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Woodlesford

The Story of a Station
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Station staff pose for a photographer in 1902. There are five men, one woman, three girls and a boy. At the back, wearing a cap is station master Edwin Deverell. Standing to his left, near the edge of the platform, is booking office clerk Harry Edmund Tombs. The clock gives the time as 12.42 pm. (Norman Ellis postcard collection.)

Woodlesford's station building had a very distinctive design with a square central block and identical wings. It was built from local stone and by the early 20th century was covered in pebble dash which was painted with whitewash. Over the years it turned grey from the smoke of passing trains.

One striking feature was that the windows show the building at one time had a first floor above the offices and waiting room. At some point the floor was removed and towards the end of the building's life there were no upstairs rooms.




A forlorn looking station building in 1970 after it was closed and shortly before it was demolished. The posters advertise the new Pay Train service. The "bug hutch" had already gone but the brick built office extension,
with its barred windows, can just be made out. 

Most of the station buildings on the North Midland were designed by Francis Thompson, notably the rather ornate designs at Oakenshaw for Wakefield and Cudworth for Barnsley. There were other buildings of a similar basic style to Woodlesford at other stations between Leeds and Derby, for example at Wingfield, so its reasonable to suppose that Woodlesford was also designed by Thompson.

Its not clear precisely when it was built but its certainly shown on an Ordnance Survey map published in 1846, as is the North Midland Railway Hotel, a quarter of a mile away on Aberford Road, which survives today as the Midland Hotel. An identical building at Cudworth was shown on an 1888 plan as being the station master's house.

A brick extension with barred windows was added at the rear, although the date of its construction is also unknown. Next to that was a wooden building known to station staff as "the bug hutch". It had originally been used as a signal cabin but was moved when a larger signal box was erected at the end of the Up platform. In later life the cabin served as a messroom for the staff and the motor lorry drivers from Hunslet Lane goods station. 



Shortly before the station building was demolished in 1970. Photo by Geoff Brunton.

 

In the early years the station building doubled as living accommodation for staff. The 1861 census records it being inhabited by the station master and two porters and their familes. The station master and his family were given a bigger house which was finished in 1866. It still stands today looking down on the station car park. This could also explain the mystery of the upper floor which may have been removed when the new house was finished.

Unfortunately the station building was demolished by British Rail just over a year after the station became an unmanned halt in January 1970. Apparently they would have had to pay local authority rates on the unused building and like so much of our unique railway heritage it was destroyed to keep the accountants satisfied. The Normanton Area Manager at the time, A. Murray, told the Wakefield Express that it would be replaced by a "bus-type" shelter, which indeed it was.
If it had managed to cling on for a few more years perhaps its heritage value would have been recognised and it might today have found an alternative use.

 

A diagram of the inside of the station building in the 1960s. Courtesy Jack Perry.

 


An identical building at Cudworth which was used as the station master's house.