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Woodlesford

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This postcard view was taken during Edwin Deverell's time at Woodlesford and can be dated before 1910 when
the Down line home signal was moved back towards Methley to protect the newly installed junction from Water
Haigh colliery. The card is part of a collection by John Alsop of the whole of the Midland Railway system.

Edwin James Deverell was the station master at Woodlesford in the early years of the 20th century in what was generally regarded as a "golden age" for the railways. Conditions in the village would have been gradually improving too with more work at the brewery, the brickworks, and the new colliery at Water Haigh where shaft sinking started in 1908.

Deverell was born at Twerton-on-Avon near Bath in Somerset in 1863 and by the time he was 18 he was working as a clerk for the Midland Railway and lodging with another railwayman at North Wingfield in Derbyshire.


His elder brother Arthur was also a station master at Darley Dale near Matlock and may have helped Edwin obtain his first job on the railway. Their father was a licensed victualler in Bath, having originally been a linen cloth weaver. Unlike his brother Arthur didn't last very long in railway service and appears to have committed some sort of offence because after Darley, in November 1880, he was demoted to be a goods porter at Appleby on the Settle and Carlisile line. He resigned a few weeks later.


Edwin married Florence Amelia Archer at Baildon in 1888 and their first daughter Gladys was born there in 1889 so its likely he may have spent a period working in or near Bradford.
 
Their second daughter May Doris, known as Maisie, was born in Derby in 1891, but around this time the family must have endured a period apart as the census that year shows he was working at St Pancras station in London and lodging in Highgate Road. Meanwhile his wife was staying with her cabinet maker father in Manningham with her two young children so its possible that he may have been based in Derby but had to spend some time at St Pancras to further his career.

Edwin Deverell.
 

The third child, William Deverell, was born at Derby in 1896 where, evidence suggests, Edwin was working in the Superintendent's office. Later that year he was promoted to be Woodlesford's station master and took up his new posting on 17 December. His starting salary was £120 and gradually over the next ten years it increased to £150.

From the census and staff records its possible to get a glimpse of some of the other men who worked at Woodlesford during Deverell's time. For instance in 1901 one of the signalmen was Kirby Bryant, a 35 year old widower who was a lodger at the home of widowed Jane Hobkinson on Princes Street (now Church Street). Two of the station clerks, Frank Ferrett, 26, and Henry Tombs, 23, also lived in the same house. Interestingly all three came from towns or villages close to the Midland Railway's line to the West of England - Bryant from Bristol, Ferrett from Slimbridge, and Tombs from Evesham.

Its believed the postcard view of the station above was taken during Edwin Deverell's time in charge. It shows six station staff and a child posing for the photographer who took it from the siding next to the Up Line which ran from the end of the platform to the Pottery Lane bridge. In the goods yard there are vans and wagons.

The tall "home" signal in the background would have been used to stop trains on the Down line when shunting was taking place and would have been visible from Methley. Its position indicates that the picture was taken before the opening of the branch to Water Haigh colliery in 1910 when it would have been moved back to protect the junction.

The coal gas lighting was initially supplied from a gasworks at Bentley's Yorkshire Breweries and survived into the 1960s.

Its not clear from the position of the camera but during Edwin Deverell's tenure the quality of the station gardens earned Woodlesford at least one prize in the Midland Railway's annual competition. It came in 1907 when the station was one of the Yorkshire runners up along with Wombwell, Elsecar, Bell Busk and Ingrow.

The competitions had started back in the early 1890s with the directors initially setting aside a prize fund of £150 which had doubled to £300 by 1899. The district superintendent was responsible for the judging and could make allowances for the local climate and soil as well as the operational conditions at each station.

The Railway News said: "The success of the scheme has consisted mainly in the attractiveness of the results, and for these the men employed merit the hearty gratitude of the travelling public."

On the platform there are several coin operated machines. One was for dispensing chocolate. Another of the slot machines could have been for postcards which were often used in the same way we use email today, with a reply sometimes possible by return of post on the same day.
Penny packets of cigarettes could also be bought and it seems that the machines, which were hidden round a corner from the door to the booking office, were the target of local petty thieves.

Under the headline "Juvenile Ingenuity" the Rothwell Express in 1901 reported Edwin Deverell's role in a court case against two schoolboys who were caught using a piece of tin to try and get some chocolate. The station master had asked Samuel Taylor, an inspector from the Automatic Sweets Delivery Company, to watch the machines. He told the court in Leeds that he saw John Gill and John Rowlands come onto the station. One of them worked a piece of tin with his teeth in order to get it into the slot to release a packet of chocolate. Both boys pleaded guilty and the paper reported that since the boys had been "soundly thrashed" by their parents they were set free on payment of costs.

Deverell was also in charge when ten years later Harry Fisher, the 14 year old son of miner Thomas Fisher from nearby Alma Street, was arrested by the police for stealing a packet of cigarettes from the station on a Sunday afternoon at the end of January 1911.
Harry who was already working as a brick presser at Armitage's seems to have got off fairly lightly, with just a ticking off, because it was his mother, Hellen, who was bound over in the sum of 40 shillings for his good behaviour for 12 months.


A major incident which Edwin Deverell had to deal with was in 1910 when a carriage overshot the buffers in the station yard sidings and crashed into Aberford Road, but the most serious mishap during his tenure appears to have been the derailment of a goods train at Waterloo Sidings on Wednesday 15 October 1902. Luckily nobody was hurt but there was a good deal of damage and trains were badly disrupted into the following day.

 

This photo shows a Midland Railway 0-6-0 locomotive and goods train similar to the one involved in the Waterloo Siding accident in 1902. The photo was taken at Rothwell Haigh before 1925 when the loco received a different type of boiler.  3016 was built in 1876 and originally numbered 1248. For many years it was based at Carlisle but by 1908 had moved to Leeds. After being renumbered 23016 it was withdrawn from service in 1948.

 

The accident happened at about 1pm when the goods train of forty wagons, from Derby to Leeds, was crossing the points from the Down main line onto the Goods line at Waterloo. The engine and about 20 wagons were derailed and caused a pile up which blocked the Up and Down passenger lines leaving only the Up goods line clear.

 

A dozen of the wagons were smashed to pieces and their contents strewn across the tracks. Two of the trucks were carrying barrels of beer from the brewery at Burton-on-Trent. One was on its way to Aberdeen, the other to Barrow. "Many casks, which were of various sizes, came to grief and some apparently excellent liquor was wasted," noted an obviously dismayed reporter from the Yorkshire Post.

 

The engine was embedded in the ballast and an eyewitnesses rushed to help the crew fearing for their lives but the driver, his fireman, and the guard were unhurt. One eyewitness said the footplate men were extremely fortunate "as at the moment of the mishap the entire train appeared as though it would have instantly overwhelmed the engine."

 

After stopping all trains in the vicinity the Waterloo signalman called Edwin Deverell who had to put a plan into place to keep services running. All trains in the both directions had to use the Up line through Woodlesford and the Up goods between Waterloo and Rothwell Haigh. It was known as "single line working." The signalmen and drivers would have been familiar with the procedure as it was used during engineering works. It was put in place within an hour of the accident but there were long delays to both passenger and goods trains as they had to wait for their turn to use the line.

 

The breakdown crane from Holbeck was sent for and it arrived in the charge of Locomotive Superintendent John Thomas Weatherburn. Threee inspectors, Messrs. Cleaver, Mounsey and Whatley also came from Leeds to help Edwin Deverell keep the traffic moving.

 

Despite their best efforts there were, by the standards of the time, serious delays to the long distance express trains which passed through Woodlesford. The 3pm departure from London St. Pancras due in Leeds at 7.33pm, was "cleared out" for Bradford at 9.16pm and the 10.55pm Carnforth express was delayed by just over an hour.

 

Midland Railway plan showing the site of the 1902 accident. (Courtesy Midland Railway Study Centre). 

 

The stopping passenger train which was timed to leave Leeds at 4.50pm was two hours late which caused some consternation in Woodlesford and Rothwell, and along the line in Methley, Altofts and Normanton, as rumours of the accident spread. At that time children over the age of 13 who had won scholarships, or whose families could afford it, went to secondary schools in Leeds, and their parents were naturally concerned when they failed to arrive home at the usual time.

 

Between 40 and 50 men worked under the glare of lights into the night to clear the wreckage although they were hindered by rain and driving winds. Filing his report for the late editions of his paper the Yorkshire Post reporter gave an estimate of 5am for all the affected lines to be returned to working order. A similar occurence today would probably take a week to clear.    


During the 1911 census the Deverell family were still together living in the station house at Woodlesford. Gladys was unmarried and appears not to have had a job whilst Maisie was the manageress at a typewriter machine company, probably in Hunslet or Leeds. Edwin James Deverell left Woodlesford on 1 December 1911 to take over as station master at the much larger station at Otley. He later retired to live in East Finchley in North London.


A 1901 letter to Mr Neale at the East and West Yorkshire Union Railway
at Robin Hood signed by Edwin Deverell.