[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 1.5.1850
Location: On the south side of Merton Street
Company on opening: Buckinghamshire Railway
Date closed to passengers: 2.1.1961
Date closed completely: 6.6.1966
Company on closing: British Railways (London Midland Region)
Present state: The station has been demolished and for many years the site was a truck park. The site is currently being redeveloped. Part of a goods platform including one of the docks is still extant but this will probably be demolished..
County: Oxfordshire
OS Grid Ref: SP465403
Date of visit: July 2005

Notes: Banbury Merton Street changed little over the years although the platform was extended three times. The station was of timber construction with an overall roof with glass panels (trainshed). As it was the terminus of the line the station had a substantial timber goods shed and an equally large engine shed capable of storing 8 eight locomotives, more than were ever seen on the line. There was also a carriage and van storage road and a substantial goods yard with numerous sidings serving the large cattle dock and pens - Banbury still has the largest cattle market in Europe. There was also an exchange siding to the adjacent GWR Station on the Oxford & Birmingham line.

Banbury was at its zennith for both passenger and goods traffic at the start of WW1 handling new traffic from the Ministry of Munitions who had built a large shell filling factory on the outskirts of the town.

In 1938 the LMS proposed amalgamating the two stations at Banbury rerouting the Buckingham line into the GWR station which would have made Merton Street redundant. The outbreak of war ensured that the plan was not implemented until the late 1950's when entirely different plans were drawn up for rebuilding the GWR station only.

After WW2 passenger numbers dropped dramatically but freight traffic was still good serving the towns cattle market and carrying iron ore from numerous mines and quarries in the vicinity.

The station was given a facelift in 1956 prior to the introduction of the short lived railcar service. The passenger service was withdrawn on 2nd January 1961 while the freight service survived until 6th June 1966.

For many years the station site was used as a truck park. The site is currently being redeveloped for housing, when the concrete surface was removed (Summer 2005) the track and sleepers were still in situ. These have now been removed. At the time of writing part of a goods platform is still extant.

Until 1844 Buckinghamshire had been poorly served by railways with only Aylesbury connected to the London & Birmingham in the east. With the support of the L & B two separate companies were formed, the Buckingham and Brackley Junction Railway and the Oxford and Bletchley Junction Railway. In 1847 under the direction of the newly formed London & North Western Railway the two were merged into a unified board with the collective name of the Buckinghamshire Railway

The line was to run westward from Bletchley to Oxford, via Winslow and Bicester, with a junction near Claydon House (later Verney Junction) where another line turned north to Brackley via Buckingham, with a further extension to Banbury. The engineer employed to build the Buckinghamshire Railway was Robert Stephenson

Construction started on 20th April 1847 and on 1st May 1850 the Buckinghamshire Railway was opened for passenger traffic from Bletchley to Banbury. From the outset the line was worked by the LNWR who absorbed the Buckinghamshire Railway in 1879.

The major objective of the branch was the small market town of Buckingham. Until the railway came to the town transport had not been good which it was felt was stopping development of the town. A branch of the Grand Union canal reached Buckingham in 1801 but even after the opening of the canal and the railway little development occurred.

The busiest part of the line was the 5 1/2 mile section from Banbury Merton Street to Cockley Brake where there was a junction with the Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway.

Passenger traffic over the whole line was comparatively light although the LNWR operated various specials and excursions over the years to encourage use. Passenger levels reached their peak just before WW1 after which they declined more or less continually as competition from the bus and growing car ownership began to increase. WW2 brought a short lived improvement but with new BR management the line was under review. A threat to its future became imminent in 1952 when BR reduced services to three trains each way per day, having withdrawn Banbury - Towcester Trains (via the junction at Cockley Brake) the previous year.

In spite of this, the line survived and was selected for an experiment as part of the 1955 Railway Modernisation Plan using lightweight single unit diesel railcars. These railcars were introduced during the summer of 1956 but strangely they only ran from Banbury to Buckingham, where connection was made with the traditional steam push-pull service. New halts at Radclive and Water Stratford were opened between Fulwall & Westbury and Buckingham and a third on the edge of Buckingham was suggested but not built.

The new railcars attracted a reported increase in traffic of 400% with the service being well used on market days and Saturdays but the improvement was insufficient to save the service between Buckingham and Banbury which closed from 2nd January 1961. The remaining passenger facilities between Buckingham and Verney Junction lingered until 7th September 1964 using the diesel units transferred from the Banbury section. Freight facilities were withdrawn from Banbury on 6th June 1966 and from Buckingham from 3rd December 1966 with track lifting underway by February 1967.

For further reading see The Banbury to Verney Junction Branch by Bill Simpson. Oxford Publishing Company 1978 ISBN 902888 87 0

To see the other stations on the Banbury - Verney Junction line click on the station name: Farthinghoe, Brackley, Fullwell & Westbury, Water Stratford Halt, Radclive Halt, Buckingham, Padbury & Verney Junction

Railcar at Banbury Merton Street Station in September 1958
Photo by: E. Wilmhurst

Banbury Merton Street - station forecourt in April 1959
Photo by C. Gammell

The site of Banbury Merton Street in July 2005 - same viewpoint as the picture above
Photo by Greg Scott




Click thumbnail to enlarge




[Source: Nick Catford]

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