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Ashbourne: the Station from the South
the station, early 20th century

The railway system developed rapidly in the mid nineteenth century and in 1848 an Act was passed to build a branch line for the Churnet Valley Line of the North Staffordshire Railway (NSR) between the parish of Rocester, in Staffordshire, and Ashbourne[1]. The Company's Directors advertised for tenders to be submitted for the construction of the proposed line in late 1850[2].

The line was opened for both passenger and goods traffic on Whit Monday, 31st May 1852, and was to connect with trains travelling from Rocester to Derby, Macclesfield, and elsewhere[3]. On the day itself Ashbourne was described as a scene of great festivity and rejoicing. The branch, just a single line of track, was seven miles long and had been constructed by Mr. T. Brassey, who was known for his railway works. His invited guests were taken to Rocester by a special train from Stoke, with a few from Derby, Manchester, Macclesfield and other large towns arriving an hour earlier. The special train left Rocester about 2 p.m. and reached Ashbourne around half an hour later. Those on board had passed several triumphal arches on the line and were greeted at the end of their journey by both workmen and a large number of Ashbourne's residents who were assembled near the terminus. Musicians provided entertainment. The invited guests were entertained in a large building that was later to be used as a warehouse; it was decorated with flags, evergreen, etc. for the occasion. To mark the event a bullock had been roasted on the green. After the guests had eaten various loyal toasts were drunk. The 300 or so workforce ate "a substantial dinner" in a tent erected nearby. There was then dancing on the green and the church bells "rang merry peals; and the enjoyment was kept up until late in the evening[4]." The large building/warehouse where the celebrations took place, built next to Clifton Road in 1852, has survived and is now Grade II listed.

In 1890 F. N. Worth, author of a number of tour guides, commented that the railway excursion from Derby to Ashbourne then available was a "an exceedingly roundabout line, mainly following the valley of the Dove from near its junction with the Derwent on the Staffordshire bank. Having left Derby, the train passed through Eggington, Tutbury, Sudbury, Uttoxeter, Rocester, Norbury and Clifton before it reached Ashbourne. The rail route was about 30 miles". He observed that, as the crow flies it was only about a dozen miles between the two places![5] The Ashbourne line also didn't extend northwards or connect directly to other major towns within the county and something needed to be done.

The same year a new line was projected by the London and North Western railway (LNWR) to connect Ashbourne with Parsley Hay on the Cromford and High Peak Line, the bill having received Royal Assent on 4 Aug 1890[6]. The track linking Buxton and Parsley Hay opened in 1894[7] but two further Acts were needed to join up the two lines so that Ashbourne was finally connected to Buxton by rail. One Act was passed in 1897[8] whilst the line was being constructed; it mentioned the tunnel that lead to the Seven Arches Viaduct which crossed over Bentley brook. The final Act was passed in 1898[9]; it dealt with widening the line.

Ashbourne News, Friday 8 September, 1899.

It is always the unexpected that happens. There is now some fresh rolling stock on the Ashbourne branch of the North Staffordshire Railway, and the discomfort of the old order of things hath passed away.

The result was, curiously, that whilst Ashbourne was still "the terminus of the branch of the North Staffordshire railway from Rocester, it has also a station on the branch of the LNWR from Buxton[10]" In Wakes week 1899 it was observed that whilst "the new line to Buxton has had a big share of public patronage, the only cause for regret .... being the inconvenient situation of the booking office at the Ashbourne joint station, and the delay in connection with the "special" that was to have left at 1.30 ... but was nearly an hour and a half late ....[11]. Kingscott tells us the original station building was abandoned in 1899 and both lines then used the new LNWR building[7] that had been built a short distance away to the north east, on land known as The Paddock, hence the "joint station" that we can see in these very early twentieth century images.

The line between Ashbourne and Buxton was one of the highest routes in the country and rail journeys were sometimes badly affected by heavy falls of snow. In early 1912, for example, there was almost a complete stoppage as such journeys during severe weather became difficult and took so long. A way had to be cut through the snow, but the wind caused drifting on the line which severely hampered progress. Ashbourne itself had a covering of 16-18 inches[12].

A closer view
Ashbourne Joint Station.
There were platforms on either side of the track and awnings for each station "building", with a footbridge over the tracks.
On the far side of the Henmore brook, which is difficult to see, is The Mansion with The Grey House behind it. The line extension had left The Mansion and its grounds extremely exposed but a long row of bushes were already growing up to form the dense screen the web mistress remembers from her time there.

In 1914 a request was made by Ashbourne's Urban Council for wider platforms, but the LNWR Company turned them down. "After careful inquiry, the company had concluded that the platform accommodation was quite wide enough for present requirements and regretted that they could not make any alterations[13]."

Passenger services between Buxton and Ashbourne ceased on 1 Nov 1954 although some special trains, for school outings and expeditions to Tissington well dressings, continued until 1963[7]. QEGS boarders travelled to the village on what we were told was the last train - its carriages had certainly seen better days. Earlier that year the long closed railway had opened for a mercy journey to deliver bread to snowed-up villagers in Hartington[14].

The former railway route became part of the Tissington trail. Unfortunately, in 1980 repairs were being carried out for the Peak Planning Board on the brick built Seven Arches Viaduct on the far side of the hill when it collapsed. It was not rebuilt.

Ashbourne's Leisure Centre was built on the station site.

1 and 2. "Ashbourne from the South." The Artistic Publishing Co., 9 Bury Court, St. Mary Axe, London, E.C., Series No.2252. Phototyped in Bavaria. Unused.
Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "The London Gazette", 25 July 1848. Issue: 20880, page 2760. An Act for making a branch railway from the Churnet Valley Line of the North Staffordshire Railway, in the parish of Rocester, in the county of Stafford, to Ashbourne, in the county of Derby.

[2] "Derbyshire Courier", 14 December 1850. Construction and Lease of Ashbourne Branch.

[3] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 28 May 1852. Announcement of the opening, with timetables and lists of fares from Ashbourne to both Rocester and Derby. Both single and return tickets were available.

[4] "Chester Chronicle, 5 June 1852. The Ashbourne Branch of the North Staffordshire Railway. Celebration of its completion.

[5] R. N. Worth, F.G.S., (1890) "Tourist's Guide to Derbyshire", Edward Stanford, 26 & 27, Cockspur Street, Charing Cross.

[6] "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1891". Personal copy.

[7] Dates from Kingscott, Geoffrey (2007) ""Lost Railways of Derbyshire", Countryside Books, ISBN 978 1 84674 042 8.

[8] "The London Gazette", 26 November 1897. Issue 26914, Page 6994.

[9] "ibid", 22 November 1898. Issue 27025, Page 7090.

[10] "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1891".

[11] "Ashbourne News Telegraph", 25 August 1899.

[12] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 18 January 1912.

[13] "Ashbourne Telegraph", 2 May 1914. Written response to Ashbourne Council.

[14] "Ashbourne News Telegraph", 24 January 1963.

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The Railways of Derbyshire, 1903