Notes: Millbrook station serves the villages of Millbrook and Marston Moretaine. Opened in 1846 by the Bedford Railway the station had two low facing platforms. The main station buildings were on the up side adjacent to the level crossing and were built in a half-timbered Gothic Revival style with high pitched gables and a fish-scale tiled roof that had been insisted upon by the 7th Duke of Bedford for stations close to the Woburn Estate. A public house called the ‘Morteyne Arms’ opened opposite the station.
The station was initially called Marston but was renamed Ampthill in March 1847 becoming Ampthill (Marston) in January 1850. The Midland Railway opened its own Ampthill station on 13 July 1868 which prompted a further change of name to Millbrook for Ampthill in March 1877. ‘For Ampthill’ was officially dropped from the station name only in 1 July 1910. There seems to be some confusion over dates. The dates above are listed by Clinker, however Quick and Simpson both state the name Millbrook was adopted in 1877. However an 1886 ticket reproduced here shows Millbrook (for Ampthill). The Railway Clearing House Handbook (1904) shows the station as Millbrook (for Ampthill).
The building is partly faced with roughcast render. The gable facing onto the platform has ornamental timber framing is in cross and herringbone pattern with a projecting bay window from the booking office on the ground floor. The gable has a verandah porch on the north side, its braces forming a pointed arch; this is the entrance to the booking hall and is approached by walking along the platform from the level crossing. The building at Millbrook differs from others on the line where the gable is flanked by verandah porches. The gables have pierced decorative bargeboards with finials. The upper floor of the building was the stationmaster’s house while the lower floor included the booking office, booking hall, ladies’ waiting room, general waiting room and a porters’ room. The down platform was provided with a tongue-and-groove plank waiting room with plain valance at the west end of the platform. This has now been demolished and replaced with a long ‘bus shelter’.
The ticket above was issued between 1847 and 1850 with the monogram of the LNWR on the reverse. The date is confusing as the 26 does not refer to a year. It is either train 10 on Sep 26 or train 26 on Sep 10.
The 1886 Ordnance Survey map does not show a signal box but by 1901 an external lever frame, originally raised on a brick base, had been provided next to the crossing keeper’s cabin on the up side to the east of the crossing.
From an early date the station handled considerable goods traffic including 3,278 tons of coal in 1848. Sidings were provided on both sides of the line. The 1886 Ordnance Survey map shows a single siding with a weighbridge on the down side running behind the platform. The main yard was on the up side with two sidings running into a cattle dock and pens behind the east end up platform. Unusually, there was a goods shed placed at right angles to the sidings reached by a short siding running at right angles across the main line and sidings, with a turnplate on each of the two sidings it crossed. There was also a small stable next to the goods shed and a wagon repairer. By 1925 the line crossing the main railway tracks had been removed, but the turnplate to the south of the line was retained so that wagons could reach the goods shed.
With the development of the brick industry in the twentieth century a new brick siding was laid near the station on 7 May 1928 with five clerks being employed at the station primarily to deal with the brick traffic. The chimneys of the Millbrook Brick Company could be seen clearly from the station. The brick traffic peaked in the 1930s, with a second brickworks called ‘Marston Moretaine’ being opened a mile from the station; although it was too far for a siding, bricks were transported by road to the station where they were loaded onto rail wagons.
All freight facilities were withdrawn on 3 August 1964 although a private siding remained in use after that date. Millbrook was reduced to an unstaffed halt from 15 July 1968.
The Grade II listed station building was restored with few external alterations in the early 1980s and converted into a private residence. In 1999, the low station platforms – the last of their type remaining on the line – were rebuilt to the standard height.
Millbrook, in common with other stations on the Marston Vale Line, is covered by the Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership, which aims to increase use of the line by involving local people. Services are operated by a Class 153 single-car diesel multiple unit and 2-car class 150 unit. Millbrook is now the principal stop for the Marston Vale Millennium Country Park. The MVCRP encourages local communities to ‘adopt a station’ by setting up a group of people to look after, and improve, the stations. Station adoption groups have been set up at Aspley Guise, Bow Brickhill, Fenny Stratford, Lidlington, Millbrook, and Woburn Sands.
Millbrook was the first station to be adopted in 2011. The ‘Friends of Millbrook Station’ was set up by a committed group of volunteers from the local area. They were quickly hard at work, helping clear some the rubbish and brambles from opposite the station. To date they have achieved many things including the provision of flower pots and planters on the platforms which have also been decorated with classic British Railways signs. The have also succeeded in persuading London Midland to put up a brand new shelter on the Bletchley platform and have negotiated with Central Bedfordshire Council to put up some signage between the station and nearby villages. One of the ‘Friends’ owns the station building.
Click here to read more about the Friends of Millbrook station.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BEDFORD
A group of local businessmen first promoted a line to Bedford in 1844. The proposal was supported by engineer George Stephenson. A public meeting was held on 23 April 1844 where there was some discussion about where the line should form a junction with the London & Birmingham. Stephenson was keen that the junction should be at Bletchley and although there was spirited opposition his proposal was eventually accepted.
A prospectus for the Bedford & London & Birmingham Railway was drawn up on 28 May 1844, with the engineers being named as George and Robert Stephenson. When complete the line was to be worked by the London & Birmingham Railway; work started on 13 December 1845 and was completed in September 1846
During the construction of the Bedford line, the London & Birmingham Railway amalgamated with the Grand Junction Railway to form the London & North Western Railway who took over the running of the line.
Intermediate stations from Bletchley were Fenny Stratford, Ridgmont, Lidlington and Manston (later renamed Millbrook). The line opened on 18 November 1846; the line from Oxford - Bletchley opened on 20 May 1851. The final link from Bedford to Cambridge opened on 7 July 1862 provided an important cross-country line between Oxford and Cambridge, forming one of the few east-west routes with the capability of reaching the east coast ports. Most services, however, ran from Oxford to Bletchley and from Bletchley to Cambridge.
A rail-motor service between Bletchley and Belford was introduced on 1 December 1905. Seven new stations were opened at Bow Brickhill, Aspley Guise, Husborne Crawley, Wootton Pillinge, Wootton Broadmead, Kempston Hardwick and Kempston & Elstow. An eighth one called Brickyard Halt is shown in company records near Wootton Pillinge but this never appeared in a public timetable. Whereas the Great Western Railway named such additional unstaffed stations ‘halts’ the London & North Western Railway referred to them as ‘motor’ or ‘rail-motor’ stations, and subsequently there has been uncertainty about whether Bow Brickhill and the others should be called ‘halts’. The Ordnance Survey practice for the Bedford Railway motor stations was to identify them as halts until the London Midland Region ceased to use this suffix in 1968.
The rail-motors were superseded by pull-and-push units which continued in operation until the introduction of DMUs in 1959.
The Second World War intensified traffic on the line as never before. With the return of peace and the nationalisation of the run-down railway network the newly formed British Railways Board was looking to close unprofitable lines.
In 1955 the Railway Modernisation Plan proposed improvements to cross-country facilities between Oxford and Cambridge with the aim of maintaining a link between the major main line railways outside the congested Greater London area thereby allowing freight traffic to be transferred between three railway regions and easing the burden on London marshalling yards. Within a few years the policy changed and the line was not upgraded with the Bletchley flyover remaining as a monument to the fruitless proposal.
An attempt was made to close the Oxford - Bletchley - Cambridge line in 1959 but local pressure succeeded in winning a reprieve. There was some relief when Dr Beeching did not include the cross country Oxford to Cambridge line in his closure proposals in 1963, but just one year later the British Railways Board published closure plans for the whole route. The introduction of new diesel trains in the 1960s allowed British Railways to run much faster trains, and the need for a cross country service declined as passengers found it quicker to travel between Oxford and Cambridge via London. The lines between Oxford and Bletchley and Bedford and Cambridge closed after the last day of service on 30 December 1967; the section between Bletchley and Bedford remained open, although downgraded.
All of the stations lost their goods and parcels facilities, and every station except Bletchley became an unstaffed halt from 15 July 1968. Closure was once again proposed, and it was announced that the remaining section of the Oxford - Cambridge route would close in October 1972. There were numerous objections to the closure which was postponed until a suitable replacement bus service could be introduced. Once this was in place closure was announced for 31 December 1972.
The Bedford Rail Users' Association was formed to fight the closure, and the opposition was so strong that British Rail was forced to postpone once again, pending an appeal by local groups. At this time government thinking on rail closures was changing and a grant was provided to maintain the service. With the development of the large new town of Milton Keynes, which incorporated Bletchley, the line began attracting new customers.
In 1973 a 20-year contract between the Greater London Council and the London Brick Company assured the line’s future. The contract was worth £10m to British Rail who began operating block trains between new sidings at Stewartby and a new handling depot at Hendon.
For much of the twentieth century this 16-mile line had a particularly distinctive character, its closely-spaced stations being either in the Gothic Revival style or diminutive halts. The numerous staffed level crossings also gave the line a certain charm; even in the mid 1980s the passenger would be aware of gate-keepers standing at each crossing as their train passed. The landscape was also distinctive between Bedford and Ridgmont as the route was hemmed in by forests of tall chimneys and massive clay pits. Nowhere was this more the case than at Stewartby. From 1968 until its replacement in 1984 on a new route into Bedford (Midland) the Bedford – Bletchley line had its eastern terminus at Bedford St Johns, an unstaffed ‘halt’ an inconvenient distance from the main line station.
The Bletchley to Bedford line closed on 23 July 2004 for rebuilding. This included re-signalling, the replacement of crossing gates with lifting barriers and the staggering of platforms at Stewartby, Lidlington and Aspley Guise. The line reopened on 6 September 2004 controlled from new Marston Vale Signalling Centre and Ridgmont.
The service is now operated by Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership part of London Midland who operate services on the West Coast Main Line from London Euston previously run by Silverlink and in the West Midlands previously run by Central Trains. The franchise was originally due to expire in September 2015 but in March 2013 was extended until June 2017.
The Bedford - Bletchley (Marston Vale) Line is one of the two remaining sections of the former Varsity Line (Oxford - Cambridge) still in passenger use. In the 2011 Autumn Statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced the allocation of £270 million for the East West Rail Consortium to reinstate the Oxford – Bletchley – Bedford section of the Varsity Line. The service will link the Marston Vale Line (calling at Bedford, Lidlington, Woburn Sands and Bletchley only) to Winslow, Bicester Town, Oxford and Reading. The Consortium hopes later to reopen the Bedford — Cambridge section, for which a new route may be required, possibly involving the use of the East Coast main line south from Sandy then the Hitchin – Cambridge line, with a new north-to-east chord just north of Hitchin.
On 16 July 2012 the Coalition Government announced that the Marston Vale route would be electrified, as will the currently disused line from Bletchley to Oxford. This would form part of a wider 'Electric Spine' stretching from Yorkshire and the West Midlands to Southampton and South Coast Ports.
Tickets from Michael Stewart. Timetable from Alan Young. Totem from Richard Furness. Route map drawn by Alan Young
To see other stations on the Bedford Railway between Bletchley and Bedford (The Marston Vale Line) click on the station name:
Fenny Stratford, Bow Brickhill, Woburn Sands, Aspley Guise, Husborne Crawley (Closed), Ridgmont, Lidlington, Millbrook, Stewartby, Wooton Broadmead (Closed), Kempston Hardwick & Kempston & Elstow (Closed)
To see the other
stations on the Oxford - Cambridge line click on the station name: Oxford Rewley Road, Port
Meadow Halt, Wolvercote
Road Halt, Islip, Oddington
London Road, Launton, Marsh
Gibbon & Poundon, Claydon, Verney
Junction, Winslow, Swanbourne, Bedford
St. Johns, Willington, Blunham, Girtford
Halt, Sandy, Potton, Gamlingay, Old North
Road & Lords