Station Name: COCKFIELD

[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 14.11.1870
Location: On the south side of Howe Lane
Company on opening: Great Eastern Railway
Date closed to passengers: 10.4.1961
Date closed completely: 19.4.1965
Company on closing: British Railways (Eastern Region)
Present state: The platform and station building are extant with little change in the past 40 years. The building has been weatherproofed and is used for solid fuel storage. The adjacent stationmaster's house is in private occupation. The trackbed was neatly grassed in the early 2000s but has now returned to nature.
County: Suffolk
OS Grid Ref: TL904544
Date of visit: March 1976 & July 2013

Notes: Cockfield station had a single platform on the down side of the line with a single-storey rectangular brick building with a hipped slate roof. This comprised a booking office, waiting room and ladies room with a gents; toilet at the north end. Opened as Cockfield, the station was renamed Cockfield Suffolk on 1 October 1927 to avoid confusion with Cockfield in Durham which was itself renamed Cockfield Fell in 1923.

Cockfield handled a full range of goods traffic from the small yard opposite the platform, this comprised a single siding with a cattle dock. F J Jennings' private siding ran from the yard to the adjacent Cockfield Hall. The hall, which was demolished in 1888, was bought by the renowned Newmarket trainer Thomas Jennings in 1865 and turned into a stud farm. He built the southern block of the buildings for use as mares boxes with an exercise yard, and the eastern strip as a cart lodge with a granary over it. The western side was the working horse stables and chaff house. When the railway came through in 1870 a siding was provided terminating under it so that grain sacks could be lowered into wagons. The siding was also used for bringing in cattle from Wales and animal feed in the form of sugar beet pulp from Bury St Edmunds. The siding was taken out of use c1940 when a tank trap was dug all the way along the western side of the line as part of our wartime defences. This were backed up with the row of pillboxes manned by the Home Guard.

Access to the yard was controlled by a signal box on the down side at the end of the platform, this was build around the turn of the 20th century. After closure to passenger traffic in 1961 the station remained open for goods traffic until 19 April 1965.

On 1846 an Act of Parliament authorised the Colchester, Stour Valley, Sudbury & Halstead Railway to build a line between Marks Tey and Sudbury. In June 1847 further Acts were obtained allowing the railway company to extend from Sudbury to Clare with a branch from Melford (Long Melford from 1884) 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 July 2nd 1849 but the extension to Bury St. Edmunds was not built. On January 1st 1854, the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR) took over the Eastern Union Railway. Another company now emerged; the Sudbury & Clare Railway which planned to make up for the failure of the Stour Valley company to reach Bury St. Edmunds as approved in the original 1846 Act. By an Act of July 1860, the Sudbury & Clare Company was empowered to build a lone 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 (via Melford) to Shelford on the London-Cambridge main line, as well as the branch from Melford to Bury St. Edmunds.

On August 6th 1861, 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 also renewed the authorisation for the proposed ECR lines to proceed and the Melford to Bury St. Edmunds line opened on August 9th 1865 with intermediate stations at Bury Eastgate, Welnetham, Cockfield and Lavenham. The line was single throughout except for passing loops following the Upper Lark Valley to its first station.

Lavenham was a small textile town but the industry was already in decline when the railway opened. During the period prior to the First World War, the line saw some of its best traffic. The war brought little reduction in traffic but by the 1920s the familiar pattern of road competition was setting in although rail traffic continued quite healthily for some years; some economies were made. After WW1 the economic decline of the area deepened as did the population in many towns and villages in the area together with traffic on the line. At its peak, there were 5 or 6 trains a day between Bury and Long Melford with 2 or 3 of these continuing to Marks Tey or Colchester but this was reduced in later years.

Apart from local traffic, the line provided no real alternative to the Bury - Colchester service via Ipswich and elderly rolling stock finished its life on the line which didn't help with competition from road traffic.

When the Second World War came, the situation changed dramatically; passenger services were reduced although freight services remained active. Changes came when British Railways announced a modernisation programme; from January 1st 1959, steam was scrapped and replaced by Diesel Multiple Units.

Although passenger traffic showed some improvement, it was not enough to overcome the increasing losses being incurred. Passenger traffic between Long Melford and Bury St. Edmunds had become very light and the line closed to passengers on April 10th 1961 with freight traffic surviving between Bury and Lavenham until 19.4.1965.

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

To see the other stations on the Bury St. Edmunds - Long Melford branch line click on the station name: Bury St. Edmunds Eastgate, Welnetham & Lavenham

See also: Stour Valley Railway
Colne Valley Railway
Saffron Walden Branch Line

Cockfield station seen from the Howe Lane bridge in the early years of the 20th century. Note the posters on the wall, the top right poster says 'For sale - old railway carriage bodies £7'.
Photo from John Mann collection

1885 1:2,500 OS map shows the layout of the station and goods yard with the dock shown to the west of the siding. Jennings' siding into Cockfield Hall is shown. At this time the station didn't have a signal box.

1904 1:2,500 OS map. A signal box has been provided at the end of the platform and a stationmaster's house to the north of the station has now also been provided

Cockfield station seen from the road bridge in the early years of the 20th century.
Photo from John Mann collection

Cockfield station looking south c 1950s.
Photo from John Mann collection

Cockfield station looking south c 1950s.

A DMU bound for Long Melford waits at Cockfield station c1960.

Cockfield station looking south shortly before closure.

The last passenger train to stop at Cockfield station was a private charter on 4 June 1961. Between Long Melford and Lavenham this train was advertised as a 'Ramblers' Special' from Liverpool Street and carried a headboard 'The Last Train'. Once at Lavenham the train was used for a private excursion (organised by G.R. Lockie) running on to Bury St. Edmunds. It returned to Liverpool Street
by the same route. The goods dock is seen on the right

Cockfield Station looking south in March 1976.
hoto by Nick Catford

Cockfield station looking south in October 1976.
hoto by Alan Young

Cockfield station seen from the former goods yard in April 2005.
hoto by Iain Addis

Cockfield station building in July 2013. The building has remained largely unchanged for 40 years, It has been weatherproofed by the current owner and is used for sold fuel storage, The gents' toilet is
seen on the right.
Photo by Dave Carson

Cockfield station looking south from Howe Lane in January 2024.
Photo by Martin Stubbins

Cockfield station building in Janyary 2024. The building has remained largely unchanged for 40 years. The track bed was neatly grassed in the early 2000s but has now been allowed to return to nature.
Photo by Martin Stubbins

Cockfield station looking north in January 2024.
Photo by Martin Stubbins




:[Source: Nick Catford]

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