Notes: Bishops Waltham started off as an Anglo-Saxon village, and steadily grew to become one of Hampshire's largest villages, despite being burnt to the ground by the Danes in 1001 AD. By the time of Domesday Book (1086 AD), it had a population of around 450. By the thirteenth century it was developing into a flourishing market town, but its importance as such diminished rapidly as nearby Botley grew in importance following the opening of the Gosport branch railway by the L&SWR on 29 November 1841.
By the 1860s, the town was once again beginning to prosper thanks to a variety of schemes promoted by entrepreneur Sir Arthur Helps. After an early career in politics, Helps purchased the Vernon Hill estate near Bishops Waltham in 1841 and a private income allowed him to turn to writing books and plays for the next twenty years. He was not, however, forgotten by his political friends, and in 1860 he was appointed Clerk of the Privy Council on the recommendation of Lord Granville. This appointment brought him into personal communication with Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort, both of whom came to regard him with confidence and respect.
In 1862 he established the Bishops Waltham Clay Company for the manufacture of bricks and terracotta. He was also heavily involved with the Bishops Waltham Railway Company, set up to link his brickworks (and the town) with the main London-Southampton line. With the opening of the railway, Bishops Waltham was once again developing into a prosperous market town, being home to several agricultural suppliers, merchants and a cattle market and Abbey Mill which was built in Station Road in 1862. Helps also financed the town's water works as well as the coke and gas works which lit the town and the station from 1864. He also provided the land for the Royal Albert Infirmary which opened in 1865.
These new industries provided much of the early revenue for the railway which became more important over the years as is was quickly realised that the branch would never generate much passenger revenue, with services being used only by schoolchildren and a few regular commuters to Botley (with connections to London) and Southampton. In the early years of the twentieth century there were occasional excursions to destinations including Portsmouth and Bournemouth, and infrequently to other south coast resorts. These all stopped with the outbreak of war in 1914 and were never reinstated.
As soon as the branch opened, a siding was laid into the clay works to the north-west of the station. Regular supplies of coal and coke arrived at the clay works. The works shipped out bricks, tiles and other terracotta material.
By the time the Bishops Waltham branch was close to completion no work had been done on building the terminus station. To avoid delaying the opening, a temporary timber station was built on the south side of Winchester Road; this opened on 1 June 1863. An account of the opening day can be found in the branch history below. The permanent terminus took nearly two years to complete, finally opening in March or April 1865.
The terminus was immediately north of the Winchester Road level crossing, the only level crossing on the branch. In 1862 there had been a proposal to replace the planned crossing with an underbridge but this was dropped due to the high cost as part of Bishops Waltham pond would have to be drained. The station comprised a single platform on the up side of the line. The station house was a dignified villa with rectangular window openings and a hipped, tiled roof with a modest overhang. The red and yellow brickwork appears to be horizontally-coursed ‘nogging’ within a rectangular timber frame. A single-storey office range adjoined the house, of the same design as the station house, with a lean-to attached (also with ‘brick nogging’ effect) and a urinal beyond. The building housed the booking office, general waiting room, ladies’ waiting room and toilet and a lamp room. The chimneystacks were of a particularly jolly design. The tapered bases were enlivened by diagonal stripes and pale horizontal courses punctuated the main shafts while the cornices of the stacks were dentilated. The platform verandah extended the length of the house and office range; it was initially supported by two wire stays fixed to the building wall but these were later removed and replaced with two timber pillars. Its roof sloped at a very slight angle upward from the building and it was surrounded by a deep valance with modest decoration. Two end-screens had been added by the turn of the twentieth century.
At first the station did not have its own stationmaster and was administered by the stationmaster at Botley. As traffic increased however, Bishops Waltham eventually was allocated its own stationmaster, James Whitney, who took up the post in 1875. Later stationmasters were Arthur Kneller (1899 - 1907), Charles Colbourne (1907 - 1920), Sidney Everny (1920 - 1924) and Charles Blount (1920 - 1931). Following closure to passengers in 1932, the station once again came under the control of the Botley stationmaster. By the turn of thetwentieth century Bishops Waltham had a staff of seven comprising a Class 4 stationmaster, a booking office clerk, two porter/signalmen, one goods clerk, one porter/guard and one passenger guard. Other staff were based at the engine shed.
As built, there was a passing loop opposite the platform; from this a long siding curved away to the north towards the brickworks. From this line a short siding trailed back towards the level crossing to serve a coal yard. Beyond the platform, a trailing siding ran back into the cattle dock which was, in effect, an extension of the platform but set back from it by the width of the siding. Livestock pens were provided on the dock. The dock was extended with three additional pens being added in 1914 following a surge in livestock traffic in the first decade of the twentieth century. The yard was always especially busy during the cattle and sheep sales. The pens were removed following the end of local livestock sales.
The yard crane, which had a capacity of 5 tons, was located on the dock to the north of the pens. Beyond the dock, the loop and the main line continued north for nearly 300yd and a third parallel siding ran through a brick goods shed with a wagon turntable on the north side. The goods shed was similar in design to the station building having a pitched slate roof and a wide canopy with a very deeply fretted valance over the road vehicle loading area. The shed had a second 5-ton capacity crane mounted on the internal loading dock. It had originally been planned to build the goods shed behind the cattle dock but there was limited space there due to the proximity of Bishops Waltham pond. In later years (possibly during WW2), a prefabricated grain store was erected at the south end of the goods shed.
The Bishops Waltham Gas and Coke Company began production at a site to the north of the station in March 1864. The town was lit by gas for the first time on 4 March that year and Bishops Waltham is believed to have been one of the earliest towns in the county to have gas street lighting. To keep the works supplied with coal the goods yard siding was extended into the works. Regular supplies arrived at the gasworks including coal from both Brays Down Coal Company and the Somersetshire Coal Company and timber from Messrs Gamblin’s Sawmills at Newtown.
At its peak, small fire coal for the retorts arrived at the works every day. Complete coal trains were sometimes required with three of the four retorts in operation much of the time. The retorts were emptied at 3.45 pm each day and the coke that was removed would then become one of the primary outgoing products. Although much of it was sold to local coal merchants, some was loaded onto trains along with tar and creosote which were also produced at the works. The coal was transferred from the siding to the retort house by a narrow gauge line raised on trestles alongside the siding. Small tipper wagons were pushed along the line into the retort house by hand.
Initially no locomotive stabbing facilities were provided at Bishops Waltham although it is possible that the goods shed may have been used if required. The L&SWR urged the BWR board to provide an engine shed in January 1866 but this request was declined as insufficient funds were available. The matter was again raised by the L&SWR in January 1876 and again in March 1877 when estimates were provided of £200 for a brick shed or £120 for a timber shed. A single-road through timber shed to accommodate two tank engines with an adjacent water tank on a brick base and coal stage was eventually built, presumably at the expense of the L&SWR. It was located on the main line between the station and the goods shed.
By 1876 the wagon turntable had been removed and the goods shed siding rejoined the main line to form another loop; this did away with the need for a turntable.
Bishops Waltham was provided with a signal box in 1885; this was located on the down side of the line immediately south of the Winchester Road level crossing. The box was typical of others in the area at that period and was probably provided with a 16-lever (with two spare) Stevens frame.
By 1898 the layout of the goods yard had been simplified with the removal of the loop back to the main line at the north side of the goods shed.
Coal was probably the most important product coming into the station and the first coal merchant to be established in the station yard were Messrs Geo. & Edwd. Clark who were also grocers, drapers, millers and maltsters. For many years the principal coal merchant was Messrs Reeves & Tebbutt who opened an office adjacent to the level crossing in 1890. From 1910 this prime position was occupied by the Colliery Supply Co and later by Portsmouth based merchants Merssrs J E Smith who remained there until closure in 1962. Over the years numerous other coal merchants were accommodated; however they did not have offices and instead rented space at the far end of the yard close to the goods shed.
Another important outgoing commodity handled by the yard was farm produce with Bishops Waltham becoming the railhead for many farms in the lower Meon valley. Although it diminished in later years, as many farms moved over to road haulage, this traffic continued until closure of the line. The bulk of this produce was arable - consisting mainly of cereal crops and sugar beet - but soft fruit and dairy products were also important, with churns of milk being despatched from the station daily.
The station also served the local brewing and milling industries with regular deliveries of wheat and other cereal crops to the Abbey Mill. In 1902 James Duke & Son took over the mill and their business continued to generate considerable traffic until closure. Much of Duke’s traffic was handled by their own staff in the goods shed siding.
Around the turn of the century a 55yd private siding was laid ½-mile south of the station on the down side. It served the Abbey Brewery of Messrs Edward & Sons. The siding handled only incoming traffic for the brewery, mainly hops and malt, but it also handled some farm traffic, mainly from nearby Brooklands Farm. Its use declined after WW2 and the siding was lifted in September 1948.
The Crown Hotel acted as parcel agent. Initially parcels were delivered mainly to local shops, but with the growing popularity of mail order companies such as Littlewoods in the twentieth century many parcels arriving at the station were destined for delivery to residential properties in the town.
The gas works was taken over by the Gosport & District Gas Company on 1 March 1932. Following the end of gas production that year a double lift gasometer was built on the site.
With an average of five passengers travelling on each of the trains, closure was inevitable. It was initially considered by the Southern Railway in October 1930 but was delayed until 1932 although from 1930 a guard was no longer provided on passenger trains. Following closure to passengers from 31 December 1932 the engine shed was closed from 2 January 1933 and was quickly demolished, but the site remained a stabling and servicing point until closed by BR in 1958. The signal box closed in December 1935 and all signals were removed, with the points being operated by hand levers.
By this time, only a single Grade 1 porter was retained at Bishops Waltham. He was responsible for dealing with the various traders, loading and unloading of wagons and all the paperwork relating to the station. Although goods traffic began to decline after WW2 the station still handled considerable coal and mill traffic. By 1953 the goods shed had been taken out of use and rented to Duke & Son for use as a grain store. The brickworks siding was lifted in 1947, and by 1956 the brickworks had closed and scrap dealer Meon Valley Metals took over the works site. For a while they used the branch for outgoing scrap metal.
Complete closure of the station was considered in 1952 but traffic levels were sufficiently high for the station to remain open. Total receipts for that year were £24,941 with 6,643 tons of merchandise and minerals being handled. There were 5,420 tons of coal, coke and other fuels with a further 5,409 tons of parcels.
In the early 1960s the platform canopy was removed. By 1961 goods traffic over the branch was declining rapidly with only two trains serving the station each week.
After final closure on 30 April 1962, Duke & Son continued to use the goods shed as a grain store. However in 1964 grain sacks stored against the wall in the goods shed caused the walls to bow out which eventually caused the roof to fall in. The station was demolished in 1965 to make way for road improvements which included a roundabout on the station site - this is known today as the 'Old Station Roundabout'. In 1971 a road was built bypassing the town centre; this followed the course of the goods sidings north of the station. 'Old Station Roundabout' is at the junction of the B2177 and the B3035 towards Corhampton.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BISHOP'S WALTHAM BRANCH
The Bishops Waltham branch had its origins in a much grander plan put forward in the early 1860s. A group of businessmen in the Southampton area proposed a railway running across eastern Hampshire into Southampton. They were led by Arthur Helps, a prominent national figure (he had recently been made Clerk of the Privy Council) and writer. He owned an estate near Bishops Waltham and had financed the creation of the town's Coke & Gas Company and a brickworks. The aim of the Bishops Waltham, Botley & Bursledon Railway (BW, B&BR) was to link the proposed Petersfield & Midhurst Railway to the main line into Southampton which was owned by the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR). The L&SWR was a large and established company having built the south-western main line between London and Southampton in the 1830s. The promoters of the Bishops Waltham Railway, like many similar small railway undertakings, hoped to arrange for the L&SWR to operate the line once it was built in return for a share of the takings.
The L&SWR objected to the proposed BW, B&BR as a potential competitor to its own line and refused an agreement. However the L&SWR was equally wary that its main rival, the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) would secure the rights to operate the line itself and thus be able to run its services right into the heart of L&SWR territory. The L&SWR and the BW, B&BR reached an agreement that the smaller company would reduce its plans to a simple branch between Botley and Bishops Waltham. The L&SWR would operate the line at a favourable rate and would consider an extension to Petersfield in the future. The BW, B&BR changed its name to the Bishops Waltham Railway Company (BWR). John Collister was appointed as engineer for the line and he immediately started work surveying the proposed route and preparing working plans for the construction of the line. The Bishops Waltham Railway Act received Royal Assent on the l7 July 1862.
Messrs. Rilson and Ridley were appointed as contractors and as sufficient money had already been raised for the construction of the railway's earthworks and track, work was quickly underway although no plans had been drawn up for the terminus at Bishops Waltham and a temporary station was initially proposed so the line could be opened as quickly as possible. By the end of the year, half the available capital had already been spent and a Parliamentary Bill was prepared seeking an increase in the authorised capital of the company in order to complete the work.
The L&SWR made its intention known to the Board that it would be seeking powers to purchase or lease the line in the next Parliamentary session. By February 1863 the L&SWR appeared to have lost interest in purchasing the line but the Board remained optimistic about its future and announced at the first shareholders meeting on 28 February 1863 that: ‘the whole of the works are now nearly completed with the exception of the trimming of the slopes and ballasting of the permanent road. I have no doubt but that the line will be so far completed by the end of next month that heavy traffic may pass along’.
In April, the Board announced that the line was ready for opening to passenger traffic although no station of any kind had yet been built at Bishops Waltham. On 8 May a tender was let to a Southampton contractor for the building of a temporary terminus to be completed within a fortnight. Once this had been finished the line was inspected by Captain Rich RE for the Board of Trade, a requirement before any new line can be opened to the public.
Captain Rich reported, ‘The new line is single throughout, with sidings at Botley Station and at Bishops Waltham.....land has been purchased for a double line......All the bridges appear to be well and substantially constructed. There are no engine turntables but as the line is only about four miles long, they might be dispensed with, on condition that Tank Engines only are used. There is one public level crossing at Bishops Waltham Station.’ Some additional minor work and alterations were required by Captain Rich and he concluded that the line could be opened for passenger traffic once this work had been completed and on receipt of a guarantee that only tank engines would be used to ensure that the line was not worked at a great speed because of its many tight curves until a turntable was provided at Bishops Waltham. These stipulations were quickly agreed and notified to the Board of Trade on 30 May.
There was a carnival atmosphere in Bishops Waltham on 1 June 1863 as many of the town folk tuned out for the official opening of their new railway line. The Hampshire Telegraph reported the event on 6 June: ‘The Bishops Waltham Railway was opened for public traffic on Monday last, which made the little town full of bustle and life. The beautiful toned bells of the old parish church were ringing a merry peel the whole day, and a celebrated brass band paraded the town. The principal gentlemen and tradesmen met at the Crown Hotel to inaugurate the opening of the railway. About fifty sat down to a first class dinner, served up by Mr. Pratt to the satisfaction of all present, the wines being first rate.'
The initial service consisted of six trains in each direction on weekdays with three on Sundays.
Once the line was open, the BW board were keen to start work on Bishops Waltham station as soon as possible but they were forced to take out further loans and a mortgage to fund the construction of the passenger station and a goods yard. By August 1864, work was underway and at a shareholders meeting at the end of that month it was stated that the facilities for both passengers and goods were nearing completion. The completed terminus eventually opened in March or April 1865.
In the first few years, traffic returns were disappointing due to a number of factors including the economic depression and the delay in building the terminus and shareholders were informed in February 1866 that there was no question of a dividend being paid.
In 1866 the mid-afternoon train was taken off leaving five trains in each direction on weekdays and the Sunday service was withdrawn.
The BWR tried to fix an agreement with the L&SWR to extend the line further in search of extra traffic and a second company, the Bishops Waltham & Petersfield Railway (BW&PR), again led by Arthur Helps, was formed to try to secure investment for the project. This unfortunately coincided with a minor banking crisis and a recession in the British economy which saw investment in new railway projects dry up. It also further reduced traffic over the Bishops Waltham branch line which was dealt a fatal blow in April 1867 when the Bishops Waltham Clay Company, the local brickworks and one of the railway's main customers, went into liquidation and ceased production. The cattle plague which had broken out in southern Hampshire, coupled to the reduction in importance of Botley Market owing to the establishment of the large central market at Southampton, also took its toll. The BW&PR plans were abandoned in 1868.
The L&SWR itself was making a profit from its operations over the line since it had none of the debts incurred in the line's construction yet took a proportion of all income from the branch. It continued to run trains along the line and simply billed the BWR for its outstanding payments. The BWR existed in a state of limbo for many years.
In the 1860s the L&SWR proposed its own railway line between Alton and Petersfield; this railway would have had a junction near Warnford, on the west side of the Meon valley from where a line would run into Bishops Waltham, thus connecting to Botley and the Eastleigh to Fareham Line. This would have required major works of civil engineering including a large bridge or viaduct, and would have put Bishops Waltham on a major railway in the region. The plans never progressed.
By 1870 the company's annual meeting was disbanded because no shareholders were present. Following the death of Sir Arthur Helps in 1875 the company's Board of Directors informally disbanded.
1871 saw an upturn in fortunes for traffic when the abandoned Clay Company works were acquired by Mark Henry Blanchard who recommenced production at Bishops Waltham in addition to his London business. A general increase in traffic may have been responsible for the introduction by 1873 of an additional morning return working.
With the LWSR now in control in all but name it came as no surprise when a special general meeting of the BW Board was held on 11 October 1881 ‘for the purpose of considering and if thought fit sanctioning the sale of the Railway sidings, stations, works and conveniences, undertaking and property of this Company to the London and South Western Railway Company’. The process was held up because the company was in chancery with no directors, treasurer or secretary to act on its behalf. The sale was eventually conducted by the BWR's chief creditor and it was agreed to sell the railway to the L&SWR for not less than £20,000 which would be used to pay off the company's debts. A Special General Meeting of the BW Company on the 30th December gave the final authorisation to approve the sale to the BWR in retrospect from 4th August 1881.
BWR’s era of independence thus drew to a close. Born with hope and confidence and the promise of a rapid development in traffic, some eight years had instead witnessed the BWR struggle through a host of adversities crippling the establishment of the company, leaving it with a millstone of debts, and culminating in the inevitable sell-out. There is no doubt that the decline and ultimate failure of the Clay Company played a major role in retarding the development of traffic in the crucial early years of the railway’s existence.
The L&SWR were quick to instigate improvements the first of which was the introduction of an additional mid-morning return service and 1883 and an additional mid-afternoon return service in 1884.
During the 1880s, when the L&SWR was looking for a site for its main locomotive and carriage works, a group of Bishops Waltham businessmen offered a proposal to site the works at Bishops Waltham. The L&SWR did conduct a detailed study of the proposal, but the site of Eastleigh was chosen instead, being on the main line. Eastleigh grew from a village smaller than Bishops Waltham to a large industrial town centred on the works.
In 1883 there was a proposal to extend the branch to Droxford but nothing came of this. An extension to Droxford was again proposed in 1901, during the construction of the L&SWR's Meon Valley Railway. On this occasion, a group of local investors formed a company to build a line northwards from Bishops Waltham to the new station at Droxford. The line would be built under the Light Railways Act 1896 to keep down costs. The L&SWR objected to the plans, citing the disruption a branch line would cause to its own operations at Droxford station. The Board of Trade was also sceptical that the line would remain within the terms of the Light Railways Act since it would require major earthworks, a tunnel and a large bridge or viaduct to cross the River Meon. The scheme failed to obtain an Act of Parliament and was abandoned.
Whilst the line was usually only lightly used, with modest passenger numbers and low levels of freight, the line usually saw a period of frenetic, heavy use in the summer months during the strawberry harvest. Southern Hampshire (including the area around Bishops Waltham, Botley, Fareham and Titchfield) was the UK's main strawberry growing region and during the harvest there was a near-continuous stream of special trains from the region to the London markets. Botley station had numerous sidings to accommodate the special trains the L&SWR put on for the harvest, and the Bishops Waltham line was key to shipping produce from the Meon Valley and the surrounding region to the main line.
Despite the improvements to the weekday service many local people were unhappy that no Sunday service had been provided since 1886 and a well supported petition was sent to the L&SWR in August 1889 requesting the reintroduction of a Sunday service. This and a subsequent similar request were declined by the L&SWR. In 1890 changes were made to the existing train timings which quickly proved unpopular with local people. These led to further petitions and resolutions being put to the company but all fell on deaf ears until, on 5 November 1904, it was announced that steam railmotors that had been withdrawn from the Basingstoke to Alton line in August could be used on the Bishops Waltham and Turnchapel branches to improve their service. This was approved and appears to have been put into effect immediately.
The Bishops Waltham branch was one of the few lines in the region to be worked by railmotors. These were popular for light rural lines around the turn of the century, and consisted of a small 0-4-0 type locomotive rigid-coupled to a single carriage. This provided a low-cost and simple vehicle. However, railmotors lacked the power to pull any other carriages, and so were unable to cope with sudden high passenger numbers, such as occurred on market days or public holidays, and so were replaced by light standard tank engines when the need arose.
The 1905 working timetable shows 13 up trains and 12 down workings with one return goods service, the latter being worked by an engine. It is probable that increased traffic returns and savings in running costs led to the L&SWR relenting to the pressure to provide a Sunday service with 7 trains in each direction running in 1907.
Following a petition from the residents of Durley, a halt was opened on 23 December 1909 at a point close to Durley Mill to serve mill workers and the Calcot and Frogmill areas.
WW1 brought few changes to the line. Despite a reduction in passenger numbers a service was maintained throughout the war although the railmotors were withdrawn circa 1915 to be replaced by conventional locomotives. There was some additional traffic from 1916 when Northbrook House in Bishops Waltham was commandeered for use as a military hospital. In 1917 some 7,000 troops of the 3rd, 4th, 5th an 6th Battalions of the Hampshire Regiment arrived and were billeted in and around the town but this brought little extra traffic to the railway as most military movements went by road to Gosport and Portsmouth. One heavily laden troop train did depart from Bishops Waltham in late 1917 / early 1918 taking troops to a camp in Scotland. This was probably the heaviest and longest train ever to use the branch.
By the 1930s with the branch now part of the Southern Railway, passenger numbers had dropped dramatically and it was not uncommon for trains to travel over the line without a single revenue—earning passenger. The Sunday service was once again withdrawn from 1 February 1931 and the weekday service was cut back to six trains in each direction with one down working being a mixed service. This reduction in service could not however save the line and on 10 October 1932 the Southern Railway announced that: 'In consequence of falling passenger traffic the passenger service on the Bishops Waltham line should be withdrawn after Saturday 31st December, and the 23 season ticket holders have been given notice accordingly.'
The last day of passenger services attracted few additional visitors and the Hampshire Observer reported: 'When we left Botley station promptly to time on Saturday evening the only passengers on board were the Stationmaster Mr. H. Wright, Messrs. W. H. Smith & Son’s bookstall attendant and myself. On the return journey from Bishops Waltham a little more interest was shown in the departure of the last train and a few more adventurous spirits joined the train to be numbered among the really last passengers to cover the journey.'
Although the passenger service had been withdrawn, Bishops Waltham station remained open with a twice-daily goods service; this was soon reduced to one train a day. The signal box at Bishops Waltham closed on 16 December 1935; all signals were removed and the branch was converted to hand operation.
Initially WW2 brought no changes but that was to change as the war progressed. When the bombing of Portsmouth intensified in 1940 the main Portsmouth warehouse belonging to Timothy Whites (chain of dispensing chemist and houseware stores) was destroyed. The company relocated temporarily to Swanmore House close to Bishops Waltham for 3½ years and during that period a large volume of merchandise was handled by both Bishops Waltham and Botley. Parcels and small goods at Bishops Waltham and large goods at Botley.
Later in the war, the Royal Engineers requisitioned Hazleholt Park to the north-east of Bishops Waltham. A large store was established there and a wide variety of military goods were brought in by rail to Bishops Waltham. At its peaks, this amounted to one train a day carrying goods such as dannett wire, pickets and steel hawsers, all believed to have been intended for the home defence following the Dunkirk evacuation. Everything arriving at the Bishops Waltham terminus was handled by military personnel who took over the stationmaster's office and established a REME workshop at the rear of the yard.
By 1944 the Royal Engineers had gone and the house was taken over by American servicemen and a fuel storage was established in the park as part of the build-up to the invasion of Europe. Large quantities petrol, aviation fuel and lubricants were brought in by rail, mostly in fifty gallon containers and often requiring up to two trains daily. The handling of this bulky traffic was eased by the American Military who increased the area of hard standing in the yard by infilling part of the pond.
The store was dismantled after D-Day but the branch still had a part to play in the war effort becoming a long siding for the storage of empty tank wagons. During this period all goods traffic normally handled at Bishops Waltham was transferred to the yard at Botley.
After the war branch life returned to normal with the return of the daily goods train. Nationalisation in January 1948 brought no immediate changes. With the popularity of rail enthusiasts excursions growing in the 1950s the branch once again handled occasional passenger services. The Railway Correspondence and Travel Society organised a railtour just covering the Bishops Waltham branch. A second railtour was organised by the Stephenson Locomotive Society on 3 May 1953 running from Gosport to Bishops Waltham then on to Havant.
By the middle of the 1950s there had been a huge drop in the type goods being handled It was clear that the branch was now living on borrowed time. The last railtour to visit Bishops Waltham was the Branch Line Society's Portsmouth Area railtour on 7 March 1959. Traffic dwindled even more that year, unable to compete with road transport. Following the withdrawal of the Saturday goods service and the weekday service reduced to two or three trains a week so it came as no surprise when final closure was announced for 27 April 1962.
As with the closure to passengers 30½ years earlier the last train almost passed unnoticed with only a handful of enthusiasts to see the passing of the branch on a cold and damp day. Railway staff did however put on a show with detonators at both ends of the train and at many of the crossings.
Shortly before the track was lifted the Hampshire Narrow Gauge Society looked at the possibility of laying a 2' gauge line along the track bed from Maddoxford on the outskirts of Botley to Bishops Waltham where a new station would be built to the south of the level crossing. These plans persisted till 1964 but eventually they lost interest and the proposal was forgotten.
Bishops Waltham station was demolished in the late 1960s to make way for road improvements but much of the track bed is still traceable and short section to the south of Bishops Waltham is now a public footpath. Some track still exists as a long siding at the southernmost end of the line. This is used by Foster Yeoman who operate an aggregate railhead depot and coated roadstone plant at Botley station. Two iron overbridges either side of Durley Halt are extant.
Tickets from Michael Stewart (except 0075 David Peareson). Route map drawn by Alan Young. Bradshaw from Nick Catford.
See other stations on the Bishops Waltham branch:
Durley Halt & Botley