Station Name: CHRISTON BANK

[Source: Alan Young]


Date opened:

1.7.1847

Location:

North of the level crossing on B6347, Springfield View

Company on opening:

Newcastle & Berwick Railway

Date closed to passengers:

5.5.1941; reopened 7.10.1946; closed again 15.9.1958

Date closed completely: 7.6.1965
Company on closing:

Passengers (1941): London & North Eastern Railway
Passengers (1958): British Railways (North Eastern Region)
Goods: British Rail (North Eastern Region)

Present state:

Station building and goods warehouse are both in residential use.

County: Northumberland
OS Grid Ref: NU213231
Date of visit: September 1962, February 2001

Notes: The Newcastle & Berwick Railway passed only a mile west of the large village of Embleton, but the station was given the name Christon Bank, after a farmstead about a quarter of a mile to the south. Had the station been called Embleton, the North Eastern Railway – the company which owned the station from 1854 – would perhaps have chosen to change its name because the Cockermouth, Keswick & Penrith Railway opened an Embleton station in 1865, and the NER usually showed an aversion to any of its stations sharing a name with another on its own or any other company’s lines. Although the station name was officially ‘Christon Bank’ – two words – in railway annals, and the Ordnance Survey used this form for the name of the village which developed close to the station, OS maps gave the station name as ‘Christonbank’, which was also how they rendered the farmstead’s name until the 1970s.

The station was opened with the line on 1 July 1847 and it was given a handsome and commodious Tudor/Jacobean (‘Jacobethan’) building which bore a strong family likeness to the other stations that Benjamin Green’s designed for the N&B Railway. The structure particularly resembled the buildings at Killingworth, which cost £1,129 to construct and Acklington (£1,085) while Christon Bank’s building cost a remarkably similar £1,135.

Christon Bank station was also typical of the N&B style in having two facing platforms. The station building was placed on the up platform and it is still standing. The two-storey structure is built of sandstone ashlar. Its projecting wings have kneelers, and raised gables topped with ball finials; the south wing has a canted a bay window on the ground floor, facing the platform. The larger window openings were designed with mullions (although these features have been removed) and the two upper-storey openings between the wings at the centre of the platform frontage, and on the other elevations, were also given small gables and finials. Two sets of quadruple chimneystacks soar above the central section of the building. A platform verandah, long removed, was clasped between the wings and supported at the front by pillars.

Between the station building and the level crossing is the goods shed, or warehouse, now converted for residential use.  It is a fitting neighbour to the station building, constructed of the same materials, and having a pitched roof, kneelers, raised gables and ball finials.

The down platform had an altogether more modest building: it was the typical N&B waiting shed, built of sandstone with a pent roof sloping down towards the platform edge.  To complement the station building on the opposite platform, the upper ends of the shed were given ball finials. Originally open to the elements, the shed was enclosed in NER days to provide greater comfort and a fireplace and chimney were installed at its northern end.

The signal box, located on the down side immediately south of the level crossing, was operating by October 1877. It was an NER N2 design with a stone base. In 1890 its Stevens frame had 24 levers. In 1912 the box was extended to accommodate 35 levers.

In April 1849 Reid’s first Monthly Time Table shows three train departures to Newcastle, at  8.07 and 11.37am and 6.21pm on weekdays, with Sunday departures at 7.54am and 6.10pm. Trains for Berwick left at 8.49am and at 3.26, 5.36 and 8.41pm, with Sunday departures at 9.04am and 8.01pm. At that time the limited stop services between Newcastle and Berwick usually called at Morpeth, Acklington, Lesbury (for Alnwick) and Belford, with some also serving Tweedmouth.  Bradshaw of February 1863 shows a reduced service with three weekday departures in each direction and only one each way on Sunday.

By the late 1860s the small settlement close to Christon Bank station amounted to a dozen-or-so cottages, the Rising Sun Inn, and the Blinkbonny Hotel immediately east of the station. Whilst some of the more isolated stations on the ECML never attracted housing and associated services, by 1897 Christon Bank had gained a Primitive Methodist chapel, just west of the station, and a pair of semidetached cottages for railway staff behind the down platform.

The 1867 OS map shows two sidings behind the northern end of the down platform (serving the coal depot) but the principal goods facilities were on the up side. The goods warehouse, adjacent to the up passenger platform and thus north of the level crossing, was entered by a siding from the south over the crossing; the goods dock, however, was located south of the crossing.

Christonbank Colliery, a quarry and lime works are shown on the 1867 OS map several hundred yards south of the station. Situated a very short distance east of the railway the colliery in particular would seem admirably placed to have been rail-served, but the map gives no evidence that it was. Research by Jermy (2011) has yielded nothing conclusive on any link with the main line or of a tramway that local residents suggest might have existed in connection with these former industrial sites.

Whilst the nearby colliery, quarry and lime works might not have contributed rail-borne traffic to Christon Bank station, it was to become one of the many wayside stations on the ECML in Northumberland to be associated with mines or quarries. The resistant igneous rock known as whinstone outcrops at various places in Northumberland and is valuable for road surfacing and as building stone, and by 1850 quarrying of this material was established at Embleton.  Jermy (2011) provides a wealth of information on many aspects of the quarry’s history and its importance to Christon Bank station. The output of Embleton Quarry was carted by road to Christon Bank station or to the small harbour at Craster to be sent further afield, but in 1895 a contract was offered for a tramway or wagonway to be constructed between the quarry, immediately north of Embleton village, and Christon Bank station. The tramway was a little less than 1½ miles in length and 2ft 9in gauge, and for most of its length it accompanied public roads, in the manner of some of the Irish narrow gauge lines. Its course can be seen on the accompanying one-inch OS map. Horse traction was used at first, but the first steam locomotive was acquired in 1904, and another in 1909. A plan of 1909 indicates that by that date at Christon Bank the tramway approached via a crossing over the Alnwick road, then split into two after entering the NER’s property. The first line consisted of a siding parallel to, and to the west of, two NER sidings; the second passed onto a loading dock with one NER siding to the east and another siding (leading to the goods shed) to the west. There was a run-round loop on the loading dock allowing the incoming loco to run around its train, attach itself to the other end and position the wagons where needed for unloading. In 1913 there were 31,375 tons of roadstone and 2,407 tons of building stone from the quarry dispatched from Christon Bank station. In addition to this mineral traffic, in the same year 202 tons of hay/clover and 276 vans of livestock were loaded at the station.

The Railway Clearing House Handbook of stations (1904) reported that Christon Bank had a full range of goods facilities, possessed a 5-ton capacity yard crane, and supervised the siding at Fallodon, the Grey family’s private station about a mile to the north: Christon Bank’s stationmaster also had charge of Fallodon. The layout of Christon Bank station in 1912 is shown in the accompanying plan. Click here for a larger version.

In common with most of the wayside stations on the East Coast main line in northern Northumberland the amount of passenger traffic at Christon Bank was modest, with 8,185 tickets sold in 1911. The population served by the station that year was reckoned to be 1,002.

The winter 1912-13 NER timetable shows the following service:


Up trains: weekdays

Destination

Down trains: weekdays

Destination

7.36am

Alnwick

10.02am

Beal

8.22am

Alnwick

12.35pm

Berwick

10.06am

Alnwick

1.36pm (Sat only)

Berwick

12.09am (Sat only)

Alnwick

3.36pm

Berwick

2.29pm

Alnmouth

5.18pm (Sat only)

Berwick

3.16pm (Sat only)

Alnmouth

7.03pm

Lucker

4.25pm (Sat only)

Alnmouth

9.05pm

Berwick

6.13pm

Alnmouth

-

-

Up trains: Sunday

Destination

Down trains: Sunday

Destination

7.11am

Newcastle

9.54am

Berwick

6.44pm

Newcastle

8.28pm

Berwick

The first northbound departure of the day is shown to run as far as Beal; this train waited at Beal for about half-an-hour, moving off the main line to enable a northbound express to call, before completing its journey to Berwick. Passengers on the 10.02am ex-Christon Bank could change at Belford or Beal to catch this faster train to Berwick or onward to Edinburgh.

In 1923 at the ‘Grouping’ the NER was absorbed into the new London & North Eastern Railway. The LNER seems to have made few changes at Christon Bank station, but it did install running-in nameboards with metal letters pinned to a wooden board. During LNER years Embleton Quarry reduced its dependence on the narrow gauge tramway to dispatch its stone. Before 1920 the enterprising owner possessed a couple of steam lorries to make deliveries of stone in the local area, but in the 1930s four petrol lorries were purchased, again for local deliveries. The tramway had fallen out of use by 1941; it is still shown on the OS one-inch map published in 1947. Passenger business at Christon Bank declined in the 1920s and ‘30s as bus services were provided through Embleton village. In summer 1931 Messrs Rutherford operated services between Alnwick, Embleton, Bamburgh and Berwick and Bolton Bros’ buses passed through the village on the route between Newcastle, Alnwick and Bamburgh. It is not apparent that any buses served Christon Bank at that time.

The LNER winter 1937-38 timetable:


Up trains: weekdays

Destination

Down trains: weekdays

Destination

8.16am

Alnwick

8.03am

Kelso

9.24am

Newcastle

10.07am

Beal

2.19pm

Newcastle

1.32pm

Berwick

4.24pm

Alnmouth

2.48pm

Berwick

5.32pm

Alnmouth

5.34pm

Berwick

-

-

7.55pm

Berwick

Up trains: Sunday

Destination

Down trains: Sunday

Destination

7.06am

Newcastle

9.45am

Berwick

6.24pm

Newcastle

8.09pm

Berwick

The morning train advertised as terminating at Beal was a durable feature of the timetable having been seen in the 1912-13 departures. The 5.11pm departure was shown in the public timetable to start at Christon Bank; however it is the same train that arrived from Alnmouth at 5.17pm and which had a rest-over at Christon Bank while an express overtook it, which involved moving the train off the main line. The timetable showed this train to be one class only, so it was presumably a steam railcar or a push-and-pull, which would have made the manoeuvres at Christon Bank straightforward.

Six of the main line stations between Alnmouth and Berwick handled so little passenger traffic that they were closed as a wartime economy on 5 May 1941 – Christon Bank was one of these. The LNER reopened them on 7 October 1946, probably responding to local pressure. It is thought that trains never called at Christon Bank on Sundays when the station reopened after the war. Significantly, each of these stations which closed during the war had closed again before the ‘Beeching Report’ was published in 1963.

From 1 January 1948 on nationalisation the ECML in Northumberland became part of British Railways’ North Eastern Region. Under the new regime there was no significant investment in Christon Bank station. Regional identity was shown by repainting the nameboards tangerine. The station continued, as it had from its opening, to be lit by oil lanterns. By summer 1950 train departures were few:


Up trains: weekdays

Destination

Down trains: weekdays

Destination

8.10am

Newcastle

9.18am

Berwick

9.52am (Saturday only)

Newcastle

5.29pm (Mon-Fri)

Edinburgh

5.45pm

Newcastle

5.37pm (Saturday only)

Edinburgh

-

-

7.08pm (Mon-Fri)

Berwick

-

-

7.11pm (Saturday only)

Berwick

No Sunday departures

-

No Sunday departures

-

In its later years this rural station was little used, booking only 440 tickets in 1951. In the final timetable of summer 1958 there were only two departures in each direction on weekdays from Christon Bank. The station closed to passengers together with nine others between Newcastle and Berwick on 15 September 1958, but goods traffic continued to be dealt with.  Embleton Quarry, which had been such an important source of mineral traffic for Christon Bank station, ceased production in 1962/63, and the station closed entirely on 7 June 1965.

A new frame of 26 levers was installed in the signal box in July 1959. The level crossing gates were replaced with barriers on 21 October 1973, and the signal box closed on 8 September 1974. Thereafter the crossing was supervised from Chathill by CCTV, but when this box closed in December 1990 supervision was transferred to Alnmouth. The base of the Christon Bank box has been retained as a relay room.

The platforms and the down side waiting shed were demolished by the late 1960s, but both the station building and the goods warehouse have been renovated for residential use. Ironically, without a station to serve them, small housing estates have been built either side of the railway south of the level crossing. One of the estates is on the site of the goods yard, and appropriately one of its roads is known as ‘The Sidings’.  The route of the narrow gauge tramway from Embleton Quarry to Christon Bank station can still be identified on the ground, and a broad grass verge by the road just east of Christon Bank marks its course.

Click here for a brief history of the East Coast Main Line
in Northumberland.

Route maps drawn by Alan Young. Tickets from Michael Stewart.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  • Addyman, John F (Editor) A history of the Newcastle & Berwick Railway (North Eastern Railway Association, 2011) – especially Chapter 5 ‘The buildings’ by Bill Fawcett
  • Biddle, Gordon Victorian stations (David & Charles, 1973)
  • Fawcett, Bill A history of North Eastern Railway architecture Vol 1: The Pioneers (North Eastern Railway Association 2001)
  • Fleming, John M   Little Mill station – and a royal visitor in North Eastern Express No.96 (NERA August 1984)
  • Young, Alan Railways in Northumberland (Martin Bairstow, 2003)
  • Quick, Michael   Railway passenger stations in Great Britain: a chronology (RCTS 2009)
  • Clinker, C R   Clinker’s register of closed passenger stations and goods depots  (Avon Anglia 1978)
  • Jermy, Roger   Northern Northumberland’s minor railways Vol 3: Sandstone, whinstone & gravel lines (Oakwood Press 2011)
  • Hoole, K    Railway stations of the North East (David & Charles 1985)

See other ECML stations:Tweedmouth, Scremerston, Goswick, Beal, Smeafield, Crag Mill, Belford, Lucker,
Newham, Fallodon,
Little Mill, Longhoughton, Lesbury, Warkworth, Longhirst, Ashington Colliery Junction, Morpeth, Stannington, Plessey, Annitsford (1st), Annitsford (2nd), Killingworth, Forest Hall, Heaton (2nd), Heaton (1st), Durham, Croft Spa, Eryholme, Otterington, Alne & Tollerton


Christon Bank Station Gallery 1: c1910 - September 1978

Christon Bank station is seen c1910, looking north from the signal box. On the up platform (right) is the handsome ‘Jacobethan’ building provided at the station’s opening by the Newcastle & Berwick Railway. It is constructed of ‘Northumbrian Freestone’, a sandstone eminently suited to the urbane smooth finish which lends dignity to the structure. Other stations opened by the N&B in 1847 had similar buildings, and Killingworth possessed one which resembles this one but has subtle differences in detail. The sandstone-built goods shed, with its buttressed gable end, is on the far right, and a waiting shelter, also of sandstone, is on the down platform. The oil lanterns and distant nameboard are North Eastern Railway fixtures – the company which owned the station from 1854 until 1922.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection



1863 1:2,500 OS map.  Ordnance Survey maps invariably rendered the station name Christon Bank as a single word, although in railway annals two words were always used. The farmstead after which the station is named lies to the south of this map extract. The passenger station is north of the level crossing, with the main building on the east (up) platform and the waiting shed opposite it on the west (down) platform. However the goods warehouse (not named) is also north of the crossing, on the east side, approached by a single rail track over the level crossing adjacent to the two tracks of the main line. The coal depot (not named) is served by the two sidings behind the west platform. The goods dock is south of the crossing, east of the main line. The signal box, which was in use by late 1877, is not shown. The village at Christon Bank consists of an interrupted ribbon development south-west of the station, including the Rising Sun Inn. The Blinkbonny Hotel adjoins the station. Several hundred yards south of the station is Christonbank Colliery, apparently open at the time of the survey.  Although it is so close to the main line, no evidence has been found that the colliery was ever linked to it by a siding.


1897 1:2,500 OS map. The village of Christon Bank is now named, and it has acquired a Primitive Methodist chapel, close to the station (promoted to a ‘church’ in the later map); however the presence of the station seems not to have prompted housing development since the earlier edition of the map. The goods shed is now named, and the signal box, immediately south of the level crossing, has been added. Christonbank Colliery has closed and been removed from the map.

1923 1: 2,500 OS map.  A narrow gauge tramway or wagonway has been built to carry whinstone from Embleton Quarry, and it can be seen hugging the southern edge of the road past the Blinkbonny Hotel before bifurcating and entering the goods yard of Christon Bank station, south of the level crossing. The tramway was disused by 1941. In other respects little has changed at the station since the map of 1897.


Christon Bank station, looking north from the level crossing c1910. The station building and goods shed are on the up platform (right); both are of sturdy sandstone construction – and survive in 2015. These buildings, designed for the Newcastle & Berwick Railway by Benjamin Green for the station’s opening in 1847, were given the ‘Jacobethan’ styling which was fashionable at the time for country houses. The more modest waiting shelter on the down platform is also of sandstone, and the decorative ball finial where the roof meets the back wall complements those on the station house. This shelter at first had an open front, but the North Eastern Railway took pity on passengers waiting in the harsh Northumbrian climate and enclosed it, as the company did at other stations on the route.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection


Seen from the vantage point of the signal box, a southbound express is passing through Christon Bank station c1955. The station is still tidily presented; its fine Gothic building does not carry the encrustation of soot which disfigured so many railway buildings, and the garden seen to the right of the locomotive is carefully tended. The LNER running-in nameboards can be seen on both platforms. Some of the oil lanterns have been removed from their cradles.
Photo from Helen Campbell collection, also from Tommy MacKenley collection courtesy of Roger Jermy


The goods shed (foreground) and station building at Christon Bank station are seen from the level crossing c1971. The station closed to passengers in 1958, and the platforms were
demolished in the 1960s.
Photo by John Mann


The station building and goods shed at Christon Bank station are seen in September 1972 from a northbound train. The station had closed to passengers 14 years earlier. The building in the foreground appears to be derelict, with a window removed and the roof, to the left, damaged. The gable end of the goods shed is seen in the background, notable for its Gothic-arched opening and the ball finials on the crest of the gables which complement the decorations on the station house.
Photo by Alan Young


Christon Bank station building, looking north-east across the East Coast main line tracks in September 1978. The dignified structure has been refurbished since 1972, but in the process some of the original character has been lost, notably by the removal of the mullions to allow modern windows to be installed. The verandah between the two wings has been removed, and the trace of its sloping roof is visible on the stonework of the far wing. Happily, the canted bay on the near wing has been retained, as have the decorative ball finials and the tall chimneystacks.
Photo by John Mann

Click here for Christon Bank Station Gallery 2:
1988 - May 2009


 

 

 

[Source: Alan Young]




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