Notes: Clare was one of approximately 30 'GER 1865' stations built to a standard design. The GER 1865 type had a complete architectural uniformity for station buildings, waiting shelters, crossing keeper’s house and goods sheds, which even extended to joinery and ornamental brickwork, including a distinctive type of panelled brick walling used at the rear of the platforms. The style was modular in nature so that various combinations of basic elements could be used according to the requirements of the particular location.
Clare was a medium size GER 1865 type with two facing platforms and a goods shed. The main station building was on the north (up) side; it had an H-shaped plan with the station master’s house forming the east (right) range, and the booking hall forming the central and west (left) ranges. There was a glazed canopy over the station entrance between the two wings of the building and a verandah on the platform side; this had a central opening and large windows above vertical weatherboarding. The building was of red brick laid in Flemish bond with gault brick dressings below a hipped slate roof. The booking hall had a central timber partition with the booking office next to the house and a public booking hall. The end section was the waiting room with an external extension for lavatories at the west end.
On the opposite platform there was a waiting shelter. This had an open front flanked by large windows with vertical weatherboarding, similar to the verandah on the up platform; the weatherboarding was, at some time, replaced with brick on both the waiting shelter and the main building. There was bench seating around two sides and an open fire. There were two small rooms on either side of the open shelter; that to the left was a waiting room with a lamp room to the right. This building was also under a hipped slate roof with two chimneystacks.
The station layout is shown on the 1904 1:2,500 OS map reproduced below. The goods yard was on the up side with one siding to the east serving a coal depot. There were also two timber storage sheds here. To the west side there were several sidings: one passed through the goods shed while another passed in front of it. From these sidings two further sidings ran east, either side of a cattle dock behind the west end of the platform. Cattle pens were sited on the dock. The goods yard could hold up to 50 wagons. No crane is shown on the map although the Railway Clearing House Handbook of Stations for 1904 lists a 1 ton 10 cwt capacity crane and this is shown at the east end of the goods shed on later maps.
Initially there was no signal box but by the turn of the twentieth century a signal box was built on the up platform to the east of the station buildings.
The 1957 1:2,500 OS map (also reproduced below) shows the storage sheds to the east of the station had been removed and the coal yard siding had been realigned at an angle to the main line. This happened sometime in the mid 1950s as the sheds were still there in 1953.
Clare goods yard closed on 12 September 1966 but the passenger service survived another seven months and was withdrawn from 6 March 1967
The signal box was destroyed by fire in the late 1960s and subsequently demolished. In June 1972 Clare Castle Country Park opened. The park comprised the thirteenth century motte and bailey castle earthworks and remains of the keep on 15 acres of land donated by Anthony de Fontblanque and 4½ acres of railway land with the station and goods yard on the inner bailey, bought for £10,000. The park is crossed by the Stour Valley Path. The goods shed was adapted as the country park visitors’ centre with the park ranger living in the station house. The goods shed still has its loading dock, and the roof is largely intact and consists of six trusses with a tie beam, principal rafter and king post. A short section of track was laid outside the goods shed. A goods wagon is kept in the shed and is brought out during the summer. In 2004 the 1865 type crane at nearby Glemsford was donated to Clare Station where it stands on a plinth outside the goods shed close to the site of the original crane.
The park is owned by Suffolk County Council and managed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council. In 2012, owing to budget cuts, the county asked for proposals from groups interested in assuming ownership and management of the park. Clare Town Council has been engaged in lengthy negotiations with the county council and has now formed a group of trustees-elect to manage the park and buildings.
Although the facility remains open to visitors, the park ranger was made redundant as a result of the cuts and the former railway buildings were boarded up. Local people concerned about the future of the buildings contacted historians at the Great Eastern Railway Society, and on the back of their research, an application was made to English Heritage to list the buildings.
In February 2013 English Heritage granted Grade II listing both to the station buildings and the goods shed. The reason for listing is that Clare is now the only example of the GER 1865 type to retain a full set of buildings, i.e., the main station building with incorporated stationmaster’s house, platform shelter and goods shed.
An application has been made by Suffolk County Council to make alterations to the inside and outside of the Grade II listed house, turning it into a two-storey residential property, an office and an education centre.
Click here for the English Heritage list entry for Clare station building. This included a very detailed internal and external description of the buildings. Click here for the goods shed list entry.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE STOUR VALLEY
In 1846 the Colchester, Stour Valley, Sudbury & Halstead Railway
was authorised by parliament to build a 12 mile line between Marks
Tey and Sudbury. On 1.6.1847 further Acts were obtained allowing
the company to extend from Sudbury to Clare with a branch from
Melford to Bury St. Edmunds. The company was leased to the Ipswich
& Bury St. Edmunds Railway which was in turn absorbed by the
Eastern Union Railway the following month.
The line from Marks Tey to Sudbury opened on 2.7.1849 and on
1.1.1854, the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR) took over the Eastern
Union Railway. In July 1860, the newly formed Sudbury & Clare
Railway Company revived the 1847 Act and by a new Act of July
1860 they were empowered to build a line from Sudbury to Clare
via Melford. However, as soon as the powers were obtained, the
ECR took over and immediately sought extended powers to build
from Sudbury to Shelford on the London-Cambridge main line, plus
a branch from Melford to Bury St. Edmunds. At the same time, the
Colne Valley Company, anxious to be independent from the ECR,
sought approval for a line to Cambridge.
A bitter struggle between the two companies ensued but the Colne
Valley Bill was rejected while the ECR received approval to go
ahead. However, further changes were imminent and in August 1862
an amalgamation of companies including the ECR came about and
the Great Eastern Railway (GER) came into being.
The Act renewed the authorisation for the proposed ECR lines
to proceed with the addition of a connecting line at Haverhill
between the Stour Valley and Colne Valley railways. The first
section between Shelford and Haverhill opened on 1.6.1865. The
remaining lines from Haverhill to Sudbury followed on 9.8.1865.
During the period prior to the First World War, the line saw
some of its best traffic with through trains between Cambridge
and Clacton via Sudbury. The war brought little reduction in traffic
but by the 1920's the familiar pattern of road competition was
setting in although rail traffic continued quite healthily for
some years; some economies were made but many excursion trains
continued to run.
When the Second World War came, the situation changed dramatically.
Passenger services were reduced although freight services remained
active. When the allied bomber offensive began, the lines assumed
new importance with airfields being established throughout the
After the war excursion trains returned once again to Clacton
and other seaside resorts. Changes came when British Rail announced
a modernisation programme. From 1.1. 1959, steam was scrapped
and replaced by diesel Railbuses and Multiple Units. Although
passenger traffic showed some improvement, it was not enough to
overcome the increasing losses being incurred.
In April 1965, the British Railways Board gave notice of their
intention to close the line from Marks Tey to Cambridge with total
closure planned for 31.12.1966. The Minister of Transport refused
permission to close the Sudbury to Marks Tey section because of
commuter needs and planned development at Sudbury.
The freight service was withdrawn from all the stations on the
Stour Valley line during the 1960's; the last station to lose
its freight service was Haverhill on 31.10.1966. Closure of the
Sudbury - Cambridge passenger service was delayed while local
councils considered providing annual subsidy; this was eventually
refused because of the high cost. The line from Sudbury to Shelford
closed entirely on 6.3.1967. In November 1969 the contract for
the removal of the permanent way was awarded to A. King and Sons
of Norwich and the track was lifted the following year.
The line to Sudbury survived several further attempts to close
it and after the 1974 energy crisis and the threat of petrol rationing
it was reprieved in the interests of the local community.
The Cambridge to Sudbury Rail Renewal Association was formed
in 1995 to campaign for the restoration of the rail service between
and Sudbury and Cambridge. A full feasibility study was commissioned
in 2003 which showed that 73.2% of people surveyed would use the
railway. It was then decided to form a limited company to present
a more professional approach.
The aim of the Cambridge
to Colchester Railway Development Company is to reopen the
line in two stages. Initially the line will be reinstated between
Cambridge and Haverhill with the remainder to follow at a later
date. It is intended that the new line should carry both passengers
For further reading see: 'The
Stour Valley Railway' by B D J Walsh. Published 1978 by Stour
Valley Railway Preservation Society. ISBN 0 95064733 0 (£1.20
Tickets from Michael Stewart. Route map drawn by Alan Young. Bradshaw from Nick Catford.
To see the other
stations on the Stour Valley Railway line click on the station
Long Melford, Sudbury,
Bures & Chappel
& Wakes Colne
See also Colne
Long Melford - Bury St.
Edmunds Branch Line
Bartlow - Audley
End Branch Line