Station Name: HERTINGFORDBURY
|Date opened:||First in timetable December 1858|
|Location:||On the east side of St. Mary's Lane|
|Company on opening:||Hertford & Welwyn Junction Railway|
|Date closed to passengers:||18.6.1951|
|Date closed completely:||5.3.1962|
|Company on closing:||British Railways (Eastern Region)|
|Present state:||Station building and platform extant in private residence alongside the Cole Green Way. The west end of the station building has been demolished with new extensions added at both ends.|
|OS Grid Ref:||TL311117|
|Date of visit:||April 1975, March 1976 & 1.1.2011|
Notes: The Hertford branch opened on 1st March 1858 but Hertingfordbury station did not appear in company timetables until December 1858.
The station had a single platform on the up side of the line comprising a two-storey stationmaster's house with a single-storey booking office alongside. There was a small goods yard to the east of the station comprising a loop and two short sidings.
After closure to passengers on 18th June 1951 the station remained open for goods traffic but was downgraded to an unmanned public siding, finally closing on 1st August 1962. The station retained gas lamps until the end. The station building has never been derelict. A Mrs Flanders, widow of a former platelayer, lived in the house for over forty years until her death in the 1970s. After she died an approach was made to Hertford County Council to relocate the Great Molewood Railway Museum to the station but an agreement could not be reached. (The Great Molewood Railway Museum was on the down side of the Hertford Loop at the North portal of Molewood Tunnel.) The house was then used by Hertfordshire County Council as accommodation to let for school teachers. The station building has now been radically altered, and the stationmaster's house is now the only original part of the building. The single-storey at the east end has been extended with two new bays across the platform; that at the west end has been demolished, with a new two-storey extension added.
The station was the setting for scenes in the 1936 film When Knights Were Bold. In 1970 the station was used for series 2 of the children's TV programme Catweazle, which was broadcast in 1971.
The Cole Green Way footpath - a cycleway - passes in front of the station, with a small car park at the west end of the station.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HERTFORD NORTH TO WELWYN GARDEN CITY LINE
On 3rd July 1854, the Hertford & Welwyn Junction Railway received parliamentary authority to build a line from the Eastern Counties Railway at Hertford to a triangular junction with the GNR at Digswell with running powers into Digswell (which was later renamed Welwyn North). On 30th September 1854, there was a proposal to extend this line across the GNR to Luton and Dunstable linking three established railway companies (ECR, GNR & LNWR). Not wanting to be left out, the GNR offered to work the line between Hatfield and Luton although it was not prepared to provide any finance.
The Hertford line was opened to goods traffic on the last day of February 1888, with passenger services running from 1st March 1858 between Hertford (often referred to as Cowbridge) and Welwyn Junction on the GNR; the service was operated jointly by the GNR and the ECR.
Welwyn Junction station provided interchange facilities with the Great Northern, and passengers could continue their journey south towards Kings Cross or north towards Peterborough. No intermediate stations were opened with the line, but by December 1858 stations at Cole Green and Hertingfordbury appeared in company timetables. The line continued east for a further 1200 yards beyond Hertford station to connect with the Eastern Counties terminus (later Hertford East) but this connection was never used by passenger trains.
Work on the Luton line had been progressing during the amalgamation negotiations, and the first section of the line between Luton and Dunstable opened for passenger traffic on 3rd May 1858.
Work at the Welwyn end of the line had started in April 1856, but little was done. The formation of the Hertford, Luton & Dunstable Railway was authorised by parliament on 28th June 1858 with new capital available to complete the line. On 28th January 1859 work was once again underway, and there was even a second 'cutting of the first sod' ceremony. On 19th April 1860 the H & LDR informed both the Eastern Counties Railway and the GNR that they were terminating the 1858 agreement. The GNR immediately took steps to take over the line because of its strategic importance as a link between the three main lines; a Parliamentary Bill was prepared to facilitate this. At this time the line was nearing completion, with a special train carrying LNWR officials on 12th June and another 'special' on 17th July for company shareholders. After passing its Board of Trade inspection, the line between Luton and the Great Northern was opened to both goods and passenger traffic on 1st September 1860.
Welwyn Junction station closed on the same day with trains on both lines making a junction with the Great Northern, and the services terminated at Hatfield where a bay platform was provided for Hertford trains..
The Hertford, Luton & Dunstable Railway was absorbed by the GNR under the Great Northern Railway Act of 12th June 1861. This gave the GNR exclusive rights to operate the line. In December 1868 new parallel lines into Hatfield were brought into use for both branch services, and the earlier junctions were removed in January 1869.
In an attempt to attract more passengers to the Hertford line railmotors were introduced in 1905, and two new halts (Attimore Hall and Hatfield Hyde) between Welwyn junction and Cole Green first appeared in public timetables in May 1905, but they were not well used and closed a month later.In 1920 the new town of Welwyn Garden City was founded by Sir Ebenezer Howard, following his previous experiment in Letchworth Garden City. Howard had called for the creation of planned towns that were to combine the benefits of the city and the countryside and to avoid the disadvantages of both. During the construction of the new town, temporary contractors’ halts were provided at the junction of both the Hertford and Luton lines, close to the site of the earlier Welwyn Junction station. On 14th August 1920 the halt on the Luton line became a public station, known as Welwyn Garden City Halt; however the halt on the Hertford line did not and was closed once the construction of Welwyn Garden City had been completed.
A new through station at Hertford North opened on 2nd June 1924 with the opening of the Hertford loop line, when the Enfield branch was extended north to create a diversionary route for the main line to King’s Cross. The new station was less well sited for the town centre than the earlier branch terminus at Cowbridge but it did provide Hertford with a service north to Stevenage for the first time. Cowbridge was now redundant and closed to passengers although it continued to handle goods traffic as there were no goods facilities at the new station.
Sentinel-Cammell steam railcars were tried on the line in 1930s and, although popular with passengers, could not cater for peak demand. From 17th September 1944 most trains from Hertford terminated at Welwyn Garden City rather than Hatfield.
In common with many other branch lines, passenger numbers went into rapid decline after the war. In 1950 there were 5 down trains on weekdays with an extra train on Saturdays. There were 6 up trains on weekdays and 7 on Saturdays, and no Sunday service. It came as no surprise when closure was announced for 18th June 1951. The last train, the 7.18 pm service from Hertford North saw a number of passengers wearing Victorian costume to commemorate the passing of the line. The last two passenger service to use the line were railtours, an unadvertised Welwyn - Hertford branch railtour organised by the Stephenson Locomotive Society on 21st November 1959. Passengers arrived at Welwyn Garden City by service train from Kings Cross. They then transferred to a 2-car Cravens DMU for the journey to Hertford East via Cowbridge where they were booked to return to Liverpool Street via Broxbourne on a normal service. The second was the South Bedfordshire Locomotive Club's Lea Flyer on 16th September 1961 which ran from Welwyn Garden City to Hertford North, back to Welwyn Garden City, then on to Luton Bute Street.
After closure to passengers in 1951, the branch was used for the location of a number of films until the track was lifted in July 1967, with just a short section remaining to serve two factories, GKN Ltd and Norton Abrasives, near the site of Attimore Hall Halt. During the electrification of the East Coast Main Line the Hertford line was severed between Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City during the construction of a new flyover south of Welwyn Garden City. After this, the only access to the branch was from the Welwyn Garden City goods yard. Traffic to to GKN ceased in the mid 1970s although the siding officially remained open and by 1981 Norton Abrasives received one train per week with four to six wagons. The last working was on 12th November 1981 when a Class 31 collected empty wagons. Two weeks later two short pieces of rail were removed from the track at the point where the branch swung away from the main line and the remaining track was quickly lifted.
The 6.5 mile Cole Green Way cycle and bridleway between Welwyn Garden City and Hertford now follows the course of the line. It is part of National Cycle Network Route 61, and the Lea Valley Walk.
Sources: Hatfield, Luton & Dunstable Railway by G & S Woodward (1977). Published by Oakwood Press ISBN 978-0-853614-58-6.
For further reading see Hertfordshire's lost railways by Keith Scholey ISBN ISBN 1 84033231 X and Branch Lined around Hertford & Hatfield by Vic Mitchell & Keith Smith (2009) Published by Middleton Press ISBN 978-1-906008-58-1. Other web sites: Lost Lines includes a series of photographs taken along the Hertford - Hatfield line in 1990.
To see other stations on the Hertford North - Welwyn Garden City line click on the station name: Welwyn Garden City, Welwyn Junction, Attimore Hall Halt, Hatfield Hyde Halt, Cole Green & Hertford North
|Last updated: Sunday, 21-May-2017 10:09:52 BST||
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