Figure 1 The original LNWR station looking north (down platform on left; up platform on right)
As it stands today, Lichfield Trent Valley railway station is situated at the point where the West Coast Main Line (WCML) is crossed by the extension of the Cross City Line towards Burton-upon-Trent. It has three platforms – two low level platforms on the WCML and one high level platform on the Cross City Line. It lies to the east of Trent Valley Road, the old turnpike road from Lichfield to Burton. In this post, I will describe the earliest stations in this area that existed between the late 1840s and the early 1870s and will also describe the career of the first station master. It will be seen that the grandeur of the early station building and the status of the Station Master in Lichfield society indicates the importance and significance of the early railway system.
The original Lichfield Trent Valley station
The positions of the first stations in the area are shown on the Lichfield St. Michael parish (Streethay township) Tithe Map of 1848, an extract from which is given in figure 2. The current station location is indicated by a green oval. The original 1847 Lichfield station of the London and North Western Railway (red circle) is on the west of the Turnpike Road, with platforms on either side of the track, and the main station building on the down line. The station is illustrated in the drawing of figure 1 and can be seen to be quite a substantial affair, designed by the architect John William Livock in the gothic style. It was clearly designed to make a statement as to the importance and grandeur of the company. As was normally the case at the time, the platforms were much lower than is the case today. The Turnpike Road crossed the railway on a flat crossing rather than the current bridge, and it is likely that passengers also used this crossing. The map also shows the line of the South Staffordshire Railway that crosses the London North Western line, although that was not completed when the map was produced and not opened until 1849. Its station (Lichfield Trent Valley Junction – indicated by the dotted red circle) was just to the south of the point where the line crosses the Old Burton Road and was connected to the LNWR station by a chord as shown in the 1882 Ordnance Survey Map of figure 3. It is not known if there was also a pedestrian connection between the stations, but one can surmise that there was as otherwise the walk between the two would have required a considerable trek along local roads and tracks. (For those who know this area, this would have entailed a walk down Burton Old road in Streethay, to the current junction with Cappers Lane, which did not exist at the time, then along Burton Old Road east to the path across the Cross City line by the tip, then up Trent Valley Road to the other station.)
Figure 2 Extract from 1848 Tithe Map (red solid circle LNWR station location 1847-1871; red dotted circle – SSR station location 1849-1871; green oval – location of current station)
Figure 3 1882 Ordnance Survey map showing the station sites (key as in figure 2)
Building survival after closure
To make connections easier, a new station (Lichfield Trent Valley) was built by the London North Western Railway in 1871 at its current location. This is shown on the 1882 Ordnance Survey Map in figure 3 and there can be seen to be station buildings on both the low level LNWR line and the upper level South Staffordshire line. Interestingly the old LNWR station building can still be seen on the down side of the line next to a set of sidings, although that on the up line has been obliterated by other sidings. This building survived into modern times, as can be seen on the 1970 Ordnance Survey map of figure 4. The realization that this building was around till then made me take a more careful look at some 1960s train photographs, and I was gratified to find a number of shots of the building, which are shown in figure 5. Those of figures 5a and 5b are taken from the Trent Valley Road bridge over the railway line, and those of figures 5c and 5d from track level on the west of the bridge. Clearly here the focus of the photographers was on the locomotives rather than the building, but they do show that the original station building survived in its more or less original form until modern times. Perhaps one can even see a surviving gas light column – see the enlargements of figure 6 – although here I may be confusing a signalling column with a lamp stand.
Figure 4 1970 Ordnance Survey map showing the station sites (key as in figure 2)
Figure 5 1960s photographs showing the original LNWR station in the background
Figure 6 Gas lamp survival?
The later stations
The station buildings of 1871 survived until the 1970s when they, like so many elsewhere, were replaced by much less substantial structures – effectively portakabins and bus shelters. In 2014 a rather more substantial main building was constructed on the WCML down platform, and more recently lifts have been built to improve access to the high level platform and the up WCML platform. The various incarnations of the station are shown in figure 7. Figure 8 shows the site of the original South Staffordshire station – nothing now survives. The same is true of the LNWR station, although the site is no longer accessible and cannot be easily photographed (I have tried!). Nonetheless, the fact that the original LNWR building survived for over a century was perhaps a historical accident, but enables the grandeur and the ambition of the builders to be appreciated.
Figure 7 Later station buildings
Figure 8 The site of the original South Staffordshire Railway station
The first station master
The first Station Master of the 1847 station was William Durrad, born in Northamptonshire in 1819, the son of a weaver. He was married to Elizabeth, two years his junior. Their first son, another William, was born in 1849, and he was followed by Alfred in 1850, Arthur in 1851, Walter in 1852, Emma in 1854 and Bertram in 1867. They continued to live in the old railway station building until the 1870s, with a succession of live-in servants. All but one of the children survived to adulthood (the exception being Alfred), and two of them (Arthur and Bertram) were educated at Loughborough Grammar School and studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, both becoming clergymen. William junior and Walter worked in banks and the former became a bank manager in Rugeley. As far as can be judged William senior retired from his role of Station Master in the 1870s, when we read of him in the local press as a Bailiff (law officer) in the Sherriff’s court. He was clearly an important man in the locality and the press of the time frequently mentions his name as an attendee at various civic functions. William junior died in 1882 and Elizabeth in 1883. William senior himself died in 1889, living £3138 in his will, a very substantial sum. He is recorded as living at Misterton cottage, although its location cannot be identified. These three are buried together in one grave in the graveyard of St Michael’s church. They are also commemorated in floor plaques in the church at the front of the chancel beneath the pulpit – see figure 9. These are positioned (deliberately?) on the opposite side of the chancel to two similar plaques commemorating the lives of two of the 19th century Bishops of Lichfield (Selwyn and Lonsdale). This is perhaps a final indication of the perceived importance of the Station Master in Lichfield society at the time. Now, as well as spending too much time writing blog posts, I am also a minister at St Michael’s church and it came as a surprise to me that I should have been walking over these memorials in the course of celebrating the eucharist for the last twenty years, yet having not the faintest idea who they related to.
After the Durrads left the old station, the building seems to have been divided into separate residences, but in 1881 only one was occupied by a railway porter and his wife. There was however a considerable community of railway staff (labourers and platelayers) in the nearby railway cottages that can be seen in figures 3 and 4. Unfortunately the 1891 census records for the area seem to be missing (or at any rate I can’t find them), but by 1901 the old railway station was occupied by 16 people from four families of railway workers (porters, platelayers, clerks), including the station master David Brown, his wife Sarah and their five children. There were a further 28 people from five (mainly railway families) living in the associate cottages, by this time referred to as the Fog Cottages.
Figure 9. The Durrad memorials in St Michael’s Church