Lost in Time: Woodfield Station – Part 2

In the previous blog post, we looked at the background of [[Dungeon Wood]] and the newspaper article about the closure of [[Woodfield Station]] in June 1874.

In my research, I’ve not found any details regarding the building of Woodfield Station in the summer of 1874, so we’ll have to try and speculate instead!

Why Was Woodfield Station Built?

The [[Meltham Branch Line]] was opened to passengers in 1869 with manned stations at Netherton, Healey House and Meltham. An unmanned halt was also situated near Meltham Mills (apparently a stipulation by the Brook family before they sold the land to the railway company).

To varying extents, all of the stations would have provided access to the many local mills in the area, although the cost of tickets might have precluded many workers from using the train service every day.

Before speculating, I should point out that whilst hunting for articles about the branch line in the local press, I found nothing to indicate that there was any demand for a station at Dungeon Wood.

In the next blog post, we’ll pinpoint exactly where Woodfield Station was located in Dungeon Wood, but it would potentially have provided access to Dungeon Mills and the Bentley & Shaw Ltd. brewery near Lockwood. However, neither was particularly nearby and certainly even workers living near to Lockwood Station are unlikely to picked the train over walking to work. Workers at Armitage Bridge were better served by using the station at Berry Brow on the Penistone Line.

As noted in the article about the station’s closure, it had originally been called “Dungeon Station” before being renamed to “Woodfield Station”. However, given Bentley Shaw’s vocal opposition to the building of the line, it seems rather unlikely that the station would have been built for use by (or to placate) the residents of Woodfield House.

As the 1854 Ordnance Survey map shows, there was very little housing in the immediate area, so it seems unlikely that many locals would have used the station.

Nor, of course, was the station built to provide access to Beaumont Park, as landowner Henry F. Beaumont didn’t donate Dungeon Wood to Huddersfield Corporate until 1879 (5 years after the closing of the station). However, it is worth noting that the opening of the park did raise the idea of having a dedicated station on the line.

The is one further issue hanging over the “why was it built?” question which I’ll tackle when I discuss the closure of the station.

Hopefully documents might eventually come to light that fully explain why the station was built and what purposes the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company felt it would serve. But, as unsatisfactory as it sounds, it seems the most likely explanation at the moment is that it was built to serve the local mills and brewery in the valley below.

Whilst we’re speculating, it seems as though Woodfield Station was the first in the area to be lit by gas lamps. As a proper gas main wasn’t laid along Woodfield Road (now Meltham Road) until several years later, instead an extension pipe must have been laid — presumably from a gas lamp situated at the Dungeon toll house. In the following couple of years, nearby stations (including Lockwood and Berry Brow) were refurbished and it may be that Woodfield Station gave the railway company a chance to test out new ideas, such as the suitability of gas lighting.

In the next blog post, we’ll tackle the question of exactly where it was built!

Lost in Time: Woodfield Station – Part 1

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:

But, before tackling those questions, let’s look at the background…

Dungeon Wood

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.

1854 map of Dungeon Wood
1854 map of Dungeon Wood

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.

The railway bridge over the footpath.
The railway bridge over the footpath.

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).

1892 map of Dungeon Wood
1892 map of Dungeon Wood

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!

Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (18/Jun/1874) – Local and District News: Closing of Woodfield Station

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.

Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Jul/1869) – Opening of the Branch Line of Railway to Meltham

MELTHAM.

Opening of the Branch Line of Railway to Meltham.

After innumerable predictions, the opening of the Meltham Branch Railway is an accomplished fact. On Monday morning the line was opened for passenger traffic, and although no public demonstration took place, the inhabitants of the valley were highly delighted with the event. The first train consisting of engine, tender, and eleven carriages — with a large number of passengers left Huddersfield station — for Meltham. The engine was under the care of Mr. McConkey, who was accompanied on the engine by Mr. Normanton, the assistant superintendent of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company ; Mr. Thornton, superintendent of the locomotive department ; Mr. Goldstraw, the contractors’ engineer ; Mr. Thompson, the Huddersfield station master ; and other officials. As the train moved from the platform fog signals were fired. At Lockwood about a score of passengers were taken up, and fog signals were fired as the train left the station. At Netherton a large number of persons congregated and welcomed the arrival of the tram with hearty cheers. Flags were flying at the station and across the line, and a large number of fog signals were discharged. Hundreds of the inhabitants flocked into the train, the first ticket issued being obtained by Mr. James Wrigley, who has taken a lively interest in the construction of the line from its commencement. At Healey House station flags were hoisted and signals fired. At Meltham thousands of persons lined the side of the cutting above the station, and in various ways demonstrated the pleasure they felt at the opening of the line, which had already been productive of great benefit to them by a reduction in the price of coal by at least 3s. 6d. per ton. On the arrival of the train a large number of fog signals were discharged. The first ticket issued at this station was to Master Walker, son of the station master. During the whole of the day the trains were well filled with passengers, and ample provision made for their comfort and entertainment at the Rose and Crown, the Swan, Victoria, and other inns in the town. The line, although a short length, has been very expensive in its construction owing to the many difficulties which beset the contractors, Messrs. Barnes and Beckett. The first sod was lifted by Charles Brook, Esq., of Enderby, on the 4th of April, 1864, and Monday being the fifth day of July, the line has occupied five years, three months, and one day in its construction. The difficult portions of the undertaking were at Dungeon Wood and Netherton tunnel. From the junction at the Lockwood viaduct to Meltham is a distance of three miles and a half, and the gradients are very heavy. On leaving the main line at the above junction the gradient is one in 100; at Dungeon Wood to Butternab it is one in 60 ; at Netherton it is one in 95; and from Healey House it is one in 120. The line is level at all the stations. The line passes through picturesque scenery, the Netherton valley being one of the finest for miles round, and presents a fine opening for the erection of villa residences. Emerging from the Butternab tunnel, a magnificent gorge is opened out on the right hand side, which, for beauty and variety of foliage, can scarcely be equalled in this part of the country. Leaving Netherton station, a fine, extensive panorama is opened to view. The picturesque valley, the beautiful silk mills of Messrs. Charles Brook and Sons, overtopped by the extensive thread works of Messrs. Jonas Brook and Brothers, flanked by the Spink Mires Mills, with the pretty church of St. James and the parsonage in the centre, and the extensive view of pasture, wood, and moorland forms a picture rarely met with, and this will be much enhanced when the Convalescent Home is erected. There is little doubt but that the Meltham line will prove a great attraction for pic-nic parties to Harden Moss, the Isle of Skye, and other places in the locality.


1869.07.10 Opening of the Branch Line of Railway to Meltham - Huddersfield Chronicle 10 July 1869

The Engineer (09/Jul/1869) – Railway Matters

Railway Matters.

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company have during the week added another important branch to their already existing lines by the opening of the new extension from Huddersfield to Meltham on Monday last. The branch, although short has been a very heavy undertaking, and has taken over five years to construct. Some time ago it was formally opened, but owing to a large landslip in the neighbourhood of Lockwood it had to be closed until the present week. The branch is intended to supply a long-felt want to the inhabitants of Meltham, who are chiefly engaged in the manufacture of sewing cotton. The route taken is attended with some difficulty. Several large eminences have had to be got through which has opened out some deep cuttings. There are no less than three tunnels on the route, which is about five miles in length. The line leaves what is known as the Dungeon Wood Junction, and passes over a very picturesque portion of country which cannot be surpassed in Yorkshire. The ascent from Lockwood to Meltham is very heavy, the gradients varying from 1 in 60 to 1 in 120. Five trains are advertised to run each way daily except Sundays, when they are limited to two each way. The first sod was cut on the 4th of April, 1864, so that fully five years and three months has been spent in constructing the branch.

Huddersfield Chronicle (06/Oct/1866) – Landslip on the Meltham Railway

Landslip on the Meltham Railway.

On Monday evening an extensive landslip occurred in Dungeon Wood, on the branch line of railway in course of construction from Huddersfield to Meltham. Within a short distance from the junction of the new line, with the line to Penistone commences a deep and heavy cutting through Dungeon Wood to the entrance of Butter Nab Tunnel. The deepest part of this cutting is almost immediately in the rear of Woodfield House, the residence of Bentley Shaw, Esq., whose stables, coach-house, and other outbuildings are situate at the foot of the slope on the lower side of the cutting. Between these and the top of the lower edge of the cutting, which is about eight yards high from the level of the line, are two strong burr walls, one belonging to the railway company and the other forming a fence of the private road to Mr. Shaw’s residence. Between these walls are a number of traes and poles. The cutting is a very heavy one, the upper side being between 30 and 40 yards in height, the top portion formed of heavy block stone, while the lower bed is composed of “scale” or loose shale. The sides of this cutting were left nearly perpendicular, but no danger was apprehended of any fall till very recently, little or nothing having been done at the Lock wood end of the cutting for nearly twelve months. On Monday morning, the men went to work, and the “gauger” or overlooker, Mr. Brook, observing indications of the slackening of the shale on the upper side of the cutting, was on the look-out all day. In the meantime he caused all the metals, sleepers, and other working plant to be removed from the place, and towards the middle of the afternoon noticed the servants of Mr. Shaw to remove their stock, &c. from the outbuildings for fear of mischief. At a quarter to eight o’clock the misgivings of the overlooker were verified. A loud crashing, crumbling noise was heard, together with the bounding of huge masses of stone and rock immediately behind Woodfield House. On examination it was found that the upper side of the cutting had given way for about forty yards in length, the rock, shale, &c., completely filling up the cutting, and heaping masses of stone higher than the lower side of it. Many massive stones, some of them yards in length, were rolled down the lower slope towards the stables of Mr. Shaw, but their force being broken by the company’s retaining wall — which was knocked down for fifty yards in length — and intercepted by the trees, no damage was done. The cutting for thirty or forty yards is entirely blocked up with immense masses of rock and stone. The weight of the debris is immense, and will take some time to remove it. The removal, however, will not be attempted until the entire cutting is completed, as the mass of stone and rubbish will have to be removed to the Netherton side, there being no place to deposit it on the Lockwood side of Butter Nab Tunnel, which is about 500 yards from the scene of the slip. The cause of the disaster is attributed to the late continuous rains having penetrated through the ground to the lower bed of shale, which it loosened, and rendered unable to bear the superincumbent weight of rock above it. Beyond the time required for its removal, no loss will be sustained by the contractors, Messrs. Barnes and Beckett.