[Source: Paul Wright & Bevan Price]

Date opened: 1.1.1880
Location: On the northeast side of Lapwing Lane
Company on opening: Midland Railway
Date closed to passengers: 3.7.1961
Date closed completely: 3.7.1961
Company on closing: British Railways (London Midland Region)
Present state: After remaining heavily overgrown for many years the trackbed was cleared in early 2010 in preparation for the Metrolink extension. At the time of writing both platforms are extant but they will be demolished in 2010. The cobbled approach road survives.
County: Lancashire
OS Grid Ref: SJ843923
Date of visit: 9.8.2006 & 2.4.2010

Notes: Withington and West Didsbury station opened as Withington on 1st January 1880 as part of the Manchester South District Railway that connected Manchester Central to Stockport Tiviot Dale.

From as early as 1864 a number of schemes had been proposed to create a line from Manchester through Didsbury and down towards Stockport. In 1873 the Manchester South District Railway (MSDR) obtained an Act to create a line from Manchester via Didsbury to Alderley.  A year later, on 30th June 1874, the MDSR obtained a variation Act which proposed that
the line would make a connection with the Cheshire Lines Railway’s (CLC) route between Woodley and Skelton Junction at Heaton Mersey. However, despite obtaining the Act, the MDSR was unable to start work on the construction of the line owing to financial difficulties. At this point the CLC became interested in purchasing the MDSR as they saw value in the projected route to Manchester. Unfortunately one of the CLC partners, the Great Northern Railway (GNR), did not see any value in the route so the CLC was not able to proceed with its idea.

The other two CLC partners, the Manchester, Sheffield, & Lincolnshire Railway (MSLR) and the Midland Railway (MR), decided to press ahead and purchase the MSDR. The MR in particular wanted a route of its own into Manchester so that it was not beholden to other companies. Since 1867 its train services from the south had had to use Manchester

London Road Station which was a joint London and North Western Railway (LNWR) and MSLR station. A bill was granted by Parliament on 11th August 1876 which  authorised the MR and MSLR to take over the MSDR and build the line from Heaton Mersey to Manchester. Within a month of the Act being signed the MSLR got cold feet and decided that they did not want to proceed. The MR was desperate to create a route of its own to Manchester. To make matters worse it had been given notice to quit operating to London Road Station. The MR went back to Parliament and on 12th July 1877 they were given authority to take over the MSDR and build the line.

Work began on the line in 1878. Withington was the second intermediate station on the line from Manchester Central. It was located about a mile away from Withington itself, on the western edge of Didsbury. The station was located in a shallow cutting on the northeast side of Lapwing Lane and was provided with two platforms. The main station building
was located on the northbound platform. It was a brick building in a Gothic  style similar to that at Didsbury. The building was mostly single storey but included a two storey station master’s house to the right of the main station entrance. Booking facilities, a parcels office, ladies’ and gentlemen’s waiting rooms and toilets were all accommodated in the building. An iron footbridge complete with roof cover gave access to the southbound platform. Both platforms were provided with canopies that gave shelter from the weather.

A signal box was located to the north of the station a few metres from the ramp of the southbound platform.

When the station opened on 1st January 1880 it was served by trains that called at all stations between Manchester Central and Manchester London Road via Stockport Tiviot Dale. Fourteen trains ran in each direction and Withington became very busy. The local service was known as the South District service. The main reason why the MR had wanted to build the

South District line was to reach Manchester without the need to use lines not in its control. From August 1880 the MR started to run express trains between Manchester Central and London St Pancras via the South District line. These passed through Withington, but they did not stop as the station was regarded as very much a local facility.

To attract business from the new Albert Park housing development, on 1st July 1884 the MR renamed the station Withington and Albert Park. The line became busier and busier, and the South District Service became more frequent, eventually running every ten minutes in each direction.

In 1900 Manchester Corporation completed an electric tramway to Withington which passed close to the station. This had a significant effect on passenger business which  declined by one third by 1910.

On 1st October 1901 the MR opened part of a new line between Heaton Mersey and New Mills, and from this date half of the South District services began to run to a new station at Cheadle Heath. The new line was built to provide a faster route to the south for express services. Cheadle Heath was an interchange station where passengers could transfer between long distance
and local trains. Express services were using the new route by July 1902.

Withington and Albert Park continued to be served by a steady stream of South District passenger trains. The service settled into a regular pattern with most services running between Manchester Central and Stockport Tiviot Dale, and Manchester Central and Cheadle Heath. On 1st April 1915 the MR renamed the station Withington and West Didsbury. The Great War
caused a reduction in services, but by 1922 things had started to return to normal.

In 1923 Withington and West Didsbury station became part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway. Because of the competition from the trams and later from buses the station was one of the least busy on the line.

In 1948 Withington and West Didsbury station became part of the nationalised British Railways’ London Midland Region. By the 1950s the South District services had gone into serious decline. Trains that had consisted of seven coaches were reduced to four. By 1956 the service was reduced to sixteen trains a day in each direction, only two more than had
run at the time of the station’s opening in 1880. There was no reduction in express services though. From 1958 work began on the electrification of the former LNWR route from Manchester to London and as a result even more traffic was routed along the former MR line.

Early in 1961 Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) were introduced onto the South District locals. They were unable to save Withington and West Didsbury Station which was used by only a handful of passengers each day. British Railways decided to close it to passenger services on 3rd July 1961.

The South District local services continued to operate until 2nd January 1967. By this time electrification of the LNWR route to London was complete and traffic was concentrated onto that route. The last express service along the South District line ran on 1st January 1968. From this date only two passenger trains per week were scheduled to run through the site of
Withington and West Didsbury, and they finished on Sunday 4th May 1969 when the very last train services operated out of Manchester Central. The odd freight train continued to pass through the station site during the summer of 1969, but on 17th August the line was disconnected at Chorlton Junction. It was lifted in 1970. Withington and West Didsbury station was demolished at the end of the 1960s, and today a block of flats called Lapwing Court occupies the site of the building. The route through the station site was preserved for a future extension of the Manchester Metrolink Tramway. Construction started in 2008 and the new line to St Werburgh’s Road  opend in July 2001. This is being extened to East Didsbury with a new station at Withington expected to open in the summer of 2013.

Sources: . Lost Railways of Merseyside and Greater Manchester by Gordon Suggitt. Published 2004 by Countryside Books ISBN 13: 978-1853068690 The Midland Route from Manchester Part one – Central to New Mills by E M Johnson Foxline Publications ISBN 1 870119 20 7, Manchester (Rail Centres) by Stanley Hall 2008 Booklaw Publications ISBN 1 901945 29 4 , The Railways Around Stockport by Gregory K.Fox, Foxline Publications ISBN 1 870119 00 2

Other web sites: Peak Rail now providing a regular steam service between Matlock and Rowsley. David Hey's Collection - Transition from BR steam. Includes railway photographer ER Morten's photographic tour from Buxton - Derby.

Eight and a half miles of the Matlock - Buxton line now forms the Monsal Trail starting at Coombs Road Viaduct, one mile southeast of Bakewell and finishing at the head of Chee Dale, about three miles east of Buxton. There is a diversion round the tunnels.

Further reading: Railway from Buxton to Bakewell, Matlock and Ambergate (Scenes from the Past) by JM Bentley, 1992. Railways around Buxton by JM Bentley, 1987.

Tickets from Michael Stewart, route map drawn by Alan Young

To see other stations between Manchester Central & Matlock click on the station name: Manchester Central, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Didsbury, Heaton Mersey, Cheadle Heath, Hazel Grove (Midland), Buxworth, Chinley (2nd site) STILLOPEN, Chinley (1st site), Chapel-en-le-Frith Central, Peak Forest, Cheedale Halt, Buxton (Midland), Blackwell Mill Halt, Millers Dale, Monsal Dale, Great Longstone, Hassop, Bakewell, Rowsley (Second site), Rowsley (First site), Rowsley South PEAK RAIL, Darley Dale, Matlock Riverside PEAK RAIL & Matlock STILL OPEN.
See also Stockport Tiviot Dale & Stockport Portwood

A southbound South District Service arrives at Withington and West Didsbury station in 1909. The train would have started its journey at Manchester Central and would have been heading for either Stockport Tiviot Dale or Cheadle Heath.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

A large crowd of passengers await the arrival of a Manchester Central bound South District Service at Withington and West Didsbury in 1910. This frequent service ran at 10 minute intervals during the daytime and it connected Manchester with Stockport Tiviot Dale and with Cheadle Heath.
Copyright photo from John Alsop

Looking towards the northwest from the southeastern end of Withington and West Didsbury station in 1939 in LMS days.
Copyright photo from Stations UK

A northbound South District service arrives at Withington and West Didsbury in 1954. The train would have originated at either Cheadle Heath or Stockport Tiviot Dale and it would call at all stations to Manchester Central. After departing from Withington and West Didsbury the train would only have one more stop to make, at Chorton-cum-Hardy.

In September 2009 the track bed was heavily overgrown and although both platforms were still there it was difficult to see anything.
Photo by Ian Pattinson from his Flickr photostream

The northwestern end of Withington & West Didsbury station in April 2010. The platforms had been hidden by undergrowth for decades but at the time this picture was taken work was underway converting the former Midland line into a tramway as part of the Manchester Metrolink extension. A new station at Withington is expected to open in summer 2013.
Photo by Paul Wright

The Metrolink tram stop at West Didsbury under construction in May 2011.
Photo by Martin2345

Looking nort-west to the site of the former Withington and West Didsbury Station on 24 March 2012.
Photo by Jane Bracewell

Last updated: Friday, 26-May-2017 10:03:36 CEST
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