[Source: Glen Kilday]

Date opened: 12.12.1849
Location: Corner of Queen’s Road and St. Stephen Road
Company on opening: 22.5.1916
Date closed to passengers: Eastern Union Railway
Date closed completely: Former station site 31.1.1966
Nearby coal depot 9.1986
Company on closing: Great Eastern Railway
Present state:

At a casual glance there is nothing about the site of Marsh Insurance’s office building in the centre of Norwich to suggest that a Victorian railway station was once there. Looking a little closer, the three arches of the bridge that once stood between the terminal station and its main line can be seen still in place but bricked-up at the back of the car park. At the rear of the extensive site the land of houses on Victoria Road remains supported by brick buttresses put in place by the Eastern Union Railway’s contractors in the 1840s. The bridge that once carried Grove Road, now called Brazen Gate, over the tracks is no longer a bridge, as such. The land has been infilled behind it to raise the level of a modernised road. The bridge’s southern parapets were taken away. The site of the large coal yard is now entirely occupied by a Sainsbury superstore and its car park. The land used for sidings that served a minerals facility beyond the Southwell Road bridge is now occupied by apartment buildings and cannot be recognised as former railway land. The bridge itself remains in place. Heading south towards the site of Upper Trowse Junction the road becomes a cycle path that at first follows the track through original brick-lined cuttings. It provides a green track through suburban housing constructed between the 1930s and 1950s backing onto what was then the railway. The track ends at the site of the junction of the Victoria station line with the intact and now electrified Norwich to London main line.

County: Norfolk
OS Grid Ref: TG228079
Date of visit: 13.4.2018

Notes: The Public are respectfully informed that this Line of Railway will be opened throughout to the Victoria Station, Norwich, for the conveyance of passengers, goods, and live stock on Wednesday, the 12th instant. Particulars of Trains, Fares, Rates, &c., may be obtained on and after Monday, the 10th instant, at all the Company's Stations. J F Saunders, Secretary, Ipswich, Dec. 5th, 1849.

So read the announcement that the Eastern Union Railway (EUR) would open its railway to passengers, terminating at Victoria Station in Norwich, on 12 December 1849. Despite what was said in the notice, the station, a terminus, had already been receiving and dispatching goods traffic for a week. The station entrance was on St. Stephen Road close to the junction with Queen’s Road. There was a large forecourt area from which passengers accessed the station through a grand but not over-stated three arch entrance with a gabled roof that was at a right angle to the main building. Construction was of brick with chimney stacks at each end. Both the entrance-way and the main building had pitched roofs of slate. In the centre of the forecourt was an elegant octagonal ‘kiosk’ apparently constructed of wood with a pointed roof. This may have housed an employee who oversaw activity in the yard area.

When the Eastern Union Railway bought the site it was occupied by a circus and entertainment centre known as Ranelagh Gardens. Here, in the latter years of the 18th Century, were staged fireworks, shows and events for the public, arranged by William Quantrell, a firework manufacturer. When he went elsewhere the owner William Neech built a rotunda that could hold an audience of 2000. He named it The Pantheon. A Wikipedia entry records that when the land was bought by the railway company it was owned by a man who called himself by the Spanish sounding name Pablo Fanque. He was said to be actually a Mr. Darby and Norwich was his home town. In his book about the Great Eastern Railway Cecil J. Allen reported that the EUR sold off the circus fittings. Some of the earlier buildings on the site were retained and built into the new station. Photographs show a rotunda behind the station portico. It was used as the railway’s ticket office. The terminal’s two platforms were, unusually, laid out in a ‘v’ shape with the station building in between the platforms.

When viewed from the forecourt the platform to the north-eastern side was enclosed in a simple pitch-roofed train shed. Maps from the 1880s through to 1928 show three tracks under cover at this location with a substantial goods shed on adjacent parallel lines. Wagon turntables were sited at the end of the two goods shed roads for easy movement of wagons between the road. A 5-ton capacity crane was sited in the yard. A full range of goods was handled with the exception of livestock which was handled at Norwich City and Norwich Trowse.

A 1948 photograph of the possibly bomb-damaged former station site, shows two open roads between the train-shed and covered goods facility. Early illustrations show the second platform enclosed in an open-sided shed. This had attractive arches on each side of the platform line. The arches, coming off pillars about ten feet from ground level, appear from contemporary photographs to have been formed from wooden planks or boards. The roof was of slate topped off with a ventilated clerestory, presumably in place to help disperse locomotive smoke.

Between the goods shed, which had two through lines, and Queen’s Road, lay a goods handling yard. In the 1880s there were wagon turntables at the ‘town’ end of the shed that allowed traffic to be man-handled into the yard area. The yard was also connected to the running lines at the station throat. 

Locomotive facilities were constructed at the south-western side of the site on sidings parallel to the second platform. A turntable was located at the further end of four loop lines, two of which passed through an engine shed with two by-passing it. Traffic on all four lines could access the turntable. Between the loop lines and the shed roads there was a siding that ended close to the engine shed. It is assumed that the engine shed opened with the station; its closure date is not known. The 1920 aerial photo (reproduced below) shows a loco on the turntable and what may be coal wagons at the other end so it appears that the shed was still in use in 1920. However, by the 1928 OS map (above), surveyed in 1926, the shed had gone and my not unreasonable view is that it went in the 1924 general rationalisation of sheds throughout its area by the newly fledged LNER. The shed roads remained in use as sidings.

At the station throat there were five running lines leading to the station, the goods facilities and locomotive area; all were crossed on an overbridge carrying Grove Road. Trains departing the station under Grove Road would have passed, on their left, a large coal yard with eight sidings that curved to the north and ended at 90° to Queen’s Road. The sidings were shunted from the ‘country’ end. At the point where the lines into the coal yard left the main running lines stood a large signal box on the east side of the tracks. It was close to another overbridge carrying Southwell Road over the railway. At this point the line was curving to the south. Sometime between the mid 1880s and 1905, just south of this overbridge, six sidings were added. They were shunted from the north, or ‘town’ end. Photographs from 1962 show it as a busy ballast or minerals facility. 

Continuing south multiple lines merged into two and, after less than a mile, met the line from Norwich Thorpe station at Trowse Upper Junction. When the EUR’s line from Ipswich reached Norwich in 1849 its tracks ran only to Victoria station and passengers had to cross the city to continue their journeys to other East Anglian towns from the much larger Thorpe station, owned by the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR). Total separation lasted only until 8 September 1851 when a link with a steep 1 in 84 gradient was opened from Trowse Upper Junction to join the Eastern Counties’ line from Ely. Writers have asserted that, despite creation of the new link line, such was the hostility between the ECR and EUR that the latter’s locomotives were not permitted onto ECR track. Trains arriving at Trowse bound for Thorpe station had to have their locomotive run round clear of the junction, and be propelled to a point where an ECR engine might couple-up and continue the journey to the larger terminus. When the ECR later leased the EUR, city councillors in Norwich were alarmed over the future of the smaller station. They insisted on a clause in the authorising Act of 1854 that prevented the ECR from abandoning Victoria station as a passenger terminus.  Nevertheless traffic to and from Victoria soon declined in favour of Thorpe and Victoria was left with handling only a few passenger trains, although goods traffic appears to have thrived and continued to do so well into the twentieth century. As recently as 1958 it handled 23,255 tons of goods against Thorpe’s 20,620 tons.

Craven’s Directory for 1856 shows William Seeley occupying the position of Station Master. Kelly’s Directory for 1896 shows the post apparently vacant. Mr B G Weston was Station Master in 1912 and may have been the last to occupy that position because the Great Eastern Railway finally closed Victoria to passenger traffic on 22 May 1916. The company used the space so released to enhance its goods facilities. Chris Hawkins in his book about Great Eastern engine sheds reported that Victoria’s had gone by 1926. At some point after 1948 all remains of the passenger station were removed from the site and the goods shed demolished, leaving an open goods yard. Two unsightly prefabricated sheds were constructed to serve as the goods depot offices. General goods traffic continued until 31 January 1966 when the station site itself was abandoned. The nearby coal yards were modernised and became what British Railways called a Coal Concentration Depot for the city and surrounding area. That traffic also declined as other fuels replaced coal and the whole site closed in September 1986 after which the rails to Upper Trowse Junction were torn up

Passenger services arriving at Norwich Victoria in 1850 originated at Colchester, the first at 7.30am. calling at most intermediate stations. The 10.50am departure to Norwich Victoria called all stations whilst the 1.10pm omitted Ardleigh, Bramford, Claydon, Finningham, Burston and Flordon. A 3.30pm departure was the last train from Colchester to Norwich and called at all stations. In the up direction services departed Norwich Victoria at 7.20 and 11.10 in the morning and 4.15 and 5.30 in the afternoon.

By Edwardian times, in 1906, ten years prior to the station’s closure to passengers, Victoria could boast only a scant service. Its first departure was at 6.45am when a stopping train left for London arriving there at 12.20pm, calling on the way at all stations except Ilford. A London-bound semi-fast left at 9.03am and ran into the Liverpool Street just eight minutes behind the first train. Another stopping train left for the capital at ten o’clock, this one also coming from Thorpe with the same departure time. Bradshaw’s tables fail to make clear how this procedure worked in practice and where the apparently separate portions merged. Two afternoon trains ran as far as Tivetshall, 14 miles away, where a branch to Beccles left the main line. Another London all stations train left at 3.55pm followed by a Saturdays only departure to Tivetshall at 5.20pm, one every weekday for Ipswich at 6.50pm and, finally, a 7.50pm Tivetshall train rounded off the day’s activities. On Sundays Victoria was responsible for both of the Anglian city’s London trains with departures at 7.30am and 6.20pm, each calling at most stations. No trains for the London line ran from Thorpe on Sundays.

On Saturday mornings down trains began arriving at 8.12am, this from Tivetshall; on weekdays the same train ran to Thorpe rather than Victoria. At 8.34am and 1.05pm trains from the capital that also served Thorpe arrived at Victoria station. Again the table is unclear about where the portions may have divided. Tivetshall sent out four Saturday trains to Victoria but just three on other weekdays. London all-stations workings arrived at 3.43pm and 8.35pm. Sundays saw two London arrivals at 1.10pm and 8.02pm. Thorpe was not served from the London line on the Sabbath.

A short history of the Eastern Union Railway’s line to Norwich
The Eastern Union Railway came about as a result of the Eastern Counties Railway’s failure to complete its project to construct a railway from Colchester to the East Anglian city of Norwich passing through the important town of Ipswich. 

Although there had been a couple of putative schemes for railways in East Anglia in the 1820s the first to receive its Act (on 4 July 1836) was the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR), which planned to build from London, not to Norwich but to the port of Yarmouth. Land proved expensive to acquire and it was able only to open from Romford to Mile End, about 12 miles, before the project was short of money. The scheme was reduced to a line from London to Colchester, reached on 29 March 1843.

It appears that the relationship between one of the ECR’s senior engineers, Peter Bruff and the chief engineer John Braithwaite, was hostile. Braithwaite’s grand plan included expensive viaducts and earthmoving. The cause of friction was Bruff’s assertion that the line could be completed onwards to Ipswich for much less than Braithwaite’s estimated £800,000. Bruff was dismissed from the company in 1842 but he kept in touch with company director John Chevallier Cobbold, who was a prominent Ipswich business-man and brewer in the town. He proved instrumental in moving forward plans for a railway to Ipswich where residents and businesses were anxious for a connection to the growing railway network. A scheme for the Eastern Union Railway (EUR), to be built far more cheaply than Braithwaite’s project, put to a public meeting on 8 August 1843, was sent to Parliament in 1844. The plan and its Act received Royal Assent on 19 July that year, with capital of £200,000 permitted. With Bruff in charge the line would be engineered for double track but built as a single line. After rethinking that issue the company obtained a separate Act of 21 July 1845 that added £50,000 to the capital so that it could lay double track.

The ECR, having already bought some of the land needed, made life difficult for the EUR, a matter only resolved after arbitration and the EUR buying out the ECR’s interest at high cost to the company. Work got under way and, on 2 May 1846, the directors were able to travel the line from Ipswich to Colchester after which goods services started on 1 June. An inspection by the Board of Trade took place on 4 June: the inspector, Major General Pasley declared his satisfaction. On 11 June a special train that started out from Ipswich collected dignitaries at Colchester and took them to lavish celebrations back in Ipswich. The passengers included George Hudson, Chairman of the ECR, the EUR being dependent upon the other business for much of its onward traffic. The 17-mile line carried its first paying passengers on 15 June 1846. The EUR had always intended that its line would extend beyond Ipswich to serve Bury St Edmunds and Norwich. Once more the ECR stood in the way because it intended to monopolise Norwich traffic when its line from Ely was completed. In Parliament’s 1845 session the EUR promoted and obtained consent for a nominally independent company, the Ipswich and Bury Railway (I&BR), to raise £400,000 for a line linking the two towns. Again Bruff was engineer to the project. He experienced great difficulty when building his first tunnel, that under Stoke Hill in Ipswich, and again further north near Stowmarket where he resorted to George Stephenson’s successful Chat Moss solution of sinking brushwood and faggots to make firm some marshy ground. The company ran a test train to Bury on 26 November 1846. Formal opening was on 15 December when the EUR ran a special train all the way from the ECR’s London terminus at Shoreditch. The line opened to traffic on Christmas Eve. 

By now Norwich was the focus of attention for promoters of many railway projects, several of which went before Parliament in its 1846 session. It was the I&BR’s scheme that obtained Royal Assent, doing so on 27 July 1846. Its route would leave the Bury line at Haughley and pass through Diss on its way to Norwich. Its Act permitted merger with the EUR and shareholders of both companies soon agreed to that plan, with an expectation of practical effect from the start of 1847. Difficulties in merging the capital funds of the two entities was experienced and required a new Act, of 9 July 1847, before they could be overcome. After more delay the railway commissioners gave their consent in February 1848. However, by that time ‘railway mania’ had waned, the economy was in recession and money was hard to come by. Thus progress towards Norwich was slowed, not helped by more problems encountered with boggy land. Nevertheless Diss was reached by contractors on 19 January 1849. Progress was faster after that and the company’s directors boarded an inspection train to Norwich on 3 November, followed by a celebratory special on the seventh. Goods traffic to and from the railway’s Victoria terminus started on 3 December and passengers were allowed to travel nine days later from 12 December 1849.

It appears that warfare continued between the Eastern Union and Eastern Counties concerns. The EUR had to use ECR tracks if it was to run through to London and provide its passengers with better connections via the ECR’s Thorpe station In Norwich. At times it looked like all cooperation over traffic, fares and through running would cease. The EUR, saddled with debt and operating costs that were close to overwhelming its finances, even petitioned Parliament in an attempt to gain extensive running powers over ECR track. Finally matters were settled on 19 December 1853 when it was agreed that the ECR would take over working, but not merge with, the EUR from the New Year. The EUR and ECR remained separate concerns until both were absorbed by the Great Eastern Railway on 7 August 1862.

Passenger services in 1850 in the down direction left Colchester at 7.30am (all stations except Ardleigh and Claydon) to Norwich Victoria. The 10.50am departure to Norwich Victoria called all stations whilst the 1.10pm omitted Ardleigh, Bramford, Claydon, Finningham, Burston and Flordon. The 3.30pm was the last train from Colchester to Norwich and called at all stations. A Colchester departure at 8.05pm called all stations to Ipswich whilst the following 10.49pm omitted to call at Bentley Junction on its way to Ipswich. This service also carried mail.

In the up direction services departed Norwich Victoria at 7.20 and 11.10 in the morning and 4.15 and 5.30 in the afternoon.

In June 1851 the EUR had 31 locomotives, as follows:-

Builder Wheel
Number in service Notes
Sharp Brothers 2-2-2 13 Some with 5" driving wheels, others 5' 6". Nos 1 - 6, 14 - 19 & 26
Hawthorns 2-2-2 3 Introduced 1846, 6" driving wheels. Nos 11, 12, 13
Stothurt & Slaighter 2-2-2 4 Nos 7, 8, 20, 21
Stothurt & Slaighter 0-4-2 6 Goods engines. Nos 9, 10, 22 - 25
Sharp Brothers 2-2-2WT 4 Branch line use. Nos 27, 29 - 31
Kitsons 2-2-2WT 1 No 28

All locomotives carried a green livery and would have been maintained at Ipswich engine shed which at that time also functioned as the works facility for the EUR.

The following locomotives were named

  • 1 - Colchester
  • 2 - Ipswich
  • 3 - City of Norwich
  • 4 - Bury St Edmunds
  • 5 - Orwell
  • 6 - Stour
  • 10 - Essex
  • 11 - Suffolk
  • 28 - Aeriel's Girdle

(Note - 1850 timetable and locomotive information obtained from Wikipedia)

Route map drawn by Alan Young. Ticket from Michael Stewart

See also Norwich City

Norwich Victoria Station Gallery 1: 1910 - 1948

A postcard image, dating from 1910, showing the station forecourt at Norwich Victoria. The tip of the rotunda building housing the booking office can be seen behind the tree. The ‘V’ shape of the two platforms is clearly pictured, one with a full train-shed the other with open sides and its clerestory roof. In the foreground is an elegant octagonal office or shelter presumably used by staff managing the station forecourt and looking after ‘Hansom Cab’ traffic.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection and from Eastern Daily Press Library, reference c11007

1996 1:2,500 OS map. The station is shown in its completed state, with covered platforms, engine and goods sheds and the nearby extensive coal yard all in place.  There are wagon turntables shown going off each of the two goods shed roads. The small building at the convergence of the two platforms is a water tank. Click here for a larger version

1907 1:2,500 OS map. Surveyors for the Edwardian era map detected little or no material change in and around Victoria station from the 1886 map. One of the sidings north of the goods shed has been lengthened and the crossover south of the engine shed has been removed.
Click here for a larger version

1928 1:2,500 OS map. When the map was reviewed in the mid-1920s Victoria station had been closed to passenger traffic for 10 years.  It is now  correctly identified it as ‘Victoria Station (Goods)’.  The engine shed and turntable had gone and the loop lines that by-passed the shed were reduced to sidings.  At least part of the covering on the south-western platform was missing.
Click here for a larger version

A well-loaded motor bus of the Great Eastern Railway (GER) stands on the forecourt of Norwich Victoria station. The presence of what appears to be the stationmaster along with a number of bowler-hatted gentlemen might suggest the inauguration of the bus service. As the route board shows, this bus was operating between Loddon and Norwich. The route was Beccles - Loddon - Norwich but operated in two sections; Loddon - Norwich and Loddon - Beccles. The Norwich section had begun operations earlier in 1905 but terminated at Trowse, being extended to Victoria on 9 October and thus the earliest possible date for this photograph. Upon closure of Norwich Victoria to passengers on 22 May 1916, the Loddon buses were diverted to Thorpe so this will be the latest date for the photograph. Click here for a much more detailed caption.
Photo copyright Eastern Daily Press Library

A GER motor bus stands at Norwich Victoria sometime between 1905 and 1919 on the service from Loddon. The actual location is on the north-east side of the station forecourt, with the station itself to the right. This service and the GER buses are described briefly elsewhere so it is not necessary to go into too much detail here. It is nevertheless worth adding that the bus seen here is another of those built at Stratford by the GER but this example is not fitted with a luggage compartment. These Stratford-built buses had 'AN' registrations which at the time signified West Ham. We are here offered a better idea of the bus livery; red and white with GER crest and the name in full on the upper deck decency boards. The rather blatant advertising on the building to the left is for somebody with, presumably, offices on St. Giles' Street, Norwich. Unfortunately searches of Kelly's Directory for this period failed to reveal who it was. In the background behind the staircase of the bus can be seen the yard's 5 ton crane. The crane stood alongside a siding serving a dock. The houses in the far background are those of Queen’s Road and just ahead of the top deck of the bus can be seen a tramway traction pole and bracket. Two tram routes served Queens Road; Orford Place - Trowse Station and Orford Place - City Road/Lindley Street. A third route, that to Newmarket Road, also served Victoria but ran via St. Stephen's Road out of view to the left. Norwich Electric Tramways found itself in the ownership of the Eastern Counties Omnibus Co. Ltd., which had been formed in 1931, and who progressively replaced the trams with buses. The last tram on the Norwich system, which was of 3ft 6in gauge, ran in 1935. What is thought to have been the last surviving traction pole, on Earlham Road, and which had been used to support a street lamp, was removed, supposedly due to concerns about corrosion, in September 2017.
Photo from James Lake collection

The rotunda roof at Norwich Victoria station probably pre-dated the railway’s coming and was part of the circus building that occupied the site until the 1840s. The area was used as the station’s booking office and this was how it looked in 1913, three years before the station closed to passengers.
Photo from John Mann collection

Norwich Victoria station in 1920. Although by this date the station only handled goods traffic little appears to have changed. The two covered platforms are clearly seen forming a triangle with the entrance building. The dome over the booking office is seen in the centre of the triangle. To the west of the station the two-road engine shed is seen with a turntable at its north end. This is the only known photo of the shed. The date of closure of the shed is uncertain; this photo shows a loco on the turntable and what may be coal wagons at the other end so it appears that the shed was still in use in 1920. The building to the east of the station (right on this photo) is the goods shed; a number of goods vehicles are seen in the yard. The small circular kiosk on the station forecourt is for staff handling can traffic and is visible in the 1910 photo. Click here for a larger version.
Copyright photo from Britain From Above, reproduced with permission

Norwich Victoria station in 1936. Although the quality of this image is poor the main features of the station can still be made out. The station entrance building is seen with the rotunda housing the booking office to its rear. The covering over one of the platforms is still in place while that over the second platform has been partially demolished. The large goods shed is seen to the west (left)
of the station.
Copyright photo from Britain From Above, reproduced with permission

Norwich Victoria goods station looking south-west in 1946. Although much of the station site is obscured by other buildings some parts of the station can be seen. The three arch Grove Road bridge is seen on the left. A number of trucks are seen in the siding that runs to the north of the goods shed. The good shed is seen and parallel with it to the south the trainshed which is still in place over one of the passenger platforms. The entrance building can be seen behind the trainshed but the domed rotunda that housed the booking office has gone. The station forecourt is largely obscured but on the far right a coal merchant's office is seen The name R Coller & Sons is seen on the buildings; a couple of coal lorries are seen alongside. Click here for a larger version.
Copyright photo from Britain From Above, reproduced with permission

Norwich Victoria coal yard looking south-west in 1946. Grove Road bridge is seen on the left with Southwell Road bridge on the right. Norwich Victoria goods station is out of view to the right. Click here for a larger version.
Copyright photo from Britain From Above, reproduced with permission

Taken in 1948, Norwich Victoria station, by then 32 years a goods facility, has an air of dereliction about it. That may have been, at least partially, the result of the devastating air-raids on the city that happened from 27 to 30 April 1942. The train shed is intact as is the original goods shed. The covering on the other platform has gone as has the locomotive shed which would have been on the extreme left of the image; the shed roads are now sidings. A water tank is seen at the end of the two platforms. The chimney in the background may be part of A J Caley & Son Ltd.’s chocolate factory (Fleur-de-Lys works) in St. Stephen Back Street. The church tower is that of St. John the Baptist Catholic Cathedral.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

Click here for Norwich Victoria Station Gallery 2:
31 March 1962 - April 2018




[Source: Glen Kilday]

Last updated: Tuesday, 22-Jan-2019 10:37:40 CET
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