House, were diverted to a public footbridge over the line.
Unfortunately I don’t have an Ordnance Survey map from the period between the competition of the railway line in the 1860s and the laying out of Beaumont Park in the 1880s. However, this 1892 map shows the location of the footbridge (in green), the approximate former route from Starling End (in blue) which was blocked off at the time Beaumont Park was laid out (more of this later!) and the bridge (in red).
It was in that period between the opening of the line and the opening of Beaumont Park that Woodfield Station was built, opened and then closed. In the next blog post, we’ll speculate as to why it was built!
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